Pre-Memory

Recently my 10 month old daughter woke just past midnight.

I held her to my chest and rocked her back to sleep, knowing she would never remember this moment, the way I never remembered my mother inevitably having rocked me back to sleep.

For a moment, however brief, I could imagine the perspective of the child hearing the reassuring heartbeat of their parent, and feeling secure enough to drift once more into serenity.

At once, I felt grateful for the sacrifice of sleep my parents gave for me, as my daughter may one day experience with children of her own, and hoped that maybe we all can feel a little more connected one day.

vcD,
-R

Finished up with the english subtitles on greyscale.

There’s a relief that comes with overcoming the inertia of passivity, waiting for someone to come along and pick you. This movie wasn’t written, shot, or edited because someone asked me to do it, so it stands to reason that I should have figured out long ago that I should just get the movie ready to sell…

…and if nobody wants to offer a reasonable deal, then I’ll just keep moving forward, like I should.

Ludditing it up.

I haven’t been what you might call a collector ever since I stopped playing the Star Wars CCG in middle school.

My purchases tend to err on the pragmatic side, so when I can, I buy for longevity and cry once.

This week my family acquired a record player as an anniversary gift, which means the creeping sense of deniable plausibility of me secretly being a hipster is starting to creep out of the shadows and haunt me.

After two days, I feel secure enough to say that I love vinyl.

Is there nostalgia in it? No. Although my parents own a record player and have a quality library, I have no recollection of them playing music until the advent of the CD player.

Is the sound quality better? Possibly. But I’ve gotten so used to hearing music through earbuds and computer speakers that playing the music through my old receiver and college-era speakers is easily an upgrade.

So, why do I love it so much already?

  • First, there’s an intentionality to the appreciating of music that I haven’t had in far too long.
  • Second, even with using iTunes Radio on our TV, I feel compelled to keep my eyes glued to the big glowing rectangle in the corner of our living room (as does my daughter, which I prefer to delay, if I can) even if it’s nothing more than album artwork.
  • Third, I’m only going to shell out that much money on a record I love start to finish, so there’s a level of quality throughout that I appreciate.
  • Fourth, the era of music I grew up with wasn’t exactly prolific with vinyl, so it’s kind of fun to hunt down rare pressings of my favorite albums.

With the increase of everything being digital and in the cloud, it’s nice to have something physical to be intentional about…and yes, I’m also the hypocrite who primarily uses an eReader and tries to limit the number of physical books I own to ones I would lend or were signed by the author… (moving twice in a few years has a funny effect on a man)

But hey, back to Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American, because how great was that album?

Viva la analog.

vcD,
-R

The Club

Three months into fatherhood, and I’m starting to wonder why I haven’t gotten a membership card in the mail yet.

Maybe I don’t run in the right circles, or maybe guys tend to be withholding (or think it’s easier if you just experience it for yourself).

When I told fathers that we were expecting, they usually put on a grin and shook my hand, saying little more than, “It’s the best,” as though the simple phrase was enough preparation for this new phase of life.

image

But, it’s the best.

Seeing the ripple effect of joy that my daughter brings to the lives of others gives me a new perspective of life. I know it sounds like hyperbole, but it’s not.

I’ve been fortunate to at least give a good run at most of the things I had hoped to tackle in my 20s, and I don’t think I could have taken another decade of selfish pursuit, let alone the remainder of however many years I have left.

A friend told me that having a child makes you realize just how selfish you are.

I find this to be true, but I also find that pursuing primarily my self-motivated desires pales in comparison to the joy that a smile brings as the wide, blue eyes of my daughter look up to me with fullness of possibility.

As much as I’d like to hope that my creative endeavors are going to leave a lasting, positive mark on this world, I’m becoming a firm believer that how I raise my family will make far more of an impact for generations to come.

So for as important as this is, I wonder why fatherhood wound up being like Fight Club (first rule, etc).

