Beginnings – Journal 3/9/17

Once upon a time, I was a boy, much like half of us here on Earth were at one point or another. Assuming you’re using biological sex instead of genders, which is what I prefer to do in this tiresome time of people feeling ignored and alone. When I feel ignored and alone, I write. Just like when I feel every other emotion I write. All their lines blur together quite a lot sometimes. Miserable happiness, somber anger, depressed joy, uplifting sadness. I tend to take what comes, and then I put it into words. That’s my whole thing. I communicate. This place is my little garden I tend to, and for others to come and visit. I’ve often thought about letting others into Radio Reality City, other writers and creators I know, but every time it comes up I decide to not do that. There’s a good, artistic, and sensible reason for this, but to communicate that I must start at the beginning. Why I started writing.

As far as I can tell, I’ve always loved telling stories. One of the earliest things I’ve done as a writer (serious or otherwise) was from 1st grade, about what I’d do if I was stuck on an island. “I guess I’d just die” is a line I wrote in there. I was 6 years old and knew enough to know I wouldn’t do well.

I’ve always loved telling stories, but it seems as if I only wrote for myself, once upon a time. I didn’t write to show others, I only did it to entertain myself. This led to a lot of weird scribble and bullshit that doesn’t make much sense and is misspelled. A lot of those things were either thrown out or are simply lost to time, now.

Things changed when I was in the 7th grade. I went to Serrano Middle School in San Bernardino, California, and there I was in a set of honors English classes. One thing I’ve always vehemently hated about the United States education system is the redundant curriculum. After you’re fluent, what else is there to learn? (A lot, but I’ll go over this later on). I disliked school as a whole, reading logs, quizzes, and required texts. Guess what this honors class had? Reading logs, quizzes, and required texts.

Granted, there are a lot of books taught in schools that are not complete shit. But reading logs? Are you fucking kidding me? That is complete bullshit.

So of course, I was rebellious, not understanding if I didn’t want to cheat my way through them, I’d lose points. Points, points, points, the USA loves its schools and their fucking points. So I didn’t do them. This made a certain someone’s parents upset. By the end of the week I was given four or five books by my mom who said something like “You better read one a day and fill in that log”. She hated reading logs too, because everybody knows they (like many educational things) are useless pieces of faff, but she understood what I didn’t. I just had to fucking do it.

Among the books was one that stood out, and would cultivate in me something I never had before. In the autumn of 2009, I was introduced to the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson. I highly recommend you check it out if you’re even mildly interested.

As much as Mr. Patterson encourages people to read, his series had the opposite effect in me. Maximum Ride made me want to write. I blazed through what in the series had already come out. Book 5, Max, released, I read that one over and over and over again.

At that time, James Patterson’s teen books had their own dedicated fansite at It operated similarly to Facebook, but it was mostly blog-based and involved widgets. Me and my best friend got accounts, and I started to interact with some of the stranger parts of fanboy cultures. Basically it was a bunch of angsty teens getting together in one forum. Not great.

I wrote a fanfiction. Before you close this webpage, it’s not the kind of fanfiction that involves fucking and depraved fetishes. I used the protagonists in Maximum Ride to do a series I called FALLOUT that appeared on my blogroll at max-dan-wiz. I got something of a following. I don’t remember the readership exactly, but it was definitely in the double digits.

I lost interest in FALLOUT after about 10 parts or so, because I had no plot and nothing compelling to challenge the protagonists other than even more evil people coming after them for whatever reason I could come up with in two minutes when I finally had to explain shit. So I started another story, this one called Avian American. The title’s a play on something Max said in one of Patterson’s novels, that she identifies as Avian American. I thought that was a really neat line.

But this project was with my characters, an original plot, a diagram drawn up about where I wanted the plot to go, and based in my hometown (of course). I spent days at a time writing this in my room, on a shitty laptop, alone, with music playing of course. One day in particular I wrote 76 pages. That statement becomes less impressive when I say that I used a font size of 14 and also maxed the project out at 136 pages or so. I faced the same problem of wanting to keep writing, but simply adding more to a finished plot than I really needed to. Overly complex, and nothing compelling me to keep going, I let it die and didn’t put it anywhere until I made this site just to have someplace for it.

