What Kind of Year Has It Been

Let’s recap: 2016 was quite the year.

Like every year it has had it’s share of good and bad.  My little family has been able to travel, we moved into a new home, and have been very fortunate in mulitple ways.

Looking back at 2016 on Sword & Quill, I was surprised at so many parts of it; at being able to grow my readership in the beginning of the year; at the varied posts I made, from political pieces to fiction to multi-part stories.  I was also amazed at how many posts I missed; between travel, illness, moving, and fighting bouts of Depression, the second half of the year was inconsistent.

I started the year off with a story in four parts, That Woman.  Then a Letter to My Son.  While I was Travelin’, my friend Krisann from Now Hark This filled in with The New Holland Solution.

Spring brought clear skies and Fear and Loathing in Brussels.  I couldn’t write about every act of terror that took place, but, like the attack in Paris last year, I coldn’t let it go by without some thoughts.  I also shared some thoughts on #Love and My Best Friend.

Summer brought more travel, with another trip to Portland and then to the east coast to visit Baltimore and Washington DC.  But it also brought a couple of lingering colds and a battle with Depression that lasted through the end of the year.  But I did get to share my Thoughts on an Early Morning.

As Fall has fallen, my thoughts turned to the election and what that means.  I asked Who Are We?  And I remembered that Christmas Is Here Again, and then asked us all to Move Forward.

2016 was a hard year, full of contridictions and messes.  While I was privy to moments of love and joy, we were also witnesses to moments of vitrol and hate.  Like every year, we saw highs and lows, but it is how we deal with these moments that matter.

Thank you for coming along on this ride, and I look forward to an exciting 2017.  Until next time my friends, Godspeed and Good Luck.

Sunday Funday

At the beginning of February I set a goal for myself; to post an additional entry on Sundays.  I have, for the most part, been able to do just that.  I’ve written a couple of times about the other projects that I have been working on, and those continue to grow.  So for now, it is time to put this particular challenge away for a while.  I will continue to post on Wednesdays, but this will be my last Sunday post for the next several weeks.  If you have any feedback on the postings, please let me know!

I was hoping to post something real tonight, so I kept hoping that I would feel better.  That hasn’t happened, so instead let’s just get to the recap.

A fine group of local musicians (that just happen to be awesome people, and damn good musicians) are getting ready to put out their second album.  Please go check out Fialta, and support their second album through their Kickstarter if you can.

Speaking of fine groups of people, I just discovered the Free Hugs Project.  This is a group just trying to bring a little love to the world.  I think that’s something that we could all get behind.

Finally, I have had a couple of posts go up over the last week or so:

  • Portland, about my recent trip to The Smallest Big City, Stumptown, Bridgetown, Portlandia, Land of 1,000 Nicknames.  It was a great trip and we are already planning trip two.
  • I also wrote about (not) living in terror, with Fear & Loathing in Brussels.  Which brings us back to needing a little more love in the world.

So with that, I wish you all a good night, and good luck.

“Forgiveness is choosing to love.”  -Gandhi

A Writer’s Predicament

The last few weeks have been fairly steady in the writing department for me.  I have been able to not only put out a regular post every Wednesday, but I have been able to post a quick blurb and recap every Sunday.  I wanted to try this kind of a format and see if it was sustainable for me, especially during a time when my schedule would allow it.  It has been wonderful to get be able to put out pieces on a fairly regular basis and the feedback from people has been positive.

However, now things are coming to a point: I am getting ready for a vacation, I am developing an idea for a novel, I am actively writing a novella, and I am helping to edit a colleague’s book.  I’m a little busy.

Believe me, this is a wonderful problem to have.  I started this blog a year ago to try and push myself to be a better writer.  To develop the ideas inside of me.  To work through problems.  To evolve my own voice.  I have been able to do that, and will continue to work at it.  I am finding ways to create content, and, more importantly, to get it out on time.  This is a very big thing for me.  Deadlines have not always been my friend.

My current predicament, however, is just the kind of problem I have always wanted; I have too many ideas.  I have struggled writing posts precisely because I have so many things to say.  Most of my creative writing efforts are going into the long forms that I’m working on, leaving me with more non-fiction works for my blog.  But even those need research, fact-checking, drafts, editing.

Last week I was getting fairly discouraged.  I did not feel that I was putting out my best work on the blog, I had stalled on my novel, and all of my writing just felt flat.  I emailed a long time collaborator, and she asked me a very simple question; why do you write?  Her answer is the same as mine.  The same for most people who write.

I do it because I have to.  I write to not go insane.  I write to get the stories out.  I write to create worlds and tell tales and to get my point across.  I write because I’ve tried not writing, and it almost killed me.

Maybe I will never finish the stories I’m working on.  Maybe I will never be on the New York Times Bestseller List.  Maybe I will never make money on my writing.  But that isn’t why I write.  I write because it is who I am.  I write to survive.

I will continue to write.  Sometimes it will be good, and sometimes it will be bad.  Sometimes I will be uninspired and struggle to put out a post saying I am having a hard time putting out a post.  But sometimes, every once in a while, I will be great.  And I will keep trying, and keep improving, because I have to.

