Hello World

There’s something in the collective subconscious of the internet right now. We’ve grown tired with social media. We’re frustrated with brands taking over everything we build. It’s been almost twenty years on the web for me (and I’m only 32), and I never thought I’d say this, but I miss blogging. What we used to call blogging. I started thinking about this a few weeks ago, started thinking about buying some space on a hosted server and pointing my name dot com at some static HTML pages instead of this Tumblr.

Then I read this by Paul Ford, about his ~Tilde Club experiment. Michael Sippey wonders why people joined ~Tilde and immediately started blogging (he answers his own question, too). Matt Haughey wrote a reminiscence about the early 2000s indie web. Andy Baio wants to start writing in the middle again. Gina Trapani and Jason Snell have joined the chorus. Why are we feeling nostalgic for something that hasn’t really died?

Me? I’m feeling stretched thin, and the only social networks I actually care about are Tumblr and Twitter. I’m not vlogging on YouTube. I post my photos to Twitter, not Instagram. I still don’t even know Ello is. When I joined Tumblr in 2007, reblogs hadn’t been invented yet. It was a place where you posted stuff and people followed you to see that stuff. There’s nothing wrong with change, of course, but I miss making stuff.

As someone who came to the web as a writer, I thought we would rule forever. The internet used to be a platform for txt files and hyperlinks. Photos and video took up space and bandwidth we just couldn’t afford. That’s changed. Today’s web currency isn’t blogs; it’s fanart. Whether redesigned movie posters or comics about superheroes, artists, illustrators, photographers, and designers have made Tumblr, and by extension, the internet, something different than it was twenty years ago. And that’s OK. Because everything has to change. But I miss blogging.

Reblogging was only meant to be a stop-gap between written posts. I stopped worrying about keeping my blog current because I knew something interesting would cross my dashboard, something worth sharing. I was still sharing, and isn’t that what blogging is? But what I was sharing was someone else, someone else’s work. That gap between written posts stretched until I snapped. I realised I stopped sharing myself a long time ago.

I maintain a few different identities on the internet. I think everyone does. At least, everyone who got in on the ground floor. Back then, you didn’t give out your name to everyone you met. You didn’t share your school or your work, your home address or even your face. That’s something different today. It’s not hard to track someone’s daily movements these days. It’s not stalking; it’s subscribing to their feeds.

I have more than one name, and probably a few I’ve completely forgotten. I own too many domains, and I’ve lost more passwords for gmail accounts than I use today. I have a dozen sideblogs. Not all of them are active every day. Not all of them have followers. They serve different purposes for different parts of my life. At least, that was the plan. I have to give a piece of myself to each one. As little or as much as necessary, as little or as much as I can spare.

It’s exhausting. It’s why hitting the button to reblog a quote on Tumblr is easier than writing a paragraph about how much you loved the book you finished reading in bed last night. It’s probably what led me to think about shutting it all down in favour of a folder of static pages on a shared server. The city of the internet feels too crowded these days, but the spirit of the web abhors a hermit. We have to be more than a thumbs up or thumbs down. I want to share your favourite thing, but I need more than a gifset. I want you to tell me why it matters to you. I miss reading what we think about stuff. Tell me a story about your day.

NaNoWriMo

The first time I did something like NaNoWriMo was 2008. I wrote 500 words every day. And that felt really good. So then I did a month where I wrote 600 words every day. Then 700 words. Then 800. I got up to 900 words every day–a little story, a self-contained scene–until I burned out and had to stop.

You have to understand that writing long has been the albatross around my neck for my whole life. I write sentences like a poet, but I’m not a poet. I put words together at the micro-level, and it’s been a lifetime of practice and discipline to find myself at a place where I feel pretty sure I can do 50k in 30 days.

I tried NaNo again in 2010. I did 15k before the story stalled. That was my first true novel attempt. That’s when I discovered I’m an outliner. I’m still going to write that book someday (It’s 35k now, and I might rewrite and release it this summer, now that I know what I’m doing.)

Last year, instead of a novel, I wrote and submitted four short stories, one for every week. (I sold two of them, though both publications have been delayed indefinitely.) That month, I wrote 42k words.

This year, I’m trying NaNoWriMo again, and I’m doing it by-the-book. Already I’m writing more than a thousand words every day, especially when I have a project with an outline. That’s my baseline now. I worked hard to get to this point. The NaNo goal–50k divided by 30 days–is 1,667 words every day. That number doesn’t feel so daunting anymore.

Even though I know I can get a book out of this exercise, a novel that I can sell, NaNo isn’t about the end product. It’s about participating in a community. That’s the hardest part of being a writer. It’s a lot of time by yourself. It’s a lot of never knowing if anyone is going to like what you’re making. It’s a lot of gnashing of teeth, so it’s nice to have someone to gnash with. It took a lot for me to step into that NaNo meetup where I didn’t know a single person–not even online–but it helped that I knew the kind of people I was going to meet.

It’s a hobby for some, a lark for others, and for people like me, it’s our life and our work. No matter how much time you put into it, writing is the same. There’s something about writing that makes it deeper than other hobbies. Deeper than rec hockey or cross-stitch or video games.