To be clear, there are still the late nights and the losing try/fail cycle of crying, but a little smile and coo seems to leave me an amnesiac of the pains.

And yes, I don’t know what I don’t know. I fully expect this to get much harder once she’s mobile, or starts to have siblings, or can engage in a conversation about why she doesn’t get a say in whether or not she is wearing one of my fashionable shotgun shooting medals around her neck on her first date…

But I’m happy to be in the club, even if my membership card is a photo I keep in my wallet.

vcD,
-R

"You know, for kids!"

I want to be a good dad.

I know I’m new at it, and I’m still at the bottom of the learning curve, but I’d like to think there are several things I’ve got down: give shelter, provide food, no enrolling her in baby jousting tournaments (don’t google that. I thought I was making something up, but I wasn’t).

image

There’s something inherent in my genes where I evidently must have some large endeavor going on at any given point in my life. I’m not sure if my daughter will inherit this, but one realization that’s become more real for me is the importance of giving my time to my daughter.

My clock-like pie chart o’ time just had a large slice reserved for the rest of my life.

This is a beautiful thing. I smile more when I find myself in this slice of pie (my metaphors, they mix).

image

So, when I can find ways to juxtapose time with my daughter and time with my creative endeavors, and both parts are made better, then I’m sold.

Like I said, I’m still figuring this out, but I get the feeling that sitting down with my daughter and reading her something I wrote for her will be rewarding for both of us. She’ll know I spent the time for her, and I’ll know that I worked to make the time count.

But Ryan, if you wrote this for your daughter, why is this about a little steampunk boy?

That’s a great question, me (or, me supposing you might be asking this at this point). 

SPOILER ALERT. DOWN THERE. DOWN WHERE I’M POINTING. (what do you mean they can’t see where I’m pointing?)

Because The Littlest Clockwork is…image

I know, I know, I’m spoiling the story, but you’d be getting to this point in the book within a few minutes anyway, and children’s books aren’t made to be read just once (at least the good ones aren’t).

With any sort of partnership, it’s important that both sides understand why the other is joining up. Kickstarter works as a sort of partnership. It’s a connection point.

And I don’t want to just sell you something. Posting repeatedly on Facebook is annoying, tiresome, and has the finesse of a baby jousting (again, no google). I want you to know that if you choose to help fund this project, it helps me figure out how to better integrate my creativity with my family, and hopefully it’ll spark the imaginations of young ones with airships, sort-of robot girls, and fun adventures in the clouds.

Thanks for making it this far, even if you just scrolled down to the bottom to see where I was going with all of this and stopped momentarily to look at the sketches I borrowed from Amber without properly asking…

So, if you have a couple minutes-beyond the ones you just spent on this post-it would mean a lot to me for you to watch this video and consider partnering with us to help me integrate my creative world with fatherhood…

…because those two shouldn’t be vying for the same time like two people coming at each other from opposite directions with sticks.

The Littlest Clockwork: a steampunk children’s book

vaya con Dios,
-R

Thirty

Another decade done.

I feel I’ve had quite an eventful 20s. My wife (before she was my girlfriend, even) attended my 20th birthday party. I asked her out a few months later, and my daughter arrived just before I left my 29th year.

There were several large creative endeavors in the middle, but those two events are what I’ll take from this formative era as the most important ones.

image

I feel like I should have a plan. A path for my 30s.

It’s just day 1, and I didn’t have much of a plan for my 20s aside from the usual (graduate, get a job, hope to be lucky enough to start a family and pursue my dreams), so perhaps I shouldn’t put too much pressure on myself…

…but in my 20s I developed a skillset, and now I feel the overwhelming drive to make sure I’m putting those abilities to the betterment of the world around me as best I can.

Let’s see where this train leads, eh?

vcD,
-R

Expectations, Transition, and Happiness

I’m not making plans currently.

Being 4 days out from our daughter’s due date has allowed a very flexible event take priority, and rightly so.

