Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Ten Years in the Blink of an Eye

Origin Story

Ten years ago in 2004 I had to write a short story for my English class, but I put off writing it until the night before it was due. That night I typed out a story that was nearly a page long (635 words long) influenced by the images I saw in a Stephen King pop-up adaptation of "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon". I loved writing it and my teacher praised me for its creativity and quality for my age. That was the moment I knew that I wanted to be a writer.

The stories that I wrote shortly after that were forgettable, uninspired, dark, stream-of-consciousness, emotional outlets of my early teenage years. (Years later a college professor would help me realize that dramatic, emotional exposition was the essence of my writing voice, so I suppose those early stories are fitting.) I never cared much about those stories that immediately followed, but the first one would prove to stick in my brain for years afterward despite how much I'd grown and changed as a person.

Revisiting the Past

In fact, that first story stuck with me so much that I rewrote it from scratch five years later in 2009. This second version benefited from a higher skill level, imagination, and vocabulary. I was able to take the essence of the original, then alter and stretch it to just over two pages (1,527 words long). It was really fun to write again, and sort of acted like a perfect reflection of the skills I had gained in the past five years. It's one thing to compare old and new stories to see how much I've grown as a writer, but it's another thing entirely to compare old and new versions of the same story. I quickly decided that I would rewrite my first story every five years to see how much I could improve on the same idea with each new iteration as well as use them as a sort of photograph of my exact skill level and style as a writer at that time.

So here we are, five years after the first rewrite and ten years after the original. I remembered the idea to rewrite the story early this year, but put it off in favor for working on my novel and other short stories. Just last week it occurred to me that I only had one week left in the year in which to keep the promise to myself, so I quickly made it my next immediate goal to rewrite the story that started it all ten years ago.

The Same Story, Ten Years Later

The third iteration of the story yet again breaks down the original plot to its bare bones, then adds some new flesh based on my current style and interests. The newest version stretches to four whole pages (2,784 words long), mixes up the twist ending, adds more personality to the unnamed narrator, explores a bit more of an internal struggle in place of the external one, and overall accurately represents where I am at this stage in my writing.

It's amazing to realize that it's been ten years since I wrote that first story. In that time I've been through high school and college, got a job, met a girl and got married, started this blog, and have written a lot more stories. I have no idea what the future might bring, but I'm excited to see what form my first story takes on when I rewrite it another five, and then ten years from now.

Here's to many more years of writing.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Present vs. Past Tense

Almost immediately after NaNoWriMo 2014 ended I discovered a large error in my new story; an error caused partially by my new method of writing. That error? Tense.

To all you non-writers, choosing a tense to use while writing a fiction novel is no small task. It may come easier to some writers than to others, but the use of tense is not as simple as picking between "do" and "did." The difference between present tense and past tense when writing fiction reaches far beyond simple grammar.

Writing in present tense sort of forces you to, as you might guess, write all about the now. Present tense can be great for writing a story where the entire plot unfolds in a short time span, but otherwise it can cause you to get bogged down in details and events that don't matter. I've run into this problem already with my previous novel, where I had to teach myself how to turn a character walking from one location to another into a compelling scene, as well as decrease the time span of the overall story from several months to several days, but those were both challenges that I was ready, willing, and able to take on. Unfortunately I've just gotten to a point in my new novel where a large leap in time is absolutely crucial to the story, and present tense just isn't going to make sense for that.

So how did this happen? Why didn't I think ahead? Well that was sort of the point of this story. I really wanted to write something from beginning to end without looking ahead or back too much and just let it go wherever it takes me, so I didn't really put much thought into what tense I should use before I started writing. I thought that by doing as little planning as possible I would avoid many of the issues I've been having with my last attempt at a novel.

Who was I to think that I could actually get through writing an entire story without having to go back and make at least one huge revision? It seems to happen every time. Changing the story to past tense will make it much easier to make leaps in time throughout the story, but then I have to contend with the fact that my word count might drop significantly as I eliminate scenes that were written specifically to keep the flow of present tense going smoothly.

It feels kind of like I've put myself between a rock and hard place. I'd love to just go sailing forward, but this seemingly small oversight will and has been causing huge problems in my storytelling so far. My only hope is that I can counteract the loss of scenes with additions of others, but we'll just have to see how that goes.

I'm sure it will be worth it in the end, but right now it really sucks.

Monday, December 1, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014

Last year was the first time I participated in National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo, and my efforts back then were less than successful. I've participated again this year to better results, which goes to show just how much a person can improve their writing during a single year.

NaNoWriMo takes place every November, during which time everyone with an interest in writing a novel is invited to partake in the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel in one month. Local meetups and seminars are organized, online forums are opened up for discussion and help, and statistics are tracked.

Last year I worked on a novel I had started months before, which was then called "An Offbeat Affair," a story which I described on the NaNoWriMo website as:
"A first-person account of what it's like to be 'the other woman.' Mandy is a college senior who is sleeping with a married man, and she's not exactly feeling bad about it. Through her experience she learns more about herself and what she believes in, and finds love in a very unexpected place, which leads to her getting tangled up in a complicated relationship that could only exist in literature in the 21st century."
Unfortunately I got bogged down with rewrites and revisions of my novel, which ultimately led to me completing the month with a measly 13,102 words to show for it (though I actually wrote much more, I didn't count my revisions into my final word count, only the actual length of the novel). My logged statistics were thus:
My stats for NaNoWriMo 2013
It's quite depressing to look at, but that novel had and has been quite difficult for me to write, since it involves me constantly pushing myself to write something above my average skill level.

When November 2014 rolled around I barely remembered about NaNoWriMo at all. I hadn't planned to participate, since, as with last year, I initially thought of the event as a gimmick that detracts from the actual writing itself. It wasn't until I was about two weeks into the month that I realized that I'd been writing a much higher volume of words per day than ever before, so I decided to utilize NaNoWriMo simply to keep track of my word count.

Though you're meant to start and finish your novel during November, it wasn't as much of a stretch in 2014 to write a novel I had already started on, since I had only started it a week before November (as opposed to months before in 2013). Furthermore I had already made a promise to myself to do as little revising as possible for this novel, which is tentatively called "Eternal Paradise," and I describe on the NaNoWriMo website as:
"A teenage boy's uncle, best friend, girlfriend, and mother all die within the same month, and just when his confusion and anger start to become unbearable he is whisked away by a mysterious stranger to a tropical paradise in another world where nothing is as it seems."
I can say with pride that I had not only surpassed my word count for last year's NaNoWriMo at 22,403 words, but that number also surpasses the entire current word count for last year's still-in-progress novel.
My stats for NaNoWriMo 2014
I was writing almost exclusively during the week for an hour a day, averaging just over 1,000 words per hour (the listed words-per-day obviously includes the days I didn't write at all). This is very much thanks to the hour-long lunch break that I get at my new job, the freezing cold temperatures that have kept me inside for the lunch break, and the thrill I get of feeling a story move from my head, through my fingertips, and onto the computer screen.

