In Search of Something, Desperation

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I find that more often than not, media that stems from my faith is dictated by a series of hidden puppet masters who inspect the content and make sure it is “Jesus approved” by a host of likewise sinful people who chose to cheapen a message by hiding it behind a mesh screen and chose to swing Jesus’ name around in the sky like a rickety bat instead of telling us why Jesus’ name actually matters.

Disillusionment is never the answer.

I will forever be honest about my faith, and I will forever be honest about how shitty I can be, how shitty the world around us can be.

This is about three things:

  • How Christian media presents themes you should respect and look up to, but does it in the worst way possible.
  • How Underoath’s return has broken my heart.
  • How I struggle with the fact that I am a Christian, writing fairly “un-Christian” books, and yet still find my purpose in writing them.

I told you today would be about a struggle within the context of my faith, and here it is. Why I strive to be the best version of the collected gifts I have been given. How I want, above all else, to be a Christian who will always level with you and understand you. Regardless of your faith. Regardless of your life. I want to be someone you can come to.

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Back when I first released “The Darling Bones” I had a friend from church who read it and afterwards, make some rather questionable comments to my parents about my faith. Among them, they claimed that my novel was not a “Christian” novel because in the book a character directly refutes God’s existence. They also suggested I seek guidance through prayer and scripture to get back on track amid my walk of faith.

Of course, when this news returned to me I thought it was ludicrous. For several reasons, chiefly among them, “The Darling Bones” is not a Christian novel. I don’t write “Christian” novels. If I wrote a Christian novel in the manner that many religious minds expect, it would be the worst one of my career without a doubt. Perhaps a useful tool for prompting other Christians to seek out clarity in their faith, but undoubtedly not something I would feel is worthy of advertising, let alone accepting as my own.

That’s a lofty claim to make considering I am whole-heartedly a Christian and I truly believe the only reason I am able to do what I do is because I was given the talent for it.

However, despite how talented I may or may not be at telling a story, no talent, God given or earned through dedication, will remain a talent without constant and difficult work. You cannot be a champion weight lifter without lifting champion level weights every day. You cannot be an Olympic swimmer without swimming with the charge of an Olympian. Why is it that Christian Media is any different?

I grew to understand this idea years ago when I met face to face with Underoath. Labeled by some as “bad boys” of the Christian music scene. Their lyrics were, by all accounts to a thirteen-year-old, dark and edgy. They screamed with passion and their music was heavier than much else out there. No offense to the likes of Toby Mac, but I just couldn’t get behind worship music for a long time. I followed Underoath as a band for years, using their radio station on Pandora to seek out other bands in the same vein where I found Demon Hunter, As I Lay Dying and more, all of whom stood out to me as a young man searching for his place in the world as strong Christian influences that proved I could be exactly who I was and still be a man of faith. I could have both worlds and I could live in them at the same time.

Then Tim Lambesis tried to assassinate his wife.

To be honest, that really threw a wrench in my whole ideology.

If you are unaware, Tim was the lead singer of As I Lay Dying, a band who for a while proclaimed their Christian faith and stood out among the masses as one of the heavier bands who stuck to their guns amid the metal scene, despite being a Christian group. To make a long story short, if you want to read more information on the story I’ll leave a link, but their lead singer got jacked on steroids and decided he wanted to kill his wife, so he hired a hitman who was actually an undercover cop. He went to prison and that was that. AILD was broken up and I was more than a bit disappointed.

As his trial approached, I came to follow the story closely and in one interview he made a comment that upset me much more than the fact that his band had broken up and he turned out to be a despicable human being. In this interview he had made a comment about how many of the current (At the time, 2016. Who knows what has changed since then.) Christian bands were honest about their faith. In various interviews, which gave all kinds of sporadic information in no sensible order and actually let to more confusion in the long run about his situation, he claimed that 1/10 Christian bands that AILD toured with were actually Christian.

For you to understand my frustrations you should understand that I was somewhat shielded from things. Not in a “My parents wouldn’t let me do anything.” kind of way, but more like a “I thought every story had a happy ending, even when it didn’t.” Kind of way. I think in my youth there was this idea in my head that it was impossible for bands and even to a small degree, individuals to lie about their faith. I just assumed that a Christian would be honest about their walk and that was all that needed to be said. Of course, this is bullshit because we inherently are deceitful creatures. Christian or not. We quickly learn to lie about things to hide our shame or to process our own pride. Regardless of our stance on God.

