Vignettes

Inspiration is real. Waiting for inspiration is BS. By slogging through the trenches, I’m back on board the Altered Egos train and genuinely look forward to working on it again every day. There are two metaphors in that sentence.

I’ve worn a tie so much at work these days that my son says, “Daddy, no tie,” on a near daily basis. It’s not that he doesn’t like ties, he knows that I’ve been against them lately and he’s super supportive.

My daughter has developed a second joke. Her first one was telling me, “poopy diaper,” when she definitely didn’t have a poopy diaper. Now, she’ll sit on this plastic fish while in the bathtub, look me dead in the eye and say, “fish on the butt!” and then devolve into a giggling fit. I’m psyched that she’s telling jokes. She didn’t get the toilet humor from me, though. It’s all high brow over here.

I keep querying agents hoping for a bite. I try and pitch maybe two or three every couple of weeks. Way I see it, if my query is bad, then instead of cutting all my chances at the same time, I’m doling it out piece by piece. Granted, that means its taking a while. But I’m not ready to put The Red Door to bed yet anyway.

While I’d rather work with an editor and a publisher, Plan B is to self publish. I’ve written five novels by now – two of which are what I consider to be publishable – but I’m waiting until I have three before I hit the self publish button. I figure that three novels of three different styles will be a good starting point and I’ll go from there. Spaghetti on the wall, that’s my approach. Throw enough and something’ll stick.

I’ve been working D&D back into my life, playing with a group about once a month or so. I’m DMing, but I’d much rather play. But since I’m the one making it work the most, I’ll take DMing as a small price to just be rolling D20s again. I’ve looking into joining an online group that meets more frequently and while that sounds great in theory, the twins don’t allow me much free time. The only reason I’m even playing D&D now is because I’ve somehow convinced my wife to play too. She either really loves me or feels really sorry for me. A bit of both?

Right now, we’re watching the days go by, more or less. We were coming to terms with our current family dynamic and thought that was going to be it. But life, uh, finds a way. That cat’s out of the bag, internet. Come March, the kids will be outnumbering the adults at our house.

Advertisements

Siren

My cousin got married in Hot Springs, Virginia the other weekend. I went out for the ceremony. Now that the kids are two, my wife and I figured that buying four plane tickets for one person to attend an event was a little superfluous.

Growing up in Pennsylvania, I’d actually never been to that part of Virginia before. And living in Indiana now, I don’t know if I’m just tree-deprived or what, but man that state is gorgeous! Hairpin turns included.

I brought my Switch with me, eagerly looking forward to some time to myself. I got some writing and reading in under my belt, but I also played an S-ton of Switch. I’d purchased I am Setsuna, a game I’d had my eye on for a long time, specifically for this trip. Yet, when a friend loaned me Mario Kart and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for my travels, all I did was play Zelda. A game I’d already played and beaten on his Switch.

In fact, I’m still playing it. Much to my detriment.

Gaming-wise, the Switch is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me. And the worst. It’s portable nature means its never far from my side and I’m always playing it. After playing Zelda on my friend’s machine, the final nail in the convincing-myself-coffin to buy my own was that now that my kids have transitioned to their toddler beds, it means we’ve pretty much lost our family room for nightly hangout space. The room is right across the hall from their bedroom, so just being in there will wake them up. Our retreat is back into our own, now baby-free, bedroom with my X-Box 360 to watch movies, the last iteration of Apple TV, and our old TV from almost ten years ago. Sensing a trend here? Outdated technology.

My Switch comes with me of course. I never know where I’ll be allowed to hang out and play games, so having a console not far from hand is a great perk. It also means that as I type, say, this post, I keep glancing over to that blue and red siren sitting on the edge of my desk.

If I was having a hard time getting back into Altered Egos, then the Switch isn’t helping things.

Know what? I think that’ll do for blogging today. I just remembered that there’s a gentleman in a hot air balloon selling monster masks that I need to go speak with.

The Battle for Bedtime

Why does bedtime always have to be such a fight? I’m sure parents across the interwebs have asked themselves this same question and are agreeing with me right now. That, or they’re shaking their heads at me expecting anything else.

It’s never “Oh, go to sleep, sweetheart …” It’s “Get. Back. In. Your. Bed!”. Teeth gritted. Muscles clenching. The works. I mean, I can’t even tell you the last time I didn’t go to sleep without a headache. It’s kind of hard to remember all of this in the comforting light of day. In the middle of my twilit anger, it feels so much more important. Maybe it’s because I have two in the same room who keep each other up. I don’t know. Is it really all that bad? See?! That’s how they get you. It’s parental amnesia!

