Time for Plan B

I had a plan for this year, one that would hopefully put me back where I was a few years ago but times are changing and I am having trouble keeping up. I spent weeks coming home from work and recording an audiobook for Audible in the hopes of reaching a market that was out of my reach before. I enjoy audiobooks, hell for the most part it’s the only way I get to read these days. I spent more grueling hours editing the material, making sure it fit the specifications for the site and in the end, there were issues with the files. This isn’t the end of the story.
I still have hours of material that is waiting to be heard. This Sunday some friends and I will be recording the first of what could be many podcasts. It’s a chance to hang out, have some fun, talk about what whatever we want and plug our stuff in the meantime. Originally, I thought we would have to go through SoundCloud, an expensive site that I had used in the past and manually connect the podcast to Apple, Spotify and all the other sites, a huge pain in the butt. Then someone on Instagram pointed me towards Anchor.fm where they connect you with sponsors and connect your podcast to all the other outlets for listeners. In the end dear reader, you ended up with not one but two podcasts for your future enjoyment.
I started the Typing Piper Classics podcast where every week I upload a new segment of my audiobooks for your listening pleasure. The first episode is available now. I’m starting out with Daisy the book that I spend so many hours recording. I have a backlog of material at the moment which means I can focus on writing new material in the meantime for this blog and Amazon. I hope that you will join me on this new adventure and maybe something special will become of it. Who knows, in the future if things go well, I can afford to have some professionally produced audiobooks created in the future.
Also, Golden will be released on July 1 on Amazon as an eBook and in print. It’s a Novella length memoir and if you have been reading this blog then you might have already read it. There isn’t that much new material, the original post have been cleaned up and I will be happy when I have a printed copy sitting on my shelf at home. Daisy and Motherf*cker, my year as a degenerate cook, are still scheduled to come out early June.
While all of this is happening, I will continue to work on the 5-year anniversary editions of the After the Day series and those will start being turned into serialized podcast later this year. My schedule is full and if you don’t see me on here for stretches of time know that I am likely working on something new. Outlines have been written for an upcoming trilogy, working title is After America. My plan for this is to have the whole trilogy written when it is released. I figure if people can binge watch Netflix why wouldn’t they want to binge read a new series? These will be longer books than what I have been producing lately so don’t expect it any time soon. Know that there will be material coming out in the meantime but something big is one the way.
-Matthew Gilman

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Reading the Classics

A few months ago, I purchased a set of the Harvard Classics, also known at as the five-foot reading list. When the books are stacked, they are five feet tall. So far I have read The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, and the Dialogues of Plato. There are 50 books all together but well over a hundred titles that fill the volumes.
There are two books that cause me to cringe when I think about reading them. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith and The Origin of Species by Darwin are some of the longest titles in the series and could be some of the dullest reading I will ever experience. Did Adam Smith consider how to make economics fun when he wrote his book, I doubt it. Stuck on a boat in the Pacific Ocean would be the best place for someone like Darwin to write about some birds out of boredom and accidently write a classic.
I always hated required reading when I was in school but I will point out that having high school students reading old English isn’t the best way to introduce the classics or good literature for that matter. I could not stand The Scarlett Letter and As I Lay Dying was only readable to those who were familiar with southern white trash. I met some of these characters later in life and had moments where I thought “oh I get it now.” I remember thinking to myself that no one could be that dumb and then life proved me wrong. As for the Scarlett Letter I saw more than my fair share of affairs over the years and the only thing missing was the culture of shame that didn’t exist. This kind of behavior had become a new normal in certain work environments.
In order for a great book to have staying power it has to be written in a way that it will hold up a hundred years after it was written. I often think about Gatsby for an example of this, having known men to fake their lifestyles in order to attract women who were not really into them. Since the Harvard Classics were printed in 1909 Gatsby is not on the list along with all the other classics written during the 20th century. I’m sure I can find a list for those later on.
Some of the classics I am having a difficult time with include poetry and plays, something I always considered separate from literature. I can think of a handful of writers who were successful play writes during their lives, A.A. Milne, Tennessee Williams, and Oscar Wilde all paid their bills by writing plays and having them be a success in the local theaters. For most of these men their fame was later remembered from other literary works like The Picture of Dorian Gray and the Winnie the Pooh series.
When I recently read The Inklings by Humphrey Carpenter, I learned how Tolkien and Lewis used poetry as a mental exercise for writing. Publishing such works was still common and people could make a living at it if they had talent. These days the readers don’t exist and writing such things is viewed at the intellectual version of writing rap lyrics in the ghetto, except less successful. While I say all of these horrible things about poetry I will admit there is an advantage to those who do it. It will expand vocabulary as you search for the right word for a line. There is a sense of rhythm that is missing from todays books and the only writers who still have this skill are slowly dying off. The symbolism and descriptions used in poetry is something that is missing from todays books. When a person writes a line such as “that morning he was dehydrated and his pee was the same color it would be an hour after taking a multivitamin” they could use a course or two of poetry.
I will eventually read The Wealth of Nations but I will always have in the back of my mind knowing that Smith lived with his mother, without a job, and was catered daily by her as he wrote. He was living the life of royalty with a serf caring for his needs while writing about capitalism. It would be like Ron Jeremy writing a book about celibacy and having it become a huge hit. The most interesting thing about Adam Smith’s book is that it is regarded as the standard for economics, and it would appear he was very bad at it and this was the only beacon of success he had in his life. I’m sure at some point an adult man still living with their parents, playing World of Warcraft or Minecraft, could write the next big book on relationships or personal responsibility. It could happen, I suppose.