Perhaps next year I will take NaNoWriMo much more seriously, and really dedicate myself to meeting the 50,000 word goal. I can't help but feel incredibly accomplished and enthusiastic about the future, and I wonder what novel I might be working on next year.

I also really, really hope to be finished with a novel and published by then.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Different Methods To Write a Novel

For any first-time writer, figuring out exactly how to write a novel is no small task. I myself found that leaving the comfort of short story-writing and venturing into the unknown territory of novel-writing quite intimidating. A quick Google search reveals many helpful articles on the subject, but the bottom line is that there is no single best way to write a novel. It is up to each individual person to experiment and discover how they prefer to write a book.

In my experience, every single method for writing a book can be distilled into only two different methods. I am currently experimenting with both of these methods as, for the first time, I write two different novels at the same time.

My Novel-Writing History

My first real attempt at writing a fiction novel (not counting that one time when I was 14 and thought ten short paragraphs, if separated into their own pages, constituted a complete novel) ended in 2012 when a classroom of students told me it was terrible. I had based the idea off a series of romantic fantasies I'd had which were inspired by awful chick flicks and my own desire to have that perfect Hollywood love (spoiler: it was dating me the whole time). If you read my blog post about it (linked above) you'll notice just how optimistic I was about taking the novel in a new direction based on my peer feedback.

Well here's the post where I talk about restarting it for yet a second time. In the end it turned out that the idea I had for a novel wasn't fleshed out enough to actually be a novel; it lacked any real meaning or planning. I then decided to move onto writing a different idea that I'd actually been thinking about and taking notes on for a while (what a concept!), but then I got bored of that one and put it on the back-burner so I could write more short stories. What a tragic series of errors!

Eventually I wrote a short story that my classroom loved and even demanded that I continue. I realized that, having failed three times before, if I was going to set out to write a novel I was going to have to do it right this time.

Method 1: Plan Everything

For this method, it helps to have real novel-writing software. Believe it or not, Microsoft Word isn't the best word-processing software out there, at least it isn't when it comes to long-form creative writing. Around when I decided to give novel-writing another try, I heard about the novel-writing software known as Scrivener from one of my favorite professors. There are other similar programs out there, so feel free to look around, but Scrivener is a powerful and extensive tool for writing that allows you to organize and plan your novel to an extent that standard word-processing software doesn't even touch.

Scrivener allowed me to easily start at a very high concept level of my novel and work my way downward, slowly expanding on my ideas into an intricate web in a very easy-to-use way. Again, I'm not trying to sell you on Scrivener, I'm trying to sell you on the method that a novel must be nearly entirely written in your head before you start actually writing it.

One very popular version of this method is known as the snowflake method, which has you starting out with a single paragraph that encapsulates your entire novel, then slowly expanding on that until you've got pages written on each character, location, and scene before you even start your first draft. I don't adhere to this exact formula, but reading about it certainly helped me to find a method that worked for me. I found it much easier and less stressful to start writing a novel that I never meant to be a novel by making an outline of the story including plot points, characters, locations, and themes. Some people might then want to adhere strictly to that outline, but I found myself constantly changing details as I developed a clearer vision of what I wanted to write.

I've been writing that novel on and off for a year now, and despite the outline I've gone back and rewritten loads of pages based on my new and changing ideas, but the outline has still been very helpful in keeping my rewrites in line with the ultimate end goal. The scenes and characters may change as I write, but I can always go back to that first outline to see exactly how those changes can serve the overall original idea.

The drawback to this method, in my experience, is that I sometimes find myself wanting to take a character or event in one direction and then having to work/think hard to make that idea fit into the overall plot of the novel. It can sometimes feel like trying to force a square peg into a round hole; even though I know that square peg is going to look really, really good in that round hole, it won't fit until I make it fit. At times I was spending more time rewriting old scenes than I was writing new ones, which was more difficult and felt less rewarding since my novel's overall word count would fluctuate around the same number rather than going up.

Method 2: Let it Flow

This method is actually nearly identical to how I failed my first three attempts at writing a novel, but there's one vital difference; I'm more experienced now than I was back then.

Planning everything out is great, especially for someone new to the process like I was who wanted to write something with complex characters, foreshadowing, and an overall theme for the first time, but now that I've done that for a while and have grown weary of writing everything with an endgame in mind (and rewriting everything when parts of that endgame changes) I wanted to switch it up.

A few weeks ago I had a dream that I wanted to turn into a story. I considered turning it into a short story based solely on the dream, but the vision grew quite rapidly until I realized that I wanted to write another novel. Rather than start from a very high level, work my way downwards, and then write my way back up, I decided to start with the dream as a base on the lowest level and then work my way up from there.

Attempting this method was partially inspired by movie sequels and long-running fictional television shows; since I find it fascinating that people sometimes completely unrelated to the previous writers of a television show or movie must work within the confines of the entire history of that show or movie to put out something new and interesting.

After less than a month of writing using this method, I already had the urge to go back and change a large detail of it, but I decided instead to just roll with it and make it work. I've now made it a rule for myself that I am not allowed to go back and change anything other than the smallest nagging details while writing the first draft of this novel, and to regard everything else previously written as absolute fact within that novel's world. It is both challenging and fun to resist the urge to go back and rewrite something that I've reconsidered. The reason it is working now more than it did before (so far) is that I have no particular ending in mind, and yet I have developed a clear vision for what the base ingredients are, even if they aren't revealed to me until the very second I write them.

Now let us see which novel turns out the best, and which method I prefer in the end.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

FTL is Distracting Me from Writing

Something I struggle with as a writer is time management. Not only do I mean that it's difficult to manage having any free time, but it is difficult deciding what to use that free time for.

Logically speaking, since I'm an unpublished aspiring author, I should spend every second of free time practicing my craft so that I can hone my skills and churn out a novel for publishing. For the most part I've been striving for this and I'd say that I'm at least more successful at doing so than most other aspiring authors my age that I know of (I've written before about how most writers reportedly do the least writing immediately after graduating college and how I've worked to ensure that I stay just as active as before).

Sadly, writing was never my only hobby. I grew up with an arguably healthy obsession with video games. It all started when my family got a Sega Genesis bundled with Sonic 2 for Christmas one year, and from there I was hooked. For quite some time playing video games was my primary hobby. I was well-informed on all the new and upcoming releases, and the whole gaming culture consumed my youth.

As time has gone on I've had less free time, more interest in writing during that free time, and a wife who I enjoy spending time with on activities that are not playing video games. I am no longer well-informed on the ever-expanding industry, and I no longer buy games as frequently as I once did, but I still have a decent collection of games that I go back to now and then when one interests me.

Recently that interest has been focused on FTL (Faster Than Light), an indie game that came out in 2012 and simulates the experience of being the captain of a space ship on a suicide mission. I had really enjoyed the game when it came out, but let it collect dust for a few years because, ironically, I was doing so well at it during one play-through that I feared failure which would result in a complete start-over from square one.

