Mr. Charlton Goes Hiking. By Himself

Anyone who knows me understands that, for the most part, Mr. Charlton gets around by putting one foot in front of the other. That’s recently changed now that I started biking to work, but for literal decades, if I was getting from point A to point B, I was walking. When people said they were headed to the country to go for a hike, I was always like, “Hey, good for you, but EVERYDAY is a goddamn trek for me. I just spent an hour getting groceries with a backpack, and you’re lecturing me on the benefit of trudging up a mountain? Go eat a bag!”

Look, I used to fill this bad with gross things to eat, like dicks or spiders. But really? A plastic bag on it’s own would be pretty fucking terrible.

Alright, I’m obviously suffering from a little PTSD – People Telling me Stories about their Day-Hikes. When living in Calgary, going out to Kananaskis country and hiking up the mountains was the thing to do, and I was quite often ridiculed for taking my hikes in the city. “Those aren’t REAL hikes” I was told again and again. And truthfully, it got under my skin. I started to not only hate that culture, but I started to hate the look they were rocking, the I just bought everything from Mountain Equipment Coop look. Here I was, hating people wearing clothes. Looking back on it, it now feels like a very Un-Mr.-Charlton-like thing to do.

Anyways, for years I dismissed hiking. If I was going to walk, it wasn’t going to be in a forest with zero martinis and mud on the floor. I went for hikes all the time when I was a kid. All the time! How many hikes did I go on when I was in scouts? I trekked up every mountain in the area, twice. A normal walk with the family was fifteen to twenty clicks (kilometers for anyone who doesn’t use the metric system). I camped in the goddamn middle of winter and our shelter was a snow cave. And it took hours to get there!

For the next fifteen years, I basically swore off the outdoors. Now, part of that was due to the fact that A) I lived in the city, so besides a bunch of nature walks and a few parks, there wasn’t a whole lot of nature in the area and B) I didn’t own a car, so getting our to those areas was basically impossible unless someone decided to go out hiking, which I did occasionally do. But then you’re paying for gas, it was a good hour, hour and a half to get somewhere, and you had to walk for eight hours with someone telling you how amazing everything around them is. So I never went too often. The flip side of this is that even though I did pretty much a handful of hikes in the full splendor of nature, I was walking through the cityscape like a madman. I wasn’t uncommon for me to pick a point on a map, take the bus there, and then hike back to my home, stopping at little interesting spots along the way. The city was new to me! I had been through every back country trail in and around my hometown, I had been to the top of all of the mountain ridges in the area, and none of those places has a pub where I could stop in and have a beer.

Does nature have pints along the trail? I don’t think so.

For a good decade, I hiked through the city. I went through parks, I found weird little niche communities, ate at amazing little tiny bakeries, and located some of the best hole-in-the-wall joints in the metropolis. I genuinely loved every bit of it, and even though most people scoffed at my idea of my “city hikes”, I was still telling people “I am a hiker”.

I move to a new city. A somewhat tiny city. A city that, while charming, is a lot smaller than what I’m used to. A city with less niche communities, less hole-in-the-wall joints. This wasn’t a bad thing, no, but suddenly my idea for city hikes kinda sorta dried up. I mean, even though I was busier than spit for the last three years, it feels liked I’ve already walked a good section of the city. And I haven’t even BEGUN to get my walk on. But things are a little different now. This city in the middle of the wilderness. I’ve got access to a vehicle. And getting to the hiking location isn’t an hour drive, it’s a fifteen minute one. So last Sunday, Mr. Charlton gets his rain jacket on, fills up a water bottle, makes sure he has a first-aid kit, and heads out to the wilderness for the first solo nature hike he’s done in years.

Goddamnit, I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t have one of the best experiences of my life. I mean, look at some of these pictures.

Alright, so I have now gone and purchased a better rain jacket, because as fun as this escapade into the mountains was, I still got pretty wet, and that’s not a great thing if you’re hiking in unfamiliar territory. I’ve also decided to bring food, as maybe not bringing anything wasn’t the smartest choice either. In fact, I went to the inter-tubes and looked up “Essentials for hiking” and got some extra stuff, like a little flashlight and a compass.

Yeah, I totally know how to use one of these. All that training from when I was nine and in boy scouts will come right back to me, I just know it.

Seriously though, I make maps for a living, so it might be worthwhile to watch a YouTube video on how to use a compass properly. But as I type this out, I’m also getting ready to go out tomorrow. This hike is going to be a little longer, a little steeper, and might end in a swim. Doing all of these things are definitely out of my comfort zone. But you know what? That’s the only way I know how to grow.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Losing weight? Going hiking? Shit, is Mr. Charlton going to get in shape next?

p.s.s. Yes, I am going to try and get into shape. Might wait a while to write about it though. Need some of those sexy before and after pictures.

Mr. Charlton Gains Some Weight

It’s no surprise that most of us have gained a little covid weight since the pandemic started. The routine of biking to work, going to the gym, or playing any kind of organized sports has been severely disrupted in the last year, and everyone’s waistline has paid a bit of a price. Mine was no exception, and between March and the end of two thousand and twenty, I had easily gained twenty pounds, which is exactly the same as four bags of potatoes.

https://target.scene7.com/is/image/Target/GUEST_a1f7a423-ac95-46da-ad52-3ddb2c3873ab
It’s like I decided to stuff four bags of these all over my body…

I went from a slightly over-weight 185lbs. to an uncomfortable 206lbs. After doing two and a half years of school, working a part time job and a terrible habit of eating badly for most of my meals, I had finally topped two hundred pounds and continued to get heavier. It’s been the most I’ve tipped the scales at any point of my life. After gorging myself with therapy snacks over the Christmas break, I told myself that enough was enough, and I was going to get my weight back under control, and get back into some pants I had not been able to wear for well over a decade.

