The Three Hundred and Twenty-Ninth Post: The One Where I Bare My Soul…

Card 2: Describe a time you felt lonely

I am going to include a trigger warning with this posting: there will be frank talk about depression and thoughts of suicide. If you feel that reading this will lead you down a dark path: DO NOT READ THIS. Close the window and come back next Wednesday. I promise to have something different. Also – if you are having issues with depression or suicide: GET HELP. GET HELP. GET HELP. Call 1-800-273-8255 or go here for suicide prevention services. Talk to someone. Get the help you need.

My time in college was a lot of firsts for me. It was the first time I was really far from home. I had a rather…tied down sort of life before I left for college. I was out of the house with no one to stand over me demanding attention. The freedom was giddy. As a theatre arts major, I didn’t have anything too hard for my first year. If I knew then what I knew now, I would have made a lot of changes.

At this point, I was feeling like I had finally come into my own. I knew what I wanted to do, I had friends and I was back engaging in one of my favorite hobbies without having to look over my shoulder out of fear. I was engaged with my work (even if it felt a little simple for me) and living on my own recognizance. If I wanted to stay up to 3 A.M., I could – by the way, I was a bit of a night owl (still am). This was it. It could not get any better for me.

Then I fell in love. It got much better. This was my first…adult love. I wanted to marry her. I was completely comfortable with her. We shared all the same interests – books, movies and TV. This was one of those “loves that define the age” sort of things.
Yeah…that lasted about two years.

Did I take it hard? Yes. Oh, yes. It was my first real love. It was hot. It was passionate. It was nothing I had ever felt before. It came crashing down over a summer. I scraped and scrambled to get the funds to come back for the penultimate year. Everything at that point starting drifting in black and white. What I didn’t know then that I know now is that I was entering a depression that I wouldn’t completely get out of for several years. It continues to affect me to this day.

When I got back, I thought that the friends I had made would have my back, as it were. That year of college taught me a lot. It taught me that in the end, you are the only person you can rely on. My friends – the ones that I thought could count on to at least tell me to buck up and that you’ll get better – ditched me just as quickly. She stole everything from me. Friends, joy and love – all gone.

The people that stepped up to try to fill the void – the other guys in my hall – did so, but did it in a ‘well, we have to’ sort of way. I might as well have had everything packed away and get sent to reside in the stables off campus. I got some booze out of what would be my final year on campus (the only love affair that continues on from college), but for the most part, it was just me on campus, muddling by and looking to end up being a fifth-year senior.

My family…well…that was a deeper betrayal. All my life, I had been told that I could always depend on family. I could always hang my hat in the chaos and feel that I was safe from the outside world. Surely – they would trip over themselves to defend me.
I am going to admit that I never wrote about this to anyone at home. I also understand that since the family didn’t know what was happening, they weren’t able to help. I get that. None of them are mind-readers. I get it.

However, when trying to reconnect with my family and speaking to my mom about what’s been going on. We drifted to what was going on with college. What she told me in the course of that conversation proved to me that one can only trust themselves.

“The dean called me and said to come get you. I told him that you were going to stay there.”

I was having a mental and emotional breakdown. I spent my last two dollars to buy razor blades to slash my wrists. I was sleeping away entire weekends. When I was awake, I was overeating and drinking to excess trying to feel happy again. I was joking with people to maintain the façade, but inside I was the walking dead.

For my final year of college, no matter how many people I surrounded myself with, I was completely alone.

There is a happy ending to this, believe it or not. I got out, got away from that toxic environment. I lost weight – diet and exercise, yada, yada, yada…. I’m not back to my high school weight, but I am far, far from 300+ pounds. I’m reading Marcus Aurelius (something I could have used earlier) and pursuing writing which is something I should have done from the get-go. I have gotten far more comfortable with the notion of being alone to the point where I prefer that state. I’m not whole and healthy, but I am doing better.

Well, thanks for coming by. Sorry that this was a bit of a downer. Hopefully, the next card will be a bit cheerier. I can write comedy – my book The Dreaded Day Job is still on sale through Amazon, along with my other stuff. Tell you what – regardless of the gravity of the next card, I’m going to find the comedy. It’s there, I just have to uncover it.

The Three Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Blog: The One Where I Try Something New and Non-disastrous!

Here’s the deal: I just got these Hemingway Cards, which is simply 100 cards with creative prompts for bloggers, writers and other creative types. I am going to take up the challenge of one card a day for the next 100 weeks. No skipping. No “this is a little too sensitive for me”. A ‘fearless inventory’, as it were. This is something to try to get me into the habit of writing a little something every day. Five hundred words a day for one hundred days. I’m not going to just work with the cards. I will interrupt this stream to either write about a movie (I haven’t forgotten about Black Panther. Still trying to get my thoughts together about it, but it’s a good posting and I can’t wait to show it to you all) or a book idea. 

