So, I wrote a book…

And it will be out in April.

I wrote it over the course of a month, in October, 2015. That’s almost all I can say about it right now. But tonight I realized my book coming out made me feel like I should update this site more often. That, and I’m paying for a domain name now. So might as well, right?

If you once knew me as a crime blogger, my book won’t be a total surprise—but it is not a true crime book. If I’m being totally honest, I’m glad. Like, really glad. True crime is in vogue right now, which is mostly great, yet there was a time when I’d lost my taste for it and didn’t want to be identified with it. I haven’t fully lost that feeling, though I would never say a true crime book is off the table for me. It’s just that if I do write one it’s going to be something I choose very carefully and do with a huge amount of attention to detail and writing. I will not half-ass it.

The book I wrote—and this is giving nothing away—was supposed to be funny, too, and I hope I succeeded. That’s one of those things I just won’t truly know for a while.

Anyway, it hit me that I care about how things go with the book and I want to write more, and the writers I enjoy the most online are serious about keeping digital presences up to and including active blogs as well. So hopefully, in spite of all the daily writing I do for work, I’ll be updating this more frequently too.

On Midnight in the Month of June, On Fiction

At some point I decided this was my main blogging space. This is recent. What happened was I found myself dissatisfied with a return to Tumblr and casting about for a space that would by name and content give me the most latitude to blog what I wanted–personal stuff, true crime, history, weirdness, you name it.

I realized that space was sitting here all along, I’d already established it, and I’d been ignoring it since September of last year because–no lie–I forgot the elaborately complicated password I made to sign in to WordPress.

I know how dumb this is, don’t give me shit about it.

Anyway, I feel like one feature of my decision to focus on this space as my only blog, the place where I’ll put everything (I plan to eventually get a standalone URL, too) should be me giving myself permission to just randomly blog my inner monologue. At least once in a while. Ello is a good space for that too (shut up, it is. I like Ello), but today I’ll say it here.

I’ve been writing poetry and fiction for longer than I’ve been writing nonfiction or journalism. As my paid work has entirely been in blogging/journalism/nonfiction, that’s easy for even me to forget.

And regarding fiction, I’ve developed a concern: what if I’m geared toward short fiction? WHAT IF I’M A SHORT STORY WRITER?

This may sound silly, but it’s a legit concern if you ever want to sell your fiction to anyone.

I mean, I don’t think the short story is dead (I swear I’ve read musings contemplating this very thing in the last few years) but I do think that unless you’re George Saunders (whom I love, and keep your contrary opinion to yourself), short fiction is not the thing that punches a writer’s ticket these days. Everyone wants to be–thinks they are–a novelist.

And hey, I am fairly sure I have a novel in me. But not yet. When I write fiction these days, it’s always short.

Is this a function of having a ferocious case of ADHD? A limited set of functional, fictional, interesting ideas? I don’t know. At least partly, re: ADHD. I don’t think so, re: limited ideas. But I do think this maybe true, for me.

What I also think is that in general, the short story isn’t appreciated these days for its fundamental power, its ability to grab even the most random reader and draw them into an imaginary world.

Many of the stories that hit me hard at an early age were short fiction. One example that always comes quickly to mind when I’m thinking about this stuff: Ray Bradbury’s amazing “At Midnight, in the Month of June.”

I first read the Bradbury story in a collection of horror fiction when I was 12, and it blew me the fuck away. Passages like this:

She stood against the door in the dark. If moonlight could have struck in upon her, she would have shimmered like a small pool of water on a windy night. He felt the fine sapphire jewels come out upon her face, and her face all glittering with brine.

Or this:

He remembered that sometimes when he played hide-and-seek they did not find him at all; he would not let them find him. He said not a word, he stayed so long in the apple tree that he was a white-fleshed apple; he lingered so long in the chestnut tree that he had the hardness and the brown brightness of the autumn nut. And God, how powerful to be undiscovered, how immense it made you, until your arms were branching, growing out in all directions, pulled by the stars and the tidal moon until your secretness enclosed the town and mothered it with your compassion and tolerance. You could do anything in the shadows, anything. If you chose to do it, you could do it. How powerful to sit above the sidewalk and see people pass under, never aware you were there and watching, and might put out an arm to brush their noses with the five-legged spider of your hand and brush their thinking minds with terror.

… Were to me the quintessence of great scene painting. Everything about this story sang of the blue-lit and silent watches of the night, of silence, of madness. I had been that secret boy high in the tree, hiding as the summer night blued then darkened to indigo, studded with stars. Bradbury was painting a portrait of wrath and murder, yet I was reading it and immersed in and sympathetic to the memories and mind of the killer. No matter how psycho crime blog readers once assumed I might be, that’s not me. Yet Bradbury put me there.

That’s magic. And the story is what, maybe 10 pages long?