After the news broke about Tim Lambesis I went through a patch where I would obsessively research the backstory and interviews of the Christian bands I listened to, to try to uncover the deep seeded secrets they were hiding. As if my research and silent pleading would change their minds if they had stepped away from their faith. I clung to this idea of Christian bands that were good and not cheesy for so long that I never wanted it to end. I wanted bands like As I Lay Dying and Haste The Day to exist forever. I felt the same way about Underoath, who had broken up in 2013, then crowd funded the completion of a DVD and returned in 2015. Later to release their first album in eight years, Erase Me.

My thoughts on the album itself are separate from the content of this blog. To be truthful, I love the direction the band has gone in. Their music sounds refreshing and new to Underoath, but I perhaps think I’m such a fan of it because I have been a fan of Bring Me The Horizon for years, with their latest release That’s The Spirit being one of my all time favorite albums. If you aren’t aware, BMTH has never been religious, in fact they’ve been openly opposed to religion on many accounts. Which brings me to a comparison that I find ironic, if not disheartening.

BMTH has been making music for quite a while and you can hear Underoath’s influence on their sound with each album, with the release of TTS I fell in love with what they had done, and I considered it their best work yet. The same can be said for Erase Me regarding Underoath, musically it is great, and lyrically it is dark and difficult to listen to, but that relates to my passion for what Underoath was to me.

I had built them up to be some kind of monolith in my mind, that if those guys were a Christian band and were as grungy and real about life as they were, I could do the same thing in my writing. I had such a strong appreciation for Underoath for many reasons but chiefly among them it was because Christian music just seemed so… empty.

It isn’t that the music was without substance. Many of my favorite religious bands sand about things I would experience in my life or things that I would feel, worship music was worship music and it all served its purpose, but after I found Underoath and other bands in the same vein I realized that their music was not only rooted in the faith I shared with them, but it was just damn good.

Comparing Christian music and movies to secular music and movies you see a stark difference in content. Many of the “huge” Christian movies were rooted in deeper religious philosophy that was beaten over your head with a board at best, or at worst, simply created to outright disrespect non-Christians. (Looking at you, God’s Not Dead.)

I’ve always sat through youth group move nights with a bad taste in my mouth. It isn’t that Fireproof is a bad movie it’s just…

Actually yes, it is. It is exactly that Fireproof is a bad movie. The Left Behind series tried to be horrifying and apocalyptic, whatever else you want to plug in here tries its best to be a tear jerking story of salvation, but it is deployed so ungracefully that it ends up being stagnant and difficult to process. Especially when you sit through the whole movie feeling like you’re getting hammered with the Jesus Stick. Compare that to any secular movie with meaning and you will find yourself comparing the two and seeing what I mean. Put Fireproof, a movie about the struggles of a relationship and using pornography as an addiction, compared to a movie that you can compare, Don Jon, about pornography and the struggles of a relationship, you can see that one of them had a much higher quality of production, one of them allowed people to connect with the message, and one of them didn’t constantly use God as a cattle prod.

I use this as an example because this is the same sort of thing we see in Christian music. Obviously, regarding the two movies, a Christian production company is not going to allow anyone to portray pornography on the screen. That’s against a core value of the faith. Still, there wasn’t a better way to show the character’s struggle with the addiction? Fireproof, though I haven’t seen it in a long, long time was even one of the bolder movies at the time. I was shocked to see them tackle pornography in a movie that went to the big screen.

This heavy-handed mystery that Christian media tries to inject into their creations comes across as half hearted and difficult. Obviously, porn is not going to show up in a religious film and that is fine. There are other ways to show that struggle without displaying any film of it. I have critiques to both, but I’ll save that for another time. This Fireproof problem occurs just the same in music as it does in film, and it leads me to the final point of today: Why I am actually heartbroken that Underoath has stepped away from their Christian title, why “Christian” art gets a bad rap for what it is and what that means to me, as a Christian.

A few days ago, I listened to a quasi-interview with Aaron + Tim from Underoath as they talked about their new album and their past actions as a religious band. One thing came up that I’ve always been curious about. On an early UO album, there is a line in a song called A Boy Brushed Red Living in Black And White,

“Well, look who’s dying now
Slit wrists sleeping with the girl next door
I always knew you were such a sucker for that
It doesn’t matter what you say
You never mattered anyway
I never mattered anyway”

In the third line, “I always knew you were such a sucker for that…” the band members talked about how the original lyric was supposed to end with the word “whore” and the producer/label told them to cut it because it was a bit too edgy for a Christian band to be singing. For context, the whole song is likely about a younger couple, possibly teenagers, who are raised religiously and begin having sex and then the boy in question becomes addicted to sex with the girl. Not at all uncommon in the world of heavy Christian music. Back in 2007 they’d tackle a lot of topics that my generation was beginning to deal with. Relationships, Virginity, Drugs, whatever. While it seems cheesy to someone who is outside of these circles, this was real shit back in my day. I had friends who related ferociously to this song. They believed it described their actual life and their feelings towards the ex-girlfriend they went toe curling with two nights a week.