Thank you for coming along for the ride.


I’m on vacation this week, but please stay tuned for a very special post this week from Krisann Gentry.  She has been my friend, editor, and confidant for many years, and is truly a wonderful person and friend.  And I can’t wait to see what she has to say on Wednesday.

  • Check out last week’s post, A letter to my son.
  • My friends at Nicolife have released the 5th episode.  Enjoy.
  • Found a fun data chart of The Beatles, answering many questions you never knew you had.  Give it a look here.

 

Sick and Tired

I felt it starting Wednesday night.  Thursday I woke up with a gravely voice and an overwhelming sense of…meh.  By the time I got off of work on Thursday I felt completely wasted and wrecked.  Friday I woke up feeling even worse.  I ended up calling out and spending the day watching Top Gear firmly planted on the couch, and Saturday was no better.  Sunday I finally began to feel human again.

I hate being sick.  The feeling of not being able to do anything is worse than choosing not to do anything.  The weather has been unbelievable the last two weeks and we have been wanting to go for a hike, but first my wife was sick, now I am.  We also have a vacation coming up in a couple of weeks, and I really don’t want to be sick while doing that.

It is a part of the human experience that we end up sick.  Viruses, bacteria, allergies, fungi; these are all part of how our world has ended up as it has.  These have changed human history in countless ways.  In the late 19th century germ theory began to spread through the scientific community, giving people the knowledge and abilities to begin fighting back against disease.

Which brings me to this: it has been almost 150 years since we discovered that washing your hands, covering your mouth, and staying away from people when you are sick keeps everyone healthy.  What the hell, humanity.  Do those things.  For all of our sake!


 

It’s been a pretty slow week for me.  I spent a surprising amount of it on the couch watching Top Gear and documentaries.  For that I would like to thank Netflix and iTunes.  I do have a couple of things I would recommend this week, though.

  • The NPR Politics Podcast is excellent.  They stay very middle of the road, great insight and good discussion.
  • Need a little joy in your life?  Have an Instagram?  Then follow Bunnymama.  It is all bunnies, all the time.
  • Check out last week’s post, Is 2016 over yet?

Do you know where your data is?

Who owns the data you generate?  That is a basic question that anyone that uses the internet, or an electronic device in gneral for that matter, should be asking themselves.

When I snap a photo on my iPhone, use Instagram to edit the photo, then upload it to Twitter, who owns the photo?  Who can reprint it?  Who can look at it?

Here’s another example; if I take a picture, upload it to Facebook, and then someone extracts the metadata from that photo to find out where I like to hang out, is that illegal?

Data is what everyone wants: companies want data to better sell us more products, law enforcement wants data to know where individuals of interest are and what they are doing, theives want data to know who might not be home or what valuables you may have.  Data is everything.

In my work I see people everyday that are worried about the wrong things.  Worried that people are watching them from their cellphone cameras.  Worried that the NFC chip in their phones are leaking financial data.  Worried that the their fingerprint will fall into someone else’s hands.  Meanwhile, no concern is given to the fact that their password is easily guessable, that they use unsecured wifi, that they have no passcode on their phone.  The important inconveniences are ignored, while the vauge theoretical possibilities are focused upon.

Having control of our data should be at the forefront of any discussion on rights in the 21st century.  A free society also means a private society.  Saying you have nothing to hide is a fallacy; being private means not having to disclose which park your children play at, what you bought from Amazon, which cat videos you choose to watch, or what conversations you had with your significant other.

It isn’t about stopping terrorism.  It isn’t about catching kidnappers.  And it isn’t about bringing you services.

It is about your data.

We have given up so much already, why do we shrug our collective shoulders and walk away when it comes to the data that forms our very lives.


So, what happened this week?

  • On the above topic, for the United States, if I may encourage you to write your representitives!  Just check here.  Also, register to vote!  It is primary season, and it is an election year.
  • I finished my 4-Part story this week.  Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.
  • Continuing my coffee recommendations from last week, if you are ever in San Luis Obispo, CA, please check out Bello Mundo.  A surprising amount of this blog has been written there.

Good luck this week everyone.

 

 

Where did all our friends go?

I got a text message the other day from an old friend.  It was great to hear from them and we chatted back and forth for a bit before the conversation drifted off.

I began thinking about friends.  I have always had a lot of friends, people that I was close to, talked to, hung out with.  I am a friendly person, and that helped.  But I usually only had one or two people I was really close to at a time; a Best Friend.

To those of you that have filled that role for someone, thank you.  You have saved lives.  You have inspired and supported and changed people.  To those have been that for me, I love you for it.

If we have lost touch or moved apart or changed, I’m sorry.  I will always value the relationship we had, and the effect you had on my life.


 

I have some cool stuff I want to share from this week:

  • I have been writing a story.  Check out Part 3 here.
  • I travelled to Santa Barbara, CA for work a couple of weeks ago, and if you are ever there, please go check out Good Cup Downtown.  Seriously.  You owe it to yourself.
  • Some friends of mine are working on a web-series called Nicolife.  Go watch!

Hope all of you have a wonderful week!