So my kids are two now and we’ve transitioned them into toddler beds. At least I think they’re transitioned? If that means taking an hour and a half to fall asleep because they don’t want to be held or rocked and then waking up throughout the night crying for us just so they can run back to bed and have me sleep on the floor next to them as they fall back asleep … then yeah, they’re transitioned. It’s a double-edged sword because while I’m excited to get my bed back, I never seem to end up using it for long. Sunday morning, I got my best sleep of the night on the floor of their room with a couple pillows and a blanket. Who knows? Maybe, I’m the one who’s transitioned.

It’s been a while since I’ve been on here, so I’ve been going through and updating everything. Hopefully, it’s looking a little more streamlined. The biggest surprise for me is that I’ve updated my Comics section with details about Fate Stitcher. FS is a graphic novel I wrote and Kickstarted years ago. But while we hit our expected goal of getting it drawn, I never had enough funds to get it colored liked I’d wanted. Because of that – and yours truly doing the actual lettering – I’d always thought of it as the project that could have been. But looking at it again to refresh myself of what to say for the site is showing me that it’s a lot better than I remembered. I was being too hard on myself.

I’ve got the cover up for now, but once I clean out my gDrive, you should be able to download the whole thing soon. While I work on getting this place populated with more of my Stories, here’s a nice juicy one to get started on.

Welcome Back, Dan

Hey, Internet, it’s been a while hasn’t it?

I’ve been meaning to get back into this for a LONG time, but I’ve been pretty distracted. Between working on my novel writing as much as humanly possible and basically sacrificing most of my hobby time to my new family, it left me with little to talk about.

Or so I thought.

I was putting too much pressure on myself to come up with a gimmick. I kept thinking what was going to be my hook and I spent a long time thinking about blogging plans. I’ll save you the length soul searching. Ultimately, I decided I’m going literal with this one. This site is called Dan Melnick Stories and well, it’s going to be about my stories. Stuff I write, stuff that happens to me and stuff I feel like talking about. So whether that’s going to be about the shenanigans of my twins or magical jazz man or how much I’m digging Nightwing again, the through-line is going to be me.

So expect posts about everything, I guess.

I’m also going to be revamping the site in the days ahead. Or better, UPDATING it. It’s wildly out of date of what I want to reflect about myself and my writing. So expect that to change.

Today is short a sweet and is going to serve as my declaration I guess. But don’t worry, if I get my way, you’re going to be hearing from me a heck of a lot more …

Blue Moon

Over the holidays I got to spend some time with some friends and to “remeet” their daughter who’s now 11 months old and interactive. Anyway, as most 11 month olds are, she got a bit uppity and I overheard the parents scold her with the whole first name-middle name thing. I’d never known her middle name until that point. It was Kristin.

In the summer of 2005, my friend Kristin was killed in a traffic accident. It was just before my junior year of college and I was back in Pennsylvania to be part of the community theater’s production of Damn Yankees. We all went to different colleges, but we’d get back together for the summers and usually end up at the community theater. One evening, Kristin was running late to practice, didn’t see the blinking lights at a railroad crossing and never made it.

That was the first time someone close to me had ever died. I’d lost my grandfather before then, but it didn’t feel like this. I still remember the night it happened. She never showed up to practice. I’d just gotten home around 10pm when the assistant director called me. I guess he called me first because he didn’t think he could make the rounds and call other people. My dad was sitting on the couch when my phone rang. I took the call and had to go to the other room. The next hour was horrible, calling my closest friends to tell them the tragic news. My best friend’s mother told me to “shut up” in disbelief.

No one wanted to be alone, so by midnight, we all reunited at Liz’s house to just sort of sit together. We didn’t tell stories or talk about anything, really. It was too early for that. We just sat in a darkened room being alone together.

Going back to college in the fall was one of the hardest things I’d ever done. What happened to Kristin united all of us in a way like nothing else. It also didn’t help matters that there was a girl involved (of course) and what would have been a summer fling ended up getting ramped up to enormous heights. That fling chose the other guy in the end which was nice icing on the shit cake, so by the time I got back to Chicago, I was utterly heartbroken, depressed and had never felt more alone in my entire life. To this day, I carry around a betting ticket from the last time Kristin and I went to the track together. She was a cool girl. She taught me how to bet on horses.