As I listened to the interview and looked into a few other lyrics I’d always had hunches about (I found nothing relating a label-oriented change in lyrics there.) Regardless, it echoes the problem I have with Christian Media.

It’s like they are afraid to be real with themselves and with their fans.

They create these images of real struggle but make them holographic and immaterial for the sake of saving face at their local worship meetings. I’m not here to lambast every single Christian artist in the world, there are so many who do such good with what they have and I’m not ever saying that this kind of artistry doesn’t have a place, but there is a huge difference between selling yourself as a Christian and selling your art as Christian. I think it is much better to be the former.

Life is real. It is disgusting. It is difficult. To my fellow Christian readers, there is some gruesome shit in the Bible. Last I checked, we didn’t get to gloss over the crucifixion, so we didn’t have to bear the image of what happened to Jesus. We don’t get to have the lashes of the whip and the spear through his side implied to us. It is all told. Explicitly, on the page. We don’t get to hide from the reality of the world just because we have faith to shield us. Moreover, we don’t get to push out half assed work for the sake of saving face. (To those of you who will process this like I’m sure many will, assuming I’m encouraging my fellow Christian readers to begin creating graphic torture porn, no. Stop it.) I’m not saying you must fill the lyrics of your songs with the explicit scenes of a child murder. I’m not saying your movie must have a rape scene. I’m not saying you must fold and abide by the rules of the ever-growing power play that AAA media is becoming. We don’t have to do things louder and bloodier to get our point across.

We must do them better.

If you were given a gift, a talent to create, then create. By all means. Create the best thing you can. Inspired by God, inspired by your imagination, we will attribute it to the same thing regardless. The only reason I am who I am is because I believe in God and I believe in the gifts He gave me. So, I’m calling you to do the same thing. Don’t falter your work because you think it isn’t Christian enough. If a character in your novel walks away from his faith, then let him walk away. Make it hard. Make it heartbreaking. Make it impossible for you to read to yourself aloud. Because that’s what life is like. If I were to walk away from my faith today, it would be the hardest thing I’ve ever done or ever will do. I wouldn’t just emerge from the other side of it okay.

Which is why Underoath’s resurgence as a non-religious band hurts me so much. Not because I’m some integral part of the band, not because I believe they are doomed now. Not because I want to see all my favorite bands in Heaven. It hurts because that band kept me focused on Christ in the darkest moments. I held on to the messages of their music for so long, knowing that every season of drought would end. I would listen to them when I was afraid. I would listen to them when I was unhappy. I would listen to them every chance I had when I felt distant from my faith or lost. Having that taken away from me is painful. It meant a lot to me that I could always seek Underoath for that. That there was a band out there who unflinchingly told things like they were. Yet, in the end, they turned away from their faith and walked away from the Christian label. I don’t fault them, to be honest. I would have walked away from labeling myself a “Christian” author too if I were in their shoes.

So, I won’t start labeling myself as such. I have no desire to cheapen the message of my work to make it clearer that I am a man of faith. My work is not “Christian” because it isn’t meant for a Christian audience. My work was penned by a man who believes in a Savior. That will not cheapen what I have to say, because I won’t be writing it behind a screen and pretending that I am immune from the struggle. If it finds you I will rejoice, but it is meant for anyone who is hoping for help. Anyone who is hoping for love. For those who are lost and need just a glimmer of hope. Those things aren’t exclusive to Christians, so I won’t be writing just for those in my same cloth. I decided long ago to write for those who need it. Those who are in touch with the darkness in the world and don’t have a light of their own. Who don’t know what to do, what to say, or where to go. I won’t pull punches in the telling of my story. I won’t pretend that I don’t struggle. I have been honest with you through this blog and through my writing every single time I’ve released something. At my core, I am born again and because of that I understand that I’m not shit in this world. I am a speck of dust that writes books, thinking he is important on a floating pebble, adrift in a sea of infinity and yet, I have a purpose. There is no reason for me to be loved, yet I am. By so many. There is no reason for me to exist, but I do. Because I was meant to. There is no reason for anything to care about me, but I am cared for by the creator of the very sea I float in.

For that, I will write.

I will write well and true.

That is that. My faith does define me. My faith is the only reason I exist today.

It is the only reason I am who I am, today.

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I’ll release my thoughts on the album itself soon. Until then, live well. Stay true to yourself. Ask questions. Answer some.

Live.

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www.linmtba.com

Feel Every Yard (BIG Announcement!)