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Liar, Liar, pants on F.I.R.E.

If you are one of the people who are surfing the internet looking for information on how to retire early then you have found articles and websites dedicated to the F.I.R.E. movement, Financially Independent Retire Early. Most of these stories feature people who saved a good portion of their income and had enough after a certain period of time to leave their jobs and tour the world or live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere while typing their financial manifestoes.
The biggest lie these websites love to pass along is that anyone can do this. This is the same mentality that had Mitt Romney telling reporters that he thought middle class started at $250,000. The people who have accomplished this goal are in the upper middle class and those who do something similar under that threshold are referred to as bums, no debt but living in poverty.
The other aspect of these stories that people tend to overlook is the obvious advantage that these people have over the majority of the population, inherited wealth, no student loan debt, six figure salaries, or households with two six figure incomes. The message is always the same afterwards, anyone can do this. Not everyone is like you.
I fall into the category of people who make around $35,000 a year. I have good benefits and no debt except for a laptop and a house. The laptop will be paid off in a few months. I am on schedule to pay off the house in 5-6 years, but when it comes to savings there is about $10,000 in various accounts and other assets far from what would be needed to retire early. On my income, the odds of having enough to retire even at 65 is about 1 in a bazillion. The sad reality is that 52% of Americans don’t have enough in savings to pay an unexpected $500 bill and only 62% of the population that can work does work. That means 38% of working age individuals are either retired, disabled, unemployed, or choose not to work. Translate the numbers into what it really means and most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck with no future in sight.
Is early retirement truly feasible for the average American, no. to say otherwise is to feed hope to those that are already seeking answers to a better life. Does this mean that Americans shouldn’t try to better their situations and live a more meaningful life, no. There are resources available to live a financially secure life even on a lower income. It takes some work, but if one really tries hard enough, they can get out of debt and take control of their lives where others have failed. Dave Ramsey has his famous book Total Money Makeover that is very effective if one follows the principles in it.
Stressed caused by finances can cause people to make bad choices and spiral further into debt instead of climbing out. So, making changes to better one’s situation or finding a solution to that feeling of hopelessness is important. This article isn’t saying there isn’t something to learn from these people that retired early, good for them. What I am saying is that here and there we can find things to take from their experiences to make our lives better. For example, Mr. Money Mustache was able to retire early, at the age of 30. While this is impossible for most of us, what we can learn is how he is able to live on only $25,000 a year with a household of 4. He rides a bike to work and other places around town. His house is paid off, something most of us neglect doing because payments are “low.” He eats at home most days and the wife and him rarely go out for drinks or dinner.
While it may appear appropriate to blame others for our situation, there is one thing we all can take away from these stories, the responsibility of our personal situations comes down to us and how we handle it. We should, under no circumstances, wait for some financial messiah to come save us. We are the masters of our own choices and when we eat out, buy some luxury item we can’t afford or buy a house that is out of our price range we are the ones who put ourselves in that situation. We can’t blame the realtor for telling us we can afford it, or the car salesman for telling us that a seven-year payment plan is really good for an automobile. We are the ones who should know better. Let’s face it, if we really wanted to stick it to the man we would live frugally and watch as the stock market took a big dump in everyone’s portfolios and laugh as people in three pieces suits applied for part time jobs at the local Starbucks and asked if they have benefits for new employees.