I bring all of this up to help illustrate that my memories of Kristen have always been bittersweet. She was a lovely person and I’ve been thinking about all the sadness that came from her death since then. Hearing that little girl’s middle name brought it all back.

Flash forward to yesterday.

My friend at work was telling me about the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest and all of the great bands that’ll be there this year. We got to reminiscing about all the concerts we’d ever been too and it got me thinking about the Bethlehem Musikfest I used to go to every year with my dad. It was a two hour trip each way, but we’d go ever year to see the Red Elvises.

Ever wonder what a bunch of Russian guys singing rockabilly sounds like? Then wonder no more, my friends. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Red Elvises are fucking great. Seriously.

Anyway, I was telling my friend all about the glories of I Wanna See You Belly Dance and their awesome rendition of Blue Moon when I remembered the last time I’d ever seen the band.

It must have been the summer of 2004. Maybe even 2003. I’d recently graduated high school – I know that much, and I graduated in ’03 – and that same group of friends rented a cabin in the Poconos for a long weekend. It just so happened to coincide with the weekend the Elvises would be appearing at Musikfest. So I ditched everybody for an evening and drove an hour and a half each way through parts unknown to find Bethlehem. I offered an open invitation to anyone with me to come along, but I guess they didn’t share the same love of rockabilly that I did. They all said no. All except Kristin.

I’d completely forgotten about all of this. The fest that year was great and the band was amazing. Right before they went on stage, I saw some of the Elvises walking around behind the scenes and I had a mini geek-out session when I spied Oleg, the base player. I was seriously star struck.

Before I knew it, Kristin was calling him over and I now have a picture with the coolest bass player there ever was. Don’t believe me? The guy uses a converted balalaika as a bass.

Anyway, all of that came rushing back yesterday and I couldn’t help but laugh. I’ve been carrying around all of these heavy memories of Kristin all these years and here I’ve had this golden one all along. That was still a hard summer and I’ll never forget her, but here I am all these years later and Kristin still finds a way of making me smile.

Wherever you are, Kristin, I hope you’re good. Also, betting on a horse just because it has superhero bridling has proven to be a bad decision time and again. Just an FYI …

 

Elusivity

My New Years’ resolution was to blog more consistently.

OK. It wasn’t. But I still want to post more consistently anyway.

Life at the Melnick household has been a bit rough lately. The Missus is super sick. I mean when stuff gets in your chest and ears kind of sick. The babies have also picked up little baby versions of this illness in the form of stuffy noses, sniffles and even more spitting up. Yep. That’s just what babies needed: MORE spitting up. It’s lead to a lot of sleepless nights and me running around trying to make sure everyone else gets as much sleep as they can.

As I type this, I can feel the telltale tickle in the back of my throat. The number at the deli counter just rolled over one digit closer to the matching one on my ticket.

I hope everyone had some happy holidays. In between traveling and illnesses, I’ve been daydreaming about getting back to Fairfax Cleaners and brainstorming for novel #5. I’ve decided that my alpha readers have had over a month now to read the draft and while that’s not a lot of time in this busy time of our lives, it’s been long enough that I can hassle them for an update to at least let me know WHEN they’re finished. I don’t mind waiting around and working on other things as long as I’ve got something out there dangling. But if I’m not fishing, I’m not being productive.

I’m still doing research on the next book and I think I’ve got the plot basically figured out. I’m about ready for the outlining phase. This one’s been a lot quicker than usual since I’m adapting a screenplay awhile ago I wrote into a novel. I’ve basically changed the entire story with the exception of the core concept, but I’ve had this character’s voice in my head for years. Writing in first person – fingers crossed – should alleviate some of those professional pressures that have started to creep in without a pitch-worthy product.

So far, I’ve only been scratching that writing itch through mental exercises. I would love to sit down and fire off a short story or two, but that’s just not my style. I outline too much. Coming up with a plot is the hardest part for me for any book, so you’d think that something smaller would be easier, but it’s the opposite. Usually, I can propose a scenario to myself and ask “what happens next?” OK. “What happens after that?” And follow that story down the natural rabbit hole. But with short fiction, I end up doing so much brainstorming, I’m developing material for a full length novel and I’ve forgotten what it was about the short story that grabbed me in the first place.