To preface this story, my weight has been slowly creeping up, ever so slowly, ever since I’ve been about twenty. Putting on maybe half a pound a year. 20 year old Mr. Charlton weighed in at 155 pounds, which at 5’11” is right on the lower end of ‘regular weight’ for someone my height. At 205, that was one point away from being obese. I went from being a skinny in-shape guy, straight to being not just overweight, but actually on the tipping point of a dangerous size.

Now, I understand that not everyone falls under this BMI umbrella, I’m well aware of the various somatotypes, and I get that for some people, being 5’11” and 205 lbs. is not a big deal. For me, it was a big deal. I wasn’t working out in any capability. I was eating too much. I sat down for most of the day. It wasn’t just my weight that was an issue, it was my entire lifestyle. I turn 38 this year, and I’ll be goddamned if I’m going into my forties as someone who doesn’t love how they feel. At the beginning of the year, I decided to do something about it and began my journey to a happier and healthier body. And I fuckin’ dropped close to 40lbs. in the span of three months.

This picture was at about 190lbs. I don’t have one at 206. Imagine this image with 4 more bags of potatoes strapped to me.

So how on earth did I do it?

I started intermittent fasting, only eating my meals between 4:00pm and 10:00pm. While doing that, I also increased my probiotics through fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi. I started walking a lot more, walking up to 16 kms in a day with my mom when we had the chance. I asked my workplace if I could work form the office instead of home, and started first walking there every morning, and then graduating to biking there instead. And about three weeks ago, I took the plunge into beginning a workout routine again, first thing in the morning. On my way to work, after getting my heart rate up on the bicycle, I would stop off at an elementary school and do a body-weight workout on the monkey bars. The first four months of the year I’ve been slimming down, and at the beginning of May, I’m going to turn it around, change my diet to include a post workout meal, and try bulking up a bit.

Words can’t describe how much better I feel, but fuck, I am writing things down on a blog, so let me just try and paint a picture for you. I have more energy, I have no trouble getting up in the morning at 6:00am, walking up the stairs no longer winds me, I’m not as hungry as I was before, I have a lot less stress in my life, I’m certain my blood pressure is down, my mental health has improved, I drink more water, I drink less alcohol and coffee, I get excited to go work out, my face is slimmer, my legs don’t rub together anymore and chafe, I can stretch easier, I sleep better, it’s no longer painful to throw my arm around my wife when I sleep, and I generally look more attractive.

The downsides are there too. I can’t eat nearly as much cake as I used to, I find Cheezies a little too salty now, packaged ramen no longer holds any appeal, I’m a lightweight when it comes to booze, eating too much makes me feel way worse, coffee gives me the jitters now, most of my pants are falling off me, I might have to buy a new belt, and I can no longer play my stomach like a bongo.

MY DRUM SONG IS GOOOONNNEEEE!!!

I’m not trying to fat shame people, and I’m not trying to make people feel guilty about any of the weight they may have gained over the pandemic. For me, I hit a tipping point. A point where I could no longer look and feel the way I did and continue to be happy. I’ve been talking about getting into shape since I was 23, and it only took fourteen years to actually get that on track. If you’re reading this, I want you to know that you can do it. It’s not easy, and it’s not fun in the beginning. But once you start to feel better, there’s no going back. I’m going straight into the fitness game this summer, boys and girls and others. I have no idea what a post-pandemic life will look like, but I can absolutely assure you that I’m going into it as shredded as I can possibly be, because right now there’s not a hell of a lot else to do.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Yeah, it’s been a while. School’s done, life is a little more stable, and might as well get back into the swing of things by writing about my sorry self.

p.s.s. I do another update in three or four months. I want to see how quick I can get beefcakey.

Mr. Charlton Gets Rid of Facebook

This is one of those blog posts that I had a hard time writing. The kind where I would pump out seven hundred words, only to look back and realize that I was a rambling mess, ranting off in the distance without any kind of coherent structure to my ideas. It was a random train of thought, one that derailed into a small community and exploded into a fiery mess of anecdotes and half-witty remarks. The people I was writing for would be reading with a mouthful of coffee, slowly swallowing as their eyes narrowed; “What the fuck is Mr. Charlton talking about?”. Well, today he’s ranting about Facebook.

I got rid of it, finally.

If you’ve read my blog on a somewhat regular basis, you’ll know I have a deep-seated hatred towards Facebook. I’m not a fan. In fact, it’s come up in about ten percent of my writing. That’s a lot, considering that Facebook is free. And there’s a pretty strict rule that I’ve been adhering to, especially recently as I’ve gotten older.

Don’t ever complain about something you’re getting for free.

Being the hypocrite that I am, I’ve been complaining about this free service for years. I’m not alone in my complaints; tons of people like myself dislike social media, especially Facebook. So then why are we using it?

