Coffee Thoughts: November 2020

Wow, it’s been a crazy past month!

Sorry about my absence from blogging. I’ve been active on Twitter and other sites, but between parent life, promoting a new book, the ongoing pandemic — and, to top it off, the most stressful election week of all time, oy vey — I haven’t found the time to blog, until now.

But hey, as far as the election? Exhausting (and existentially horrifying) as it was to sit through the whole ordeal, the overpowering sense of relief that finally arrived, once Trump had lost, might’ve been the best moment of 2020. Seriously. Even now, just looking at headlines, like this one from November 7th, brings all that happy relief rolling back:

Yes, of course, there’s still a long road ahead. Undoing the damage done by Trump will take time, and there’s still a lot more damage that #45 can do (and is trying to do) on his way out, including his childish whining, lawsuits, and inane conspiracy theories. Yes, those gutless, authoritarian obstructionists like Mitch McConnell are still in power. Yes, Trumpism is the product of a greater systemic evil, not the cause of it, and the racism, hatred, and white supremacy that he riled up is still out there. Capitalist greed continues choking the most vulnerable people in society. And even with Trump gone, the road to increasingly important progressive reforms such as single-payer healthcare, ending systemic racism, and so on, will be long, tangled, and take sustained, concentrated effort — from both protests to the ballot box, and more.

But.

But.

Future challenges aside, it’s worth savoring that moment where this particular race was finally called. Remembering when finally, finally, the United States took down its abusive bully. The moment that felt, in so many ways, like finally taking a massive weight off the nation’s collective chest. Yes, there’s still a lot of work to do, but at least this part is done.

Anyway! With all this said, I’ll be back here tomorrow, to share some reviews of Knight in Paper Armor. Stay tuned!

Coffee Thoughts: January 2020

Happy 2020, everybody.

So, I’m going to try something different here.  I love connecting with you guys on here, and browsing through posts and comments as I enjoy a morning cup of coffee. Now, sometimes, I have bite-sized “coffee thoughts.” You know, those thoughts that aren’t quite big enough for a full blog, but longer than oh, say, a tweet? Right. Based on said coffee thoughts, meet the first edition of Coffee Thoughts, where I’ve pulled together little notes from the past month into one blog. Dig the format? Let me know!

Happy New Year

… and happy new decade, on top of it? Talk about a crazy ride. At the beginning of the 2010s, I was a kid traveling across the country by myself, dreaming of someday being a writer. In 2020, I’ve become a full-time writer, published multiple books, grown into a husband and then a father, and changed in more ways than I can count. This has been one hell of a decade, and I want to offer a huge thanks to all of you, particularly the ones who have been along for the ride since 2013 (!), when I first started this blog. You guys are awesome, and thank you for that.

This’ll be a big year, ahead. As I said before, I have a new novel waiting in the wings, and I can’t wait to spill the details. Soon.

The world of entertainment keeps on keepin’ on

This is really more a December note, but still. If you haven’t yet seen Watchmen on HBO, stream it. Yes, even if you haven’t read the graphic novel. Yes, even if superheroes aren’t your thing. It takes a few episodes to really get rolling, but once it does, Watchmen proves itself to be the best TV series of 2019, and arguably, one of the most important of the decade.

In other movie and TV news: okay, so The Mandalorian is actually a lot of fun. And yes, yes, Baby Yoda (ahem, “the Child”) is just as adorable as the memes. Haven’t seen the new Star Wars movie yet, so I can’t comment on it. Also, I’m enjoying those Sinister Six hints in that Morbius trailer, though hoping the movie itself has a more interesting story than the trailer implies.

The Marshall Islands

Ever hear about the Marshall Islands? This is an issue that needs to get more attention.

As I wrote about on Grunge, this chain of volcanic islands in the Pacific had 67 nuclear bombs dropped on them, via the United States, from 1946 to 1958, causing widespread cancer and birth defects. That’s horrifying enough, but now, a nuclear disaster is in the making: the so-called Runit Dome, which is the concrete structure that the U.S. dumped all of their radioactive waste into, is predicted to crack sometime in the next century. The cause? You guessed it: climate change. This whole situation is obviously the fault of the U.S. government, but evidently, the world’s richest country is currently ignoring the pleas of the Marshall Islands, and claiming that the Marshallese have to deal with it themselves.

Horrifying? Yes. Unacceptable? Absolutely. While the L.A. Times did write about this back in November, this whole situation needs more airtime.

The News Cycle is a Dumpster Fire

And thus, the Trump impeachment has begun. About time? For sure, but still, it’s strange to watch it finally play out. I mean, obviously, the Trumpster is corrupt to the point of seeming cartoonish: after all, this is a guy who quite literally had to pay $2 million in damages last month because he was stealing money from his own charity to do things like buy paintings of himself. Is this real life? Unfortunately, yes, and the fact that the above story barely stirred the news cycle shows just how ludicrous this whole thing has gotten. However, the current GOP establishment is still pledging loyalty to their emperor, so a disappointing conclusion to the impeachment seems like a foregone conclusion. That said, Trump is a criminal, so putting him on trial (at the very least) seems necessary, regardless of how this all ends.

Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that Trumpism is just one particularly vile symptom of the U.S.’s bleeding wounds, not the original cause of them. These issues go back decades. Trump just exploited them. And honestly, even if he were removed, you have that bigoted fanatic Mike Pence sitting behind him. You know who Pence is? Oh yeah, that’s right, just the living embodiment of Reverend William Stryker, that nutcase from X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, with all the zealotry and self-righteous hypocrisy to match. Hey, seriously, I’m not the first one to notice this:

Image result for stryker mike pence"

 

Dog Stuff

Okay, enough news. Something happier. Here is Nova, my noble friend, showing off her favorite Nicholas Conley novel. Or maybe she’s just trying to figure out if there’s a doggy treat hidden inside?

Nova-Intraterrestrial

Family, fatherhood, and all that good stuff

On a final note: in my last post, I shared the news about our impending baby. Now that she’s here, though, I could’ve never predicted how much my life would instantly change. That’s a cliche statement, for sure, but it’s a true one. Being a parent is already the most beautiful experience I’ve ever had. Truly. Just watching her experience everything for the first time, to feel the love as I hold her, to look into those little dark eyes that are so full of curiosity and wonder … and on top of that, to have the opportunity to share this experience with my wife, the person who amazes me more than anyone else in the world, has already made 2020 my favorite year to date. And it’s only been a little over three weeks!

Until next time, folks. Enjoy the rest of your morning coffee, and I’ll do the same.

Coffee woodstove fire

New Journey(s) Ahead!

Hey, everybody.

First of all, sorry about my recent absence from the blogging world. Don’t worry, I have a good reason. Well … three reasons, to be precise.

First up? I moved. We’re still in glorious New Hampshire, but we’ve made the jump from suburban living to the rural woods, and are loving every minute of it.

Secondly, the biggest news: we’re having a baby! This little present will be arriving very soon, and I’m more excited than could possibly be put into words (even though, y’know, words are what I do). This is the main reason I haven’t checked in with you guys on here for a while, and from what I hear, I can say goodbye to sleeping at night. Just thinking about it now, the joyous emotions feel so vivid, the happiness so deep, and the surreal nature of knowing that this new person will be joining the world soon is so fascinating to think about.  Anyhow, onward to the future!

Nicholas Conley Red Adept coffee

Now, third: if you’ve been wondering about my next project after Intraterrestrial, wonder no more! I’m thrilled to announce that I have once again contracted with Red Adept Publishing to produce my next novel, a book titled … ah, that’d be telling, right?

Okay, here’s what I will say: this novel is radically different from anything I’ve done before. Yes, it’s science fiction. Yes, as with Intraterrestrial and Pale Highway, the story tackles contemporary real world issues through a speculative lens, but this time, healthcare isn’t the focus. That’s because, as a writer, I feel it’s important to always challenge yourself: to venture into territory that’s wild, scary, and out of your comfort zone. I’ve been working on this book for years, investing perhaps the most I’ve ever invested into any work, and it’s amazing to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But hey, you know. Early days. From contract to print, there are many steps ahead, so don’t expect to see this new book hit shelves until probably sometime in 2020. In the meantime, watch this space for updates!

Day of the Dead 2018: Oaxaca

How do we deal with death? Should we fear it? Avoid discussing it? These seem like foolish ideas, considering how inevitable death is: from the moment we’re born, from those first gulps of oxygen that open the door to life, we also begin dying. No matter what, death takes us in the end. So what if we looked at it a bit less… grimly?

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I’ve always had an immense admiration for Mexico’s Día de Muertos, the Day of the Dead (as readers of Pale Highway probably figured out). In the last few years, Veronica and I have made a point to mark the occasion by remembering the loved ones we’ve lost. To truly understand a tradition, though, I think it’s important to go back to its roots. So back in late October, we took a trip down to Oaxaca, Mexico, to experience Día de Muertos firsthand.

Oaxaca is an amazing location, on its own, but everything lights up during Day of the Dead in a way that has to be seen to be believed. Altars commemorating lost family members are everywhere. Costumed parades cheer, dance, and play brass instruments across the neighborhoods, all night long. Grinning skeletons hang from balconies, windowsills, and doorways. Candles light up the cemeteries, and bands play through the evening, as everyone comes together to honor the ones they’ve lost, to grieve, to celebrate their lives, and to recognize death—not as something to fear, but as an integral part of what makes life meaningful. image (8)

This sort of realization—to love life, to smile through death, to dance with the skeletons instead of running from them—is something that anyone, in any culture, can learn from. Thank you, Oaxaca, for showing us what an amazing holiday this really is.