So – without further ado. The first of one hundred cards: 

 

What Qualities Do You Admire In Yourself? 

facepalm pic

Well, this is going to be a good one. I’m actually uncomfortable about talking about just myself, but this was to be a fearless inventory. 

What do I like about myself? Give me a topic, a sentence or a picture and I will spin it into a story in about 20 minutes. The writer Harlan Ellison would do this on a radio program. Someone would call in and give him an opening line. The radio station would go to commercial, he’d come back with a finished short story. Right out of his head. For me to write a short story, I have to sweat blood, make a deal with the Devil on the Crossroads just to get it under 5,000 words. I like writing short stories, and I have some good ones. The format I enjoy is the novel. The slow build, the gathering of the threads and the reveal. 

My mind is always focused on storytelling. I watch a movie and see the beats, see where the acts begin and end, see the tropes and try to see how they get subverted (if it happens). I read a novel and examine the archetypes of the characters, see what’s been tweaked. I can’t stop it. Even on some of the New Media stuff – Critical Role and other things, I examine it and pick it apart. 

Is there a downside to this? Oh, yeah – there is a reason why TV Tropes opens with the sentence: TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life. Once you see them, you can’t unsee them. Once you know them, you’ll see them everywhere and now you know how the story ends. On the upside, now that you know how the blocks are put together, you can change things. Take the castle and turn it into a car wash. The princess saves the dragon. Work it. 

I just have ideas constantly. Not all of them are good. Heck, almost all of them are garbage, but much like my house I can’t bear to throw things away. One day, everything is going to be in a book. They’re all my children. My wonderful, hyper-ADHD and sometimes armed children. I’ve got many notebooks filled with one sentence notions and bits of dialogue that pop in my head day in and day out. 

Note to anyone getting into any writing: fiction, journalism or anything else – carry a notebook with you at all times. Even it it’s a flip up fifty-page grocery list maker. Carry it. Don’t rely on your memory. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down in front of a computer with a great idea only to have it flit away when I put fingers to keys. Worse thing ever to experience is that moment of emptiness. Please don’t suffer as I have. 

Are there any other qualities that I like? Any physical qualities? Umm…no…not really. I’m shlubby and trying to get better about that. I go to the gym (occasionally) and I try to eat a bit healthier (Domino’s counts, right? No? OK). Like the line goes: My body is a temple. Not a good temple – one of those temples over-run by monkeys. 

Well, thanks for stopping by – ignore the monkeys in the rafters, it’s their union break. 

 

 

The Three Hundred Thirteenth Post: The One Where I Remind Publishers About the Loneliest Number

 

I was trying to find a book for a friend of mine for Christmas. She’s into fantasy, so I thought this would be an easy matter of grabbing something from an online bookstore. I typed in a couple of keywords to narrow down the search. I privately clapped myself on the back for getting the gift-giving ball started relatively early (December 11th for those of you playing at home).

How foolish I was.

As I went down the list, almost every single book was part of a trilogy, quadrilogy or series of six or more books. I didn’t want to give my friend another series to keep up with. I hate to sound like that guy trying to get those dang kids off my lawn with their rock and roll music, but I miss single books. I want everything wrapped up in a single volume. I want to set a book  down when I am done and move on to something new. I don’t want to put a book down and must wonder when the next one will be out (Martin, I’m looking at you).

I understand why: having a series keeps readers coming back. I don’t really begrudge the publishers for this trick. With profit margins shrinking, they will do whatever they have to do to get sales.  Nothing wrong with that.

Kinda.

I would like to see some single fantasy novels, like I said earlier. Especially in fantasy or science-fiction where the field is wide open for such a thing. I wonder if this happens in any other genre? Is there an expectation for series in romance? Do agents ask their clients if they have a series for Harlequin Romance? I can’t think of many romance series…then again, I don’t read romance. I don’t think horror has such a problem with this. I can’t recall any series of the top of my head. Personally, I don’t count The Dark Tower series as horror. That’s Stephen King’s addition to epic fantasy.

Speaking of horror…I saw Bird Box. I don’t understand what makes it terrifying to people. I can understand the attempt at some Lovecraftian horror, and they gave it a running shot. Unfortunately, the peril didn’t seem to be…rising to the level the movie’s desire. It is adapted from a novel. I think I’ll get it later and read it. Maybe the novel is better. Books tend to be. Yes, I am biased. I might also re-watch the movie. I just never felt frightened. It wasn’t like The Thing, where we knew there was something out there…and it might look like us. It wasn’t like The Ring where technology made to serve us instead serves a deathless evil…and demands a sacrifice. They just showed up, threw everything in a tizzy because – reasons.

