#Weeknotes S03 E15

This’ll be a quick proof-of-life post. Couldn’t get this in last week, or much of any other writing for that matter. Yeah, when I post my April stats, it’ll likely look like March–unimpressive, but not nothing. Still, maybe I was a little too cocky thinking I was as fully back on my bullshit as I thought I was last time.

This is typical for this time of year. My dayjob is on an academic calendar which is nearing the end of its semester when work traditionally takes a lot out of me. And while my mood over the past weeks might not have been the best, the basics of life are still happening. So yes, there’s a little bit more urgency to “get back on the stick” as it were, where the writing is concerned. But I’m resisting the usual lamentation of “Woe is me, I haven’t done anything, I’m a loser, blah blah blah….”

READING
I finished Mia Alvar’s IN THE COUNTRY. It was tough to get through because of how hard it hit home, but well worth it. I felt compelled to follow it up with Isabel Yap’s NEVER HAVE I EVER, and I’m about halfway through it. So far it’s pretty much what I expected having read and enjoyed the story “Asphalt, River, Mother, Child” when I first saw it on STRANGE HORIZONS.

Of course, I can never read one book at a time. Nor can I resist a good discount code, which I got after attending a couple of very enlightening virtual salons from Belt Publishing. I picked up three.

  • The one I’m reading right now alongside Yap’s collection is Edward McClelland’s FOLKTALES AND LEGENDS OF THE MIDDLE WEST. Exactly what it says on the tin, including not just Indigenous tales but immigrant/settler ones as well.
  • I’d never read the work of Claire Winger Harris, a speculative fiction writer with Cleveland connections who published, very roughly speaking, in that early WEIRD TALES era, making her a contemporary of other writers I like, such as Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman and Margaret St. Clair. So when a scholar compiled some of her work in THE ARTIFICIAL MAN AND OTHER STORIES, I knew I had to have it.
  • I also picked up Phil Christman’s MIDWEST FUTURES because aside from the subject matter, I’m a sucker for micro/brief essays.

LISTENING
I don’t know if I’m going to do this every week, but I wondered what it would look like to push out a weekly playlist of the grooves in my head. Besides, it’s not like I’m doing much else with my Spotify account.

IN THE WILD
Maybe I’m projecting, but Mazikeen has always seemed like her father’s daughter. I mean, this is pretty much the pose and the face I’ve had for the past couple of weeks…

#Weeknotes S03 E14

This week I got back into the writing saddle and today, I get back into my regular Sunday Weeknotes routine. Of course, maybe that’s why this week feels like a blur and that there isn’t much go post about. That’s what it can feel like for me sometimes when my focus comes back.

THE CHAIN
So, after almost 3 weeks of no progress…

  • This week’s writing chain: 7 days
  • Longest chain in 2021: 33 days

It was all about getting back in the saddle this week, so all of my daily bars were set really low. I just picked away at a short story and dumped my brain of some ideas I might develop for an essay (or two). Maybe nothing will come of them, but it’s the groove that’s important.

PLANNING
Yes, we’re getting vaccinated now but that shouldn’t mean cool virtual events should stop. I signed up to attend two in the coming weeks, both part of Belt Publishing’s Spring Salon (despite what the link says).

There’s a nominal fee for each event, but there are definitely worse ways to spend $6 (about $3 each).

LISTENING
You know that scene in ENTER THE DRAGON when Bruce says to Han, “You have offended my family and you have offended the Shaolin Temple.“? Well, I’m just glad no one’s around to kick my ass on behalf of Sci-Fi and Classic Rock nerdery.


Also, it’s been a week since they came into my life and I’m still not sick of having Miss Velvet and The Blue Wolf on daily rotation in my playlist. I mean, if they put in even half as much work recording as they seem to, then these motherfuckers are the real deal!

IN THE WILD
Who’s a good boy ready to devour the week? Besides me. It’s Asher Mir, of course!