A few days ago I was listening to the award-winning soundtrack for the game at work because it was great as background noise to keep me focused on work, which reignited my interest in the game. A day or so later I bravely returned to my successful run, failed almost immediately, and then restarted with a whole new ship, crew, and strategy.
screenshot of my FTL ship and crew at the time of writing this blog
My FTL ship and crew at the time of writing this blog.
It's hard to describe how addictive this game is. I find myself thinking about it constantly and then playing it whenever I get a few minutes to myself because it is designed in a way that allows you to make rewarding progress in only minutes, but then dangles a carrot in front of your nose to prompt you to continue climbing the metaphorical mountain of progress. It then pushes you off your mountain and says "I bet you can't get the carrot this time" before offering to let you climb again.

To put it bluntly, I've been playing FTL when I should be writing.

At the time of writing this, my ship is very, very low on fuel (unlike the screenshot above in which it is only almost very low on fuel), because I forgot to buy any when I saw the cool weapons and defensive items I could buy instead. This means that unless I can find someone to sell me fuel or an enemy ship I can battle, defeat, and plunder for fuel in the next few turns, I'll be stranded out in space, forced to send out a distress signal in hopes that someone nice answers before the army of enemy ships catches up to my location and blows me to bits.

Given how tough the game is, I expect to run out of fuel, send out a distress signal, get blown to bits, and then I expect I'll start all over again; convincing myself that this time I can do better.

To add insult to injury, I've just realized that I should have written my novel instead of this blog. Oh the irony.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Using a Voice Recorder to Plan a Story

One of the greatest challenges that I face as a first-time novelist who is more familiar with the short story form is that it is difficult to break down the plot into each individual moving part. From the get-go I mapped out the novel and broke it down to a chapter-level, and was confident that I would then be able to easily write the story and make the scenes fit the chapters as I went. I was wrong.

What I didn't take into account was the fact that my plot ideas were constantly changing as time went on and as I began to explore each individual character and scene. The outline for my novel that exists in my head is now barely similar at all to what I originally wrote down.

With so much having changed, it can be very difficult to be able to see what should happen next. Imagine being in the middle of a American city with a river running through it, but only one half of the bridge is there, the other half of the city is in Europe, and there's a really low-hanging thick fog everywhere. Now try to cross into Europe from America.

One tool that has recently become very useful for crossing this impossible bridge is a voice recorder. I had purchased a very inexpensive one while in college to aid with my brief attempt at being a journalist for the school paper (which, it turned out, I was terrible at), and had then attempted to re-purpose the device for recording meetings during my internship. Since it seems that formal meetings are very scarce at my new place of employment, I frequently enjoy taking solo walks down a trail that runs right by my office, and I'd seen voice recorders occasionally used in the movies for a character to dictate their thoughts for reference later, I decided to try recording my thoughts regarding my stories as I walked.
talking into a voice recorder
Recording myself talking into a little electronic device has greatly helped me to plan and understand my stories. Talking while I walk keeps my mind focused on the topic at hand more than just trying to think about that topic and I can go back and listen to any ideas including how exactly I arrived to them. Rather than just recording tidbits of ideas when they come to me, I force myself to start talking about a particular problem I've encountered until I eventually talk myself out of it. This process has already resulted in brand new ideas that I'm excited to write as well as a clearer vision overall for where my stories are headed.

It may seem and feel odd, but I highly suggest anyone else to try this method for writing or any part of their life that might require some extra thought power.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Unexpected Perks of Employment

I must say that I am enjoying my new job very much. The people are friendly, appreciative, and helpful, and I enjoy the work itself. However one of my favorite things about my new place of employment is something totally unrelated to the job itself.

At my internship there was a small group of employees who would spend their lunch break going for a walk a few times around the building for the sake of getting out of the office, enjoying the weather, staying in shape, and socializing. I joined this group, and when I was transferred to another building a few blocks down the road I kept the habit despite being alone most of the time, which ended up being part of the reason that I lost over ten pounds in time for my wedding.

So when I started at my new job (and found out I had an even longer lunch break than I was used to), I made sure on the first day to go for a walk to get the lay of the land. I noticed a park not too far down the road, and later realized that there is a 26 mile trail that runs right past my office.
I've been taking a walk on this trail every day. Walking in either direction from my office is about 1.2 miles to the next major street. One way leads to downtown, which is scenic and beautiful in a residential and urban sort of way, and the other way is full of foliage that blocks out all the urban noise.

It's the unexpected surprises like this that really add make life just a little bit easier to live. The work itself has been great thus far, but I know that if I'm having a bad day I'll always have a place where I can go and get away.

Now let's see if walking a bit longer helps me lose some more weight...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Post-College Full-Time Employment

I'm excited to report that my 14-month-long copywriting internship is ending and I am starting work as a full-time employee next week! I'm excited to report it especially because between July 31st and September 5th I was worried I would have neither a job nor an internship come the end of October.

You see, on July 31st the place that I internship at told me that, due to a new recent hire, the entire department is changing direction and I would no longer be needed. I felt like I was being strung along for months (the date that they said they would make a decision kept getting pushed further away, and they had been implying since the beginning that this internship would likely turn into a full-time position) and was ultimately let down, but they did the incredibly unnecessary but infinitely valuable deed of giving me 90 days notice and offering help in any way they could for me to find employment elsewhere.

In short, I had three months to find a job or I would face unemployment; something I haven't known since I was 15 years old. I took to looking at career websites and updating my résumé and portfolio the very next day, and in the end I was lucky enough to find employment at a different company doing exactly what it is I went to college and had the internship for. I gave my internship two weeks notice that my last day would be Friday, September 19th so I could begin my new job the following monday.

For the most part everyone at my internship has been happy for me, and I'm quite excited myself. I'm excited to be able to take the experience I've gained and apply it somewhere new, and I'm especially excited to be given a fresh start.

Looks like my college education finally starts to pay off on September 22nd.

Monday, August 25, 2014

What is it Like Being Married?

As a newlywed of just over two months, I get asked a certain question quite a bit. Of course, sometimes the question is phrased slightly differently but it's ultimately the same question.

What is it like being married?

To be clear, the individuals asking me this question are not asking in the sense that a child might; blissfully unaware what a life commitment to someone else feels like. For the most part the people asking me are married themselves, and so the question boils down to several completely different questions such as:
  • Do you regret getting married?
  • Are you happy being married?
  • Is it difficult being married?
  • What has changed in the relationship?
  • Does the relationship feel different than it did before?
The thing is that for my wife and I, marriage is no different than engagement was. We were engaged for three years, lived together for four, and had been together for six. All of the milestones that were expected of a traditional marriage had already been passed.

And isn't that the way it should be? One family friend of mine, after asking us this question and hearing our response, was genuinely surprised. But why should being married be any different than being engaged? Shouldn't we be just as emotionally and physically comfortable and committed to each other as we were the day before we said our vows? Why leave anything a surprise after we had been together and in love for so long? By experiencing everything in a relationship that we could with each other before marriage, we were that much more prepared to be with each other; our fears were settled when our separate lives mixed perfectly together, and when they didn't we worked hard to learn how to make them mix.
  • We both like keeping our living space clean and tidy? Perfect!
  • We have different preferences for how to spend our free time together? Okay, let's figure out a mutually beneficial compromise to avoid further conflict!

