These Phantom Nights

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Friends,

It took me longer than I would have liked, but here we are. These Phantom Nights. My first debut short story published through Amazon and available for the Kindle for $0.99. It’s a story written for those who have loved and lost, and for those who are still losing. Check it out if you’re into that heartbreak, failed relationship stuff.

Thank you all for your support and faithfulness to my blog for all these years, even as my posts have become thinner and more sporadic. I hope to be launching a new website soon, so keep an eye out for that!

Cheers,

MY

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new york, stop haunting me

I’ll be honest with you.

I woke up right now in the middle of the night and I can’t go back to sleep. I turn over, the clock reads 5:47. I had just gone to bed three and a half hours earlier, and dreamed about a conversation I had with a friend about New York. My mind is running ahead of my body. I stare long into the dark before my eyes take in the scene of my bedroom. Odd. It was once familiar.

I say once familiar because all of a sudden, my room seemed just a little too big, like it should be spliced into thirds, and it felt unnerving that there was so much space–emptiness–that would have been filled up if this were New York. Then it hit me. This sort of inconsolable pit within me because I was no longer in New York. I ran through all the lovely and fascinating people I had come across. Some old friends, others new, all coming together like best-of scenes from TV shows. I couldn’t get them out of my mind.

I thought about one girl in particular.

I thought about how all these people and stories were merely one hundredth of one hundredth, like a spigot I had just discovered and started to turn. The water’s dripping, but really it’s waiting to erupt–like that gushing fire hydrant I passed on my hot summer day in Brooklyn.

How could all these stories be running around the pavements, flying down the subways and taxis and street corners and open parks of New York? There was so much life and activity in these people, in that city, and I wanted more–I need more. Maybe all this is just the writer in me talking. But perhaps, maybe, I’m the one meant to catch them all.

I recalled a speech I heard several days prior. Seth Godin was talking about art and generosity, and in one example, he described how piano players encounter a fermata in their sheet music while playing that tells them to “play it as you feel it”–not just as it is written. And he mentioned how people from all over the world would come to hear one composer do Beethoven because it was his own particular, felt version of Beethoven.

Is this my fermata? To add my own voice to the sheet I’ve been following thus far? Hell, is this even jazz and I’m supposed to break from the sheet altogether?

I don’t know. Right now it’s two hours before I’m supposed to wake up for work and I should probably rest a little more, and think about these things a little more. But there’s something about the city and the people that I cannot shake (shack).

Maybe the seed’s already been planted, who knows. The old me–or I suppose the older me–wouldn’t have even bothered to get up to catch these jumbled thoughts.

Odd. Before this trip, I was once familiar.

Carlen the Courageous

Dear blogging world,

I just published my first children’s book, Carlen the Courageous! It features illustrations from a very talented artist named Samantha Woo (you can check out her work here) and it’s a story about a bird learning to conquer his fears. (Contrary to popular opinion, it is not about obesity!)

I’ve been working on this baby for nearly a year and it feels wonderful to finally get it out there! I would love to share this part of me with you all.

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A happy reader =)

If you are interested in purchasing a copy for $15, please visit the site here (it’s kinda ghetto, but it’ll have to do for now). Parts of the proceeds will go towards rebuilding inner-city schools and communities. Thank you friends for inspiring my words!

-MY

Navigating the Story

I’ve always known that life is messy. It’s a concept that’s addressed through countless books and film and reinforced through personal experience. It’s a known fact. Yet, what I’m starting to wonder is how much of this inkblot is due to my own making. Let me explain.

As a writer and student of literature, I have always been taught to look for subtext. “Not everything is as it seems.” It is always more than meets the eye, deeper meanings hidden behind people and places and stories. Connotations. It’s the subtle nuances behind words and the contexts in which they are placed that allow us to arrive at the same destination and come to different conclusions. When I apply this sort of thinking beyond books and into the realm of life, I tend to look at my life as a story. The idea itself isn’t much of a stretch–after all, our lives are punctuated by the very conflicts, climaxes and resolutions from which our art is derived. Nor is it a wrong to think in this manner–in fact, more of us need to be aware of our place in the bigger picture.

Rather, what I am mainly addressing here is the problem that arises when one is not only aware his life is a story but begins to force elements into the story that do not belong. In other words, you begin to imagine the progression of your life and determine proudly to construct a conclusion by which it is the only way your story can end. For instance, if I believe I am supposed to find love like it is found in fairy tales, then I will sit at the coffee shop and wait for the “love at first sight” moment. In this case, I will not allow love to happen, perhaps more practically and less “romantically”, through online dating, set-ups, or the like–though it could very well be that is where you were meant to find it.