Understand that Facebook, and a lot of other tech giants, have worked tirelessly over the last decade (even longer in many cases) to integrate themselves into the fabric of our society. You might convince yourself you’ll be missing out on something if you refuse their services. Truthfully, you will be. Without Facebook, there’s a good chance I might miss events that are organized there. And that’s a shame.

But…

The party is still taking place. That get-together is going to happen, it’s simply no longer convenient for the host to invite me. They’ll have to get a hold of me some other way. They’re going to have to send a carrier pigeon. They might try and put a message in a bottle, casting it out to the ocean in the slim hopes it washes up on my shores. Or, heaven forbid, they might have to use the telephone app on their smartphone and call me to arrange the party. Facebook is convenient.

Iphone-HomeScreen

A ten year old asked me why the phone app was a ‘C’ shape.

Facebook is too convenient.

It’s so convenient, in fact, that you can have a social media relationship with someone you don’t know. I had a little over three hundred people on my friend list. At least a third of them? People I had met once. One interaction, years ago, was now something that Facebook convinced me was valid. It’s really easy to add people, over the years, over a pint at the bar when you’re four drinks deep and now everyone in the pub is your friend. Now your free social media page needs work. It needs to be culled every now and again. You’re social media image is something you’re going to have to manage.

Years ago, it used to list your friends post’s chronologically. Now Facebook has determined that you want to see what the hottest topics are. Those are the posts that keep you looking at Facebook, your eyes open on the screen while ads fill the sidebars. You know what posts seem to gather the most attention?

The controversial ones.

If you’re wondering why Facebook in particular seems to have gotten more mean-spirited in the last couple of years, it’s not because you’re getting older and more cynical. It’s because the easiest button to push in the emotion panel of your brain is the anger / outrage button. The social engineers at Facebook know this, and capitalize on it.

They’ve also figured out how to give you a dopamine hit when you participate in conversations. Someone says something wrong? On the internet? Fire back a snappy comeback, then watch as like-minded people support your post with likes and LOLs. A thirty second reply takes thirty seconds, but Facebook knows you’ll spend up to an hour or more seeing if anyone else validated your opinion.

All of your rage, your laughs, your accomplishments, your highs, your lows, everything you post to social media is facilitated by companies who are trying their hardest to manipulate your emotions. And they’re doing it because for every hour you spend on their site, they might make half a penny. Don’t quote me on that number. The point I’m trying to make is that your attention isn’t worth a lot to them, so they’re going to milk your attention for everything that it’s worth.

I’m picking on Facebook, but they’re not the only ones doing it. Instagram (owned by Facebook), Youtube (owned by Google), Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, Imgur. They’re all competing for your attention.

If you’re wondering what happened to me, well, they ended up getting too much of my attention. They got so much of it that my only solution was to turn it off completely. It wasn’t the Cambridge Analytics issue, it wasn’t Zuckerberg having to testify in front of a bunch of congresspeople he was already donating campaign money to, it wasn’t Russian bots trying to undermine democracy. It was the simple problem of spending too much time on Facebook and Reddit, and not spending enough time writing, making games, learning new skills, and enjoying life.

Zuckerberg

“I swear, your honor, that I put my pants and my flesh mask on just like the rest of you homo sapiens.”

I’ve lost the convenience of easily connecting with people. But I don’t think it should be easy to connect with people. It should be tough. It should be a little bit of work. Out of the three hundred friends I had a week ago, it’s plummeted to roughly sixty. I’m alright with that. Even though it’s going to be a little more work to connect with people, I have at least an extra hour a day to it. And maybe a five minute phone call would be better than liking a photo of them online.

The internet is a powerful tool. But like any tool, it can be misused. Stirring the pot to get peoples attention on the internet is like smearing the walls with shit to get your perfume to stand out. It works, but people are going to eventually get sick of the poop smell, even if the perfume is free.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I’m four days in of not having access to social media. It’s been pretty zen so far.

1. Image taken from https://news.sky.com/story/five-questions-mark-zuckerberg-needs-to-answer-in-congress-11325242

 

 

Mr. Charlton Moves to Victoria

After months of planning, saving, packing, and preparing, we’ve finally lumbered all of our belongings from one province to the next. A two day trip, 1300 or so kilometers, fifteen hours of driving, a three hour wait for the ferry, the number all added up to transplanting two people from Lethbridge, Alberta to Victoria, British Columbia. Since drawing up the schematics to move back in January, this is a trip that’s been in the making for a while.

Now we’re here, and after a week of unpacking, settling in, scouting out the neighborhood and taking a bit of a break, I’ve finally managed to set up the workhorse and crank out some words for the internet. As much as I love sitting by the beach in board shorts, it was time to plop down in front of the computer and write.

20170731_210544

I had to spend a bunch of time posing majestically, staring in the harbour before I sat down.

See, I could recount the fact that since we’ve arrived, Kat has dived into the ocean and removed five crabs from their homes. I could also recount that I’ve given them new homes inside of our bodies, by boiling the crabs then soaking their meat in butter. Crabs that look sort of like this.

20170803_200422

I know everyone is going to be looking at the crabs, but just so you know, that’s a medley of crooked-neck squash and spinach leaves in the bowl. I just want you to know that.