I’m hoping to kick that habit. I had a pretty vivid dream the other night that’s still haunting me. I thought it would make a great idea for a romantic comedy at the time so I wrote it down in case I ever wanted to tackle a screenplay pretty far outside my genre as an exercise. Then I massaged it into drama shape for kicks. And now, I’ve basically rebuilt it into a science fiction piece. I like the central concept, but it’s that illusive plot thing that’s tripping me up. I supposed I’ll keep working on it in the hopes that I see an end in sight.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Oiling the Machine

I’m probably preaching to the already well-educated choir here, but having children is exhausting! Rewarding, sure. But my god am I tired. All. The. Time!

We’ve settled into a good enough routine where I get some sleep to function. As to the to actual level of functionality(?) functionability(?) see I have no idea … well I’ll leave that up to you. I can get to work now with clothes fit for a human being of my profession. I’ve also been able to shave my “dad beard” on occasion. The gym has been long gone. Running’s been pretty much out too even though it kills me. We’ve been having some gorgeous fall mornings lately. When I let the dog out, I can hear the autumnal whisper egging me to come join its crisp embrace.

The only thing from my life before that I’ve been able to dredge up without feeling like I’m shoving a round block into a square-shaped hole, and perhaps the most important thing from life BB (before babies), is that I’ve gotten back to writing. I was about 3/4 of the way through my latest novel before the little dragons were born and I was worried that my enthusiasm for the project would die out during my month away. I’m happy to report that not only have I started writing again, but I’ve been making some serious headway into the project, picking up pretty easily from where I left off.

What really helped during the break was that I never really stopped thinking about the book. I literally made myself think about the book at least once a day to keep my thoughts fresh and to remember where and how I left things. It kind of helped that the chapter I left on was one I had the least amount of notes for. My time away served as a hella long brainstorming session.

But it worked! Getting back into the saddle took some effort and personal forgiveness, so I didn’t chastise myself for only making 500 words every now and again, but things are back to being in full swing.

If anything, the added bonus is that I took care of that refresh/re-calibrate time I typically use after every book. Once I finish a novel, I force myself to shelve it for 4-6 weeks and let the dust settle. I come back with a fresh set of eyes and a list three pages long of all the stuff I feel the need to fix. Even though I hadn’t finished my book, that’s basically what I did while I was off learning how to be a parent.

I can’t wait to finish now so I can start tearing it apart. My middle is sluggish and dull. I see that so clearly now. I want to rework how I introduce the main protagonist too. And there’s a named side character I use in the beginning who never gets comeuppance. I demand comeuppance!

So once I finish – I’m down to the final confrontation – I can go back and restructure some stuff. I’m pretty surprised by the length. I’m already hitting 117k and it’ll most likely be closer to 130k by the time I’m done. Granted, this is the rough draft and I just told you about how there will be restructuring involved, but its shaping up a little bit larger than I originally imagined. Hopefully, that’ll work in my favor to create a tight story once I trim all the fat like a T-bone. I’m hoping to have something ready for alpha readers in a month.

How cool would it be if I had human babies and a literary one at the same time?

There and Back Again … Again

It’s been a while!

I’ve been out of work on paternity leave for the past month. My wife and I received a pair of beautiful babies on August 7th. One born 6 lbs 3 oz., the other 5 lbs 12 oz.. Since then, they’ve both put on some weight, but they’re still pretty tiny and I know I’m a little biased here, but I think they’re pretty friggin adorable. Ask me again at 3 am when they’ve been screaming all night and I may change my mind.

Anyway, I knew it wouldn’t be a vacation, but I prepared my “dad bag” full of all sorts of personal entertainment just in case: books, 3DS, netbook, journal, music, etc. I figured I’d have at least some time to do something fun. I mean it’s an entire month! A friend of mine did nothing but play Final Fantasy XIV when he had his second kid. I was pretty excited to do the same.

I did none of those things.

I spent most of the month on the couch holding a baby and waiting for the next shoe to drop in terms of diapers or feedings or just plain crankiness. We’ve had our fair share of scares. One of them has a bad case of acid reflux that landed us in the hospital overnight for observation. So it’s been a hectic month. It’s become somewhat easier now that the little dragons are big enough to fit in baby carriers. Seriously, whoever invented the moby wrap – or patented it for mass production or whatever – is a godsend! Getting my hands back after losing them for weeks has been the greatest victory in the world. Now I can hold a baby and make a sandwich at the same time!