#Weeknotes S03 E13

Back on my bullshit after a couple weeks off. Guess these are #fortnightnotes? Anyway, I took some mental health days. I kept up the basics–didn’t miss a day of work and managed a couple of Sunday dinners–but outside of that, my mental and emotional state wasn’t conducive to much else.

Definitely not writing.

THE CHAIN
Since we last spoke…

  • This week’s writing chain: 1 day — same as my missed week’s.
  • Total days in March: 13
  • Longest chain in 2021: 33 days
  • Total days in 2021: 64 days

I’ve been through this before, you see. Weeks of solid progress at a time, only for some mental/emotional fuse to trip and shut things down. For a depressive haze to set in, making everything that isn’t a muscle-memorized routine feel impossible until the fuse magically flips… and that’s assuming I even realize it’s flipped back days or weeks later.

But like I’ve done for the past few weeks, I allowed myself to roll with it with as little self-recrimination as possible. Which is not to say no self-recrimination, but still. I’ll have more to say about it when I do my March writing post, but let’s just say that the haze might just be lifting. Maybe.

LISTENING
I like it when I get in at or near the ground floor with a new(ish) band, in this case, Miss Velvet and the Blue Wolf. It’s even better when the discovery is totally serendipitous! What with all these acts nowadays incorporating ’70s/’80s yacht rock sounds and the occasional ’90s R&B groove into the 21st century, I wondered who might be bringing the old ’70s jazz-rock back. One cursory Google search later, I found this…

It’s been awhile since I came across a new (to me) band and thought “instant buy.” It’s definitely on the “rock” end, but the jazz, R&B, and funk are definitely there. And after a bit of research, it made sense why, given who’s been shepherding them the past couple years. Suffice it to say, if their stuff is good enough for Dr. Funkenstein himself, it’s good enough for me!

READING


Most of my reading has been working through Mia Alvar’s story collection IN THE COUNTRY. Yes, I mean “working through,” but in the best way. It took me three attempts to get through the first couple of stories because they hit so fucking close to home.

IN THE WILD
With any luck, I’ll at least get back to these Weeknotes next Sunday, as usual. Until then, I’m going to try and take care of myself at least as well as I take care of my fur children…

#Weeknotes S03 E12

My mood has been pretty low this week. It had been for a minute or two before that, so I don’t really feel like I can say it came from the side effects of my second COVID shot, or even the shooting in Atlanta. They didn’t help, to be sure. And while I more or less kept up with the business of life, the writing suffered. That’s okay, though. You know, therapy and medication helps but there have always been moments where they don’t work as well as I’d like. You still hit walls every once in awhile, and I’ve now hit the first wall of 2021.

The difference this week though is that I purposely, mindfully allowed it happen so that I could observe what was actually goes on with me, as opposed to slipping into a depressive haze and realizing 3 or 4 months from now, “Oh shit, I guess I haven’t written anything, have I?”

I wrote this in my notebook…

Self-care is an active process. A mindful process. Not just for “picking up the pieces.”

And what exactly did I do for myself this week? Staying off my own back was a big help. Taking stock of how much my writing practice has, in fact, improved over the past few months actually let me put it all in perspective and conclude that taking an entire week off (wasn’t like I had a deadline or anything) wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. It wouldn’t be “the end of my writing career,” wouldn’t make me “a failure,” and might actually be just what I need at the moment.

THE CHAIN
Which isn’t to say I didn’t try. But it wasn’t going to happen. I knew it, and so did at least one of my cats who decided to take advantage of the situation.

  • This week’s writing chain: 1 day
  • Total days in March: 12
  • Longest chain in 2021: 33 days
  • Total days in 2021: 63 days

WATCHING
There wasn’t a whole lot to distract myself with, but I did find a couple of things. I’ve finally caught up with the whole Uncle Roger phenomenon and I admit feeling a little disturbed. Not by all of the “Is it racist?” discourse but by the question, “Have I reached Asian Uncle age?” Racist or not, I can respect how he takes the piss out of Jamie Oliver.