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After the Day for the last time

This book saved my life. Poorly written, and breaking barriers no one wanted to see broken, what started out as a way to kill long lonely nights turned into a gateway to freedom that I needed. Five years ago, I put a book on Amazon before knowing what it was. It was raw, filled with misspelled words, bad grammar, and horrible dialogue and somehow it sold.
At that time in my life I was divorce, living alone, dating life had a bunch of downs and no ups, and debt was pulling me down. I had branched out into various hobbies, things that I had wanted to do early on in life but held back by different things which no longer influenced my life. Included in these hobbies was writing.
One of the first things I did after my wife and I split was going to best buy and picking up a laptop to write on. It sat in a closet for a year before I took it out and started pecking the keys. I had many adventures after my thirtieth birthday. Fishing, hunting, and gardening took up a good portion of my free time. Once hunting season was over and winter was in full throttle I was stuck inside, without a television and the radio my only outside friend. Sitting in my dining room with a bottle of red wine and a pipe filled with captain black gold I started to write a short story. I had lost track of where it was going and so I wrote another. I continued this process until I had three or our stories in front of me and realized I was writing them all in the same world.
The last couple of days have taken me back to that time. Sitting at a dining room table like I do now and listening to classical music from NPR, I go over my first novel and rewrite the work for the last time. I found the original version, the one I uploaded with all of its horrible flaws, before the suggestions, edits, and critics took over. Starting from scratch I’m turning it into what it could have been all along and something that is truly mine again. I have learned some lessons along the way. Don’t look at sales figures. Don’t read the reviews. Don’t let people distract you with other projects that are not your own. Drink less beer. Write drunk. Edit sober… sometimes. So maybe I haven’t learned my lessons on a lot of things or maybe some of those things are myths to begin with. You don’t have to always enjoy what it is that you are doing but it helps.
As I go through these pages and play with the words, slowly transforming this thing into something else entirely, I know that I will still come back to it a few times. Reading an audiobook will point out a few more changes along the way and that is okay. After this year I will no longer come back to this book. My life has changed since that time and I have written several things since then that nobody wants to read or talk about. After the Day has turned into my white whale and it is time to put it down for good.

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Daisy and other projects for this year

Yesterday I posted three sections of my upcoming book Daisy. The purpose is to encourage people to comment and add thoughts to what works, what is missing, and what to cut out. As I write and rewrite the book I will post more for feedback along the way. This isn’t the only thing I am working on at the moment.

Last night, I started recording the audiobook version of a previous book titled Hobbit Baby; a Father’s journey through the NICU. This is a short book and journals the 91 days my daughter spend in a NICU when she was born four months early and weighed 1 pound 5 ounces. I’m using this as a practice run to relearn the ins and outs of using Audacity again and editing sound files for an audiobook. I had used Audacity in the past for podcast that no longer exist but the last time was a year ago. Recording audiobooks is not as labor intensive as writing a book from scratch so I am hoping to put a large dent in my catalogue this year. That leads me to my other project.

This is the five year anniversary of my first book After the Day. I was never happy with how that book started out, unedited, poorly written, and never truly fixed along the way. For the five year anniversary I am working on a complete rewrite of the first three books and releasing them with audiobooks, something else I missed out on when I first publish. I hope to get things right this time and enable myself to move on and forget about that series once and for all without regret.

I will post updates on here when things are scheduled for release. Audiobooks will be something new for me and while I have some experience I will be selling them for a reasonable price since I am recording at home. My house is quiet in the middle of the night when I record but my equipment isn’t exactly the best for such projects.

So, there it is, my year in a nutshell. You’re welcome to come along for the ride.

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Daisy: CHAPTER TEN

 