We are feel prepared for what’s coming. Deadlines have been met. The Reclaimer is off to the editor and some work milestones were hit before the big event, so I get to take a few deep breaths before the plunge.

This freedom has left me feeling fantastic this week, and I wonder why I put so much pressure on myself if doing so clamps down on this level of happiness.

…or, perhaps the joy comes with the release of the pressure and completion/transition, and without that, life would feel stagnant. Just a thought.

A view of Chicago’s historic La Salle Street train station, November 1936.Photograph by William M. Rittase, National Geographic.

.:Saturdays and Picking Paths

Picking the right train to hop on is more important than ever as I stand at a major transition point in my life.

Last Saturday was likely the last opportunity I would ever have for lazily sleeping in without at least one child needing my attention, but I got up early anyway.

I don’t want to bemoan or romanticize my life before children. In fact, while I am rather pleased with and contented with my life as it stands right now, I don’t think I am the type who could have left the future to the pursuit of my passions alone.

What I mean by this is that there is a level of selfishness that is about to be stripped away from me.

Suddenly, I have to run every decision through a factor of 3, not 2, when considering my options.

Suddenly, a good portion of the “free” time I normally use for creative endeavors will be needed elsewhere.

I’m all right with this.

If I were to look forward and only seek validation from the results of my creative endeavors (films, books, or whatever may come), I’m only going to be disappointed that reality didn’t meet the expectation of true fulfillment (something that’s difficult to see when pursuing a dream until you’ve experienced the letdown).

When I imagine focusing on my wife and daughter, I don’t place the expectation on them to make me happy. I would rather focus on them, and offer them what I can as a husband and father, and provide how I can. I don’t go into that with the hope of an exchange that will give me happiness, but it happens.

And that is far more fulfilling than meeting deadlines or having stories with my name attached when you search Amazon.

vcD,
-R

p.s. I feel it necessary to mention that I feel that the only true fulfillment comes with a relationship with God, but there are roles that I’m placed in that better reflect that relationship, and pursuits which inhibit such a lifelong endeavor. The trick is finding the right path and balance while trying to better know the infinite from a finite point of view.

Love the potential story in this.

natgeofound:

The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in 1935.

Fruition

Things are going well.

It feels strange to say, and the storyteller in me screams, "Don’t ever say that! That’s when the horribly tragic things happen!"

I work on temporarily shutting that voice up and sitting back to relax for a moment. Sarah and I have been blessed, and I thank God for it.

The first three years of my marriage centered around me pursuing my dream of being a filmmaker. I’m grateful for Sarah’s support, but looking back, I sincerely wish things could have been more balanced.

This is why I’m so excited for her last day in the workforce come Friday. She’s been diligent, paid off her student loans, and now gets to stay at home and prepare for the arrival of our daughter come September.

.:Status update

Things are busy:

  • We just moved and our house is still partially boxed up.
  • I have two feature documentaries for work on my plate to complete by the end of this year.
  • I’m working on finishing the audiobook for The Wind Merchant (my voice gives out if I do more than a chapter a day, and sometimes that’s pushing it).
  • I’m developing a steampunk children’s book that I’m working on with a talented illustrator and I’m hoping to Kickstart later this year.
  • I’m almost a quarter of the way through Draft 2 of The Reclaimer, and the process has been mercifully much faster than it was for The Wind Merchant.
  • Greyscale is in front of sales agents/distributors and I’m entertaining at least one offer at the moment.

I know things will change when our daughter arrives, but I find myself in an oddly content state that I have just enough on my plate that I can hit most of the milestones before that happens (I hope), and I’ll be able to focus on my family at that point.