Love watching other artists talk about how they engage in their creative process? I do. Check out “How to write a song with Lake Street Dive.”

IN THE WILD
Look at Asher–a little groggy maybe, but awake and ready to get back into the game. Thanks for inspiring me, Little Guy!

#Weeknotes S03 E11

This one’s mostly about the writing process today. And I’ve got Sunday sauce on the stove so this’ll be quick.

THE CHAIN
Okay, the streak was broken this week. It’s all good!

  • This week’s writing chain: 4 days
  • Total days in March: 11
  • Longest chain in 2021: 33 days
  • Total days in 2021: 62 days

Remember how I kinda forced things last week, but as a way to experiment to see what happens? Well, now I have an idea. Sure, I kept up the momentum the day after, but only to find myself inexplicably in bed for 4 extra hours the next day. Coincidence? Maybe. I tried to grit my teeth and push through for two more days. But the two days after that, I noped out of it all like I should’ve done in the first place.

I spent a lot of that off time dumping stuff into ye olde writer’s notebook and zoning out to music. It’s actually two of the ways I recharge my artistic batteries but here’s the thing–I’ve never purposely paused to do that. Here’s what usually happens, in order:

  1. Pause writing for one reason or another. Could be simple exhaustion, depression, life circumstances, abject laziness, etc.–it’s all happened at one time or another.
  2. Beat myself up from anywhere between, oh I dunno, three days and six months.
  3. Zone out to music or some reading, dump my brain into a notebook, and maybe get the gumption up to start writing again.

Thanks to years of therapy and medication, I’ve been working to notice these things ahead of time. Last week, it paid off and I was able to bypass Step 2!

LISTENING
I picked up Lake Street Dive’s new album OBVIOUSLY. I’ll write up more about it later, but suffice it to say I caught a couple of nice AOR/Yacht Rock-y grooves. I tweeted about them too, which kinda started me on a path I don’t want to go down.

I mean, it might’ve been a little bit overboard to then proceed to livetweet my most recent listen my most of the latest Bill Champlin album LIVIN’ FOR LOVE. It wasn’t every track, so I’ll jot down my review later.

Now that I think about it, I’m torn about livetweeting albums listens….

IN THE WILD
I could interpret Mazikeen draping herself across my keyboard as her way of reinforcing my need for self-care, but I get the feeling that it’s not entirely about me.

#Weeknotes S03 E10

Finally made time to visit the chiropractor for the first time in 8 months. My neck and back begged me for it and I haven’t been paying attention to be honest. I do okay working from home as ergonomically as possible but I just don’t have the Aeron Chair/adjustable desk setup that I have in the office which I haven’t been in for a year now(??) and that takes an inevitable toll. Let me tell you, I needed the visit badly judging by the sick cracks that came out of my neck. I wish I had a mic handy; I could’ve recorded the cracks and licensed them out as sound FX. The adjustments really rang my bell, too.

I mention this to point out how it’s finally getting through my thick skull that self-care really has to be a conscious process. More than just preventive care or care that addresses a specific or acute problem. It’s a bit of a juggling act, like it was when it came to last week’s writing…

THE CHAIN

  • This week’s writing chain: 7 days
  • Total days in March: 6
  • Longest chain in 2021: 29 days (Another record!)
  • Total days in 2021: 57 days

I might have been more inclined to cut myself some slack last Friday if I hadn’t been posting my monthly writing progress the Monday before. In fact, if three months of data indicates that roughly every 4 weeks, you have a day when you’re just not feeling it, then maybe you should run with it.

Thing is, I’m more worried about shooting for a month of consecutive writing days. But that’s how the whole “writing chain” concept is supposed to work. It’s kind of insidious by nature. Still, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a little experimentation.