The mall was bustling with people shopping, eating, exploring, flirting, stealing, and doing their five laps through the mall for their senior citizen workout. Bill and Daisy sat at a table in the sky court eating orange chicken and fried rice, the only decent meal to be found in the entire building. They were the only white people eating their food with chop sticks.
“Do they sprinkle crack on this?” Daisy asked eating the sauce covered breaded chicken.
“Why do you ask?”
“I could eat this every day.”
Daisy took the leftover sauce and piled the rice on top, mixing the two, unwilling to let any of it go to waste.
The two of them walked through the mall looking at shops with teeny boppers running around laughing about anything they could find. Victoria’s secret was filled with desperate housewives and young couples where the guy was clearly uncomfortable in the store. The sky court was the place for parents and senior citizens to eat their food and people watch for an hour or so.
“Who just walked by?” Bill asked Daisy.
Daisy sighed. “Young guy in his twenties, red jacket, blue jeans and Nike shoes.”
“Young guy?” Bill asked.
“Black male, light skin. Athletic, 175-180 pounds.”
“That’s better.” Bill glanced back and spotted the man right away. “Who is at the Asian drink shop at the moment?”
Daisy glanced at the picture window for an African fair-trade store. The reflection showed her an elderly woman in her seventies with a walker trying to hold her drink with one hand.
“Old woman, white, in her seventies with a walker. She’s going to drop her drink.” A second later the drink spilled all over the floor and the woman grabbed the walker, racing away from the scene of the crime, embarrassed by the accident.
“Very good,” Bill said. “You didn’t do that from memory.” He pointed out.
“No, I used the window.” Daisy nodded to the glass.
“Where did you learn that?”
“Bangkok Dangerous, you have eyes all around you.” Daisy looked at the Asian market and hoped to go inside.
“Alright pumpkin where to?”
Daisy led him to the shop and started to look at the swords behind the counter. As expected, they were all trash, cheap 440 steel that would bend on the first use.
“What are you getting pumpkin?” Bill asked.
“Dad stop,” She started to act irritated. Bill wasn’t sure what had just happened until he noticed the young man behind the counter looking at Daisy and then him. It was obvious that Daisy liked this boy and so Bill wandered around the store on his own while Daisy picked out a set of stainless-steel throwing stars and a new legal to carry folding knife.
“So, do you know how to use these things?” the young man behind the counter asked while Daisy paid in cash.
“Of course, who doesn’t?” the answer was obvious and Daisy left smiling wondering if the young man would buy his own to learn how to use them. When they returned a few weeks later the young man no longer worked there.

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Daisy: CHAPTER EIGHT

“Why do we have to wait here in the cold,” Daisy asked her father as they sit in a blind made from nearby tree limbs and branches.
“Deer run away when you go out looking for them,” Bill replied.
“There has got to be a better way to do this?” Daisy said trying to stay warm while snowflakes fall around them. “Why don’t people hunt in the summer?”
“You already know that from your hunting safety class. The cold preserves the meat so that nothing goes to waste. Now pipe down, all this talking is going to scare everything away. We won’t even leave with a squirrel.”
“That’s gross,” daisy said shrugging her shoulders.
“There may come a day when you have to eat what you can.”
“I’ll wait until then,” Daisy said. A second later the sound of leaves crackling followed by a twig caught their attention. Bill tapped Daisy on the shoulder to ready her shotgun, a .410 they had bought the summer before. She spent a few hours at the range with it, becoming comfortable with the kick. Neither of them said a word as they looked at the ridge, waiting to see what would climb over.
The pounding in her chest made her wonder if her heart was going to explode from her ribcage. Her breathing slowed down as her eyes focused on the ridge line. The cracking and popping of leaves and sticks continued and a second later a pair of brown ears extended from the earth. The deer ascended and a large doe appeared, thick and stocking it was a few years old and ate well before the winter. The doe faced Daisy and had not notice the two hunters behind the blind. Bill put his hand on Daisy’s shoulder and squeezed. She lifted the .410 and waited for the kill shot to appear.
Long seconds passed. Daisy took long deep breaths trying to slow her heart beat but nothing worked. Her skin tingled and the blood rushing through her veins was warm. Every sound, every movement, happened in slow motion. The deer was taking its time until it turned, looking at a tree, sniffing the bark for a potential meal. The side was exposed and Daisy could see the furnace, the hotbox of death. One clear shot and there wouldn’t be a chase, no tracking to find her kill. Daisy clicked the safety off in front of the trigger and took a deep breath. Her heart was still beating fast, the veins in her neck throbbed as she closed her left eye and lined up the sight.
The shot happened. The loud clap of gas exploding out of the barrel caught her off guard and she was startled when the deer stumbled and fell to the side, down the hill and out of sight. Daisy panicked and rushed out of the blind before bill could stop her.
The ridge overlooked the start of a swamp and on the other end was the open fields the older hunters preferred. The public hunting lands were thousands of acres of everything a deer needed to thrive. The sun was setting with a blood red hew painted across the sky. Daisy could see an orange clad figure walking in the field a mile away, his hunt ruined by the shot she had made. Looking down she found her kill and a few feet below that was a fawn that she had never seen. The mother was dead, the fawn looked at Daisy, turned and ran. A few seconds later the fawn disappeared into the swamp, thick brush hiding it from predators like Daisy.
“You did good.” Bill walked up behind her seeing the clean kill.
“It had a fawn,” Daisy said. “I just watched it run away into the swamp.”
“It will be fine,” Bill said.
“Are you sure?” Daisy asked.
“This deer was a fawn like that one at one time. Trust me, it will make due.” Bill pulled a buck knife from his pocket and unfolded the blade. “Remember not to nick the intestines.”

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