Over the recent holidays, we’ve had some nice, long weekends at my day job. 4 days for Christmas, and 4 for New Year’s. We were back at work yesterday, sitting there and hoping to stay awake. (I couldn’t sleep Tuesday night for some reason. Not sure why, but it happens. Nothing to worry about, though.)

When we came back to work from Christmas, one of our truck drivers told us that a former employee lost his mother on Christmas. It was sad to hear and we felt back for him, but no one suspected any kind of foul play or something more sinister. Rumor was that her heart messed up somehow, which was still odd because she was only in her late 40’s.

So yesterday, someone asked if we heard about the death, and we all did. But he said that he found out more—it was a suicide.

Now, none of us know what the woman felt, thought, lived with, and had to deal with every day. Suicide and mental health are unique to each person suffering from them. I feel bad for the entire family, and they have my sympathies.

I keep thinking about that former employee, though. He was difficult to deal with. Too much of a smart mouth, and always wanted to get involved in everyone’s business. It wasn’t an inquisitive nature, it was him going out of his way to be annoying. To be honest, he reminded me a little of myself, but mostly other kids I knew back when I was 11 or 12.

A lot of the other warehouse guys picked on him and treated him like a chump. He pretty much proved that he was, in fact, a chump within his first couple of days on the job. The good-natured hazing and ribbing turned into regular bullying and harassment, but he did nothing to help himself. Like many people in that position, he became standoffish and wanted to stir up trouble of his own.

He would come in the office and mouth off, disregard basic instructions, and try to mess up everyone’s job—grabbing papers off the printer, picking up ringing phones, interrupting with customers. It doesn’t take a clinical therapist to know that these kinds of behaviors come from his anger and frustration, feeling like he needs to cause trouble even more, regardless of what happens. He gets the attention he feels he deserves.

Did I mention he’s 21 years old? Not 3, not 8, not 12. 21. An adult, of legal drinking, voting, and driving age.

I can’t say what people should or shouldn’t do, but he seems a little too old to be acting like that. He was annoying, so I wasn’t sad to see him leave for another job.

But after a tragedy like this, losing his mom in such a horrifying way, it makes me actually worry for him. I feel bad, and he and his entire family have my sympathies. I hope that everything goes well for him, and that they all get through this.

Not to be crass or unsympathetic in any way, shape or form, but I hope it causes him to grow up a little bit. I can’t assume what, if any, mental health issues he might have, but tragic events like this can often be an eye opening experience for people. It might help him grow up and get his act together, and become more of an adult.

It could also push him back even more.

I honestly worry that instead of coming out of this a stronger, better man, he’s just going to revert even more to the childish, troublesome imp he seemed to be in the office. I’m not saying any of this to ridicule or say how people should be or act or live. What I’m saying is, I hope he can work his way through this, and if he needs to get help to do so, may he find what he needs.

It took me forever to finally go to a therapist. I’m not cured of emotional outbursts and occasional depressive lulls, but I do know how to deal with them. Sometimes it takes a major life event or tragedy to get to where you need to be, and sometimes you just get there on your own.

Either way, I feel for him, and his family. And I hope everything is okay for all of you, too.

 

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Walk That Artsy Walk

December 3, 2018

Saturday night, my wife and I went to my old high school to see my nephew in a performance of Legally Blonde, Jr: The Musical! As someone who not only supports the arts, but his family as well, I was excited to see him in the musical. It was his first performance like that, and as a kid who hasn’t been big into choir or plays, he actually had a decent part with a short singing piece as well. That’s great, because I know a lot of kids in that situation who would just end up in chorus.

It sparked a lot of thoughts and feelings seeing him, though. Nothing negative against my nephew, please keep in mind. He actually did good! I’m not just saying that as his childless uncle, but as someone who was in choir and musicals himself. Also, compared to a lot of those other kids…yeah, he was awesome.