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Before I get to the post today, I promised you a couple things from Wednesday. Sorry if it was a tad bit misleading, I wasn’t about to shout out some cool stuff if I wasn’t sure it was happening, but here we are.

So, first of all, I’ve been releasing a few shirts over on Teespring for Random Acts Creations. Year One through Year Four shirts/hoodies/v-necks are available now + I don’t plan on pulling the stock ever. I’m working behind the scenes to release a spring line towards the middle of April this year. It will be full of rad stuff like hoodies, T-shirts, and phone cases. (There is more but Imma keep some of it a secret!)

Second, I’ll be releasing a compilation of poetry from the blog itself (edited and updated, I promise.) Some of em were pretty rough around the edges but They’re shaping up nicely + you’ll be hearing more about them towards the third quarter of the year.

Third, I’ll be putting out another blog compilation this November, Year Five is going to come with a lil bonus though, I don’t want to give you too much about it, but I’ll tell ya you might want to keep some space available on your wall. 😉

All of that being said, if you’ve made it this far, you can check out my website, freshly updated and looking super fly to see my release schedule every single month. I’ll have days scheduled for blogs, poetry, YouTube videos + anything else I’m doing. Don’t think I’ve been forgetting about some of the older stuff you all loved. Over on the S+I Facebook page i’ll be bringing more happiness and inspiration than ever before. Snapchat will be live with some new tutorials just for kicks and I have SO much more. 2018 is just getting started and your favorite hippy is swinging harder than ever.

Best believe that.

It’s funny how they say time is money when we are so reluctant to spend time but we will freely throw away our time. Before I get into this week, I hope that you spend much more time this week than you do money, it is so much more valuable and so much more appreciated.

Last week I was having a conversation getting to know a new coworker and discovering their interests when they told me something I have said to others. We were talking about his passions and his dreams and he told me that he wanted to travel, he was going to set up a motorhome and just drive around the country in the next three years. That his dream was to see every state in the US and then he continued by saying something I have said countless times before.

“I know it seems stupid…”

Right before he launched into the description of his dream since he was a child, he wanted to touch every piece of dirt in the USA and he looked away from me in shame as he told me that.

It rang a bell inside of me that has been softly ringing since the day I picked up a pen.

I remember when I was that kid, unsure of my future with lofty goals and dreams, this grand desire to be all that I am working to become, an author, a YouTuber, a poet, a musician, a business owner, a chef, a friend and a blogger among so many other things. I remember being in that exact same place, telling others that my dreams sound stupid.

That was before I found The Buried Life, I’ve written about the show before + in case you’re new around here and have been hiding under a rock, they set out with this idea to cross off items from a collective bucket list and along the way help others cross one item off of theirs. The show + corresponding book inspired me so much that I decided to do the same.

It’s funny how these things that cross over into my head overlap so often. It is a still small reminder that my purpose is clearly defined and I cannot stop building for it, fighting for it and praying for guidance along the way.

I lost my job and began to panic about making money, how I could support myself still, how I could keep moving forward and what I could do to pay my bills, when I was provided for as if by magic I silently prayed a thanks and kept moving, without realizing that I had begun orienting my time beneath making money. The time I spent with friends decreased, the time I spent working increased and I began to trip up a lot, wondering if I was worth it or whatever.

Well that’s some shit if I’ve ever heard it.

Talking to my friend I was reminded of the madness that my life has become and how I enjoy every last second, every last wasted cent, every last smile and tight embrace between myself and those that I love.

This life is so much more than we always think it is. In the midst of darkness, for you or me, there is always light. You have your purpose and I hope that you consider it if you feel lost today. You have dreams and goals somewhere within you, you have a calling and there is no greater sin than wasting you valuable time.

Spend it instead, searching for the next step and moving forward. If you want to become an author, start writing. Streaming on Twitch? Download the app and go. There is no back tracking as long as you are aware that you are accomplishing goals and dreams with every new step you take. So don’t stop stepping.

Just get out there, climb in your motorhome and hit the road. We have a long list of items to work through, it is going to take a minute…

…and every minute will be worth it.

Thank you so much for reading.

The Knot That Breaks (Noose Ends)

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I usually save this post for the end of October, but as I woke up from a nap this afternoon I decided I needed to say it now.

Keep holding on friends, Life is not Meant to be Awful.

I was laying on my bed this afternoon napping lazily through my day, I woke up at 7, played guitar, sang songs, watched Friends, wrote poetry and spent time admiring all of the beauty that God placed into my life.

I realized in all of this that I haven’t actually published a blog post in weeks.

Oops.

There is a part of me that wishes I could come to you with some story like, “oh, I’ve been so stressed and out of it, but this is how I got over it.”