I could talk about how I finally live in a city again, and there’s a place not too far from home that sells Latin American food stuffs, or there’s a place that does nothing except charcuterie, or there’s a place that sells gentlemanly items like proper razor blades and humorous socks. But all these things take a back seat to the fact that once again I happen to be living in an actual city, even if it’s sort of a tiny city. Mr. Charlton thrives on space and people all over the place doing things in that space.

I might also talk about the idea that after well over a decade, I’ll have family around again. My brother lives in the city, and I have a mess of cousins and uncles and aunts that are dotted all over the West Coast. After fifteen years of being over in Alberta, I’ll actually be able to attend weddings and social gatherings without having to get on an airplane.

The most important thing to take away from this is that I no longer live in Lethbridge, Alberta. To extend that, I don’t even live in Alberta anymore. I now live in Victoria, BC, next to the ocean. I can pop my head out the window and see the ocean from here. I can hear the ocean waves pound the seawall. And I can drive half an hour out of the city to a craggy beach where my amazonian goddess of a girlfriend will literally dive in the ocean and catch live crabs with her bare hands.

20170801_084815

This picture was taken about 15 seconds before she spotted a crab and decided to leap in.

It’s going to be a year before I head back to school, so right now I’ll be saving some cash and catching up with family and friends who live in the area. So if you’re down on the coast, hit a guy up. I’m always willing to get a few beers and talk about small times. In the mean time, it’s incredibly nice to be home.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. The crabs were utterly delicious. The mussels weren’t bad, but they weren’t good either. They’re out of season right now, and they tasted a little spawny.

20170801_181641

In the same breath, they were the goddamned biggest mussels I’ve ever actually laid eyes on.

p.s.s. Sure, it’s just crabs right now, but soon I’m going to be hunting for fresh oysters. And mussels. And clams. Pretty much any shellfish you can think of, I’ll eat.

p.s.s.s. The drive down itself from Lethbridge was pretty mundane, except for the fact that the entire province of British Columbia seems to be burning to the ground.

20170802_200543

It’s hazy in Victoria at the moment, because the smoke from the mainland is wafting over this way. Also, if it doesn’t rain in five days, this will be the driest summer that Victoria is ever had on record. This rain forest needs some rain!

 

Mr. Charlton is an Expert on Moving

I’ve been busy as of late. Busy moving. Getting ready to strap all of my stuff to the outside of a vehicle, and pack as much of it inside as well. Selling stuff on the internet (which is a whole other set of stories) and saving up money for the day we convoy across two provinces. ‘Bout to have a little garage sale, even. There isn’t a whole lot of things I can claim to be good at, but packing up my stuff and taking it to another location is something I’ve become somewhat of a pro at.

I should be a goddamn pro at it by now. This move to Victoria will count as the 32 move in my life.

Go ahead, pick your jaw off the floor. You read that right. I’ve moved a total of 32 times in my life, which chalks up to almost a move a year. That’s 32 times of stuffing boxes full of junk, sorting them out, putting them in a truck, putting those boxes in a new place, and then finally unpacking the boxes and putting all my junk back out into a living space. That’s 32 times of either renting a truck or wrangling friends and family into loading up vehicles and driving across my current landscape until the landscape changes into the new landscape I’ll hopefully be looking at for more than a month.

Moving is a hassle. It’s a goddamn pain in the ass. Nobody in their right mind would move as many times as I have. And it’s not like I’ve been living in exotic locals or anything. I’m not backpacking across Europe or taking a whirlwind tour in South America. All of those moves have been confined to BC and Alberta.

And yet, here I’m doing it again. And it’s going to be the longest move I’ve ever done. 1500 km. All the way from Lethbridge, Alberta to Victoria, BC. Hopefully this will be the last time I have to move in a few years.

There’s definitely a trick to moving, though. There’s a secret method I’ve cooked up, over the years, that’s a sure fire way to make uprooting and putting those roots somewhere else a little bit more tolerable. It’s crazy, it’s a bizarre and insane idea in this world, but gosh, it absolutely works.

I don’t actually own a lot of things.

This “Not owning a lot of things” has slowly been creeping up on me the last couple of years. At first, I thought this was something I was doing, something I had a hand in. I was reading blogs on minimalism, I borrowed “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo from the library. I exchanged my CD collection for an external hard drive. Instead of books, I got an E-Reader.

Until maybe a week or so, I had never actually tallied up the number of times I’ve moved. When I started counting out the moves, I lost count. So I made a spreadsheet, and it turned out I’ve moved over thirty times. Which is incredibly excessive for someone my age.

This got me thinking. Am I actually some sort of minimalist monk who’s rejected this consumer lifestyle we’re being sold every day, a modern Jesuit figure giving the middle finger to everyone who’s ever made a beer commercial, a Tyler Durden born in the flesh? Or am I just a guy who’s had to put his shit into cardboard so often that I just gave up and said “Man, if I don’t actually own this sweet Ab-Blaster 8000, then I won’t have to put it in a U-haul and move it somewhere in six months”.

Looking back, I think I’ve moved so often that I just got sick of owning stuff. When you go to the mall and your first thought is “Am I going to be able to put this in a Chevy Geo?”, you start to take into account how physically large your purchase is. It’s probably not the first thing that comes to mind when most people go shopping, but it’s definitely close the the top of my list.