If nothing changed, what's the point?

I don't think I've actually gotten this question, but I'm sure there are some people who may think it, so I will address it thusly:

When I was young and did not understand homosexuality, I asked someone why a man would marry another man, "for the tax breaks, which is why they shouldn't be allowed to" they told me. Could the same be argued for my wife and I? Should we not have been allowed to marry simply because the only thing that changed was that we are now financially and legally responsible for each other? Were we wrong to want to marry simply because nothing in our relationship would change?

To digress for a moment; in my opinion, marriage is such an odd thing for the government to be involved with in the first place; as my wife and I signed up for our marriage license I couldn't help but wonder what business the government had why people got married? Does it really make a difference if they're not man and woman, in love, and living and sleeping in separate bedrooms?

In our case, we married not only for the tax breaks, but also for the symbolic gesture of committing our lives to each other. We have made a loud and clear statement in front of all of our family and friends that we will be monogamous to each other and care and love for each other for as long as we live. We married to celebrate and reaffirm the promises we have made to each other every day. That was the point.

Aren't you missing out on something?

Not even in the slightest. I've got everything I could want out of marriage; a fantastic party I'll remember forever, a ring on my finger, a new perspective on our relationship, and all the legal stuff that comes with it.

Honestly when I consider the relationship I have with my wife and compare it to others that I know, I'd say that I've got it even better than most do. Corey and I are not only husband and wife, but we're best friends. We rarely argue, we never get tired of "hanging out" with each other, we can rely on each other when we need each other the most, we still surprise each other with how in sync our thoughts are at times, and overall we make each other's lives much easier to live and deal with than anyone else.

I've met people who talk about having a "love/hate" relationship with their spouse, people who don't talk to their spouse for hours on end out of spite, and married couples who seem to get along fine but don't show any sign of the "spark" that some don't even believe exists. None of those applies to me. When I think about the relationship I have with my wife, I can easily relate it to the best of marriages that you see in the movies; the ones that are supposed to be works of fiction. Granted we have our share of issues, but the positives so much outweigh the negatives that they seem to not exist at all most of the time.

In short, my wife is the best thing that's ever happened to me, and asking her to marry me was the smartest thing I've ever done.

Wait, what do you mean by "a new perspective on our relationship"?

Sorry, you're right; I didn't explain that. While nothing has physically changed in our routines and lives, I must admit that I feel a bit different since getting married.

I feel like a wolf.
A wolf howling.
What I mean is that, like a wolf, I have chosen a mate for life and I feel a strong natural urge to protect and care for my pack.

Update September 2, 20141: Since publishing this post it has been brought to my attention that wolves do not always mate for life. I feel like one of the wolves that do.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

My Wedding: The Honeymoon

[This post is part 4 of a multi-part series about my wedding. You can read about the rehearsal here, the  morning of the wedding here, and the wedding itself here.]

With the long-awaited wedding over, and after a day to rest and open up our gifts, my wife and I set out to the next step; the honeymoon.

Our original plan when we first talked about going on a honeymoon was to save money by taking a road trip within the continental United States. We assumed it would be fun, inexpensive, and a great way to start our long-term goal of visiting each state together. Maps and tourist guides were bought, hotels were researched, and we were just about to book our stay at one with  the ultimate goal being to end up in North Carolina (which has been a fantasy of Corey's for quite some time partially thanks to Nicholas Sparks books).

Just before booking the hotel, we realized that the whole process was just too stressful, too expensive, and too small. We found ourselves having to calculate distances between towns and gasoline consumption, subtracting hours of fun because of driving time, and not wanting to worry about all of that when the time came.

"Why don't we just find an all-inclusive resort for the same amount of money, spend it all at once, and not worry about that sort of thing for a second during the trip?" I suggested. Corey rolled her eyes at me because this had actually been her original plan. She was always more interested in the idea of sitting on a beach somewhere, but I had said "no" to that idea because I thought it would be too boring.

So what changed my mind? Stress and finances had only dictated that I did not want to go on such an intricate road trip for what was meant to be a fun and romantic honeymoon, but what had made me want to go to a beach?

The winter of 2013 was a long and record-breaking cold one. That's what.

Before long we had decided (with the help of a travel agent suggested by a friend) to go to the Ocean Maya Royale resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico. We chose the location because it is adults-only, smaller, and less expensive than others, so with the money we saved on the location we bumped ourselves up to the "privileged" package.

It was the first time that either of us had been to an all-inclusive resort, as well as the first time either of us had flown on an airplane (which turned out to not be scary except for the scary parts). The resort was beautiful. Not too large, but not too small either. They had multiple restaurants, each with their own theme and menu, and they had multiple activities throughout the day which ended with a show and then dance party at the end of the night.
Photo of the daily events at the Ocean Maya Royale
We signed up for two excursions; ATV ride/tour and a full-day visit that was split between the Tulum ruins and Xel-Ha natural water park.
Photo of my wife and I on an ATV in a thick jungle-looking area.
We purposely scheduled the excursions for the middle of our week-long stay so that we could spend the first and last days relaxing, which included a couple's massage on the first day and a private dinner on the beach on one of the last.
Photo of our desserts during a romantic sunset dinner on the beach.
Part of the privileged package included meals at certain restaurants which were closed to everyone else, wine and chocolate-covered strawberries at our room upon arrival, and (our personal favorite) a private section of the beach with comfortable furniture, shade, and an exclusive waiter/waitress for drink orders.
Photo of my wife and I about to eat a delicious breakfast near the ocean.
Over the course of that week we each tried things that we'd never done before. We snorkeled with fish (I'm quite scared of fish), tried all sorts of food (why not try it when it's all included?), got the aforementioned couple's massage, and both realized we're quite fond of daiquiris.
A selfie of my wife and I swimming with snorkel gear on.
So much happened that it's honestly too much to sum up into one blog post. There was a lazy river, a chocolate martini-induced iguana sighting, a lot of Italian food, a finger-painter, a Grease show, more delicious food than I can recall, beautiful blue water, baby deer, a guarded bridge to a beautiful inlet, a waterproof camera, and a lizard on our ceiling.

On our last night (after the lizard), we reconnected with a couple that we'd met on the first day when getting our massage, and ended up staying up late hanging out, talking, and drinking with them until the wee hours of the night rather than turning in early as we had been for the rest of the week. They seemed legitimately bummed that we were leaving the next day, since they were staying for a whole extra week.
A photo of my wife, myself, and the couple we spent time with on our last night of our honeymoon.
Of course, we were even more bummed to be leaving. The honeymoon was more relaxing than anything else either of us had ever experienced before, and we found ourselves making mental lists of all the things we would do should we (hopefully) return. I would highly suggest this type of honeymoon to anyone, as well as the Ocean Maya Royale resort itself.

And yes, we really should return.

