Category: craig gusmann (Page 1 of 9)

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.

Fatherhood: Our Little Gremlin

Did you know they let anyone be a father? No test or anything!

Elijah was born on Tuesday, January 19th, at 8:20pm. The past week and a half have been a ride, man.

First, I have lots of thoughts about how fathers are viewed in our society. While in the hospital I noticed a lot of careful language around the role of fathers in the delivery room and at home that made me wonder how often nurses see situations where the father is absent or shitty. I think it’s a mixture of implicit bias on the nursing staffs’ part, and a self-fulfilling prophecy that lots of men aren’t well-prepared to be fathers and don’t have the same incentive that a woman does (you know, on account of not having to grow another person for nine months) to get prepared. I don’t know. I’ll need to write about that another time.

Coming home was exciting and terrifying. We no longer had the support of a full nursing staff, no one to take Elijah when we needed rest, and no easy answers if something felt wrong. The first night was hell. Newborns don’t have any concept of night and day (or of anything else), and it is common for a newborn to be nocturnal. In all the excitement of getting home and settled in we did not prepare for that. Over the past week I’ve probably averaged less than 5 hours of sleep per day, with that number going up bit by bit as each day has passed. But that first night isn’t something you can prepare for. Not only are you sleep-deprived and dealing with all the fun effects of that (for me, exhaustion also comes with nausea and irritability), but you’re learning your baby’s tendencies on the fly. Elijah spent a lot of that first night crying hysterically and we had no idea why.

This hasn’t changed. My wife and I joke that between the hours of 12am and 6am Elijah turns into a gremlin. He’s most alert during these hours, and also most prone to crying fits when he isn’t getting what he immediately needs. It’s honestly terrifying seeing him scrunch up his face, open his mouth, and thrash his head side to side when he’s hungry or wants attention and isn’t getting it quickly enough. I’ve had to remind myself that he’s fully automatic right now–his manual overrides don’t come built in–and that his instincts are guiding his emotions. And those instincts are to feed, shit, and sleep, sometimes all at once.

But we have learned his tendencies and made adjustments as the week has gone on that have made handling him easier. We learned that he needs to be fed more often than the recommended 2-3 hours (he’s 2 hours or less, usually–by 3 hours he loses his mind). With my sister’s help we’ve settled into a routine where we can get some sleep and even do things like write this blog.

Now, I’m prepared to stay up with him at his worst hours and weather those storms. On Tuesday, his one-week birthday, I even managed to stay with him alone from 1am-5am while my wife slept with nary a tantrum thrown. I can read him now and that’s pretty cool.

I’m told it gets easier after two weeks or so, but we’ll see. I think it’ll be just as hard, but in different ways. I am hoping for more sleep soon, though.

Hopes for 2021

The last photo I took in 2020. I think it’s a good preview for 2021.

2020 is over. Finally.

2021 is here. A bright new year full of possibilities and (maybe) wonder.

I don’t think there’s a particularly good reason to make new year goals, and in fact I tend to revisit my goals every three months (planning pyramid FTW!), but there are some things I hope to accomplish this year. Putting them out into the world, at the very least, will hold me somewhat accountable.

Creative Life

I have several goals in this arena, barring another pandemic or something silly like having a child:

  • Dedicate words toward more stories and less blogs: I usually always set word count goals and I always miss them. Last year was 5,000 words per week, with the understanding that I can write 1,000 words per hour before work if I know what I’m trying to do. But… work didn’t end up being that predictable and this website and blog took up a lot of my creative time. So, having learned that lesson I’m doing two things: 1) going down to once per week blog posts instead of twice per week and 2) setting a goal of 4,000 words per week. In addition, I’m more closely tracking my word counts day-to-day and week-to-week to actually see how I’m progressing. So far… not so great. But we’ll get to that.
  • Publish one or two things: My novella is nearly ready to publish, now that it’s gone through a professional editor. She gave me a lot of confidence that I’m not the terrible writer I secretly suspect I am, while also pointing me in directions I hadn’t considered. Once those edits are done, I’m going to get a professional cover made and release it into the world. I would also like to collect the vignettes on this site and package them with longer original stories by the end of the year.
  • Revise my novel: This story has vexed me in so many ways, but I think I may have figured out the story-related thing that’s been bugging me. Turns out, it’s something a beta reader pointed out nearly two years ago that has stuck with me. I’ve resolved to do something about it. I don’t know if this novel is traditionally publishable since I don’t even know how to pitch it (which is more a fault with me than the novel), so we’ll see how my self-publishing experiments go.
  • Write a new novel: It’s outlined and much of the research is done, which is where I need to be to really hit my word count goals. Can’t say much more than that.
  • Miscellaneous: Let’s call these stretch goals. I want to finish a screenplay I started at the end of last year, and possibly enter some contests. I also want to start a newsletter to coincide with the release of the novella. We’ll see on that one. Finally, I’d like to be more engaged with the writing community. I could use the support and learning opportunities. This one is difficult. I’m not an socially outgoing person, and I don’t like social media. But I have some ideas.

A bit ambitious, I think, considering what my professional and personal life will look like. Speaking of…

Professional

My professional life is one that I don’t really make obvious goals for it. Most of what happens is outside of my control and requires flexibility. I want to survive, mostly, and maybe continue to put myself in leadership positions.

I think that’s the big one. I don’t really care about certifications or anything like that because they’re largely meaningless to my day-to-day work. Sure, there are learning opportunities in getting them, but mostly I find the ROI to be pretty low vis-a-vis time and effort. Being a good teammate and leader, though, is important to me. 2020 was tough because I was running up against issues with my first hire and had to do some tightrope walking to balance my employees needs with that of the company.

This year will be more of that, since I’m growing my team and we’ll all have more responsibility as the company continues to grow. In short, I want to be the type of manager I always wished I’d had when I was starting my career.

Personal

Nothing I do this year (or the next 18+ years, really) will be as important as Elijah. Nurturing him is my priority above all else. Sure, I have some goals, but I think it’s important to set them with the expectation that Elijah will come before any of them, so they may not get done. That goes for my creative and professional goals, as well. Little dude is gonna take over my life, and I’m perfectly ok with that.

All that said, I have set some personal goals for the year that are separate from my creative goals:

  • Money money money: I’ve never been a money-oriented person. It is the root of all evil, after all, so why would I want anything to do with that? As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve had a realization: my family needs money to live. Weird, I know. Caught me by surprise, too. Over the past few years I’ve gotten much better with money, but there’s always room for improvement. Like actually filling out expense reports so I’m not leaving money on the table. Setting up long-term investments. Paying down debts. That sort of thing.
  • Get in some sort of shape that’s not an amorphous blob: When I was playing hockey I didn’t worry as much about my health. Three to four times per week I was doing strenuous activity, which was enough to make me feel pretty good and keep my weight down. COVID has demolished all that. So I need to be disciplined and work out on my own.
  • Prioritize my mental health: I tend to think I’m stronger than I really am, so I allow myself to take on a lot until I reach a breaking point. I don’t want to do that, anymore, because it’s not good for me and it’s really not good for my family. Permission to take breaks, to step away from work when I’m overwhelmed, and generally giving myself permission to enjoy the life I’ve built without the guilt of my own ambitions.

***

That’s probably a lot, but I also try to aim high in the hopes that even missing will be progress toward my long-term goals. 2020 was unpredictable and weird for lots of reasons and 2021 promises to be even more of that, so I’m gonna keep that in mind. Hopefully, though, by this time next year the goals will be a little bit bigger because of the progress I’ll have made on these ones.

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