God. Damn. To me, Bradbury becomes a wizard in those few pages. He invokes the scents, the taste, the light, and the howling vacuum in the soul of his essentially psychopathic protagonist.

So maybe I’m a short story writer, when we’re talking made-up stuff. Maybe that’s my general bent.

If so? If I can get even one story out there one day that in a mere 2000 words does what Ray Bradbury did for me reading his cold poetry of murder for another reader?

Well, fuck yeah. Good enough. Let’s go.

Puzzled

As I review this blog and what I’ve already posted here, I am a little confounded as to why I stopped posting. The original intent I had for this space–even the name struck me as just right, at the time–was for me to finally merge all my blogging impulses (news, crime, fitness, humor, weirdness) in a way that made sense. I was on my way to doing that here. Then I stopped.

I can only blame major mood disorders–chiefly depression–and ADHD. Perhaps especially the last.

And this post is a bit more navel-gazing, but it is in keeping with an effort I’m making to write more and about what’s really going on in my head.

The Unbearable Writeness of Blogging

I have, for a long time, hated blogging. What I hate about blogging is not the act of writing for public consumption. It’s the heavy load the words “blog” and “blogging” have carried for a few years now. In my mind, and I suspect the minds of others as well, the moment something you’ve researched, edited, and labored over moves from an “essay” or any other form of writing to a “blog post,” it feels somehow diminished. This is both a subjective attitude developed from peculiar, personal experience and something I’ve noticed in pop culture and the media. Tell someone you’re a journalist and they won’t blink–it’s a long accepted job, even if it’s one people sometimes reflexively dislike. Say you’re a blogger–even if it’s a paid gig–and watch many people try to put the brakes on a bit of a sneer.

So as other posts in this blog indicate, doing this is a frequent source of internal conflict for me. A lot of things figure into that, including the question of ‘why bother?’

After this post about my weight loss and many of the factors that led me to do it was highlighted by WordPress’s “Freshly Pressed,” I discovered something surprising: a ton of people are still happily blogging away, just because they want to. I found this out from the ongoing response to that post, and from reviewing the blogs of many who liked it and then chose to follow me.

If you listen to the nimrods who blog for popular sites (certain tech blogs, etc.) about social media, you might get the impression that tools like Twitter and Tumblr have killed old-fashioned blogging (a ridiculous term itself, since blogging isn’t even 20 years old, really) just for the heck of it.*

I think the response to my post featured on “Freshly Pressed” opened my eyes to the fact that blogging hasn’t really died out at all, and there are still plenty of people doing it because they feel compelled to. It may have begun to re-legitimize the act of blogging, in my eyes.

As a result, I’ve decided, after a silly amount of hemming and hawing, to focus much more of my writing in general in this space. A problem with the wealth of choices available to anyone wanting to publish much of anything online now is that very wealth…if you’re as ADD** as me, it’s often irresistible. I want to try that new Tumblr idea. I want to give that funny Twitter parody idea a shot. I want to check out this tool and see if it’s better than WordPress, or use that other one and see if it’s got better Google search penetration than Tumblr.

I want to, but I think rather than be distracted by the “oooohhh shiny,” I’m going to remain resolute and put it here, come hell or high water. I’m committing. It’s disturbing, and makes me uncomfortable.

That will mean a wide variety of weirdness, including pointless talking to myself posts like this. Something I try to not do, but continue doing. Thanks for following along, hope it’s worth your time. And mine.

*Backtracking: in 2005 I had been blogging for 5 years ‘just for the heck of it’ and someone invited me to write for their site for pay. That was news writing, not precisely blogging, but it led ultimately to, among other things, paid blogging, including launching and anchoring a blog about crime for Village Voice Media. After that blogging was officially a job, and that probably was the main reason I underwent a huge change in attitude about this endeavor.

**Medically diagnosed ADD, dammit, not self-diagnosed based on some online tests. The internet has provided innumerable tools for allowing people to glibly determine they are impaired or dying.

Stuff I don’t know

This post has received some nice attention from WordPress and the many supportive comments have done me good. I’m glad people are reading. It presented me for a moment with a dilemma: if more people are reading this blog now, what do I write about?

Then I realized that’s the dodge of a mind that likes to work against itself on a regular basis–which mine does, especially where writing is concerned. That is, I think about it a lot, then cycle into a form of self-doubt that has me not writing much at all. Which is funny, because an initial foray into blogging 10 years ago this year was made without hesitation and that led to my first professional work as a writer. In 2000 or so I began blogging, and by 2004 I was a little bored with what I was doing there (noodling, making mostly unconnected personal posts or writing experiments with poetry and fiction as the spirit moved me). I decided then to make a leap into a long-held interest that had also been a bit of a secret embarrassment–true crime. I made that leap into true crime blogging around the time social media as we know it today began to explode. Years before the likes of Gawker and Daily Beast were plumbing mass killers’ online profiles, I found the intersection of the two–criminals and their victims having public blogs, profiles, etc–and that became my “angle.” Within 6 months of starting that first true crime blog on a lark, I was offered freelance work with the Crime Library. From there things went a little crazy and I ended up being a talking head and eventually getting opportunities to cover other subjects for a variety of publications, though when people contacted me sight unseen to do a TV appearance or contribute to their publication, it was usually true crime-related.

