It occurred to me recently that I am only a couple of years away from my twenty year high school reunion.  I didn’t go to my ten year reunion.  Not because I couldn’t, but because I wasn’t where I wanted to be.  For that matter, I wasn’t who I wanted to be.

I remember, my senior year, looking around one day and realizing that about a half a dozen girls in my class were pregnant.  At the time, I’ll admit, I kind of judged them for it.  I didn’t say anything to them about it, it wasn’t my business, and as a rule I don’t poke my nose in where I’m not invited.  But when I thought about it, there was judgement.

Now I can’t help but wonder if they chose a better path than me.  It’s been nearly twenty years since high school ended and I am still… adrift.  Boys and girls I went to classes with now have children who are about to graduate.  Some are probably grandparents already.  I’ve had a handful of relationships in my life, and none were particularly serious.  I’ve never been a father… never been close to being a father.  My chosen career, that of a writer, has not led me where I expected to go.  Or rather, it hasn’t led me there yet.  The truth is, I still have no idea where it’s going.  Perhaps I’m circling the drain, on my way to washing up, unaccomplished, unremarkable.  Or maybe greatness is just over the next horizon.

Twenty years will have been more than long enough for many of my cohort to establish their place in the world, I’m sure.  Or at least accomplish something.

Perhaps uncertainty is the only certainty.  Perhaps, right now, a hundred miles away, the guy who sat behind me in Spanish II is thinking to himself, ‘that reunion is so close, and all I’ve done with my life is have these three kids and open my own garage.  I wonder what would have happened if I’d followed that pipe dream…’

It’s funny, looking backwards is sometimes the only way to see the present clearly.  When we see the choices we didn’t make, and consider all of the people that we might have become, it gives us some clarity about who we are.

Odd, though, that clarity seems to come in the form of unanswerable questions.

The road not taken.  The person I might have been.


Rate me! Judge me! AHHHHH!

So… my book has been out for a couple of days now.  Not too terribly long, but a little while.  Three days, basically.  It’s available for kindle on Amazon, and hopefully will be available in print before too terribly long, fingers crossed.  And it’s up on goodreads now, which is nice.  Unfortunately the only rating it has, which is on goodreads, is the one I gave it.  I keep on reminding myself, it takes most people a couple of days to get through a book.  Maybe even a week.

But the knot in my stomach refuses to listen to reason.  He’s curled himself into a ball so tight that I’m surprised any food is making it to my lower intestines.

It’s hard, twiddling your thumbs while you wait for strangers to judge you.  You know that it’s coming, and you fear it, but you need it, too.

Because if they judge me that means that they see me, and the only thing worse than being judged is being invisible.

I remember that feeling from high school.

Strange, isn’t it?  How high school scars us all.  It’s been a decade and a half since I went to high school, and I still have nightmares that take place in it.

I keep on expecting the day to come that I shift from childhood dreams to ‘adult’ dreams, whatever that means.  But I found out recently that my father, who’s in his sixties now, still has those same nightmares.  late to a class you haven’t been going to all year.  Test coming up.  All that jazz.

The Reviews Conundrum

I have long held that writers should not read reviews of their books.  What it comes down to is that reviews are not written for the author.  A review is simply a conversation between one person who has read a book, and someone else who is thinking about reading it.  As such, a review is not meant to contain information that is useful to the writer.  Where a good critique, which is intended for the writer, will note both positive and negative elements within a book, a review is essentially an argument for or against reading the work, and will mostly contain information designed to support the initial argument.

A critique, generally, will be specific in its points, identifying, not simply where the story fails to work, but why it fails to work, and what can be done to make it work.  A review doesn’t have these elements because there’s no reason for it to do so.  When an author reads a critique they will hopefully emerge on the other side with an idea of how to better themselves.  When an author reads a review, they will emerge on the other side either thinking more highly of themselves, or pissed off at the person who wrote it.

It is a no-win situation.

But authors, especially new authors and authors who have not achieved the level of success that they want, will inevitably read their reviews.  Because reviews are one of the best indicators of a books future success.  Did you just get twenty praise-filled reviews in a row?  Well, chances are those people are telling their friends.  Did you get a dozen one star reviews?  Good luck getting someone who stumbles across your amazon page to randomly purchase that.

So our eyes are locked on it.  We are fully invested in that next review.  that next comment.  that next X-star….

Every once in a while, one of my writer friends will post a story about a writer who replies to a bad review.  Inevitably, things go poorly.  No matter how bad a review is, how much we think that they just didn’t understand, writers have to learn to keep their thoughts to themselves.  The truth is, we’re listening in on somebody else’s conversation.  They aren’t talking to us, so bursting in and screaming at them is unacceptable.  After all, if they bought a copy of the book, then they’re entitled to share their opinion of it.