But that isn’t the case. I’m much happier to come here and say I’ve forgotten to post my blog posts this month because I have been so happy just living and being around and writing. Enjoying my time on the Earth while I still have it.

I started Noose Ends in the darkest place I think I’ve ever been in. The whole world was on the verge of swallowing me. Sure, I had just published Mean Shadows, I was working through poetry, starting YouTube, working on music, my job was great, my friends and I were great, my roommates were great and so much about that time was great but I refused to just shut up and watch the magic of my world unfold.

I basked in the darkness, I let it surround me. Reveling in heartbreak and the unsure moments I feasted on like oozing fruit in a brass bowl, I sunk my fingers into the darkness and told the world that biting through it would make the rest of the world light.

Stop me, if you’ve heard this before. I know I’ve said it.

Mod Sun recently has been working on some new music and I’ve kept an eye on it, being as I am and connecting my own life to music, Movie, his last project sat with me in a deep and heavily emotional way. I poured over lyrics and concepts he mentioned and glued it to my life (As I clearly have a problem doing with my musical inspirations.)

Still, he’s been previewing this new song and one of the lines is…

“Grow through what you go through.”

I thought it pretty ironic that it came up after this year. So much has changed, friends are moving, more of us are settling down, things are moving sometimes too fast to keep a handle on. We are building our lives and we are still going through all the mud and the dirt, we are swinging from the rafters hand over hand like a jungle gym.

I started this year in darkness, lost, hoping that I could be some kind of light to you and that I would reflect whatever I cast out so that it would shine back on to me. So much has changed. So much has gotten better.

I was sitting outside of my apartment the other night looking at the sky, there were these huge tunderheads above me and rain was threatening to pour from space and cover the city. Later that day, when it did, I was thinking about the people I’ve met and the people I have had the chance to grow with. I was with someone and I was talking about painting sunsets, cleaning up the rings in the ocean and more. All of these things my mom and I had talked about Heaven.

I think, what is most beautiful about this year is that I have struggled to find a place, I have struggled to fight off the demons in my heart and my head. I have struggled to get my feet back on the ground. I have struggled to stop myself from choking.

Yet, here I am. The noose I tied, made out of the people in the city, the feelings that were returned to me broken, the shortcomings of my own creativity and goals, rejection letters and denied applications, poems that failed, a world that seemed out to get me slowly faded away as the snow melted this year.

I spent the whole summer thinking about what I need to get better.

I just didn’t see that it was right in front of me.

If you are where I was, hell, where I am, I’m not out of the darkness yet. I doubt I ever will be, but damn, if you feel these things, take a nap, watch some friends, eat some peanut butter cups and think about this.

The sky at sunset.

The way the moon shines red behind smoke like a big ruby.

The way your friends and loved ones laugh.

The way you’re still here.

There is beauty in that.

There is beauty in all of this.

We just have to stop looking at all the rotten fruit and appreciate the beautiful bowl it is sitting in, then we can remind ourselves to pluck it out and replace it with the good.

It is never too late. I promise you that.

Keep swinging, keep struggling, and keep focusing on the end goal. It is coming. I promise you that.

I promise you that.

www.linmtba.com

Gemstones (Year Three – 2016.2.5)

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So, I’ve spoken about some of my mentors in the music scene before, specifically Mod Sun who has been one of the people I’ve looked up to for a few years because of the happy and positive lifestyle that he leads. Not long after publishing my blog post “Make a Mod Sun” I started to notice changes in his demeanor and his music, and I foolishly let it affect me. This, coupled with the realization that my journey isn’t over and that I am still actively struggling with a lot of things myself led to a pretty terrible state of mind.

I lived in this half in, half out sort of way for a few months. I was openly preaching about happiness and love and all the stuff I regularly preach about, and yet I wasn’t living my life in the same way. It was frustrating, and I felt as if I was letting myself down, and at the same time I was letting down everyone who I had lifted up over the course of my journey. That being said, the fastest way to solve a problem within yourself is to detect it.

I watched my actions as I would reflexively snap at people simply because I was angry or upset that day. I would grow near tantrum throwing like a child when things didn’t go my way, and I began to realize that I am a control freak. This realization, at first, negatively affected my everyday life. I saw that I was acting like a child, which frustrated me even more, so I continued acting like a child. Which frustrated me even more, so on and so forth.

I had gotten fed up with who I was turning into (or rather, regressing back to being) and decided that I had finally had enough. I was done taking a back seat while my attitude and my mood declined with each passing day. Every time I woke up it felt as if I was pushing back all of the hard work I have put forth to become the man that I want to be, regardless of the outside helps I’ve had. It was something that I had built. That I had done.