Monday, August 4, 2014

My Wedding.

[This post is part 3 of a multi-part series about my wedding. You can read about the rehearsal here, the  morning of the wedding here, and the honeymoon here.]
Tweet: Showtime.
Above is the last text I sent before my wedding officially began. With my wife-to-be hiding in a shed behind the entrance of the gazebo, my groomsmen and I made our way outside to the wedding space. We were stopped only for a few minutes to give people time to sit down as well as us time to get our boutonnières put on. The nerves had finally started to hit me as the realization started to sink in.

Positioning myself behind the closed gate I was to walk through, I awaited the musical cue. Rather than a traditional wedding ceremony song, we had chosen "A Thousand Years" by Christina Perri. In the days and months leading up to the wedding I had expressed concern that the song would come off sounding silly, since it was composed for and used in one of the Twilight movies. It was my feeling that you shouldn't use a song popularized by a movie, because then everyone is just going to be thinking "they picked that song just because they heard it in that movie" rather than admiring the beautiful lyrics or music.

Whether or not someone was thinking that I cannot know, but I know that Twilight was the furthest thing from my mind when the music kicked in and the gates opened. Upon seeing the beautiful space and all the smiling and eager faces of my friends and family, my eyes almost immediately swelled up with tears of joy. I tried my best to keep a smiling face, but my emotions fought me every step of the way. I even whispered to the judge when I had gotten to the front that "I'm already crying."
Photo of myself walking down the aisle, looking ready to cry.
After the bridesmaids and groomsmen took their positions, Corine emerged from the shed, though she was concealed by the now closed gate. One of the traditions that we had decided to keep for our wedding was that I would not see her wedding dress until the wedding itself. This was much easier said than done, especially since she bought the dress over a year before the wedding. I waited in anticipation; seeing only the white color of the dress through the gate. I couldn't help but wonder what type of dress she had picked, how it looked on her, and if I would be as emotionally impacted by the sight of her as everyone said I would (and should) be.
Photo of my beautiful wife being escorted down the aisle by her father.

Of course, I was emotionally impacted by the sight of her. How could I not be? She could have been wearing a bathrobe and sweatpants and it still would have tug at my heart to see my bride walking toward me. She looked absolutely gorgeous in her wedding dress. I was absolutely in tears by the time the ceremony began.

A Brief Overview of the Ceremony:
  • The ceremony started out with the judge introducing herself and passing around a small bag with the rings inside of it for the guests to hold and wish good luck upon while the ceremony went on.
  • There was then a rose ceremony in which Corine and I each presented a rose to our parents as a symbolic thanks for their unconditional love and support.
  • Corine and I then held hands while the judge performed a hand blessing. The original intent of this particular part was for it to be an Irish hand blessing which involves literally tying a knot around our interlocked hands, but there was some miscommunication and a different hand blessing was performed, though I didn't notice or care.
  • The expression of intent came next, where the judge asked us each if we would take each other as husband and wife, and we (of course) responded "I will."
  • The vows, which we had written ourselves.
  • The rings were then collected from the guests for the ring exchange.
  • We ended with a sand ceremony, in which we mixed two separate vials of colored sand into a single container to represent the blending of our lives together and that as hard as it would be to separate our individual grains of sand, so too would it be that hard for us to break our loving bond.
The vows in particular were tearjerkers for both she and I. Saying something that comes from the heart and is very personal to your relationship is just so much more meaningful than any pre-written vow could ever be. The personal vows were also, in my mind, symbolic of the effort we were trying to make to make the wedding truly our own. Before our wedding day we had some people express worry that we weren't going to have a "traditional" wedding (traditional wedding song, at a church, etc.), but when it was all said and done we had relatives and friends coming up to us and telling us that it was "the most beautiful wedding I've ever seen."
Photo of myself and my wife walking back up the aisle after getting married, and looking happy!
On a slight sidenote, I think people are so wrapped up in what they think a wedding "should" be that they become closed-minded to the idea that anything else can be as beautiful. The truth is that anything unique to your personality is going to be much more beautiful than a carbon copy of something that's been done thousands of times before. I highly suggest to anybody reading this that they go the extra mile to make their wedding unique and personal. It makes a hell of a difference.
After finishing the ceremony and taking some photos, it was time to make our way to the reception space, which was conveniently halfway to the hotel from the gazebo. We'd rented out the detached pavilion (complete with an open bar) on the property of the hotel.

From then on was visiting with the guests, cutting the cake, dinner (the highlight being a cashew crusted chicken with maple cream sauce), and speeches. Each member of the wedding party gave a speech, including my wife (which I wasn't expecting). Even my older brother, who is generally a very quiet person, gave a speech, which was very meaningful to me that he would even consider standing up and speaking in front of a crowd.

After literally everyone gave a speech except me, a table with some of my family members started chanting my name and asking for me to give a speech as well, so of course I improvised something along the lines of "I don't know what to say except thank you".

Even after all of that was said and done, I was extremely nervous. I had been drinking a little bit to calm my nerves, but I was also being careful to maintain a very low level of drunkenness (almost nonexistent, actually). The reason for this is that our first dance was still to come, and we had been taking lessons for a little over a month in preparation. We didn't have a "routine" per se, but we did have a handful of moves that we would then improvise the order of based on the space of the dance floor and the timing of the music.
Photo of my wife and I performing our first dance together as husband and wife.
Luckily everything went very well. Our song "I'll Be (Acoustic Version)" by Edwin McCain proved to be a good choice, and even though I stepped on Corine's dress two or three times (we hadn't practiced with such a long dress) when I look back at the video footage it's impossible to notice; we played it off like pros.

Tweet: First dance went off amazingly!

Immediately after the first dance and father-daughter dance were finished I unbuttoned my vest, went to the bar, and ordered a stronger drink. The rest of the night was an amazing blur of dancing and wild fun with everyone young and old. Even my grandfather, who is in his 80's and was recently in the hospital, got onto the dance floor and had a great time. Honestly when I look back at the photos I can see that everyone had a good time, and I wouldn't have changed a thing.
Photo of my 80-something year-old grandfather getting his dance on!
At the stroke of midnight, my wife and I thanked our DJ (who did an absolutely amazing job playing to the crowd, which was no small feat considering the huge age range) then made our way to our hotel room where we relaxed in the hot tub for half an hour before going to bed, absolutely exhausted from the amazing wedding.
Tweet: Best night ever.
Luckily, the fun didn't stop there. Our week-long honeymoon was yet to come.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Wedding: The Morning Of

[This post is part 2 of a multi-part series about my wedding. You can read about the rehearsal here, the wedding itself here, and the honeymoon here.]

Tweet: It's finally here! After 6 years together and 3 years engaged, the wedding is today!
The above tweet was sent at 6:00 AM on the morning of my wedding. I was actually still asleep when it was sent, as I used a program/website called HootSuite to schedule it to post ahead of time. In reality, I woke up at around 6:45 AM in a hotel room with my best friend/best man, brother/groomsman, and friend/gatekeeper. I was the first to awake, as evidenced by the loud snoring of the gatekeeper that sounded more like it was being produced by an industrial machine rather than a living human, (earlier in the night I'd also heard him speak some gibberish in his sleep).