So anyway, I keep thinking about when I was his age (12), and how little confidence I had in myself. I never really thought about it at the time, but there were so many factors that led to it. My parents, of course, constantly putting me down, immediately laughing when I said I wanted to sing a solo, instilling fear into me when I mentioned getting in front of a crowd and making me belive that everyone was going to laugh at miniscule things. After all, they sure loved commenting on every minor thing whenever someone spoke in church or at a performance. So perfect, my parents were!

Yeah, right. No one is perfect, but when you’re attacked on all sides and can’t get out of your head that you’ll never be good enough, in addition to the fact that your choir directors and play directors have their little pets that they give all the good parts to, it makes you feel like theater and singing isn’t your strong point.

Hey, maybe I wasn’t a great singer. I mean, I never really did get good parts, and I had one solo my entire time in high school—at graduation, and that was because I happened to be in the right place at the right time. But it wasn’t just that, it was lack of encouragement.

That’s the other thing that’s been weighing heavily on me. I like acting in plays, but none of the directors, my parents, siblings, friends, NO ONE ever mentioned acting classes. No one mentioned auditioning for local playshops, or anything like that. They didn’t even advertise those local productions at our school!

How was I supposed to know about it? Because I wasn’t “in” with anyone.

My last few years of high school, I got big into playing bass guitar. I wanted to be in a band, but I also wanted to be a studio musician, I wanted to play on a cruise ship, I just wanted…something.

I asked my choir director, even the guy I was taking private lessons from, and neither gave me encouragement. Neither said anything about what I should learn, how I should set priorities for myself, none said to practice for at least an hour every day, even if it’s just scales…nothing.

Sure, I could have done this on my own. But if no one else cares, why should I? That was how I felt, directionless and hopeless.

So I got over it. I moved on. (Yes, I know I’m writing about it but I truly am over it. I’ll always hold onto those memories and do everything I can to move past it and be better than I once was, but they’re not going anywhere.) Should I have continued with playing bass? Taking voice lessons? Auditioning for plays despite knowing I’d never get a good part outside of chorus? If someone had just said, very calmly and not accusatorily, “If you start small, like in the chorus or with one or two lines, you’ll eventually build your way up to something bigger. Don’t expect the best parts right away, even if other kids get those. Some people have that natural thing about them, while others have to work for it. Put in your time, and it’ll be even more rewarding,” then maybe I would have continued. No one ever did that. Sure, I should have known, but without encouragement, why would I want to continue. Don’t miss the opportunity to encourage others who show some spark of an interest in something.

I always hear people say to support the arts, support your local scene, support this and that and everything else and all that happy horseshit. But you know what? I don’t see them actually doing it. Sure, it’s easy to go on Facebook or Twitter and talk a big game, but when it’s time to put your money where your mouth it, can you do it? Have you bought a small press publication? Did you go see your friend’s band? Sit through the entirety of your nephew’s terrible junior high musical?

Support your children, siblings, nieces and nephews, parents, cousins, friends, neighbors, anyone. If someone shows interest in something, encourage them to pursue it, don’t be an asshole like some peoples’ fathers and laugh at them or criticize them mercilessly to the point where they feel like garbage. Help them understand that practice makes perfect, and that some things are worth spending a little extra time on. If they seem clueless about how to proceed with something, give them advice, point them in the right direction, or just sit and listen to them express their interest. Every little bit helps, even if you don’t care. People didn’t listen to you? Well, two wrongs don’t make a right, so don’t stifle someone’s creativity just because you never had that chance.

If you’re not careful, that chance for someone else might end with you.

Proud to be proud?

May 19, 2018

An old friend of mine has recently self-published a book, magazine, supplement thing. It’s designed for a role-playing game, Dungeon Crawl Classics. You should check it out if you’re into rpg’s and weird stuff. It’s a pretty good looking pub.

Old fashioned role playing goodness!

I truly mean it when I hope he has better luck with self-publishing than I did—looks like he’s going into a second printing, so that’s good! I’ve posted stories for free, a novel which is going to be free very soon, and haven’t had many hits. I mean, selling a book for $1.99? Way too expensive! The short stories available for free? Not faring much better either.