Slugs in Real Life

When real life starts to resemble the books you write, well…

leopard print slug pale highway nicholas conley

… Pale Highway fans will understand my amusement.

No, this little guy didn’t start talking to me, and definitely didn’t mention anything about a “Sky Amoeba,” but when I happened upon him in the backyard, I couldn’t help but take notice.

Hope you’re all doing well!

Cluttered Bookcase? The Benefits of Horizontal Stacking

Ah, the conundrum of book storage. While many have jumped onto the “all e-reader, all the time” bandwagon, casting aside the dead tree paperbacks of the past for those newfangled digital tablets, there is still a sizable number of people who prefer the look, feel, and experience of actual books (disclaimer: I’m one of them). If you like reading books, the chances are that you also like displaying those books in a place where, presumably, others can look through and admire your truly exceptional reading taste.

But what if the shelf is too small for the number of books you have on it? Or what if you just keep reading more and more books, resulting in your entire living room turning into the world’s most disorganized library?

Well, here’s my proposed solution: stack your books horizontally, instead of vertically.

bookshelf books horizontal stack organization king gaiman house of leaves johnny gun

Ever since I discovered this crafty little trick a few years ago, it has saved me countless hours of struggling to fit too many books on too few shelves. It sounds simple, but it really works. While the standard vertical stacks of books make a shelf disappear faster than a Star Trek transporter,  horizontal stacking makes it so that no space is wasted. Every inch of shelf space carries multiple books on top of it.

Seriously, it works.

Of course, no system is without flaws, and horizontal stacking has one big downside: if you want to get one of the books from the bottom of the stack out, it can be annoying. Horizontal stacking also makes organization a bit trickier, if you’re going for that whole alphabetical thing. But honestly, these minor irritations are nothing compared to the longterm challenge of having no shelf space, or frustrating every person you live with by taking up all available living space with dozens of books that you’ve already read.

Find out for yourself, fellow book lovers! Maybe we’ll conquer the demon of proper space organization, once and for all! Or maybe not, but hey, it’s worth a try.

True Tales Live: “Day One” (Video)

This past month, I was honored with the opportunity to appear on the second season premiere of the local NH television program, True Tales Live.  As with the True Tales radio program that preceded it, True Tales Live seeks to give storytellers the opportunity to share actual stories from their life.

For this episode of True Tales Live, I shared my story, “Day One,” where I delve back into my early days working in a nursing home, as a nursing aide on a longterm care unit, and how that experience changed my views, my perception, and my way of trying to be there for other people.

Though the series can be watched on local TV in the NH area, everyone else can check it out here on the official True Tales YouTube! My section begins around 46:50, in the video below:

 

Other storytellers in this episode include Arnie Alpert, Emilie Spaulding, Gail Licciardello, Joanne Piazzi, and Annette Slattery. Definitely worth watching, and to everyone behind the scenes, thank you for putting this program together.

Happy Holidays, 2017!

So the time of the holidays is upon us! Whatever traditions you follow, and/or holidays you happen to celebrate, I hope you all are enjoying the season in whatever way you, your family, and your friends enjoy!

phoenix tree nicholas conley christmas holidays dead tree brought back

As you can see, here in New Hampshire we’ve followed our usual ritual of creating a “Phoenix Tree,” by finding a dead tree in the woods, and “bringing it back to life.” Here is the end result:

Christmas Phoenix tree 2017 nicholas conley holiday dead tree lights white.jpg

So enjoy the season, share good times with everyone you love, and let’s march onward to the next year. Cheers, everyone!

dreidle hanukkah

The Value of a Spooky October

We’re now knee deep into the spookiest time of the year, which is to say October — a month that is, from start to finish, dominated by Halloween. Throughout the month of October, you’ll see jack o’lanterns on porches, scarecrows on downtown street corners, horror movies in the cinema, and ghosts hanging from street lamps. Then at the end of the month, kids fill the sidewalks in all kinds of creepy costumes.

However, outside of pure entertainment—and putting all the consumerism aside—I think there’s a real psychological value to Halloween.

See, as we all know, the human psyche is always yearning for catharsis. That’s why in regular life, avoidance of a problem just makes a problem worse: you have to face your fears, not run away from them. It’s also why we do crazy things like skydiving. We crave resolution. We thrive on the thrill of facing our fears.

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Halloween, as it is today, is basically the one time a year where our entire culture faces our fears at the same time. We like scary things. By dressing up as ghosts, ghouls, and monsters, decorating our houses with skeletons, and watching the newest scary films, we’re taking on our fears, instead of running away from them. It’s like the Self-Cannibalistic Creative Monster, but on a wider level. Halloween is more than just a fun way to spend the month: it’s a necessary cultural catharsis, particularly in scary times like the present day, where every morning’s news headlines are so anxiety-inducing.

Facing our fears, turning them into a source of entertainment rather than terror, is a vacation that everyone needs once in a while. So Happy Halloween, everyone, and enjoy the scares!

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