I move again in two weeks. I’m excited and nervous and all those other crazy emotions that come with moving. Hopefully once I’m settled, I’ll get a little more routine back in my life and I’ll be able to yell on the internet more often. Until then, life is a little crazier when it involves changing locals.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. The Ab-Blaster 8000 came about when I typed in “Most useless purchase ever” into a search engine. 90% of the comments mentioned exercise equipment.

p.s.s. Exercising is good for you, but you don’t need an Ab-Blaster 8000 to do so. Just some regular sit-ups should suffice.

p.s.s.s. On the other hand, you should at least look up some instructions on how to properly do a sit-up. Most people are sitting up wrong.

 

 

Meta Post – Writers Block Strikes Again

The last time we spoke, which was this Tuesday, I believe, I was on a path to stardom fueled by the sweet embrace of heroin. I’ve run out of heroin, and as I’ve discovered, the only thing worse than failed stardom is failed stardom with massive heroin withdraw. Who would have known that donning a skin-tight spandex suit, learning four chords on the bass guitar, and pumping my veins so full of Moroccan candy that I got addicted wouldn’t guarantee me a place in the rock and roll hall of fame?

So I’m back at the keyboard, putting one word in front of the other. And it’s not going so well this week.

It happens. You get into a rut. Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking to my writing group about writing comedy. I started off with a joke that fell flat, but the rest of the presentation went pretty well. I made a pretty bold claim near the beginning, though. I said writing, like all other art forms, is created to evoke an emotional response, which are pretty big words for a guy who’s a recovering heroin junkie. Whether it’s writing, or painting, or sculpturing, or making music, the point of these things is to stir something in your peers.

But…

Writing is kinda different. Sure, writing can stir things in people, but it’s a delayed gratification. It takes a while to read a novel. If you hear a song, it’s connecting to you right away. The second those sound waves start rattling the bones in your ear and your brain starts translating the waves to the beats, your butt starts to shake and you’re connected to the primal beast in your soul. If you see a painting, your eyes instantly devour it, the colors and shapes and textures of the paint hitting your noggin immediately.

Put it this way. We’re having a party, and it is off the chain. I mean, drinks are flowing, I’ve got a crazy spread going, and everyone is having a good time. I’ve brought three of my friends to this party; The Handsome Musician, The Stunning Painter, and The Sexy Writer. They show up, and they each start doing their own thing.

The Handsome Musician sees my guitar in the corner and heads over. He picks it up and starts playing some sweet riffs. His riffs are crunchy as all sin. The people around him start to gravitate towards him. Men nod in agreement. The women look at him doe-eyed. He’s not paying attention. His eyes are closed and he’s lost in the moment. Once he’s done,¬† he receives a small amount of applause. The dude doesn’t even have to tell people he’s a musician.

The Stunning Painter heads over to the snack table and gets himself one of my tasty hors d’oeuvres. A cute lady approaches, which is a bit of a letdown for my painter friend as he’s gayer than springtime. No matter, he’s a gentleman through and through. She asks what he’s been up to recently. He replies that he’s been painting. Before she has time to ask, he whips out his phone and proceeds to show her his work. Her breath is taken away. His work, even though it looks better in real life, is still amazing over the tiny pixel screen.

The Sexy Writer bee-lines it for the bar. He pours himself a scotch, neat. He downs it almost instantly and pours himself another one. He scours the room, somehow looking at everyone but managing to avoid eye contact with anyone. He sticks himself up in the corner and hopes he can drink in peace. He’s approached by a heavy-set man.

“Hey, you’re Sexy Writer guy, Mr. Charlton’s friend. How’s it going this evening?”

Sexy Writer guy tries to look somewhere else. “It’s going.”

The heavy-set man laughs. “It certainly is GOING, isn’t it friend? Tell me, do you have any hobbies?”

The Sexy Writer looks down at his feet as he mumbles. “I write…”

“I’m sorry, my hearing isn’t what it used to be. What did you say you do for fun?” the heavy-set man says as he leans in closer.

The Sexy Writer sighs. “I write.”

The fat man nods. “Really? Do you have anything published?”

Something snaps in the Sexy Writer’s mind. He grabs an empty beer bottle on the table, smashes it and holds it up to heavy-set man’s throat. He speaks, but his voice is high-pitched and shrill, like that of a maniac.

“Am I Published? AM I PUBLISHED?!?! No one asked the HANDSOME Musician if HE’S landed a recording deal, no one questioned whether or not the Stunning Painter had his artwork in the LOUVRE, and you want to know if I’m PUBLISHED?”

Before anyone can react, the Sexy Writer turns the broken glass on himself, stabbing himself repeatedly in the neck. Once again, my party is ruined.

The moral of the story is that writing is hard, and can be sometimes kinda thankless. If you’re going to write, you gotta do it for yourself. And hopefully, you won’t murder yourself at one of my parties.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Anyime I have writers block, I write about writing. Kinda like jacking off for a scribe.

p.s.s. Most readers don’t get feedback, but I get tons of feedback from wonderful people like you, so pat yourselves on the back.

 

 

Mr. Charlton is Fake News

Every once and a while Mr. Charlton makes a bold claim. I’ve been known to say some pretty outlandish stuff. I once told a guy at a bar that one day, one day, I’d become the world’s greatest farmer. Which is strange, seeing as how I can barely keep a houseplant alive. I’ve said that I’m not the second coming, but rather Jesus was a precursor to Mr. Charlton. This is coming from a guy who would burst into flames if he stepped into a church.