Self-publishing is a very risky market these days. At one point in time, it would have been a potential for big money, and newfound popularity. There of course is the tale of the author who self-published on Amazon and sold 250,000 copies of her book. And who can forget Andy Weir with The Martian, a free download that found a publisher, made a fortune, and became one of the most popular movies of our time?

When all of it comes together, I see it as a matter of pride. My friend’s brother commented on Facebook that he’s proud of him for his accomplishment. Trust me, even self-publishing all the way to the end is an accomplishment. Especially when you’re the only one doing literally all of the work! I’m proud too, and he should be as well.

Pride is one of those tricky subjects, especially on the internet. I’ve seen people snap at straight people, white people, and basically anyone who has never had major issues in their life who claim to be proud by one of those things. It’s understandable—gays, for instance, have been held down and treated like shit for a long, long time, and unfortunately still are. Be proud of coming out, of not taking the shit that people feel the need to give you! Why should a straight person be proud? They’ve never dealt with it.

And so on and so forth.

But finishing a big project, going from start to finish, and even having a bit of success? That’s something to be proud of. When publishers, agents, and even the people who would buy something say no, over and over again, you held your head up and kept on with it. So what if you have to do it yourself? You did it, and no one can take that away from you.

There’s nothing wrong with being proud of that. And it’s good to be proud of someone else for doing that. Think how many people would have given up, or actually did give up? How many people get halfway through something and find something better to do? I know I’m guilty as hell of that!

And you know what else? It’s an awesome shot in the arm to know that someone is proud of you. It lets you know that you can keep going, and that there are indeed people who care, and want to see you succeed. It’s something I wish I’ve had.

My parents never told me they were proud. Any time I talked about writing, they laughed, put me down, or asked when I’m getting published so they could have money. Thanks a lot! No one in my family ever cared, and God forbid my friends ever let me know they gave a shit. All the people I gave a free copy of In the Pale Moonlight to never read it, or at least never let me know they did. I was hoping for some reviews, but I guess they forgot about that part.

It takes a lot away. I often write on this blog, and spend a lot more time thinking about it, but I wonder why I do this. If no one cares, the people I want to care and the people I need to care, why bother?

Because I love it. And I’m going to keep doing it, whether anyone cares or not. But, it’d be nice to have someone care. I guess I’ll just have to keep plowing through and see what happens.

I could sit here and moan and groan all day, but it’s beautiful out, and I’ve got a park to go to with a book in my hand.

(Totally unrelated side note, but the Royal Wedding was earlier today. I’m happy to see how awesome it was, and how happy it’s making people. Just one of those great things that makes me smile in spite of all the horrible shit going on in the world today. Slainte to you both!)

All Good Things…

April 25, 2018

I’ve been updating my Goodreads page like crazy lately. Not sure why, but I feel like reaching deep into my brain to remember every book I’ve ever read, just so I can catalogue it. I guess that’s what we do, make lists and go back and read them. Because why not?

Today, I wrote a few, including one for the novelization of All Good Things, which I’m sure you know, was the series finale for Star Trek: The Next Generation. I know this review won’t ring true with many people, and I’m sure most won’t even give a shit. I just really wanted to repost it here, because I enjoyed the story within.

So…enjoy!

