Category: craig gusmann (Page 1 of 10)

2022 In Preview

Going into the New Year like…

2021 was a big year. Aside from having a kid that turned my world upside down, I published two works and made really good progress on a new novel. Initially, I wanted to use the momentum built up in 2021 to launch into 2022 and beyond. However, when I actually sat down to set some realistic goals, with realistic timelines for each, I realized that I won’t be able to capitalize on any momentum built in 2021 right away. See, I made a Gantt chart. Gantt charts don’t lie.

When things I learned at work come in handy in my personal life.

Essentially, I took my word count goal per week (4,000–same as last year) and extrapolated that out by how many words I would expect to get in a month and how long I expect each project to take. This allowed me to prioritize and plan out my projects for the next year. The colors designate when I’m actively writing, when things should be out in review, when I’m marketing, and when I’m publishing. There are more projects and pretty colors than are shown here, but you get the idea.

So, with that said, what are my goals this year?

PROJECTS

My goals here are based on the number of words I expect to write per month and the priority I’ve chosen for my projects. This priority is subject to change. For example, last year I had a time travel novel outlined and ready to go, when I decided to scrap it in favor of what I’m working on now. Some of these timelines are ambitious, and I don’t realistically expect to meet any of them, but I think it sets a solid foundation for what I want to achieve in the year. Here’s what I hope to accomplish:

New Novel: Titled (for now) THE END OF EVERYTHING, I wrote nearly 50,000 words of this in 2021. If I can stick to my word count goals I should finish this by the beginning of March, do a revision through April, and have it out to beta readers in May and June before doing a second revision in July. At that point I’ll see how I feel about it to decide what the next steps might be.

Novel Revision: Nearly five years ago I wrote a novel called THE INHABITORS. I spent a year writing it, another year revising it, and then gave it to beta readers. I got a lot of great feedback, but one critique in particular has stuck with me. The problem is that it requires overhauling major parts of the story. I ignored it for a long time, implementing all sorts of other changes, but I need to do it. It will make the story much stronger, and the experience I’ve gained over the past few years has made me a much stronger writer than I was then. And so March and April will be dedicated to that overhaul, assuming I meet my schedule for THE END OF EVERYTHING.

This is one I plan to self-publish, which means that once it’s done I need to find a professional editor and then do another revision. Hopefully that can be done end of spring / early summer while THE END OF EVERYTHING is with beta readers. What I’m really looking forward to, though, is putting together the marketing plan for this one. I didn’t do any marketing for ANH NGUYEN or THROUGH DARK. But for THE INHABITORS I plan to do as much of a full-court press as I can afford / manage. More on that below.

New Novella: Last year, before I started on THE END OF EVERYTHING, I began a new novella that I plan to self-publish this year. I envision it being between 20,000 and 30,000 words, 6,000 of which are already written. I hope to get a first draft done while THE END OF EVERYTHING is with beta readers and THE INHABITORS is with the pro editor. Then I can basically alternate months where I’m working on it or it’s with beta readers / a pro editor before self-publishing at the end of the year.

Series Idea: A while ago I came up with an idea for a novel that could lead to a series. I really love the concept, and if everything goes well I can do a research trip and write just under half of the first book before year end.

Web Series: It’s been a long time since I’ve applied my creative energies to a visual medium. I’d like to change that this year. I have an idea for an 11-episode web series that I want to use as a way to market THE INHABITORS. The plan is to write and film 3-5 minute episodes that are released weekly here, on YouTube, and via Twitter. Hopefully people like them. If so, I have a really ambitious idea for a season two. So ambitious it’ll never realistically happen, but a boy can dream. I hope to get this done in late summer / early fall, with THE INHABITORS following on its heels with publication in the fall.

WEBSITE GOALS

This is the last year of my initial plan for this website. The first two years haven’t been as successful as I was hoping, but much of that is on me. I’m inconsistent with posting, sometimes going months between blogs and never being able to maintain the vignette schedule. Considering my other goals for this year, I don’t expect that to change.

Instead of trying to blog once or twice a week, as I’ve done the past two years, which requires a lot of thought and effort, I’m going to shift focus. I’ll still blog sporadically, particularly when a new vignette goes up or I read / watch something I want to unpack. My expectation is that blog posts will decrease, but the length of each individual post will increase. That may be a net good.

That said, I do want to put more effort into the vignettes. They’re good practice for me, in writing and photography, and I enjoy doing them. I can also work them into my word count goals, which isn’t something I can really do with the blog. These are words, sure, but they’re not words that will ultimately help me reach a creative goal. Vignettes on the other hand, can be reused in collections or expanded into other types of prose.

So, once a month expect a new vignette and “behind the vignette.” (Maybe.)