The chief issue is this–you want to be in control of your own story. You demand the pen. You want to write it. You want to shape your own plot, be the captain of your own ship. Thoreau novelized it with his beat of my own drummer ideology. Granted, who does not desire this sort of freedom? I do. In fact, I live most of my days as though this is true.

The problem is we are not capable of the task. You and I are no more capable of writing our own stories than a puppet is in creating his own speech. There are many things that fall out of my jurisdiction. I cannot control the stock market, my health, or even the people with whom I’m living. There are so many factors that are connected to life, why things do and do not happen. (How much of my life is reactionary as opposed to initialized?) It is nice to think that I have some semblance of freedom, of self-determinism, but in the end, as Shakespeare so tenderly puts it, “All the world’s a stage / And all the men and women merely players.”

If so, then maybe the goal in life isn’t so much about trying to break rank as it is about discovering what our roles are in this grand play. Am I Horatio trying to play the part of Hamlet? Or have I been cast merely in the background? Our confusion and failures lie in the possibility that we have denied who we were meant to be, what we were meant to do, with the talents and passions uniquely gifted to us, and rather tried to indulge in fantasies shaped by comfort and safety. The issue is not that we are too ambitious but that we are not truly aware of our role and our purpose.

I once thought that being the captain was divine until I realized that I had no clue as to where I was going or how I’d get there. I was shipwrecked, before being found by a greater Captain, one who knows the way to True North and brought me on board to join his grand adventure.

Yes, I’m merely a sailor. It sounds less exciting than captain, more dutiful than daring. But I rather be a sailor on a ship towards paradise than command my own boat to wreckage. In the end, I trust that the beauty which I will have experienced in the journey and destination will prove my rightful surrender.

New Project: Blank Slate Era

As some of you may know, a couple friends and I just launched a new project this past weekend. It’s called Blank Slate Era, a website devoted to all things creative and artistic–film, design, music, writing, photography. The hope is to foster a community that would be able to inspire and help each other create wonderful works of art to share with the world around us. Please check it out and “like” us on Facebook!

As the main guy in charge of the “words” section, I have written my first post about the importance of language (repackaged below). Thanks again for your readership and support!

-MY

*****

Sticks & Stones

We know the idiom. We know how the line is finished. It’s something we grew up with as children, a way to deflect all the insults hurled at us for which we had no clever comeback. Our bones, our body, can feel the pain from objects. Words, however–what are they?

It all seemed so silly, these letters on a page. It didn’t take long, however, to realize that these letters were in fact a mighty weapon. That the organic combination of words arranged by letters in purposeful sequences could be enough to raise up Rome or raze her. Mix them in a bowl and you have soup. But string them together, piece by piece, with passion and direction, and you have the Magna Carta, Hamlet, The Great Gatsby.

When did you first discover the power of words? Was it when you felt the impact of “I love you” leveling you at the knees, or when you heard “I wish you were never born” ripping you apart? Whatever the case, it was in that moment that you were stripped of your plastic armor. Words exposed us, and we were naked–revealed for who we are in ways no other weapon could unmask. If it was pain, there was no morphine strong enough; but if it was joy, love, hope–there was no planet that was out of reach.

This is the power of words. This is the world we invite you to enter. A place in which you can create and discover and master the pen you’ve been given to enable beauty in all places and bring peace where there is pain.

Let it go and see where it takes you.

Keep Your Head Up

Weeks like this it is incredibly hard to write. Either you feel uninspired, or the stuff you’re putting out is crap, or both. All of this leads to floodgates of doubt, discouragement, and apathy.

But one thing I’ve learned about writing is that, like any other craft in life, it takes discipline, effort, and perseverance–yes, even sitting through days in which you feel you’d be more productive if you just slept.

In spite of it all, it’s good just to get my thoughts out and be real. After all, life in and of itself is a story, which includes even the dull moments, too. Sometimes it’s just a matter of us tuning in to the proper channel to understand what it all means.

Anyways, as I’m working on my own projects, I realize it’s important to take some time to relax. So I came across this very well-made short by the guys at Wong Fu and thought I’d pass it along. It’s creative and beautiful. Enjoy!