The power to make it or break it all rested on my shoulders.

This realization came heavily, as I sat down after a particularly bad day at work where I endured a lot of bad-mouthing from customers, and people whining over things I had no control over. I returned to my house after my shift had ended, confused because I had been used to that only a month or so prior. Where did that resilience go?

Well, the answer, I wasn’t looking at things in my life the same way anymore. I took to talking shit about people instead of praising their good qualities. I saw the bad, not the good. I stopped looking up for a while. I know I promised that I would move on from this topic a few posts ago, but I needed to touch on it once more.

The best way, I’ve found, to get out of a funk of anger and sadness is to purposefully do something good for someone else. Whether you want to or not. (Usually, you won’t want to. Especially if you’re being a grump.) So earlier this week when I was asked by a friend to come help her set up a catering because they were short-handed…

I said yes. Don’t misunderstand me. I really wanted to say no. I wanted to take the time today to sleep in and wake up in the afternoon with another 12 hour night under my belt. I wanted to stay away from anything I didn’t have to do.

That’s the problem.

So when she texted me, before I allowed myself time to think about it or to come up with excuses, I said yes. I would be there, of course I would. She is my friend. Friends support one another, and if I can’t support her, I shouldn’t boast about being her friend.

So here I am. It’s 8 something in the morning on the day of, and I feel so much better. Simply by offering to help someone else instead of wallow in self-pity and bad thoughts, I’ve managed to flip around my mentality once more. The greatest thing about people asking me how I got to the mentality that I did is that no one understands how simple it is.

I’ve learned a lot over this last year, and 2016 is going to the biggest year yet. So I want to keep sharing all of the things I’ve learned. I’ve been asked a lot, as if I’ve finished my journey or something, how I got to the positive state of mind I’ve found myself in. I’ve gotten messages from people I love telling me that I’ve inspired them and that I’ve helped them through dark times.

It honors me every time I receive them, because I never expected my words to be capable of doing so. I always wanted them to, but for years I was certain that I would have no impact…

Until I decided to assure my impact. I decided that it was time to assure a positive one.

When life starts weighing me down (because I certainly am not finished walking this long road) I look back to the posts that helped other people going, I look back and read them as if I wasn’t the one who wrote them. When I’ve been feeling sad, I look to my other friends making art and jokes and laughing and smiling and it gives me the energy to keep going.

I’ve said it before, this blog was started so that I could remind myself why life is an incredible adventure that I am meant to enjoy, but when I look back on all these little gemstones. Reading messages of inspiration from people I love and talking to them about all the delicate intricacies of life… They inspire me. They remind me that, even though I started this business for myself it has grown to be so much more important than that.

I don’t do this for me anymore. I do this for all of us.

That, is a great reason to keep going. Thank you for your inspiration in good times. Thank you for your support in bad times. I hope that you can look back on these posts as gemstones too, to be reminded that no matter how deep we are in it…

Life isn’t meant to be awful.

If you liked this blog post + would like to learn how to fight dragons, you can check out the Year Three compilation on my website or over on Amazon!

I’ve also started a Ko-fi account, if you would like to pick your polar bear boy up a cuppa joe I would be honored. Thank you for continuing to follow me. (even when I forget to upload videos for like six days.)

Living Suite

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I like music, do you?

Holy shit, The Darling Bones has been out for almost two full months now, you can pick it up on Amazon or at my website, the links are at the bottom of the page! 🙂

I’ve been a musician for almost as long as I’ve been an author. My passion for melody and verse is only conquered by my love of words. When I create new writings they are always, always accompanied by some kind of music. Spotify has become a staple in my life, as I use it to build writing playlists for every piece I create. The Darling Bones, Gold Rush and Coward all have one. As well as my current WIP Inkworks. (Check out the links if you want to see what inspired the writings.)

One of my favorite musical concepts is the suite. A suite is simply a group of short songs that are meant to play in succession. One after another, one of my favorites that has come out recently is on California based rapper Watsky’s latest album x Infinity, its called The Lovely Thing Suite. It details so many beautiful concepts and ideas with his signature wit and lyricism and every listen I consider my own life a bit more. The thing is, the suite isn’t one whole song. It also isn’t a group of separate songs. It is a whole piece that is separate and distinct but meant to come together and form one idea or concept or evoke a feeling as a unit.

I think our lives are like that, obviously, we can’t see into the future but you can see that wherever you are right now you might be feeling the lows. The blue and melancholy of a loss of life, I know a few people who are struggling with that now. Maybe you are feeling the green envy of someone else’s love life or relationship. I know some of those too. Maybe you’re bright red and angry. Maybe you’re purple and in love, yellow and happy. You’re feeling all of these things in this moment and it’s impossible for us to see ahead. We don’t get to skip tracks in our life, as much as it can be desired some days. We must listen to each piece through and through.