20170220_222330

Kat takes care of this thing. If she wasn’t here, this would be dead.

Not too long ago, I made a bold claim; I was going to get to the bottom of this whole global warming issue. I figured there are not enough journalists covering the topic, and I said to myself, you know what? I might as well get my feet wet. Might as well read some books on the topic of journalism. Might as well learn to dig for facts and report out some hard hitting news.

Well…

That was back in the summer of 2016, the halcyonic days where journalism was, at least from my perspective, still being taken somewhat seriously. Then Trump happened, and the world of the Republican fringe spilled out onto the rest of the planet. The newly appointed administration started to talk about ‘Alternative Facts’ and how anything critical of the White House was now ‘Fake News’. It’s only been a month, and it’s been a goddamn shit show.

I’ve always been wary of emotions. I don’t really like having them. They’re a pain in the ass, distorting logic and reason with feelings and sentimentality. I despise it when organizations use emotions to sway others. Trying to make me afraid and not having any data to back it up, in my opinion, should be a crime. It should be illegal to try and stir the pot without having anything substantial in the pot. An incredibly good example is when a politician tries to use crime as a scapegoat, in an effort to seem tough on an issue. Here’s the statistics for crime in Canada and here it is for the United States. Doesn’t matter in either case if the current administration was left-wing or right-wing on the political spectrum, crimes of all types have consistently been on the decline for decades. Arguing otherwise should result in some sort of penalty.

But I’m not here to talk about crime. I’m here to talk about bullshit. There’s too much of it out there, and I’m not helping the problem. I’m not a journalist. I do not have a degree in political science. I’m not an expert on anything. In fact, I know very little about the things many people consider me to be an authority on. The truth is, the more I learn about a topic, the more I find out I don’t know. The amount of ignorance that erupts when learning something new is staggering. When I took a class on wine years ago, I went from thinking I knew a little, to realizing I knew nothing at all about rotting grapes. You could spend your entire life learning about wine and never learn everything.

And here I was, plucky little Mr. Charlton, thinking I was going to set the record straight on journalism. That is some goddamn hubris right there.

Somewhere along the line, I got a face full of humble pie. It could be the fact that I have friends who are actual journalists. Maybe it’s that no one is going to bother to be interviewed for a website that gets five or six hits per post. But maybe, just maybe, it’s because it takes a lot of work to fact check your sources. Writing a post takes an hour, maybe an hour and a half. Proper research (and yes, I’ve done research on at least three of my posts) can take anywhere from an hour to three hours. Now, with all this goddamn journalism and research, my dumbass blog would take anywhere from two to four hours. Man (or woman), I’ve got a life! I have things to do. I have other things to write. I’ve got hobbies. Sometimes I want to just sit back and play video games or watch a cartoon. If I wanted to become a journalist so bad, I’d go back to school to become a journalist, and I’m already trying to go back to school to fulfill my dream of becoming a lion tamer.

My point is, my opinion isn’t fact. Facts are facts, and good journalism seeks out these facts. Me? I’m gonna keep writing, going to keep reaching for the lion taming stars. If you do care about facts, and you want them to be heard, do facts a favor and subscribe to some real journalism. In a world where facts are under attack, the only way to fight back is to support those who are seeking the truth.

It’s easy to rile people up with inflammatory opinion. It’s almost impossible to calm them down with rationality. Someone out there is selling you emotion, and that makes me so angry I could remember everything I just said, calm my ass down, look up the numbers on the situation, realize it’s not as bad as I think it is, and be slightly ticked off someone was manipulating my emotions in the first place.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I’m going to probably stick to satire mostly from now on, it’s the most fun to write.

 

Meta Post – The Big 100

Since the inception of the website, back in May of 2016, I’ve posted 100 blog posts. Every post so far has been at least 750 words (except for one post. I can’t remember for the life of me which one it was, but I was busy and the subject was pretty sparse to begin with). Now, I’m no accountant, but doing a little math shows that I’ve then written well over 75,000 words on the ol’ website here.

What that doesn’t include are the rejects that don’t get posted or that get erased. Combined with the 55,000 words I’ve written for my novel, a bunch of short stories, the writing prompts I did with the River Bottom Writers, well, I’ve written a lot last year. It’s a number, for sure. I’m going to be writing even more this year.

While I sit here and congratulate myself by patting myself on the back while researching information about removing a couple of ribs, there’s other things I have to mention when I talk about the craft of writing.

See, not only do I write a lot, I read a fair amount as well. Reading is a wonderful tool that allows me to look smarter than I actually am without really doing any work. I recently read Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’, where he talks about his job. Which is sitting down, thinking about a bunch of crazy stuff, then putting in down on paper. It was a fascinating read, especially since I’m not actually a huge fan of his work (I mean, I could be, I’ve just never read any of his stuff, besides the ‘On Writing’ book). One of the things that stuck out for me was he considered writing something he’d be doing anyways, even if he wasn’t a big name.

Now, this stuck out for me for a couple reasons. One, right now it costs me money to write on this site. Not a lot, mind you, but the space ain’t free. And two, the game has changed slightly. There’s a lot more people writing today than there was when Stephen started his journey. The market for paid writing is also a lot smaller. There was a number of magazines catering to his kind of stuff. There are websites that cater to it, for sure, but they pay a lot less than they did in the 70’s. Magazines and websites now hold contests instead of asking for submissions. The opportunities presented to authors today is less of a low-paying gig and more of a low paying chance to win.