My point is that it really hit me today that when I first began a specific effort to blog about crime, I did it with zero self-doubt. And whatever regrets I may have about that now (I have a few, as my perception of reporting on and writing about crime has evolved a great deal in the last 5 years in particular), it seems like I may have identified my main enemy as a writer–the “why am I even bothering” impulse.

What I don’t know on any given day is what I’ll blog about. I don’t mind admitting insecurity with my tendency to have rapidly shifting interests. I do have medically diagnosed (as opposed to self-diagnosed, like too many other people I’ve met) attention deficit disorder, but that’s not a good excuse. The insecurity is that anyone who might read or subscribe to this site might check it one day and say, “what the hell happened to the dude blogging about his fitness journey? This post is about murder,” and find that not just ADD, but kind of crazy.

Well, yeah. That’s probably going to happen. Here’s what’s already here, and what anyone reading might find in the future:

  • Fitness stuff–diet, exercise, even exercise routines. Commentary on the way others write about fitness online and in print–since there are some major flaws there.
  • Crime–it’s not like I really lost the interest. It’s just much more specific now. I’m never going to just globally cover every weird crime story I see. I might tweet a link, but it will have to be a story that strikes a deeper chord for me to blog about it. Even then I might not, if I feel it’s a story I could publish as a freelance writer for pay. That’s just practical.
  • Weird stuff. Everyone’s definition of weird is a little different–but not too different, is my bet. I’m a skeptic but will still write about any unusually compelling tale of UFOs, cryptids or things that go bump in the you know when.
  • Social media–maybe not so much, as the subject feels played. Still, I embraced it pretty solidly and don’t feel bad about that.
  • Rants on what I hate or what annoys me. What? It’s a blog, fer chrissakes.
  • Comedy stuff–I love comedy and comedians and have a lot of funny friends online. It’ll end up here sometimes.
  • History–I edited this post to add this in. I have an abiding interest in history, especially the early 20th century. I’ve already written several posts in that vein.
  • Less common (though my interest in good health and fitness is arguably personal) –personal stuff. I save what little truly personal writing I do for pen and paper, like it’s the 19th century or something.

Oddly enough, it occurs to me that I’m saying I’m going to treat this site exactly as I treated blogs I wrote before I focused mainly on crime writing, and I guess I’m apologizing in advance if that gives anyone a case of mental whiplash.

I don’t know what I’ll say next, and I’m fine with that.

Past experience–going back 10 years, in fact–should have taught me: I won’t keep this kind of thing up if I bore myself.

While fitness pursuits are interesting to me, writing about them in detail often is not. That is, I have thoughts I could organize about some of my favorite stuff, like running and kettlebells, and chances are I will, as I go along. But I’m happier if I save simple recording of workouts–especially repeats, and I frequently repeat them–to personal notebooks in which I’ve been recording them since the middle of last year.

Past experience also taught me that it’s rare I have something overtly personal or essay-like to talk about. That’s a goal I have–to consciously (as in not just write free-form) put together some organized, more or less personal writing here. I won’t label it humor, either, because I have no idea when something will turn out funny or not.

What I am going to continue is blogging, though. Just about whatever’s got me curious or interested on a given day, which could be a huge variety of things, some of them weird. That’d fit the name I gave this site better anyway.

Goals

I have a lot of goals related to various things and I’ll never enumerate or detail all of them because:

A. No one cares;
B. They’re my business.

I felt like mentioning two in this post, though, because they’re relevant. Really, a better word is project, more than goals. Resolutions is a terrible word and should be shot. It implies imminent failure. Anyway.

One of my projects for this year involves updating this blog a lot. The other is exercise. I went on (and on and on) about that yesterday in this post. I also noted the “daily” workout may not be so daily. Yet.

The reason for this post is I realized in order to meet the easier of the two goals in question, which involves the act of writing, I’ll have to update this blog with stuff I hesitated to tackle upon making the first few posts over the last couple of days. Which is stupid, considering I gave this site the name HuffWire, therefore stating I intend to make newsy blog posts about stuff that interests me, sometimes.

So this is an announcement of sorts: these posts will be more mixed between personal stuff, sometimes (I consider the workouts under a personal post umbrella) and newsy things of interest.

Maybe that doesn’t even need explanation. I don’t know. I’ve been blogging both for the hell of it and for money since 2000 and I still haven’t figured this shit out.