Writing is pulling a part of yourself from inside and putting it down on the page. It’s a kind of making inextricably linked to yourself. Every artist puts a piece of themselves into what they make. But because a writer makes characters, we get the question more often.

“Is this you?” Every single character is you. They contain a piece of you and carry it through the story to the end. That’s what makes writing painful. That’s why you need real people to hang onto.

That’s what makes 500 words just as hard as 50,000.

After Diwali

The Christmas lights go up around mid-October in my neighbourhood. Because the lights are for Diwali. It’s the festival of light in Indian culture, which means Christmas lights on the houses, candles lining the driveways, and after dark, fireworks. The family across the street had been practicing for days before the big Thursday celebration. 11am, in my front room, I could hear them lighting all manner of squealers, cracklers, and rockets. We were home that night, too, when the big ones were set off, all over the neighbourhood. I could see the colours through my front window, and I could hear the cracks and pops from across the backyard. All over the neighbourhood, families were gathered together to celebrate light in the darkness, good over evil.

Most days, I take an afternoon walk, a route that’s about 45 minutes around my neighbourhood. Friday, I brought my camera, turning my daily exercise into a photo walk. I’ve been thinking a lot about blogging more, making the act of looking for ideas an intentional part of my working day. It wasn’t that I wanted to write about Diwali, or even Halloween coming up. I had all but forgotten about the firecrackers the night before.

Then I found them, the packages and debris left on the wet ground. They looked as beautiful as they had sounded last night. It had rained, making the grass a brilliant green, the sidewalk a deep grey. Red candles had been left to melt down into the concrete. Boxes and boxes of sparklers were empty now–every kid had their chance to make marks in the night. The same brands on every block, like everyone knows the best place to buy firecrackers. Everyone has a guy who knows the same guy.

Still a few days before Halloween, but it feels like we’re already done. The sparklers have been burned down to fingertips. The firecrackers are all used up. The smoke from the fireworks has long dissipated into the air. Then, on my walk yesterday, through the same neighbourhood, I noticed the Halloween decorations were out. Where once there were candles, now there are pumpkins. The Christmas lights have been turned out, and the houses draped in white spiderwebs instead.

Despite the turn from traditional to commercial, the celebrations of Diwali and Halloween aren’t all that different. For Indo-Canadian kids, the last two weeks of October must feel like an extended holiday. Firecrackers and sweets, fancy dress and candles. If Diwali is the festival of light, Halloween must be the festival of darkness. But both are celebrated with light to show us the way.

HER LIGHT ALIKE is a Halloween story about magical lesbians. Well, only some of them are magic. And some of them are bisexual. The book available in a .zip from Gumroad (containing .epub, .html, .mobi, and .pdf) and on Amazon for Kindle.

Set in a coffeeshop known as a gathering place for magic practitioners, where the graffiti on the walls makes for some unexpected sparks on an open mic night, HER LIGHT ALIKE is a 12k erotic romance. There’s Vivian, whose grandmother owns the shop now, and their family for centuries before them, back when it was a temple. There’s Tamsin, who’s new to the tiny Greek island and looking to make friends. A love spell brings them together, but not in the way you’re thinking.

An excerpt!

When Tamsin’s name was next on the sheet, Vivian took the stage to introduce her. “You might have met this new girl on our tiny island. She was here for the summer, and I’m happy to say she’s decided to stay. Tamsin Kaya.”

As the audience clapped, Tamsin emerged from the dark, a notebook in one hand and her coffee cup in the other. Vivian waited for her, and when they met in the middle, she kissed her cheek before returning the mic to its stand and adjusting the height. Tamsin was tall in those boots.

“Hello.” She spoke close to the mic, but low. She twisted one foot around the back of her calf. “I wasn’t finished my coffee, and I didn’t want it to get cold,” Tamsin said, holding up the cup. “I hope you don’t mind.”

The crowd laughed along with her, and she took a sip, toasting them, then setting it at her feet and opening the notebook.

Beth nudged Vivian with her elbow. It was a reminder to pay attention to the rest of the room, not just Tamsin. Vivian wanted it to go well for her.

“I have some poems for you,” Tamsin announced. “This first one is inspired by my yoga teacher, a riff off a little prayer she says at the end of every class.”

Vivian recognized the words as soon as Tamsin recited them. Something very bad was about to happen.

“Fuck,” she said aloud, and when she turned to Beth, Vivian saw that she understood. “Cut the mic,” Vivian told her, but it was already too late. As Tamsin read the words in her notebook, the sigils painted on the wall behind her glowed red, and Vivian felt the energy in the room crackle to life.

If you’re looking for some magic this October, HER LIGHT ALIKE is for you! Hey, Internet. I heard you like Halloween and queer characters, so I wrote something just for you.

You know what I’ve said about using the energy from finishing something to write something else? I wrote this last week.

Joel has dinner, dessert, and a new toy to surprise Brendon when he gets home from work. Brendon has a band of rowdy boys he’s brought home for dinner unannounced. They both have to survive the evening before they can enjoy their night.

Buy all formats from Gumroad and for your Kindle on Amazon. (Check out that preview because things get good fast.)