In times of darkness, follow the light. This simple but enduring concept can be applied to our country, even to the world at large. Certainly, the words can also be used to guide one’s personal life. In tumultuous times, for centuries, people have risen up peacefully to make their voices heard. While our individual lives might appear but a speck of dust in the grand scheme of things, we should take heart from such a simple, timeless adage; we should follow the light out of our own dark tunnels.

I’ve spent too much of my life being talked over, being ignored, and having my thoughts and ideas credited to others. I know that many women and gay men have endured the same treatment. Even friends become complicit, thinking that it’s enough to be supportive in silent solidarity, but allowing the silencing of voices to occur by way of passivity. Well, I for one have had enough. I’ve had enough of being downplayed, ignored, uncredited, hushed, and drowned out. I have too many talents to be trea…

Rescue Mission

Would you like to spare the life of that starving young man? The task seems futile, unless I swoop in from the future and deliver him from the brutal stage upon which he still dances, spinning maniacally as the audience hoots and howls: “Puke, you ugly sissy. Then lick it up.” Tell us, blind passerby, with the power to rescue him, why did you turn a blind eye? Look at him spinning like a damn toy top! For the love of God, he can’t stop. His heart could go into cardiac arrest from all of that purging. Let’s stand to stage left and watch him, prepared to bring him at the very least a prop; a tool. Turn up the master volume on the sound system. What are those voices coming through the static saying, sounding like ghosts marooned far, far away?  “Shane, you’re a faggot, and you always will be.” That’s enough, I’m going in on a rescue mission, solo flight more than acceptable. We might not have a helicopter and this might not be riveting cinema, but I’ll be damned if I let you ignore his p…

”A Dark Sunset for Gentle Ways”

This is a short short that I have just written, tentatively titled “A Dark Sunset for Gentle Ways.” It’s off the cuff and has not been edited or revised, except for a quick once over for typos. This is not one of the stories I plan to submit to potential publishers or contests. This is an exclusive short short for readers of my blog and is not to be copied or shared without my permission.
“A Dark Sunset for Gentle Ways” by Shane M. Billings

In a town like one you’ve probably passed through, in a time not so far removed from our own, a man found himself at a crossroads. His voice was soft, so he was constantly fighting to be heard.
He walked in such a way that people laughed until they adjusted to his gait, which was effeminate and slightly loose. His eyelashes were long, his eyes almost hidden, and yet they told stories. Over the years, his back had become just slightly stooped. What he wanted most was for people to smile, to settle in to their own skins, and not to worry about how t…

The Benefits of Recording What We Read

I’ve long advocated for people to keep track of the books they read, whether in a handwritten notebook or journal, via a Microsoft document or an Excel spreadsheet, or on Goodreads. There are reasons for doing so, both practical and emotionally beneficial. Keeping track of what we read requires hardly any effort at all. What you invest in time and energy toward recording your books is completely up to you, the reader.

Some people have a record of what they’ve read entirely in their heads. Others forget titles and authors as soon as they’ve moved on to their next read. Having an easily accessible source to turn to will aid those people in the second category. If you’re among those individuals who deflate slightly when you settle in with a new book only to soon discover you’ve already read it, then perhaps the time has come to give in and start writing down, at the bare minimum, the title and author of each book you complete (or abandon, if you do that sort of thing!). If you want to ge…

My Favorite Books of 2019

Looking back at my year in reading brings me the greatest pleasure. I love to see the list of books that I experienced throughout the previous twelve months, remembering where I read them, what was going on in my life at the time, and how they affected me. Every year at this time, I cull my list down to the books that were published and released within the calendar year, and I offer up my countdown of favorites. Then, a New Year dawns, and it’s time to do it all again.

10. The Need by Helen Phillips

A book that stands apart from all others is something to get excited about. As frustrating as I found The Need at times, my appreciation for its originality runs deep. Phillips reels readers in from the start with a straightforward thriller approach, before throwing philosophical issues and existential questions into our faces. Turning the pages, you never know whether you’ll be scared, confused, uplifted, or just plain annoyed. For a more in-depth review, check out my blog entry from Nove…

My Top 10 Albums of 2019

Here we go again. Whether you place a vinyl record on to a turntable, put a cd into a slot, buy digital downloads, or stream via Spotify, Google Play, or another service, a long playing piece of music still goes by the moniker of “an album.” In spite of great debuts from The Highwomen, a nice sophomore effort from Muna, and the return of Sara Bareilles, these are my ten favorites from 2019.  To recap, my top 3 from last year were Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer, First Aid Kit’s Ruins, and Metric’s Art of Doubt.

10. Alice Merton, “Mint.” This is a relatively short album, and each song is catchy and fun. Fairly weightless, but sometimes that’s what you want out of your music.

  9. P!nk, “Hurts 2 B Human.” Miles better than her previous album, this is a great blend of fun, uptempo, classic Pink, as well as the soul baring ballads that she does so well.  “My Attic” is gorgeous, and “Happy” is bitter in a self reflective way. Almost every song is addictive and well sung.

 8. Tara Maclean, “…

Into the Light

For most of my life, I’ve been trapped in a vicious cycle of self doubt and worry. I want to make life better for everyone else and to be a constant source of light. As an empath, I feel not only my own emotions at a magnified level, but those of everyone around me. It can be exhausting. Sometimes I wish I could be one of those people who just breezes through life doing what he/she wants, heedless of what others think. How liberating, I think to myself. However, then I wouldn’t be me.

As a teen, I was a victim of bullying and harassment. I spiraled into eating disorders, then battled depression. Throughout all of this, I held on to the light, knowing that I must pull through for my family, and so that I could help others. I struggled, but music and books were there to guide me.

One of the challenges I’ve faced throughout my life is being soft spoken. I have always had to fight to be heard. In this society, a certain type of man is valued. I am not that type of man, nor have I ever bee…