Too excited to stay put, but too considerate to wake up the others, I snuck out of the room. I glanced at the doors of my wife-to-be's room and that of my in-laws (the governor's suite and base of operations for the weekend) to see that neither was wedged open. Realizing that it was almost time for the continental breakfast, and thinking it might be romantic to bring a treat or two to my love, I wandered down the quiet and mostly empty halls of the hotel toward where I recalled the breakfast being served from a previous stay.

Though it was about five minutes before I expected it to be served, there was no evidence of a breakfast or preparation for one. I later found out that they did not serve their continental breakfast on weekends, but in the meantime I headed back to the rooms, hoping to find someone else awake.

My father-in-law-to-be was in the hallway leaning against a window. He told me that my bride had called him and that she was going to be out of her room any minute now to join him for the continental breakfast.

Joined by a few others, we realized that the continental breakfast wasn't going to happen, and instead made our way to the hotel restaurant to see if we could pick up some coffee and breakfast treats to take back to the room. Instead, all of us ended up eating a sort of pre-breakfast, fully intending to arrive later with more people for the actual breakfast (and eat some kringle we'd brought in the meantime as well).

After everyone else woke up, we had our real, full breakfast, then talked about going to check out the hotel's water park. Unfortunately there was some miscommunication which prevented me from joining the others at the waterpark in time. Admittedly, I got so annoyed that I made a small scene when I finally got to the water park just a few minutes before everyone else decided it was about time to leave, but I lightened up and was able to go down a water slide and enjoy the hot tub.

Next, it was time to get ready. At least for the ladies. Us guys had to vacate our room and find something to do until it was time for us to get ready, since it would be much, much quicker for us to do so.
Tweet: Three hours left and I'm not nervous in the slightest!
The hotel provided a complimentary hospitality suite intended to let the bridal party prepare, but since they'd taken over the governor's suite, we decided ahead of time that us guys would use it, until it turned out to be a pathetically worthless room.
Tweet: The hospitality suite for getting ready in is just a small crappy conference room with a shower.
Luckily my groomsmen had already picked up the keys to their room for that night, so after using the shower in the complimentary room, we ditched it and instead put our tuxedos in their hotel room. We then discussed what to do with all of our spare time.
Logically, we decided to check out the arcade.

Photo of my groomsmen playing a Time Crisis 3 arcade cabinet.It was fun at first, but the arcade was small and mostly filled with coin-guzzling games that we were too smart to fall for (and probably too mature to play). We grew tired of it pretty quickly (and got two child-sized tiara's for the bridal party with our tickets) and intended to go to the bar for a drink, snack, and good times, but were persuaded to go back to the arcade when we discovered that one of the matrons-of-honor had been holding out on us; she had two coupons for a bunch of free coins for the arcade.

This is where I feel we failed, especially compared to the girls. We made our way back to the arcade, which we were already bored with, simply because we'd run into a bunch of free coins. From the moment we stepped back inside I should have turned back around, since I felt overwhelmed with boredom from the start, but my need to take advantage of what I perceived to be a good deal overwhelmed my better senses, and no one else spoke up. We tried to find fun, and while some was had, it was mostly futile. We ended up trying to figure out which machines would likely give us the most tickets, got them as quickly as possible, then checked out what we could get with them. When our best prize turned out to be a miniature football (about the size of a normal golf ball), we instead decided to give our tickets to the nearest child in the area (with permission from his parents). We then made our way to the room to get dressed.
Tweet: The photographer took pics of us playing games in the arcade. Gonna have to frame those for the future kids.
The girls, on the other hand, had the entire governor's suite to themselves complete with music, snacks, and drinks. From the photos that I've seen, I suspect that they had more laughs and good times than us guys did. We should have went to the bar, or anywhere else but the arcade.

Overall, the morning of the wedding was a bit disappointing for me (considering how upset I got about the miscommunication as well as the poor decision-making on my part). I recall feeling this way in the moment, but not being smart enough to do anything about it, and I still feel this way now.

Luckily, the morning of the wedding was the only part of that day that was sub-par. I'm fortunate enough to be able to say that it's the only part of the day that I wish had gone differently. We even realized the error in not having anything to eat since breakfast, and feebly ate some cold leftover french fries from the night before. I'm sure that will be an interesting story for later, but again, it's kind of a pathetic way of spending my last hours before my wedding.

Luckily, I was mere moments away from the best day of my life.
A photo of myself and my two groomsmen dressed up in our tuxedos, sans jackets.

Monday, June 30, 2014

My Wedding: The Rehearsal

[This post is part 1 of a multi-part series about my wedding. You can read about the morning of the wedding here, the wedding itself here, and the honeymoon here.]

There is just so much to tell about my wedding and honeymoon that I'm going to have to split it up into multiple blog posts in order to do it justice. With this post I will tell you all about the day before the big day.

Friday morning, just after I awoke, I turned to the girl next to me and instinctively held her close. A moment after the haze of morning cleared my head, I had a realization that filled my heart with glee; it was the last day I would spend as a single man. It was the day before the biggest day. Excited, I held her even tighter against me, feeling the warmth of her body mix with mine, and whispered "we're getting married tomorrow."

It was a time to celebrate, even if there was no time to do so. We had breakfast while we watched the news together (to ensure that Saturday would be warm with clear skies), showered, got dressed, then immediately set out on packing for our stay that night at the hotel where we were to be wed. I found packing for that night less complicated than packing for a week-long honeymoon, but a bit more stressful. Thinking ahead for a week while not accidentally packing something I'll need tomorrow I've done before, but packing everything I'll need for my wedding weekend had me worried at every turn that I'd forgotten some vital thing and not be able to send for it when needed.