That comes with the highs, the beautiful crescendo of falling in love. The nails against a chalkboard sound that we hear when a friendship ends. The raging cacophony of drum blasts when we lose a job, or are forced to relocate. The nearly silent whisper of loneliness. Each of these things will play in our album and we have no way of knowing what is next. Today, I’m feeling heavy drums and bass as I bounce my head on the way to work. My job is good, my friends are good, my family is good, my God is good and I am happy today. Perhaps in two weeks something will happen, my track will end and I will move on to the next motion of the piece but that is such a joy to me. No matter how dark my future is, or yours is, we are still here singing with one another.

We are still here tying our nooses only to slip them around us and slice the threads.

Today, remember that not everyone will make it out of theirs. Some of us feel those beats and beatings more than others. Some of us don’t know how to dim the music, they don’t know when the song will end and that scares them.

It isn’t romantic, no. It breaks my heart.

For every morose melody you’ve heard this year, think of all the bright ones. The songs that played when you were out with your girlfriend or boyfriend. Or the songs that played when you took pride home with your paycheck. Think of the way the stars danced while you sat out with your friends smoking and drinking and listening to the music your lives create, one suite meeting another and creating a harmony that spilled new tunes into the milky sky.

Your song isn’t over yet, don’t let it end prematurely. Keep listening. Keep hearing the lyrics. Keep fighting for the next few minutes. Songs are much shorter than our lives will be, Our lives are much longer than the ropes that we can tie ourselves.

Don’t give up.

Keep singing.

The Darling Bones (Salt and Iron Productions)

The Darling Bones (Amazon)

One Among the Fence

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I’ve written about musicians and artists that have inspired me and pushed me to create in the past, Mod Sun, Watsky, G-Eazy before he was a total knob, He is Legend + a handful of others but none of them stand out or have been more influential than Coheed & Cambria. They have propelled my creativity since I first found them back in the early 2000’s. I remember the day clearly. Back in 2003 I was ambling around my house cleaning or playing video games or something and I had a playlist running on YouTube, where I heard this crazy band that was doing shit I couldn’t comprehend musically. Their guitars felt out of sync with the vocals and it was all so technical and intricate. I fell in love immediately. They had fed me something that I would crave for the rest of my life.

Only problem was, shortly after this in a turn of events you’d think I would write into a novel, our computer powered down and I panicked because I thought it was my fault. When I finally got it up and running again I couldn’t remember the name of the band, or the song that was playing. I could only remember portions of the lyrics and a chanting sequence at the end of the song that was stuck in my head for months, I don’t actually think it ever left..

“Man your battlestations. We’ll have you dead pretty soon.”

I googled them over and over for the next couple of years, trying desperately to find the band again. It wasn’t until one year, 2005 I believe, that I found them once more and all of my dreams had come about. That first taste of Coheed had actually made me the music encyclopedia that I am today, because I ripped through hundreds of thousands of songs in an attempt to find them but was just never quite in the right place. Still, I found a ton of bands along the way that I still love to this day.

Then my parents gave me a PSP one year, it came with a couple demo games and a multimedia disk with music videos and clips from television shows on it. There was something by Nelly, a song that had Beyoncé in it, a damn good Nickelback jam and “Blood Red Summer” by Coheed and Cambria. I listened through the videos until I got to them and thought to myself.

“Damn, that is a cool name for a band.”

As soon as it started playing I was suddenly two years in the past jamming out to the song on my computer again. It had the same vibe as before, the same feelings and the vocalist was so unique he couldn’t be mistaken for someone else. I scrambled to tell my mom and dad and they just nodded at me. They might have understood my love of music and my passion, but they didn’t understand what Coheed & Cambria was doing to me. I didn’t even understand the feeling myself. I listened to that song on repeat until I drained the battery in my PSP.

It was a few months later that we were wandering around in Salt Lake City that we stopped into a Best Buy, I was thumbing around the albums and found the first piece of their music I had ever purchased. “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3” I ran up to my mom begging her to get it for me. Pleading with her, promising any manner of chores or work or repayment so that she would gift me the album. She agreed and there it was. I watched the clerk pick it up from my hands and he looked at me.

“Coheed and Cambria? I’ve never heard of them.”

I looked up at him and nodded, opening my mouth to speak, to enlighten him.

“They are everything. They are the best band in the world. Their music hits me in a way I can’t explain to anyone. They will change your life.”

But I didn’t say anything. No one yet had understood what that band had meant to me. Why would this random college kid care? He was just trying to make a paycheck.