As I write this, Easter was just three weeks ago. For some reason, this particular Easter, a particular memory of another particular Easter sprang to mind. I don’t know why, but I had a good laugh with my dear old mom about it.
So. It’s Saturday night, April 15th, 1995. Easter Eve. My parents and I went out for the evening, like we so often did. I was a freshman in high school, not wanting to be out with Mom and Dad, but I knew that not only would we go to dinner at a restaurant (probably Applebee’s or some other sports bar/family type place that had popped up all of a sudden in Toledo all over the place at the time), we would go shopping afterward. I always had a book or CD to buy (remember CD’s?!), so for a 14 year old kid who couldn’t drive and lived in a tiny suburb where the best I could hope for was the grocery store (long before the days of “grocery stores” having billions of items other than just food), I eagerly tagged along.
Anyway, we went to Target after eating, just perusing the aisles. Under the impression that my mom had already finished her Easter shopping (more than just candy, she love to get all sorts of crap for us and everyone else in the extended family), I figured we were just doing whatever we could.
In the book section, I found the novelization of the movie Stargate, and the novelization of All Good Things, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s series finale that had aired almost a year prior. I was big into licesened properties, namely Star Trek, but also into movie novelizations for some reason. I really don’t know why, but that was my jam at the time.
So I’m carrying these two books with me, and my parents find me. Mom asks what I’ve got, so I show her the books. She took them and put them in her cart, and I just didn’t think about it. By the time we left, she had paid for them.
I didn’t complain, because hey, free books. Not thinking, I didn’t ask for the books when we got home. Chances are, I had been in the middle of another book at the time, and didn’t feel the need to horde these on my already overstuffed bookcase.
The next morning, Easter Sunday, our parents woke us up to find our Easter baskets. You read that right–my at 14, my brother at 16, and my sister home from college at 19, were woken up early on a Sunday morning to find hidden Easter baskets. Adorable.
Oh yeah, the book itself.
I liked it. There was a lot more in the story than they could show on the television episode. I loved how characters that were somewhat prominent on the series but hadn’t been seen for a while appeared, some getting a send-off, others just kind of…there.
To be honest, All Good Things wasn’t the finale it could have been, and I attribute a lot of that to the fact that we knew Star Trek Generations was coming out six months after the episode. It wasn’t like the last time we’d ever see these characters, although it did have a good, heartwarming feeling to it.
That said, the book to me was a bit of a tease, even though I had already seen the show and the movie. I read it expecting a big, hearty GOODBYE, LOYAL FANS! from all the characters, especially those tertiary characters like Dr. Pulaski, Wesley Crusher, and several others, but instead, it ended just like the show, fully prepared to usher us into Generations, and the next couple of movies.
Regardless, I enjoyed this. Maybe it was the memory of how I came to own the book, or maybe it was the nice, warm spring of 1995, a perfect end to a terrible freshmen year of high school, or maybe even something else I can’t seem to recall at this moment.
TL;DR:
Good book. Great series. Happy Easter.

My Father

October 5, 2016

Typically, this blog has stuff related to and involving my writing. I try to keep my personal life to myself, but there are plenty of times that bleeds into my writing life. For once, I’m not bitching about my attempts to get published, or how frustrated I am with the system. It’s a blog that I never wanted to write, and something I never wanted to talk about, but I have to.

My father died on Monday morning.

It’s such a strange feeling. He was 73, and had been in failing health for several years. For so long, I’d always somehow expected that he might not pull through, his next trip to the hospital will be his last, and all of that negativity. I hate thinking like that, but I had to be realistic. I didn’t want to deny it when he did go, and I didn’t want to be shocked.

Still, I wish he was still here. If only we had one more year with him, one more Christmas, one more summer of bar-b-ques and sitting around the fire, one more year of watching baseball games and talking about work and jobs and people we know, places we’ve been, movies we loved, restaurants we couldn’t stand, going to the park, bird watching, looking at trains, going out for big family lunches and just sitting at the dinner table feeling relaxed and happy. I cherished those moments, and I’ll never forget them.

He instilled a work ethic in me that I’ve struggled to maintain my entire life. Work hard, earn what I deserve, and provide for myself and others. He was gracious enough to provide me a home for as long as I needed one, and even made sure I knew that any time I needed, I was welcome to come back. He gave me advice for every aspect of my life, no matter how simple or ridiculous. Always one to help, he knew when to be sympathetic to problems, and realistic with solutions.