After calming down enough to complete the packing, there were errands to run such as getting a few snacks and, more importantly, the roses that we would present to our parents during the ceremony. Eagerly I made an announcement on Facebook that there was only one day left and that I would be Tweeting updates throughout the weekend if I found time to do so. Before 1:00pm we were out the door.
Tweet: Just left the apartment to run errands and check in to the hotel. Hope we didn't forget anything.
Tweet: Did I pack my underwear?
The errands went smoothly at first, until we were to meet her parents (and my to-be in-laws) at their house to go to the hotel together. We ran into four different road blocks on our way; construction, a police-blocked intersection, a truck double-parked on a street only wide enough for two cars, and two women standing in the middle of an intersection having a chat (a good way to get run-over, and they stayed in the street after barely moving out of our way).
Tweet: The road was blocked in 4 different places. We're on a mission, people!
Somehow we arrived early, which gave me time to eat some lunch and tweet how I felt at the time. There was no panic or fear; I was about to get married to the girl I'd been with for over six years and living with for three, what is there to fear about being married to your best friend?
Tweet: Movies make it seem like I should be worried about getting married, but this feels like the easiest choice I've ever made!
We all hit the road and headed to the hotel. Check-in time was fast approaching, and we needed all the time we could get to unpack and hopefully be able to set up some of the decorations. Excitement and anticipation hung thick in the air, especially when we saw the governor's suite room that my to-be in-laws were using as a sort of base of operations for the weekend. As should be expected, my bride-to-be was served at bent knee and kept out of the way of anything that might harm her. This included, apparently, her matron of honor wheeling her around on the Bellman Cart we borrowed from the hotel:
A tweet showing my wife on a dolly getting pushed by her matron of honor.
Fun was had, but it was time for business. We talked to the wedding planner who informed us that she was so confident in clear skies that we were allowed to set up for our reception in the pavilion right then and there rather than having to try to fit it into the morning of.
Tweet: Sweet! The pavillion is ready for us to set up today instead of tomorrow!
The space looked beautiful even with almost none of the decorations up. The hotel staff were nice enough to set up the tables and chairs complete with covers and table runner, as well as the leafy-burlap that hung from the head table where I would eventually sit. Seeing the space was the first time that it really struck me what was going on. I was about to get married!
The pavillion ready for us to set up
After putting up as many of the decorations that we could (just about all of which were homemade), it was time to go rehearse and then have dinner.We all went to our separate rooms, and I was faced with the difficult task of picking which of the two ties I had brought to wear that night. Thankfully I was in a room with both my groomsmen and one of our gatekeepers, so I asked their advice, and chose the blue, patterned one over the grey, plain one.
Tweet: Just had a broment picking out a tie.
We made our way to the gazebo to quickly practice our moves twice, and again I was struck by the sheer beauty of the space at which we were to be wed. It was even better than I remembered; it was perfect.
Image of the gazebo where we were to be married!
And, of course, my bride-to-be looked absolutely stunning in the dress she'd picked just for that night, and it turned out to be a wise decision that I went with the blue tie. We had our families take a handful of photos of us before we made our way to the rehearsal dinner.
A photo of my wife and I the day before our wedding
Tweet: Just finished the rehearsal. Our wedding space is beautiful!
When we arrived at the location of our rehearsal dinner (the nice restaurant inside the hotel), we were surprised to find that they'd reserved three large circular tables for us in the conference/ballroom across the hall from the actual restaurant. It was odd, because the three tables (which seated a few more people than we actually brought) were spaced apart. At first we tried to work with it; picking one of the three tables with whomever we preferred to sit with, but it didn't feel right. Here we were; about to celebrate the joining of two families and sitting at separate tables! Luckily the waitresses didn't have a problem with us bringing all three tables together, and the night continued.

My wife-to-be and I thanked everybody for coming then handed out our wedding party's gifts. My best man got a glass beer stein etched with his initials large on one side and "BMF" small on the other (which stands either for "Best Man Forever," or perhaps is a reference to a certain Tarantino movie) with a modest bottle of cider ale. My groomsman (and brother) got a glass coffee mug with his initials etched large on one side and "BRO" small on the other (which stands for, of course, "brother") with a few packets of assorted coffee.

Both of the matrons-of-honor received matching heart-shaped jewelry boxes with a personal message inside, as well as jewelry that my wife-to-be made for them, in addition to a bottle of wine for each.

Not too long after the gifts were done, food came as well. Everything was delicious (though one or two people were disappointed with the fish they ordered), and most people ate their fill with no room for dessert.
Tweet: Rehearsal dinner was delicious! I can't believe I'm getting married tomorrow!
We continued the celebration in the governor's suite where we had drinks and snacks with even more wedding guests that had arrived at the hotel. Before I knew it, the date on my phone read "June 14th, 2014" and I knew I would be smart to call it a night. Shortly after midnight, the bridal party went their separate ways; the guys to their room and the girls to theirs, where we slept heavily until the following morning; the morning of the day I was to finally marry the love of my life.

It still hadn't registered in my head what was finally happening, yet I couldn't have been more excited.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Things Just Got Real

The fact that the wedding is fast approaching now seems more real than ever.

This past Friday, my wife-to-be and I performed our wedding dance routine for a crowd of students at the dance studio where we've been taking lessons. It went off without a hitch, and was incredibly fun! Our "routine" doesn't actually have a step-by-step plan, and is instead a collection of moves we've learned in tune to our song that we improvise by me leading her and signaling what to do next, complete with a beginning and ending. Given this, it was awesome to be able to adapt to the space we had and prove to ourselves that we could make the dance look fluid.

Then on Saturday and Sunday we were nonstop prepping for the wedding and honeymoon. We went shopping for this week's groceries, as well as for last-minute supplies for the honeymoon, and even got around to doing some packing.

I'll say it again; the fact that the wedding is fast approaching seems more real than ever. It seems to be all we talked about all weekend. We managed to carve out a bit of time to go out to lunch together, but even then the conversation barely took more than a step away from talking about the big day. We'd wake up and our first words to each other would be along the lines of "less than a week away!" and "I can't believe we're finally getting married! It's about time!" Even while we sat on the couch at night watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones, we'd occasionally look at each other, smile, cuddle even closer, and tell each other how much we love each other and how excited we are.

I think it's safe to say that this next Saturday is going to be one of the best days of my life.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Ten Days till the Wedding!

The day is getting closer! In only ten short days I'll be marrying my high school sweetheart, my college girlfriend, and best friend all wrapped up into one!

I absolutely cannot wait! Sure, there have been bumps in the road over the past six years, but I cannot think of anyone else I'd rather promise to share my life with.

I have so much more to blog about, but right now none of that seems nearly as important.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Countdowns and Haircuts and Vows ... Oh My!

As I write this, the countdown timer on my blog informs me that I have 16 days and a handful of hours until I get married. We've been engaged for about three and a half years, so it's quite surprising for the date to finally be so close, but I've got to say I'm more excited than ever!

As far as last-minute tasks and errands go, there really aren't many. My wife-to-be and her mother have been so ahead of schedule and on top of things that they've already got everything done and ready to go! This has been especially awesome since my wife-to-be just got a new job with full time hours (whereas she was working part time before, which gave her more time to prep for the wedding).

One thing I just did to prepare was get my hair cut by the woman my wife-to-be gets her hair cut by. Typically I'll go to whatever haircut chain is closest or cheapest; but their work, while not bad at all, leaves something to be desired. For my wedding haircut I wanted to go to someone I knew and trusted who I had high confidence in. I may not have a lot of hair, but that doesn't detract from the fact that it is capable of making me look like a homeless hipster. Our wedding is neither hipster nor homeless themed.

The result is great! Wanting to indulge in this one bit of personal appearance was worth it, despite costing about twice as much as I usually pay. I would post a photo, but you'll just see it when I post a wedding photo or two. I'll probably end up going to the same person again from now on, because frankly I was getting sick of going home after a haircut and feeling the need to take scissors to it myself.

The most important last-minute task, however, is our vows. Being that I'm a writer, I demanded that we write our own rather than using some insert-name-here vows that only generically pertain to us. The pressure was immediately on for her, who volunteered to read her vows first so that they wouldn't sound "poor in comparison" after mine. I have no doubt that hers will be spectacular, but she insists that she won't be able to accurately and romantically describe her feelings for me.