READING
Random things from the transom…

WATCHING
I neglected to mention last time that I binged BURIED BY THE BERNARDS. It’s similar to THE CASKETEERS which I adore and was the reason I checked out the Bernards in the first place. BURIED is definitely its own thing but the heart of the two shows is the essentially the same–the vagaries of a family-owned funeral business.

IN THE WILD
Don’t be fooled by sleeping pictures of Asher Mir lately! The only time I can capture him is in between attacks of the Zoomies!

He plays hard. He attac hard. He eats treats hard. He sleeps hard.

He’s a role model!

#Weeknotes S03 E09

C’mon Shawn, don’t be such a Filipino Steve Perry.
–PSYCH s07e06, “Cirque du Soul”

But, what if we’re all Filipino Steve Perrys?

I was pretty amazed when I first saw footage of Journey Through Time, a side project made up of current and ex-Journey members. Especially with drummer Deen Castronovo’s vocals. I mean, check out “Separate Ways.” During his tenure as Journey’s drummer, he’d sing the occassional song to give Steve Perry’s replacements a break.

Rock fans know (“know”) about what an incredible feat it is for anyone to replicate Steve Perry’s vocals. We said it when Steve Augeri took over. And Filipino rock fans practically shit ourselves when Arnel Pineda stepped in! But there’s a video making the rounds of Journey’s road crew playing “Separate Ways” during a sound check (h/t OpenCulture).

Now I could never sing like but I realized that maybe, just maybe, there were always more Steve Perrys out there than we ever thought there were.

THE CHAIN

  • This week’s writing chain: 7 days
  • Longest chain in 2021: 22 days (New streak–again!)
  • Total writing days in February: 26
  • Total writing days in 2021: 50 days

Wednesday was a hard-won writing day. Now, I know I’ve said similar stuff about the piece I’m working on right now. Well, old me would’ve thought, “That’s because you were full of shit before.” But the reality is that this story had a lot of problems, I solved one or two of them over time, and I just wasn’t done yet. I’m a little better about using the tools I’ve picked up to take a short story apart, kinda like string cheese. I just need more practice, is all.

LISTENING
I know there are a couple of Bill Champlin albums that I haven’t gone all the way through yet, but like my TBR list, things jump the queue every now and then. This time, it’s THE EXCITING SOUNDS OF MENAHAN STREET BAND. Not that I buy Menahan for “exciting,” but there are a few uncharacteristically uptempo grooves. They’re in no danger of stepping on The Budos Band‘s toes, except maybe on the track “Cabin Fever.” Overall, the new album sort of gives me old school Blood, Sweat & Tears CHILD IS FATHER TO THE MAN vibes.

I’m way behind on podcast listening. Like since before Christmas. But how could I pass up Fran Lebowitz on KCRW’S THE TREATMENT?

READING
The podcast made me dig up my copy of THE FRAN LEBOWITZ READER, something I typically go through at least once a year but haven’t in like two or three (life, pandemic, etc). At least I can say I’ve been reading this since well before PRETEND IT’S A CITY made it a thing again!

The book that’ll jump my TBR queue next is Isabel Yap’s NEVER HAVE I EVER. I mean, I dunno, seems like my thing, right?

IN THE WILD
Mazikeen, don’t look at me like that. I need to post this, excuse me… just… excuse me…

#Weeknotes S03 E08

Between rovers going to Mars, politicians heading to Cancun while Texas freezes, and radio show hosts going to Hell, it seems like people are getting out more often than I am lately — and I got vaccinated (well, shot #1 anyway).

THE CHAIN

  • This week’s writing chain: 7 days
  • Total days in February: 19
  • Longest chain in 2021: 15 days NEW STREAK!
  • Total days in 2021: 43 days


The truth is, I am getting a little bit better about stuff like this as I rebuild my writing process in 2021. Now that I’m doing better about just putting the time in, the next hurdles will be to shut my inner critic the fuck up, because wow does it have something to say about everything, from what I’m putting down to how I’m doing it.