My wife and I tried handling it in shifts to allow the other one some sleeping time, but it soon became apparent that such a tactic was impossible. When babies outnumber adults, the adult loses. So we adopted the team mentality. We sleep together. We take care of babies together. It’s made things a hell of a lot easier but as you can imagine, the system isn’t perfect. It pretty much breaks down now that I’m back to work. Without outside help both at night and during the day, neither of us would be able to function anymore.

Things are as routine as they can get right now. Don’t get me wrong, it’s tough work, but we’re managing. If anything, I think we’re kind of good at it. If we had one kid, we’d be handling this like a pair of stone cold bosses. Seriously, what’s the big deal with your one kid, people? Suck it up.

There are plenty of things I want to talk about, but I’ll save them for future posts. The next one being about coming back to work on a 3/4 finished novel and what that’s taking after having an entire month away from the keyboard. I’d get into it now, but honestly, I’m just too tired.

I hear that clears up in 4-5 years …

The Waiting Game

I’m an actual week away now from having babies and I’m really excited. My wife is worried about the procedure and if they’ve developed enough and all of the typical things one should be worried about at this juncture, but I can’t get past the fact that there are going to be two babies in our lives now!

I always feel weird vocalizing this. I always think it sounds like I’m some sort of medieval king or something who desperately needs an heir so he knows there will be someone to continue his reign. Don’t get me wrong, legacy is cool, but I just want to meet them.

Getting a little personal on you here, it’s taken us years to get this far. We’ve been trying for a long time. She goes through all of the hormones and treatments and all I pretty much do is wait and watch. The lack of any kind of agency on my part has been absolutely maddening. I would do anything if asked of me, but there wasn’t much I could contribute in the long haul. Every month I’d have to go by what she thought she might be feeling or what something kind of looks like now. We started a running joke that a symptom of pregnancy should be that it turns your skin blue. All of the other symptoms: cramping, bloating, nausea, etc. are just too common. Everything has those symptoms. But not everything makes your skin blue, eh?

Anyway, so it finally happened and I’m absolutely thankful, but again, all I do is wait and watch. Now she tells me how they feel inside or oh this one moved or something. I’ve felt their flutterings with my hands and seen the ripples across her skin of them moving underneath like gestating aliens, but for the most part, the whole experience is second hand. My agency comes in the form of making her life as comfortable as possible and thanks to the transitive property, that means I’m helping out the babies too.

She can worry and stress enough for the both of us, that’s fine. Me? I’m sick of waiting. I’ve been sick of waiting a long time ago. I’m ready for action. So what if you’re never ready and all that jazz. Yeah, we’ll never be alone again. Yeah, going to the store is going to be an event of epic proportions now. Yeah, I’m going to forget what it was like to have even a little bit of money. I don’t care. Bring on those babies!

It gets me wondering. I like comic books and writing and video games and painting table top miniatures and soccer and the show So You Think You Can Dance … What kind of cool stuff are they going to be interested in. I don’t care if its writing like me or if its perfecting genetic strains of dandelions. I just want them to be passionate about something.

I’m usually in the camp that the anticipation of the thing is better than the payoff, but after years of waiting, I’m ready for this week to be over 🙂

D-Day

It’s been an emotional couple of weeks. The original due date is August 23rd. I was about to type “was” but I guess the official number is still in effect. That’s when she’ll be officially 40 weeks along. We won’t hit that date, nor should we, but it doesn’t negate the fact that it exists.

We’ve moved up our time table to August 13th. That was what we’ve known since last week. I had a whole blog post prepared in my head about how ready we already are and all of the cool things we’re going to do between now and then. Then we went to the doctor’s today for the weekly checkup. Well, the wife is hanging in there – as are the babies – but everyone is getting a bit strained. They don’t want to wait until the 13th anymore. The new date is August 7th.

That’s a week from Friday.

We’re talking about single digits here.

I’m going to be a dad in a week!

You’d think that I’d be freaking out like most stereotypical males in this situation, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. My wife, she’s the one who’s losing her marbles about this. Me? I couldn’t be more excited. Hell, make it tomorrow I don’t care. Well, maybe not tomorrow. Give me SOME time for the last minute stuff. But other than that, I’m through with this waiting game. All I’ve done is wait this entire time. It’s been years of waiting around while someone else tells me stuff about what’s going on. I’m through with it.

Well the wait’s finally over.

You’ll have to forgive me for the short post, but I have things to do! Clock is ticking here, people.