So I walked out with my parents, my fingers twitching, begging to wrap themselves around the case and dig open the plastic. To feel the CD and read the lyric booklet.

Once we got on the road home I finally had the chance to do just that. I jammed the CD into my Walkman and closed my eyes listening to it on the drive home.

It was… incredible.

I was taken to a world I couldn’t describe as I listened. Within my mind stories and dreams were playing out because of the lyrics, all set to the sounds of the band. It was one of the times in my life I recognized immediately as pure, unbridled joy. I could not have been happier. Their music felt like coming home after a long day, before I even knew what leaving home in the first place would be like.

Years passed and I picked up all of their albums as they released. By the time I graduated high school I had all of their albums and memorized the lyrics to every one up to date, and had still never gone to one of their concerts despite how much I loved the band.

“Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV Volume One, From Fear Through The Eyes of Madness” Was a gift from my parents one year for Christmas.

“Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV Volume Two, No World For Tomorrow” was given to me by a friend’s girlfriend for Christmas.

“Year of the Black Rainbow” I had pre-ordered and waited for expectantly. When the album started with “One” I shivered. I can still feel the way my spine tingled in anticipation. When Claudio started singing “The Broken” I teared up.

“Second Stage Turbine Blade” was the final one I purchased, shortly after YotBR came out. Which was their first album. I had been a fan for so long and didn’t listen to their roots, not to mention Shabutie (save for the accent over the u cause lazy.) Which was a trip in and of itself.

I continued this way, listening to Coheed became one of my favorite things to do. I played through “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” to the tune of “No World For Tomorrow” and when I see either of them today, I think about the other and those memories of that winter in high school. Coheed & Cambria does something magical to me, I still can barely describe it. Their music inspires me in a way that no other can. It pushes my mind and gets me thinking. It is somehow horrifying, awe inspiring and hopeful all at the same time. A decade after I first heard them, they released the second part of their dual album “The Afterman” titled “Descension” which was the mood music for much of my first edition of The Darling Bones.

Coheed and Cambria had crafted so much of the way my creative mind thinks. They have been my number one inspiration for fourteen years now. I have a profound love for that band and those men that I cannot articulate to you in the way I feel that I need to. It is a strange love too, apparently, as all through my life I have met exactly one person out of the hundreds I know who can understand and appreciate Coheed on the same level that I do. (Not trying to gatekeep here, I’m just saying that I sort of live and die by this band and if you don’t that’s cool but they’re better than whatever lame shit you listen to.) (Just kidding. I hope you know that.)

So there I was, in January or something of 2017 + I was checking my email out of desperation because I was tired of having a notification for 2,437 emails on my phone and I came across a Coheed fan message announcing their Neverender tour for GAIBSIV Vol. One.

I promptly shit my pants.

Then, before cleaning that up I ordered tickets.

There was no way I was going to miss this show. It was my favorite band who I had never gotten to see because of dumb shit. No matter the scenario, I told myself, I WILL go see Coheed in 2017. Especially that tour in specific. I was so bitter about missing the Neverender for IKSSE:3 because I was sick that I promised nothing would stop me. If I broke both my legs on the way, I was still going to go and I was just going to grind the joints to dust in the crowd because that band helped shape me in so many ways.

Luckily, I did not break my legs and I did go see Coheed live for the first time since I found them so many years ago.

A lot of fans of artists like to give the “I’ve seen them XX times, if you haven’t you aren’t a real fan” talk, and that’s never been how I felt about music, but when it comes to Coheed, after seeing their show this year, I promise if it is within a day’s drive I will never miss another show of theirs again.

I cried. I actually cried.

I had been listening to them and following and supporting them for so long that Coheed had become as much a part of me as any of my personal inspirations.

I had come to the realization as they played their encore that the title track from “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3” was the song I had heard over a decade ago that I searched frantically for. Something about the show and how they ended their set clicked with me and I was ripped back to 2003, sitting in my living room with my jaw hanging open just listening to the computer play this crazy amazing band that inspired me so much.

Years later, in The Complex in SLC I looked at the people around me and saw that in some small way, many of them likely felt the same way that I did. Maybe not.

But either way, I screamed even louder than before.

I screamed along with them until I was sure that Heaven’s Fence could feel the vibrations.

I hope that one day, I can create something like what Coheed has, where people like myself are willing to dedicate their lives in support of it.

Coheed is the greatest band in the world, to me. But when it’s my world, that’s fine.

I am happy to be one among the fence.

Thank you, Coheed & Cambria. Your music and story inspired me to do so many things and here I am, doing them today. I blame you for that. I would not be writing if it weren’t for your influence. I wouldn’t have learned music. My life would not be the same today if not for you.