Well, I am going to sign off.  With any luck I will have some help in maintaining a regular schedule of posting – Saturdays will be when I scribble something (except for this one) for posting. I’ll put up something. Might not be storytelling or reviews, but hopefully it will be something.

Thanks for reading. Hope you have a good day.

The Three Hundred and Twenty-Seventh Blog: The One Where I Gush Over Fan Art!

Hello, everyone! Now, you may be seeing this update and thinking: “Oh, no! It’s the Heat Death of The Universe! I just pre-ordered my ‘Guardians of the Galaxy, vol: 2’ tickets and there are no refunds!” Relax…you can still see the movie. I’m here just to post a couple of things. One of them is an update of sorts, and the other is (admittedly) a little bit of pride on my part.

First: I am now half-way through one of my fantasy projects: Unbound. This is the official title, since this is the title I’ve been referring to when I talk about the project for the past three months. Ask others how fickle I am with naming anything: book titles, characters…anything. I’ve changed a character name three times and I haven’t even started the outline. Am I neurotic? Yes. That is besides the point.

Better thing ahead — first piece of fan art from Bindi!

She’s got an Etsy page, and I encourage everyone one to go take a look and get something. She’s an outstanding artist who deserves a little love.

As I said earlier, I’m plunging ahead through the half-way point on one project and I’m maybe a third of the way through on another fantasy book that takes place in the same world (considering a minor crossover incident in both books just for trivia’s sakedid I mention that?).  The one thing that’s been holding me back a little bit is that I’ve had to completely re-tool the world (believe it or not, it’s the same world that Rhona is from just a few hundred years in the future), and that changed a lot of the other characters in the book.

I can’t help it. I always tinker with things. Sometimes, it’s for the best. I think the changes I’ve made will make for a far more engaging story (y’know…when I finish it). The other story is almost set, I just have to link a couple more set pieces and maybe get a little better on description (have I mentioned the elevator pitch? ‘The Wizard of Oz fights Legion for the spirit of a Steampunk L’Amour setting). It’s a rough draft, but I try to hammer out such things early on.

In professional developmental news, I am heading to a writer’s conference in Bowling Green. I’m not going to be selling anything there (not until I finish another novel), but I am hoping to make some connections, learn a few things and get out of my little bubble for a few hours. Being an anxious person, this is one of those: “love it/whimpering in the corner” sort of affairs. I can put on my best face and go forward. I did take some theatre in high school…but I always played old men, though. Meh.

Well, I think I’ve said all the things I need to say here. Please check out Bindi’s page, and the links to the right of books being sold by dear friends, as well as my own. Thank you for your time, and I hope to hear from everyone soon, and maybe even write a follow-up post before I die.

Sincerely,

Seething Apathy

The Three Hundred Twenty-Sixth Blog: The One Where I Contemplate Growing a Pencil Mustache to Twirl…

Hello, everyone!  I just got finished watching X-Men: Apocalypse. I’m not going to review it, because by now you’ve seen it and have made your own decisions about how good it is or not, whether you’re going to buy it on Blu-Ray or DVD and whether or not the guy playing Apocalypse looks familiar or not (my decisions: good enough for the X-Men franchise, but not good enough to knock Deadpool off the #1 slot, Blu-Ray for the extras, and the guy who played Apocalypse is the same one that played Poe Dameron on “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”).

As I was watching it, I found myself nodding along with Apocalypse and he desire to remake the world. Sure — the whole Darwinian thing was a bit of a put off (those of you who was seen me in real life know where I fall in the whole ‘fit / not fit’ thing),  but if we look at how he approaches it…he’s fair. In the movie, he never separates the world into “mutant” or “non-mutant”. He simply goes for “weak” or “strong”. If you can do the job that he sets out for you — in this case, it’s trying to not get crushed by tons and tons of flying debris — you get the privilege to go to sleep in a cozy pile of rubble and do the same thing tomorrow.

"Everything they built will fall and from the ashes of their world we will build a better one!"

En Sabah Nur 2016!

Am I losing my mind? Some are going to argue that you can’t lose something you’ve never had. They’re right, but let’s also take another look at what makes En Sabah Nur a lot better than the comic book Apocalypse: he cares.

That’s been the whole crux of the Mutant Struggle in the movies. What we don’t understand, and what we as a society can not control is what we fear. Mutants fill that role completely. What are you going to do with a six-year-old who can bench press a car? I mean, other than make sure she gets that pony she wants. You thing your teenage years were awkward? How about the teenager who knows how awkward it is for you because you can’t stop thinking about it and he can’t stop picking up those thoughts? Erik and Charles are (and the writers of the comics have confirmed this) the Mutant version of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr respectively. Their goals are the same: a place where mutants can exist without fear of persecution. Professor Xavier looks to co-existence and the school. Erik realizes the mutants of the world have no one to rely on but themselves and they must be ready to defend themselves “by any means necessary”.