I’m not complaining. I’m going to continue writing, even if I never get published, even if no one except a couple of close friends and family are reading. I’m alright with that, because writing gives me something I don’t have in real space, and that’s the ability to express myself. I’m pretty closed off in real life, and for whatever reason, the walls get torn down when I put myself behind a keyboard. It’s good for my mental health too, because I don’t bottle up everything inside and let it rot.

There are a few things I’ve learned along the way about writing, some wisdom I hope to pass to anyone who might be delving into the craft themselves this year.

Getting Published means you’ll need an editor, and editors cost money.

A lot of money. If you have a book you want someone to go over with a fine-tooth comb, expect to pay somewhere between $3000-$6000. Keep in mind, there’re a couple of types of editors. Paying someone to do developmental editing means they’ll be looking over the story structure and they won’t be necessarily be paying attention to the grammar. Every time they go over it, they’ll want more money. That means tighten you work up and get some beta readers (friends who read a lot) and get their input before you hand it off to someone. Editors are people with jobs, and people have jobs to make money. They’re not going to work for free.

It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.

There’s this notion that writers sit in quiet rooms, working away at their novel, free of distractions. And that’s absolutely true. You need a quiet space to work in to write. If you want to get published, however, you’re going to have to meet some people, rub some elbows, make some connections. Join a writers group. Move to a bigger city. Don’t quit your day job. There are zero paths to success that don’t require you working with other people. If you don’t know how to socialize and network, then learn.

Ask yourself why you want to get published.

If it’s because you want money, look somewhere else. Seriously, there are so many better ways to make money. Same with fame and recognition. I learned a lot of things in 2016, but the bigger lesson I learned was this; there’s a good chance I’ll never be a successful writer, whereas success is defined by money and people telling me I’m awesome. Writing is just too saturated of a field. This is going to come across as silly, but what I’ve found is that being a writer isn’t something you do, it’s something you are. I mean, you still have to do it, you have to write, but if you’re writing without getting paid, that’s perfectly fine. I write because it makes me better at recognizing my own emotions, and it makes me a better story teller. If I could also get paid for it, that’d be awesome, but it could be a damn long time before any checks roll in.

People are going to tell you that you’re not a writer.

Or they’ll tell you that you’re not a real writer. Personally, I’ve never had someone tell me this, mostly because Mr. Charlton surrounds himself with only the best people. My solution is having business cards made out. Business cards seem to legitimize it, and they’re cheap to get.

To wrap it up, if you’re writing, or painting, or playing music, do it because it makes you a better, more interesting person. Don’t expect applause or money, because it often isn’t there. Sometimes the art itself is the reward.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Also the sex. People like banging artists. Known fact.

p.s.s. Next milestone is going to be 1000.

Mr. Charlton Doesn’t Go to Calgary

Crazy thing. I’m supposed to be in Calgary right now. I’m not in Calgary, which may leave people who were expecting me to be in Calgary to ask the question “Mr. Charlton, why the hell are you not in Calgary?” This is a valid question. I wanted to be in Calgary, so very badly, but sometimes you have to go with your gut feeling and bail on a situation when it’s appropriate.

A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine (We’ll call her Lisa) invited me out for drinks in Calgary. I don’t live in Calgary. Where I live right now isn’t even that important to the story. What you need to know is my current location isn’t Calgary. Now, there was a very long time where my location was Calgary, because Calgary was my home. I love Calgary, and I have a lot of friends who still call Calgary their residence. I was headed to Calgary to meet some of these people.

Here’s the thing. I have been stressing out these last few days. I took on a lot of projects recently, and I was getting worried about deadlines. They’re manageable, but between the coding I’m helping Kat with, the 3D modeling I’m doing for a friend of mine, plus work, plus the fact I’m still trying to write two thousand words a day, plus the coding I’m doing for myself, well, my time has to be managed properly.

I planned out the entire day. I had some time on the bus to get some stuff done, I had breaks in between meeting friends, I had my day sorted. I would get plenty of time to code, plenty of time to visit, and plenty of time to write. I was going to have a great time.

I didn’t plan on outside circumstances, though, like the bus being an hour and a half late. Where I live wasn’t important to the story before, but I guess it is now. I live in the wind capital of Canada, Lethbridge. I stood out in the cold wind for over an hour and a half. People waiting with me ended up leaving, or calling friends and sitting in their vehicles. Slowly, my day was being eaten up. And I was getting more frustrated by the moment. Plus, it was cold out. I dressed appropriately for someone waiting fifteen minutes, not an hour and forty-five.

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run

Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

So I bailed. I said, “If the trip is starting out badly, then it’s a good sign to count my losses and chill for the day.” That’s what I’m doing. I’m going to treat myself to a nice lunch, and I’m going to work on some of the things I had planned on getting done.

There’s a lesson here. In our fast-paced world, we’re constantly bombarded with catchy slogans like “Live to Win” and “Bite off more than you can swallow, then chew” and “Gotta hustle every day” and “The man who stands upon the largest pile of skulls can see the furthest”. But sometimes, if you’re gut is telling you to slow down, that something ain’t right, then back off.