I feel like many of my best attributes are because of him. But then, there is much negativity as well. Many of my most cynical behaviors come from him, someone who could see the flaws in everything, someone who knew what was smart and what would work, and never had a problem pointing those things (or lack thereof) out to anyone who listened.

Never one to support my desire to be a writer, he had no issue putting it down. He did, however, recognize that it was something I loved, something that made me happy, and something that kept me going. When I graduated college, he shook my hand and told me he was happy for me, something he never had the chance to do with my brother or sister (until recently).

There’s so much more to say. So much that I could write about for a long, long time. As of now, I can say that I know I’ll miss him, and it’s just now sinking in that he isn’t coming home. Instead of worrying about the lack of a person in our lives, I’ll remember all the times he was there, and cherish every minute of it.

I’ll miss you, Dad, but thanks a lot for everything.

Moving On

April 4, 2016

Well!

It’s been a strange trip. Things have been moving faster than the speed of light for me, and I feel like I can finally just sit and let it all catch up.

Naturally, for a writer, this means that writing hasn’t played much of a role in my life, but there’s a very good reason for it, and I plan on getting to it.

Way back in August, I landed a new job. It was nice to be away from my witchy boss (seriously, that woman made me not want to go into work ever) and unfair sales quotas, but I loved the people I worked with, not to mention the fact that I had plenty of time to write while at work and at home. Still, I needed out of there, and got myself into a new place.

It was okay. Not even close to what I preferred, but I was around a much nicer boss, no sales quotas, and still had time to write…sometimes. If someone saw me sitting at the table writing something, they’d basically tattle on me, and my supervisor would chide me for it. It was nice having writing time, but in the long run, not the best.

Due to many reasons, I had to get out of there as well. I hate to say it, but money was a major factor. I applied for all sorts of jobs, and even went through a staffing agency. Interviews came and went, but nothing positive happened.

In January, like I’ve mentioned, I started sending out queries for my latest novel. I submitted stories like crazy. Some even got accepted! But still, offers for the novel, and the jobs, weren’t happening at all. Two big things like that can really bring on the depression, and lack of desire to carry on with it.

Fortunately, I did get a new job. It pays well, and has awesome hours! I started Tuesday, and I like it so far. Two days before, however, things weren’t so great.

My father-in-law died on Easter Sunday. I can’t say we were shocked, as his health had been declining in the past few years. He didn’t take care of himself, and the amount of salt he ate was atrocious. Still, it wasn’t something we were expecting, and it made for a stressful, difficult week.

The funeral was Saturday. After all was said and done, all the emotions I’d been staving off for the week came crashing down. It hasn’t been easy for me, and I’m getting through it. Still, there was some positivity to think about.

He supported me with my writing. Any time a story got accepted, my wife would tell him with much happiness about my good fortune. I usually waved it off, but he always seemed so excited for me. He loved Tarzan and Conan, Prince Valiant and Sgt. Rock, so fun adventure stories and fantasy tales of blood and gore were right up his alley. I always knew he cared, but never really thought much of it until Amy mentioned something the other day.

It really felt good to know that he cared so much. My own parents never supported my endeavors, and it felt like a lot of friends didn’t care either. To know that my father-in-law, a man who seemingly had nothing positive to say about anyone at any time was a fan of mine made me smile.

It also made me want to get back in it.

Sunday, I sat down and sent out more queries for my novel. I skimmed over two stories I’m about to send out. I made a list of stories to edit, and even looked at the outline for the remaining chapters in the novel I’m currently working on.

I’ve learned a lesson with all of this. First, never let life interfere with writing. I know that I can’t do it all the time, but just because my job might not be going so well doesn’t mean I can’t put words on paper. Second, just because people might not be showering me with love and affection doesn’t mean I don’t have it. I’ve never been the type of person who needs constant reassurance, but sometimes, it’s nice to know.

Today, I put a picture of me and my father-in-law here on my desk. Any time I need that reassurance, I just need to look at it. He might be gone, but his silent enthusiasm for my work will never go away, and that’s all I need.