CAREER GOALS

Ah… the day job. I’m lucky, in a lot of ways. I have stability, I’m paid well, and there is plenty of flexibility where I am. Still, after everything I wrote above, it feels strange to say I have career goals for the thing that I don’t want as a career.

But, the day job supports me and my family, makes everything else possible, and my other goals tend to live and die by what’s going on there. For example, our busy season is over summer, so I know that my word count will probably take a major hit. I have to be prepared for that.

An added wrinkle is that I’ve seriously considered jumping ship to a different place. If I did that I’d be giving up a lot of privileges I currently enjoy. And that, too, might affect my other goals. I won’t have the flexibility or clout that I have now.

What are my goals, then? Survive, mostly. Continue to mentor my team and improve the quality of our deliverables. Seize opportunity when it comes. The nice thing about my current position is that I control my own fate. We’ll have to see if and how that changes.

IN CONCLUSION

If 2020 and 2021 taught me anything, it’s that predictions are a fool’s game while there is unprecedented sickness and political upheaval happening. Throw a kid into that mix and it’ll explode.

I don’t expect to meet all my goals this year. I’m already something like 7,000 words behind. If I do end up changing jobs, that will only get worse. I do expect to meet some of them, though, and so the ambition is beneficial. If I get through the year with a healthy kid, happy wife, stable job, and another novel or published work under my belt, it’ll have been a good year.

A Few Of My Favorite Things: 2021 Edition

In a lot of ways 2021 sucked big floppy donkey dick. So I want to take a moment to review some of the things that helped me to get through the year. These aren’t meant to be anything other than a list of things that brought me joy. Not all of these things are from 2021, but I did initially discover them in 2021.

FAVORITE BOOK: THE BOOK OF ACCIDENTS BY CHUCK WENDIG

SpooOOooOOky!

I haven’t read a ton of Chuck Wendig, despite appreciating his blog and Twitter presence, and what I have read (WANDERERS, a handful of his craft books) have been good, but haven’t blown me away. But then this year I read THE BLUE BLAZES and THE BOOK OF ACCIDENTS and he officially became an author whose books I will continue to preorder and support.

What I loved about THE BOOK OF ACCIDENTS had less to do with the story itself, although that was definitely fun and interesting, and more to do with the way Mr. Wendig built the story. For one thing, the characters (Nate, Maddie, and Oliver, primarily) are really well drawn. They’re smart, loving, and drive the plot forward with their decisions. What I appreciated most, though, is that they don’t keep secrets from one another for no reason. They are open, and honest, and there isn’t a point in the book that felt like the characters were doing something because the author needed them to, which is a difficult thing to pull off.

Another thing I loved about this book is how Chuck lays the groundwork for things that pay off later. He doesn’t immediately explain anything. Instead, he leaves clues and drops the reader into situations in media res that only become clear later on. In this way, he allows the reader to piece the story together on their own before he confirms (or twists) what we think we know.

FAVORITE BOOK OF POETRY: I’LL FLY AWAY BY RUDY FRANCISCO

Not spooky.

I made it a point to read more poetry this year. I enjoyed much of what I picked up (probably because I know my tastes), but Rudy Francisco’s collection stands out to me. He writes with heart, and humor, and wit, and can turn a phrase like no other.

FAVORITE MOVIE: GODZILLA VS. KONG

Scratched every itch my inner child had.

This is a tough thing to choose for me. I watch a lot of movies (although this year it felt like I didn’t?) that range from the ridiculous (MORTAL KOMBAT) to the artsy (DAYS OF HEAVEN). That said, there is really only one movie that I found myself wanting to revisit this year, and have a hard time not turning to when I pass by it on HBO MAX: GODZILLA VS. KONG.

Why? It’s fun. I needed that this year. Sometimes that’s enough.

FAVORITE TELEVISION: INFINITY TRAIN

Children’s television is on a tear right now.

INFINITY TRAIN’s final season aired this year on HBO MAX, but I hadn’t watched any of it before Elijah was born. I remember learning of it a few years ago, thinking it sounded interesting, but then forgetting about it since I haven’t had Cartoon Network as part of a cable package in ten years.

I’m glad I remembered it, though. The episodes are a great length (~15 minutes) for when you’re dealing with a newborn and contain a surprising amount of depth. Each season follows a character (or two or three) that are on the Infinity Train, a train that has an infinite number of cars that each act as their own worlds, as they try (or not try) to become a better person. To say how or why would ruin some of the surprises, but the show goes deep on themes like abandonment, friendship, sense of self, memory, broken homes, and more. It’s not afraid to go dark, especially for what is ostensibly a children’s show, but carries with it a lighthearted tone that balances the darker themes.

Each season is self-contained (although there are plenty of callbacks and references to events from other seasons). The first and fourth seasons are virtually perfect, while the second and third seasons are great but a bit more uneven.