I’m not in Calgary, and it might be a good long while before I’m in Calgary again. That’s a shame, because I really do love the city. To all my friends, I’ll be out later than sooner, I’m afraid. In the mean time, you’ll find me right here, on the internet.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. ‘Ain’t’ wasn’t always a word, but it is now. Which is grand, as it makes me seem like I’m full of folksy bumpkin wisdom.

p.s.s. Just CHALKED full of bumpkin wisdom.

NaNoWirMo – A Retrospective

A lot of you may have been wondering where I’ve been for the past month, minus the electoral upset taking place in the good ol’ USA. Well, I’ve actually been right here, typing out much smaller blog posts, and not spreading the word via social media. Mostly because unlike my longer, larger and more interesting posts, these were updates regarding my the little journey to write a 50,000 word novel in the span of thirty days. As of Monday November 28th at about 3:30pm in the afternoon, I crossed that finish line.¬† So bear with me as I talk about writing 1,667 words a day for the month of November.

It wasn’t all that hard.

Now, I’m not diminishing anyone else’s little victory, but I’m saying is not once during this month I felt stressed out by the thought of sitting down and writing a bunch. It never felt like a daunting task. All I had to do was make sure I was ahead of the daily quota, and to keep plugging away every day at it. Some days I only got 800 words scribbled down. Other days I managed to blow through more than 3,000 words. No matter the day, I managed to get some writing done. Not only that, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I still managed to give this blog an additional couple hundred words. I know some of the people here are writers themselves, so I’m going to whisk you away on an adventure into how Mr. Charlton managed to get so much writing done in so little time.

The Bad

1) The novel (so far) is a complete piece of shit.

I’ll state this right off the bat; it’s not a good book. The characters stand around shouting exposition at each other. Sometimes a chapter will end with “And then they all went out to do the jobs they had to do”. There’s a couple of little flourishes in there that I’m proud off, there’s also complete chunks of novel missing, replaced with COME BACK AND WRITE THIS SCENE IN LATER or GO BACK AND CHANGE THIS CHARTER SO THIS PART WILL MAKE SENSE. I’d love to sit here and tell you I wrote a masterpiece, but I’d be full of it.

2) I still have a shit ton to write to make it an actual novel.

It ain’t over yet, I’m afraid. There’s still at least another two months of writing needing to be done before I could even call this a first draft. I’m happy I was able to complete the task National Novel Writing Month set out for me, but the truth is, 50,000 words isn’t a heck of a lot. Both science fiction and fantasy novels tend to be at least twice that number. Seeing as how this is a science fiction novel I’m writing, I’ve got a long way to go before I can actually call this a first draft.

3) Holy sweet Peter, is this going to require a hell of an edit once it’s done.

With the book being in bad shape, once it’s actually¬†completed, the book will need a complete overhaul. There are sentences that will need to be pulled out into full paragraphs to better paint the scene, and there are entire paragraphs I’m going to have to widdle down into sentences because when you’re trying to get a word count in, you occasionally pad stuff.

 

The Good

4) Every damn novel ever written requires an edit once the first draft is complete.

What did I expect, that I was going to crap out ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ in the time frame of thirty days? Even a book like ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ needed an edit after the first draft and numerous edits after the first edit. Here’s some wonderful news; I like editing. I’ve got no issue going over things with a fine tooth comb and giving it some TLC. Heck, if you’re a writer out there and you want someone to go over a page or two of your stuff, pro bono, give a guy a buzz.

5) I learned I’m a fast typist, and I’m getting better every day.

Hand-eye coordination, people. Whoever told me video games were a waste of time can suck an egg.

egg-871282749217q6v0

MAYBE HARD BOIL IT FIRST, AND GET A NUTRIOUS BREAKFAST, BITCH!

If the groove is going, I can crank out 1,500 words in an hour. That means I can crank out 3,000 words in two hours if the mood is right. And here’s the kicker. I could be faster and more accurate. Saying you’re a writer who can’t type is like saying you’re a chef who can’t slice an onion properly. Get better at your craft.

6) No such thing as the right time to write.

Picture a novelist. Maybe they’re in the nook of their home, a warm cup of coffee next to them, undisturbed. You’ll hear people say things like, “Unless the mood is right, and I’m in my special nook, there’s no way I can write”. Well, that’s fine and dandy for people living in some magical world that’s not populated by anybody else, but I live on planet Earth, and this shit can get wild sometimes. I would say that somewhere between 5-10% of this book was written on my phone. I’m on the bus and I have ten minutes? I can crank out 50 to a 100 words. I’m 15 minutes early to pick someone up? Another 100 to 200 words get put into an email and sent to myself. The right time to start something, whether it’s writing, or Ju-Jitsu, or learning to weld is right now. And if you’re lucky enough, the thing you want to learn is something portable, like writing or drawing or the harmonica.

Overall, I’m glad I did NaNoWriMo. I learned some things about myself, and because I hit the 50,000 word mark, I get a sweet deal on some killer writing software.

Don’t worry, next post I’ll be back to the usual garbage I normally write.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton.

p.s. My other big secret is not having children. My lord, do I have so much wonderful free time to myself.

p.s.s. Seriously, if you’re an aspiring writer, send me your stuff. I’ll give it the classic Mr. Charlton once over.