Stories aren’t as interesting without ratcheting conflict, but for once I feel like after all of the gazelle pacing, I get to relax, enjoy some margin in my life, and reflect on the path God has me on.

vcD,
-R

Entering Act 2 (Fatherhood)

INT. DUNLAP APARTMENT - DAY
(Circa January 17th)
*I walk in from work*
Sarah: Big day today!
Me: I know!
Sarah: Debt free…
Me: Yeah! *offering up a high five—for the record I almost struck this from the retelling*
Sarah: …and I’m pregnant… *gives me the high five*

Something Everything has shifted.
You know how you don’t know what you don’t know? (answer that at your own peril)
I had expected to be excited about having a child entering our lives, but on what I might consider a ‘head knowledge level.’

Living the experience is completely better thus far.

Yes, I understand I’m in for a complete life shakeup come September,
but that leaves me excited, as the idea of sailing forward on the same journey until I reach my harbor scares me to death with its stagnant waters.

I have been warned by friends to do everything I want to do before children arrive, but I consider myself incredibly blessed to take stock of my goals and not find anything major left to cross off.

Those crossed off items have brought a certain amount of fulfillment and happiness, but they fade more quickly than I expected (reminding me that the journey should be appreciated as much as crossing the finish line).

So, I look forward to the future, whatever lessons it may hold, because I’m ready to enter Act 2 of my life.

vcD,
-R

Defining success.

Today I received what I might consider my first bit of “fan mail” when I opened my mailbox.

Physical proof that the time I spent telling the story of The Wind Merchant wasn’t a waste.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the notes I receive online (trust me, positive reinforcement is something all artists would do well to hear), it’s just very easy to look at a computer screen and view the world with an eye for numbers.

  • How many people like the Facebook page?
  • How many reviews has the book received?
  • How many stars do those review average?
  • How many books have I sold?
  • How many more books do I have to sell before I feel successful…

The fact that one person spent the time and energy to read what I wrote and connected with the story…that’s a success.

Success is about connection, not numbers.

It’s funny how when I read that last sentence, it immediately feels like something somebody who can’t sell their book to anyone might say and has to settle for the second best option.

Thankfully the book has connected with enough people that the story will continue for at least two more books.

On the outside, The Wind Merchant may look like lighter fare…a steampunk adventure fantasy. It is those things, but it also contains a lot of things I wrestle with internally. Things I hold close to the vest and choose to use fiction to work through. Things that when someone connects with the book, I know we have connected and have an understanding that neither of us are alone with those struggles.

Or they may just like a fun steampunk adventure fantasy, which is fine. But, either way, I write this entry as a reminder for myself that it should never be about the numbers.

Souls should never be counted in a spreadsheet.

vcD,
-R

Purposefully painting myself into a corner.

I recently discovered a new technique I’m developing in storytelling.

I paint myself into a corner. On purpose.

Why?

Because I want to give the reader/viewer something unexpected. If I’m plotting something out and I’m hitting my natural conclusions, I’m probably hitting the natural conclusions of others.

Predictable rarely equals entertaining as far as I’m concerned.

So, I’ve started to paint my characters into a corner, and then force myself to bang my head against the wall until something creative (and something generated only from a lot of thought) happens.

I figure if I surprise myself with a solution, (hopefully) it’ll surprise other people. Now, I need to make sure it isn’t too far out of left field, and is set up properly for the payoff, but some of the better moments from plotting out the sequel to The Wind Merchant have come when I have a little self-conversation like this:

"Well, if I ___________, then that is going to make it kind of impossible for him/her/them/it to survive, right?"

"Do it anyway. Let’s see if they’re smart enough to figure out a way that surprises you."

Usually the eureka moment hits after I’ve assigned my brain the puzzle and sleep on it a few nights… sometimes it doesn’t, and I realize I’ve accidentally escalated the stakes too far too early in the book and just trying to top it is grounds for nothing but frustration.

But sometimes it’s grounds for eureka.

vcD,
-R

p.s. A fun exercise I enjoy is “You’re trapped in a room with a locked door. Think of 25 ways to get out of it. Imagine whatever you like… no rules.”

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