FAVORITE BAND: THE SONDER BOMBS

This is a bit of a cheat for me, as I first discovered The Sonder Bombs in late 2020. But whatever, I listened to a hell of a lot of them this year and so they’re going in this spot.

The Sonder Bombs have a great, fun sound that utilizes a lot of ukulele. Their lyrics are thoughtful, riffs are catchy, and the lead singer, Willow Hawks, has a spectacular voice. Specifically, check out Twinkle Lights (above) and K.

FAVORITE SONG: BRAGGING RIGHTS BY PROPER. FT. WILLOW HAWKS

Surprise! Willow Hawks has a prominent role in this song. That said, Proper. is a solid band that sings about issues not heard of in the mainstream. This song, specifically, paints a picture of an artist doing whatever they can to succeed, perhaps to their detriment but also feeling like there’s no other choice.

And, I mean, why wouldn’t I relate to that?

It’s also emo as hell, which is something I look for in any music I listen to.

MY FAVORITE BABY: ELIJAH

People say he looks like me, but I don’t see it.

Sorry to all the other babies in the running. It wasn’t even really a competition this year. Luckily, Elijah moves up to the “Favorite Toddler” group next year, where he is a heavy favorite.

MY FAVORITE CATS: TIE(!) BETWEEN BELLE AND ATHENA

A rare moment of affection between these two.

For the third year in a row, we have a tie between Belle and Athena for the title. It’s hard to choose between Belle’s beauty and gentleness, and Athena’s beauty and fierce loyalty. Maybe next year a true winner will be decided.

FAVORITE PLACE TO GO WITH MY FAMILY: LONGWOOD GARDENS

Elijah and I being stylish as fuck just outside the Conservatory.

Longwood Gardens is 1,100 acres filled with trees and plants from all over the world, in addition to fountains, sculptures, and exhibitions. It’s one of my wife’s favorite places because she’s into flowers. Me? Could never bring myself to care about them.

This year, though, I found myself appreciating what Longwood offers on an experiential level. Being there is relaxing. Watching Elijah experience it for the first time was awe-inspiring. We became members this year and try to get there once a month or so. It’s always worth the drive. I can’t wait to spend more time there in 2022.

Now Available: THROUGH DARK INTO LIGHT

Like scary stories? There are some in here! Don’t like scary stories? There are also non-scary stories! What a deal!

Today’s the day! My short story and poetry collection, THROUGH DARK INTO LIGHT, is now live on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and will (should?) be available at other online retailers soon. But I know, for sure, that it’s live at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Promise.

But Craig, you may be thinking, How do I know I’ll like any of the stories? I didn’t read your first book because I couldn’t pronounce the title so I don’t know what to expect.

To that I say check out the Vignettes section of this here website. If you’re a frequent reader of the vignettes I post you’ll probably recognize a lot of the stories in the collection, since many of the stories in the collection were originally vignettes that I posted here.

If you need more convincing, here is a list of the stories with a short description of each:

  • Followed: Driving home to his sick daughter, a man is followed by three mysterious vehicles that become more aggressive as he gets closer to home.
  • Nightmare / Dream, Dream / Nightmare: A man’s dream is a woman’s nightmare, until the tables are turned.
  • Real Monsters: A little girl has to decide what scares her more–the monster under her bed or the monsters invading her home?
  • A Night Not to End: A young man tells a strange girl at a party that he wishes the night never had to end, and she grants his wish.
  • The Secret Monster: From childhood a man is terrorized by a creature that tells him the secrets of those he loves.
  • Hit and Run: On his way to a party at a cabin deep in the woods, a teenager hits a family dog and is haunted by the guilt–and the dog.
  • Together Forever (Poem): A poem about being with the person you love as the world ends.
  • A Cold, Silent Nothing: Before a scientist is allowed to use a time machine to travel to the end of the Universe he must first meet with the only other man to make the attempt and learn what he saw that drove him insane.
  • Every Day the Same Dream: A bored office worker varies his routine in an attempt to break the monotony of his life.
  • Say Something New (Poem): A poem about creativity.
  • Distance: The captain of a generation ship uses its resources to clone the wife he left behind until there is nothing left.
  • Eryn’s Dream (Poem): A poem about empathy.
  • Thoughts and Actions in a Car Crash: A man reacts as he rear-ends the car in front of him on an icy road.
  • Ode to the Ellipses (Poem): A poem about the deep meaning of the ellipses.
  • Letter(s) to the Girl(s) I (Once) Love(d): A letter to a girl a young man once loved.
  • A Brief History of Their Love: A chronicle of the relationship between a man and an android, and the extremes each will go to protect or fight for the other.
  • To Go Back: An old man explains the purpose of his time machine to his daughter.
  • Small Decisions: A man is faced with the consequences of his indiscretion.
  • You Will Be Remembered (Poem): A poem about passwords, multi-factor authentication, and sometimes unwelcome reminders.
  • Her Tea: The routines we break and the small imprints we leave in our lives can be the most lasting reminders of love, as one young man learns.
  • A Sixteen Year Old’s Lament (Poem): A poem about pressure, responsibility, and cliche from a sixteen year old’s perspective.
  • The Final Days of Florence: An old woman negotiates with an Angel for three more days of life so that she can make amends with her estranged son.
  • Your Anger (Poem): A poem about watching your parent die from their own mistakes.
  • The Passenger: As a man escorts his father’s corpse across state lines, he is helped by his father’s spirit when he finds himself in bad situations.
  • Cliched Goodbye: In the warm light of sunset two friends say goodbye and reckon with their unspoken feelings.