I had my taste of having people enjoy what I do with FALLOUT, and Avian American really prepped me for knowing what the fuck I was supposed to be doing with a story. I got a girlfriend in high school whom I wrote poetry for, but that wasn’t really anything substantial. You can find that stuff under the Year Zero heading here, I think. It was mushy, stupid, angsty, cliche ridden crap. No offense to the receiver of those poems, but they’re pretty bad.

I didn’t write much until a year later, after that relationship ended. Being the first big break up, I was beside myself. I wrote notes to myself on a Kindle tablet over the summer of 2014 to remember what it felt like, because I knew it would pass eventually. It seemed like such an intense feeling then that I wanted to remember.

Then I got another girlfriend. After an incredible night of lots of cool stuff happening, I decided to seriously make an attempt and properly do a poem that means something to me and would be felt by other people. That poem is the definitive point where writing became serious to me. It was October 5th of 2014, 12:54 a.m, and I was writing Virgo Olympus. I was a senior in high school.

Is snowballed from there.

I was invited to be a member of my high school’s literary magazine/club in my senior year. Little did I know that such a thing existed, and that publishing was even an option. What the magazine did was collect student submissions and then format them into a publishable document. A couple of pages long and with all kinds of stuff. Drawings, photography, poetry, fiction, personal essays. Pretty cool stuff.

By that time, I had written maybe 20 poems, and had no previous intention of sharing them outside of giving my then-girlfriend copies of my love poems for her. Yet here I saw the process first from start to finish of how to publish on paper.

It was apparent to the others that I always was working on something, and it became a running joke in that club within a few months that we could publish an entire magazine of my work. On the surface, it was a joke, but beyond that I saw a glimmer of something that could possibly happen, and that with the right resources I could make it happen.

So began my separation from the club. I began putting all my poetry on my laptop, because at that point I had been saving them on my phone, with no way to recover them if something were lost. I got increasingly paranoid about losing my work at this junction. In high school, phone stealing is pretty decently common, so I became protective of my work.

I’ve always been decently tech-savvy enough to know my way around a PC, so formatting a literary magazine on OpenOffice (a wonderful, free word processor comparable to Microsoft Office) wouldn’t be very hard. Though there’s a bit of a learning curve knowing what to do with columns, fonts, and that kind of thing.

With the formatting out of the way in a number of hours, I came to another crossroads. I had to have a cover, and a name for it. Using my excellent (not really) Microsoft Paint skills, I combined some stock images together and edited them to make it an original digital artifact. I went with a crow wearing headphones talking into a microphone, as a sort of inspiration from Rooster Teeth’s logo.

Now I had to get a name down, and this didn’t take long. I took Radio from a Rob Zombie song, “Dead City Radio”, Reality from the Xilent song of the same name (as it was my favorite word and someone had done a piece of interesting calligraphy based on that, I could use for logo material), and City from my view of how cool cities are. Radio Reality City was born as my self-publishing intellectual property. I set the font half arial, half courier new, and then Reality was stylized as an interpretative word. Artsy, huh? (As a sidenote, I believe the name Radio Reality City was made to approximate a fictitious radio station called Radio Mirror Park.)

So began the running of 100 copies of a 12-page literary magazine, all vertically integrated by myself. My mother happened to have access to a printer at work, and she was able to print those for me at that time at no cost to myself. Otherwise, that would have been an extremely expensive venture.

I passed them out at school and got a real rush from seeing that magazine of mine in anyone’s hands. I still do every time I publish on paper. I knew I’d want to share my work at some point, but without that magazine I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now. First publishing date was on May 2nd of 2015.

At some point towards the end of my senior year, my english class teacher wanted everyone in the class to write poetry and slam it onstage in the school’s auditorium. I fell back onto a poem I had written inspired by the game Destiny. Here, I discovered that story poetry (or, storetry) isn’t the best thing to slam with vigor and passion to an audience. Even if it reads nicely, I saw that what I brought to the table wasn’t as good as some newcomers had approached it. In choosing what to say out loud, and not well prepared or rehearsed for it, I didn’t hit the mark I was looking for. To this day I have yet to find that mark on stage.