Honestly, she's not the only one. Just because I'm a writer and have a good sense for how to write a good speech, I'm not automatically carefree that I'll be able to write something perfect for that all-too-important moment in my life. If anything, I can feel myself and others holding me to a higher standard because of my love of writing. I want something meaningful, personal, romantic, and for it to be the perfect length and pace.

How on earth can anyone do that? How can I possibly put into words how I feel and what I promise to this girl that I've been with for six years and have fallen in love with time and time again?

Then again, she inspires my like nobody else.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Book Review: Under The Dome by Stephen King

Last summer I was tricked into watching the terrible first season of the television show adaptation of Stephen King's Under The Dome. CBS was advertising it as a summer miniseries (or at least did not reveal that it was going to be a multi-season show), and I was under the impression that it would be a good opportunity to experience the brilliant work of fiction I'd wanted to read but couldn't make time for (the hardcover edition is 1,074 pages long, likely with tiny print).

The show turned out to be a laughably bad adaptation that strayed from the source material (one character who dies in her first appearance in the book is a main, living character in the show). I watched it with friends, as it was fun to mock, was mysterious enough to wonder what would happen next, and was seemingly the only new thing on TV for the summer.

I knew that in order to get the high-quality Stephen King version of the story I'd have to go right to the source. I had recently discovered that my local library has quite a selection of audio books on disc, including Under The Dome. I decided it was time to dive in and listen to the 30 disc book on my commutes to and from work.

To get the audio book-specific review out of the way, I'll say that this was my first time listening to a fictional audio book (and my third audio book overall), and it was very well done. Raúl Esparza did an amazing job telling the story and fitting a different voice to each character of the very large cast.

Like most people, I enjoy the work of Stephen King. Lisey's Story is one of my absolute favorite books (and is apparently the favorite of Stephen King's own works, he once admitted), and I've read and enjoyed several others such as Thinner, Desperation, The Shining, Christine, The Eyes Of The Dragon, and Cell.

As far as his writing style is concerned, I find myself occasionally skipping some of his extensive explanations of things, and I even grew tired of and decided not to finish The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon because I couldn't stand so much description of so little happening. I definitely zoned out a couple times while listening to Under The Dome for the same reason, but overall this is a book full of action.

The story is told by a third person omnipotent narrator from the perspective of multiple central and non-central characters. You get to know the inner thoughts of the good guys, the bad guys, and even a dog. This method of storytelling helps flesh out the world perhaps more than any other Stephen King has written. You get to know a good chunk of the many citizens of Chester's Mill, a fictional town in (where else?) Maine. This helps to create a world where, rather than a lot of action being done to or by a small group of people, it feels like every citizen of the town is involved in the crisis.

The crisis is, of course, that the town of Chester's Mill has suddenly been cut off from the rest of the world by an invisible and impenetrable dome. It's like The Simpsons Movie, except more supernatural and Stephen King apparently had the story drafted decades before that movie was written. Within only days of the town being cut off, the local used car dealer and selectman rises to power; converting the small town into a military state, the weather and color of the sky changes as pollution gathers on the outside and inside of the dome, and various citizens experience disturbing visions of future events.

Under The Dome is easily one of the best Stephen King books that I've read. It's exciting from beginning to end, and even with the visions of the future teasing me, I couldn't guess what would happen next. I'd highly suggest this to anyone with the motivation to read such a large book, as it is surely worth your time.

And yes, I'll be giving season 2 of the show another chance to win me over.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Begin The Countdown!

With 35 days left, now is as good a time as any to start counting down to my wedding. Mind you that we've been engaged for three years now, and she's been counting down since we set the date, so I'm a bit late by comparison.

I've added a countdown to the top of my blog so that you can count down to the big event with me! The time of day may not be exact, but when all of those numbers become zeroes, I'll be married to my high school sweetheart and college fiancée!

I've got to say, there were times that I was feeling a slight pinch of nervousness, but lately I've been nothing but excited for the big day. All the plans are coming together, invites are coming in (though a lot of people have neglected to send any response and will be getting phone calls), and the date is fast approaching. I can't wait!

That's all I really wanted to say.

Monday, April 28, 2014

My Bachelor Party

My bachelor party was this past Saturday, and I thought I'd share with you how it went.

The night consisted of a private 1.5 hour session of tactical lazer tag, followed by drinks, food, and games at my best man's house.

Firstly, let me clear up what I mean by "Tactical Lazer Tag." Many people (including several in my party) were under the impression that it would be a silly, childish game with "pew pew" noises and neon lights. I wonder where they got that idea from?
(How I Met Your Mother, copyright CBS)
It's nothing like that. We went to CMP Tactical, which is a bit more like this:
(CMP Tactical Lazer Tag)
Without getting too much into how it works, the simple fact is that everything was made to simulate a realistic tactical gun combat experience. From the weight of the guns, to the sound of a bullet casing bouncing on the ground after the initial sound of a gunshot, everything was grounded in reality. We played five different game modes (one we played twice since we had extra time), and some personal highlights include me capturing the flag for my team, as well as being the last man standing in a mode in which my team had no respawns, but the opposing team did. I had an incredible moment where I was crouched in a corner, shot an enemy, and had to reload as I heard someone coming up behind me. Immediately after my reload was complete (it takes a few seconds) my best man came up from the corner behind me and met his end. If I'd reloaded a second later, I'd have been dead.

After all was said and done, everyone had a fantastic time. All of the skeptics who thought the experience would be silly and lame were convinced otherwise. Best of all was that our teams were each a good mix of people who'd never met.

One of my goals for the bachelor party was to get all the guys to bond with each other so that, come the time of my wedding, they won't feel like they don't know anyone (I had a mix of friends from high school, college, work, and even my and the best man's fathers, most of whom had never met each other before). I'm confident that the bachelor party has ensured that the wedding will be even more enjoyable for the guests.
Food and drinks afterwards went well. I remember most of it, but there was a trivia game which required me to drink a shot if I got the question wrong, and drink a shot if I got it right. Needless to say I quickly became a blubbering mess with my emotions all over the place. There are videos of me, but I don't have the heart to watch them, especially since I can honestly say I've never been "wasted" drunk before then. On that note, I can also say that I've now experienced a real hangover, unlike the mild ones I'm used to.

Perhaps the most interesting event of the night was actually internal, rather than external. Having been with my wife-to-be for six years, I've gotten quite used to her being around. People talk about their bachelor parties being a "last hurrah" or a "goodbye to their manhood," but although I had a lot of fun, there were several points in the night that I found myself wishing she were with me. I don't see marriage as the end of anything, because I'm marrying my best friend, and the coolest person to be with. This mentality, combined with many nice words and wishes from my guests (including from my brother-in-law-to-be, who said he was proud of me and that I was "part of the family"), has only strengthened my resolve to be married to my high school sweetheart.

And I will be, in only 47 days.