The collection is organized to start in the dark, with horror stories, and end on a lighter, more reflective note. I think there’s a little something in here for everyone. If you did read ANH NGUYEN AND THE DISCORDIAN and liked it, then you’ll probably like this. If you read ANH NGUYEN AND THE DISCORDIAN and didn’t like it, well this collection is totally different, so give it a shot.

If you enjoy anything I write, leave me some love on Goodreads.

Announcement / Cover Reveal: THROUGH DARK INTO LIGHT

Available October 1st!

From childhood a man is stalked by a creature that tells him the secrets of those he loves. A man’s dream is a woman’s nightmare until she turns the tables. The captain of a generation ship uses its resources to clone the wife he left behind. A woman on her deathbed negotiates a deal with an Angel for three more days to make amends with her estranged son. A teenager runs over a family dog and is haunted by the memory–and the dog.

This eclectic collection guides readers from the darkness of a moonlit highway to a field under the warm light of a late summer sunset. Through these 18 stories and 7 poems you will feel emotions that spill out in great waves of yelling, crying, and laughing and be reminded that sometimes the best way out is through.

Come October 1st, just in time for Autumn (my favorite time of year) and Halloween (my favorite holiday) I’m releasing a collection of short stories and poems. Some will be familiar to anyone that’s kept up with the vignettes I’ve posted–all nine from last year are included in this collection–but many are new.

I’ll write more about it after release, but the collection is meant to take the reader on an emotional journey of horror, existential despair, doomed romance, grief and regret, and unspoken love. I tried to complete an arc in the way the stories are ordered, and in doing so learned lots about themes I’m obsessed with, fears I have, and things that interest me.

The collection will be available in print and ebook at most online retailers.

Where I’ve Been

This picture will now accompany every post that’s all about me. That should keep people from reading it.

When I initially built this website I had a goal to update the blog twice per week. I (mostly) kept to that the first year. Now halfway through my second year of maintaining the site, my goal was to just update once per week, as I knew balancing a newborn, my dayjob, and my actual writing would be a challenge.

For a while I was doing okay. But then… well… choices had to be made.

Writing blog posts is actually a lot of work for me, and I don’t think I’m particularly good at them. I’ve spent a lot of time recently reading through Chuck Wendig’s TerribleMinds archive. His archive begins around 2012 and at that point he had already been blogging for something like ten years. Amazingly, for years he had new posts up five days per week. A combination of writing advice, life events, personal news, opinion, and guest posts. While he did that he wrote several novels, started self-publishing, wrangled an agent, got traditionally published, and had a kid. The sheer amount of work he put into his success is impressive. It’s taken me a while, but I’ll never be that prolific.

There are lots of reasons for that. I don’t find myself all that unique or interesting, so throwing up blog posts I find worthwhile is a struggle. I’m not as transparent about my opinions as other bloggers (although I probably should be–to this day the two most frequented blog posts are Is the Forever War Homophobic? and Christopher Nolan and Smart Movies for Dumb People). And, most importantly, I can’t justify the time it takes me to blog over writing short stories and novels, spending time with my family, or going out to experience the world (inasmuch as one can experience the world during a never-ending pandemic–get your shit together, America).

This isn’t a blog post to announce I’m no longer blogging. I’m just re-prioritizing and holding myself less accountable for constantly missing my weekly deadlines. If an opportunity presents itself where I can get back on that schedule, I absolutely will. I have enough data now to know what youse like to read from me (mostly hot takes and the “My Favorite Stories” series). In the grand scheme of things, though, blogging isn’t as important as storytelling. So that’s where my focus is for now.

Along those lines, I hope to have some exciting announcements soon. I just finished editing a short story collection, am in the midst of revising a novel, and hope to have two more works ready for publication next year. I do plan to start posting vignettes again. I owe you twelve on the year, which means I’m five behind right now. To catch up I’ll need to post two or three per month the rest of the year. That will be a fun challenge. I may already have a few primed for launch.

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