En Sabah Nur takes it to the extreme for either side. While he could have been a raving megalomaniac (like his earlier comic appearances), and we would have accepted that and moved on to the next scene; we see him taking on a paternalistic approach to The Horsemen he gathers. He doesn’t promise them riches, or suits that cover more than 45% of the body. He simply says:

 You are all my children, and you're lost because you follow blind leaders.

How many of us (in this political season, especially) can identify with that statement? The more I watched the movie, the more I listened to how En Sabah Nur talked to his followers, the more I realized that he was perhaps the best person to lead anyone and everyone. He didn’t trade money for votes, he didn’t set up straw men to knock down. What you saw was what you got. How many mutants in that world would have heard that and said: “Hell, yeah!”

And what pulled me back from painting myself blue and heading to Cairo? Other than that I have work Tuesday and my skin is a sensitive sort when it comes to grease paint? This:

[reciting Apocalypse's message to the world]
Charles Xavier: This message is for one reason alone: to tell the strongest     among you...
Apocalypse: Those with the greatest power, this earth will be yours!
Charles Xavier: Those with the greatest power...protect those without. That's  
my message to the world.

There you go. In the end, for all of En Sabah Nur’s posturing about making someone the best, about enhancing their powers — if you fail, you’re nothing. There is no forgiveness, no salvation, no ‘you’ll get them next time, slugger’. You’re tossed overboard and the next one stands up. Even Erik at his worse in this point doesn’t advocate dominance of one over the other — he just wants the world to know that you can push so far before you get pushed into a car. Xavier’s goal of co-existence is reachable, and his dedication to it is utterly saint-like. Don’t forget — Erik was willing to lay low and work with people, even giving himself up to save a friend. Things didn’t go to Hell in the proverbial handbasket until Erik had nothing to lose. Which is when En Sabah Nur came in and seduced Erik to his side. Erik’s sin throughout this whole series isn’t anger…it’s despair.

Ultimately, this particular X-Men film is timely for the upheavals we are facing today. When we are approached with someone who says they have the key to your happiness, who can come in and solve all of your ills — read the fine print. The Devil is not only in the details. He’s the one holding the contract.

The Three Hundred Twenty-Fifth Post: The One Where I Am Doing This Earlier Than Usual…

Hello, everyone! I was able to get up early (and out of the bed, no doubt) this morning and get some work done on the novel. Since I finished at home, I figured — why not?  Go on ahead and blog a little ahead of time, so that you’re not feverishly trying to hammer something at eleven forty-five. Better to feverishly hammer it out at six-thirty because…tradition!

Ben is turning into a sleaze by the page and I am loving it. I needed for Kevin to have some sort of antagonist — other than his own toxic levels of self-doubt — to throw up some roadblocks. This is also kind of a rehearsal for me when I write about Lucifer / Morningstar if I ever get to The Pentateuch of Abel. I want Lucifer to be the Byronic anti-hero villain of this word. I want us to feel like perhaps he’s misunderstood, maybe Paradise Lost got it right…and pull the rug out from under you. Sadly, this particular project is going to be waaaaaaaaaaaay down the road, just because it’s so big and ambitious. Seriously. The first book I’m look at writing is going to be at least 200K. I’m shooting for a Lord of the Rings scale sort of novel. More on that as it unfolds.

Summer is officially here…and now the temperature fits the season. Don’t worry, it’s going to get hotter and more humid here, even though we have a river just a hop, skip and a jump away. To be honest, I’m not a fan of summer but it does give me an excuse to eat ice cream when I want (to be even more honest, I eat ice cream in the winter, too). So, as a public service announcement: Please keep in mind that animals might need our help. Put out some dishes of water, crack a window if you must have them alone in the car.

dog-in-car-sign-picture-475x480

Tomorrow, I might be getting a new “office” as I have a job to fend off those pesky little things like foreclosure, repossession and starvation. I plan on putting in my eight hours, then going to a local Starbucks (this job is near my old neighborhood, so I know where one is on the way home), get in my 2,000 words, come home and have dinner then go to bed. I am still committed to getting the first draft of Lard of Love done by the end of July. I might be cutting it very close, but I will get it done and toned up a bit for the editor.

Before I call it an evening so I can rekindle the romance with “Harvey Birdman: Attorney-at-Law”, I want to call your attention to an online friend of mine. He’s looking to get wedded to his girlfriend who is from Canada. In the process of getting everything together out government is sticking them with a $1,000 fee. A fee whose amount was not anticipated by either one. So, they have started a GoFundMe page to get this taken care of. You don’t have to throw gobs of money at them. Just one or two bucks and word-of-mouth will help out a great deal. It ends on th 19th of July, whatever you can do will help out.

Thanks for reading this, check out the GoFundMe page and I hope to see y’all again.

Sincerely,

Seething Apathy