READING
Another book I decided to look up after a Boskone panel last week was the second edition of MOTIVATE YOUR WRITING: USING MOTIVATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY TO ENERGIZE YOUR WRITING LIFE by Stephen Kelner. Some eye-opening stuff in there.

I finished the trade with the first five issues of Brian K. Vaughan’s PAPER GIRLS. I knew I should’ve paid more for the option of getting a different compilation with the first ten, instead. It’s definitely fulfilled all expectations so far in that it seems to jive with the Cleveland I remember from 1988.

IN THE WILD
It did feel like a long week. Well, let’s rest up before we have to do it all over again!

#Weeknotes S03 E07

Sorry this is a day late. Better late than never, although I apologize if this feels like a rush job this week.

THANKS, BOSKONE 58!
Boskone was the highlight of my week! I’ve enjoyed a history with that particular con, and was particularly bummed that I had to bow out of it in 2019 and 2020. But the times being what they are, COVID needn’t have stopped me in 2021!

I know there were all sorts of virtual cons last year, but I just didn’t have the spoons to Zoom for my dayjob and then keep Zooming in my off time. I could only do without live nerd talk in my life for so long, though. And while I was confident the folks running it would do a great job, they actually did exceed my expectations. And I say this as someone who, like most folks I imagine, had to put up with his share of Zoom mishaps over the past year.

I thought this would be my write up, but I don’t want to short-change the con. I’ll put those up later, probably.

THE CHAIN

  • This week’s writing chain: 7 days
  • Days in February: 12
  • Longest chain in 2021: 13 days

Slowly rebuilding the chain. I’m doing better than I did this time last year, that’s for sure.

TBR
Turns out you can’t even go to an online con without picking up recommendations. I knew nothing about Brian K. Vaughan’s PAPER GIRLS, set in a fictional suburb of Cleveland in 1988. I figured, “Hey, I lived in Cleveland in 1988!” so I picked up the collection of the first 5 issues and have enjoyed the first one so far.

I’m really digging THE DAYTON ANTHOLOGY so far.

F*CKFACE by Leah Hampton is not con-related, but Rust Belt adjacent. That’ll probably be next.

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
Jazz legend Chick Corea died last week. I’ve always been a trumpet guy, but you have to respect any keyboardist that could hang with Miles during his electric era. But of course Corea was so much more than that. He was a new-to-me discovery when I started haphazardly exploring the world of jazz just before college. In fact, the Akoustic Band record was one of the first jazz albums I ever owned, which is why “Morning Sprite” is a favorite song of mine.

IN THE WILD
All hail the Queen and the Crown Prince on their throne!

#Weeknotes S03 E06

The days are getting slightly longer. The novelty of a functioning government is finally starting to wear off. Only starting though, seeing as we still have insurrectionists getting their organic food in jail after all or being allowed to go on their planned getaways to Mexico. Oh, and then there are Representatives whose only non-apologetic defense to avoid getting stripped of their committee assignments was basically Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me.”

Nope I was wrong. We’re a little ways away from a fully functioning government again. But at least there’s a little room for some of us to breathe. And write…

THE CHAIN

  • This week’s writing chain: 5 days
  • Days in February: 6
  • Longest chain in 2021: 13 days

Nope, couldn’t do seven days this week. Maybe one of these days, I’ll flagellate myself less. I’m getting better, though! I’ve been getting back to the story I’m working on, and have set myself the low, low bar of getting it done by the end of the month. Hey, as long as the needle keeps moving forward.

READING
I posted the other day about reading CLEVELAND IN 50 MAPS, edited by Dan Crissman. I finished it and it does not disappoint!

The impression CRAFT IN THE REAL WORLD left me speaks for itself…

OTHER STUFF THAT’S CAUGHT MY EYE
In from the transom…

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
Ah, memories…

IN THE WILD
Oh look, the box of judgement I ordered arrived the other day!!