Well, high school isn’t forever unless you’re a real thick son of a bitch. But if you are, take that as a joke, alright? Only so much sounds good in prose.

I graduated, and was going into community college, but in the summer I didn’t have an audience. I knew that Seattle had a sparkling Slam Poetry scene that I couldn’t be a part of, because it would have been way too rich for my blood to drive up every night. I had few options. So I looked to the internet for some advice.

It didn’t take a lot of time to find out that making a website these days is not as difficult as it was 10 years ago for the average joe like myself. I did some light reading, and in late July of 2015 I started up a free WordPress website. In a matter of hours I put up something like 50 poems with little organization. I wasn’t looking for an audience yet, but I was again concerned with losing any of my work if something were to happen to my laptop. The website was for archival purposes first, and in that couple of months of having it I didn’t do much work to it. Just uploaded with not much intention of having it seen by anyone else.

I started to really take advantage of the tagging system and was writing so much that I could post daily and not dry up in terms of content. I looked to Youtube and analytics to find ways to expose my work to the outside world. When that happened I started to build up a very modest audience of about a few people a month subscribing to the site. Most things on the site get 5 to 10 likes, and you know, that’s enough for me. Of course I’d like to be renowned, but that doesn’t happen overnight. Or even over years.

I see my website as the trunk of a bunch of different arms of what I want to do. Everything is going digital, so it would be remiss of me to not maximize my presence on the internet. Everything I print also points to the website in some way. In that, I’ve found that writing poetry about people and giving it to them makes them more apt to want to see what else I do. I also do a teeny tiny bit of marketing on my personal Facebook and websites like Reddit where there are communities of poets who want to read and critique.

At college, I put out two more volumes of work to print and pass out. Very small, economical runs that I could use my school-allowed printing budget for. Quantity and quality came together with smaller brochures of a page a piece with enough marketing and content on it to warrant printing, as assets. Still, I was hungry. Also, in my creative writing class in fall of 2015, I began work on a roman a clef in the style of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, called Natural.

I submitted to my college’s literary magazine in fall of 2015, and got published in it in May of 2016. You can see my poem Virgo Olympus in Pierce College’s SLAM.

In September of 2016, I registered from Google and upgraded the utility of my WordPress account to allow for more flexibility, going from a free plan to what they call a “personal plan”. This cost me a grand total of $65 and change.

Fast forward to October of 2016. I revamped my site and made it ever more user-friendly. More categories began to form, and I wasn’t just publishing poetry. I was putting out photography, drawings, paintings, essays, short stories, and anything creative I had done. I used a WordPress tool that would automatically publish anything I put up on my own site to daughter pages on other websites like Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook to extend my site’s reach.

The passion I mentioned before came back for Natural. It went from a 12 page document to a 24 pager in a matter of weeks. Then I was making cover art using all kinds of websites and clever little digital trickery to get interesting effects. I was formatting it like I was going to release it, and then something else caught my eye.

I was originally going to release it for free, but decided that if I was going to make money off of anything, Natural was going to be it. Enter’s Kindle Direct Publishing program, where it costs you nothing to self-publish anything in a PDF document. I entered all the information for it, the cover art I had put together, and had it all in order. It’s like putting your music up on iTunes, it’s actually pretty easy for anyone to do it.

I published Natural on the Amazon e-book market on October 17th, 2016. With no marketing, I had made about 10 dollars from it, 4 months later.

Marketing online is an entirely different beast. Facebook and Amazon will take some money to promote whatever it is you want them to, and I opted for that once on Facebook back in December of 2016. I spent 7 dollars to see a return on page visits on my Radio Reality City page on Facebook, and got not much back, so I have abandoned that as viable. After doing some reading, I have found that there aren’t many authors who have gotten positive feedback from each of these platforms. I’m going to stick to operating on my site, for now.

Now I’m on the literary magazine board for Pierce College.

And today I have decided I would like to use a blogging website as an actual blog, too. Here’s the start of that! Hope you enjoy this along with everything else!


Published by Jake Thomas Shaw

Concerned with memory, currency, and destiny, I strive to capture each one as they happen. Join me and consume reality! Radio Reality. City!

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