Sorry, just had all of this running through my mind while I wait for Awfully Appetizing to get its first review.  I have to remind myself that I may not like what they have to say.

Then again, maybe I will.

Either way, the truth is, I shouldn’t read it.

But I will anyway.

It’s (a)live!!!

My book is out!

Well, sort of.  My book is available in e-format.  Very exciting!  And terrifying.

Now all I can do is sit and twiddle my thumbs and pray that somebody reads it.  And likes it.  And tells their million friends that it’s awesome so they’ll all buy copies too.

Of course, most of my friends are old school, they want the book in paper, and I’m not sure how long it will be before it’s available.  Eh, whatcha gonna do?

I’ll tell you what I’m going to do:  I’m going to sit in a chair twitching and trying not to think about my book, sitting out there, unnoticed…. Oh god, what if nobody reads it?  what if nobody likes it?

I need a valium.


So I’m sure that there’s already a name for it.  I have no doubt that somewhere in some medical journal there is already an established and accepted term for a person who becomes convinced that they have every single psychological condition that they find out exists.

But somehow I think the process of going through the medical journal in question to find the appropriate name would do me more harm than good.

I’ve gotten better over the years.  Now, after my initial gut reaction that, yes obviously I must have multi-personality disassociative anti-tourettes misassociation disorder, I do take a moment, calm myself down, and take a few seconds to consider whether I’ve really experienced those symptoms, or if I’m just searching my memory for one or two moments that have some vague similarity to what I’ve just been hearing about.

I’m not entirely certain why I am immediately inclined to think that anything that could be wrong with my brain, is wrong with it.  I have a few vague theories, but they’re mostly just wild guesses.  Sometimes I think it’s because i want to believe that I’m more interesting than I really am.  Other times I’m convinced that the problem is that our list of mental illnesses is just a very human attempt to fit people who aren’t normal into boxes, and that many of the things that we call mental illnesses are just mild exaggerations of traits found in all of us.

Mostly, though, I think it’s my attempt to take parts of my personality that I don’t love, lop them off, and label them as something foreign to me.  Why am I obsessing?  Is it something that I need to work on?  No, it’s my disease, what I really need is a pill to take the problem away.

Ah, the madness, it is an all consuming thing.

An introduction

I guess I have to start somewhere with this, and the place that makes the most sense, I think is with me.

Please allow me to introduce myself.  I’m a man without wealth or taste.  I hope some day to have wealth, but as for taste, I could do without it, I think.

The most important thing that I can tell you about myself is that I am mentally ill.  Specifically, I’ve got depression and anxiety.  I strongly suspect that there’s more to it than just that, but those are the ones I’ve been diagnosed with.  Well, sort of.  Diagnoses related to mental problems are a bit different than diagnoses related to physical problems.  Basically I just told a shrink that I spend a lot of time depressed for no discernible reason, but I don’t have any periods where I partake in excessive risks or think I’m immortal and she goes ‘yeah, that’s depression.’  I don’t know exactly what I expected, to have to pee on a stick or get some blood drawn or something.  Honestly, I think it’s the word ‘diagnosed’ that through me off.  I spent years thinking ‘hey, I’m anxious a lot.  maybe I have an anxiety disorder?  But I shouldn’t say that for sure until I’ve talked to a doctor.’  Then when I do they just go, ‘oh, yeah, anxiety for no reason?  Okay, I can give you something for that.’

Sorry, that’s a bit of a tangent.  Just something that always felt weird to me.

Anyhow, I’m currently medicated for the depression, and sort of medicated for the anxiety, which has helped me more than I can express.  I mean, it has literally been years since I’ve laid in bed, crying, praying that I’d die before I woke up.  That sucked.

The funny thing, looking back, was the little voice in the back of my head doubting everything for me.  I remember, very specifically, thinking ‘this is it, it can’t get worse than this, I have to see a shrink and get something to help me deal with this.’  And then this little voice in my head goes, ‘but what if there’s nothing wrong with you.  What if this is how everybody feels, and you’re just such a giant pussy that you can’t deal with it like everyone else does.’

I don’t know if there’s a name for that little voice, but there should be.  And he should get his ass kicked.

Well, that was another tangent.  Let’s see, what was it I wanted to talk about?  Oh, right.  So, one of the interesting patterns I’ve seen is that a lot of people with mental illnesses end up working in the arts in one form or another.  A lot of painters, a lot of authors, a lot of sculptors, when you look into them, they were pretty screwed up.  They would maim themselves, kill themselves, go bat-crap crazy.  I’ve felt for a long time that the reason for this is because those of us with mental illnesses find the standard means of communication to be insufficient to encompass what we feel.  People use words like happy and sad, frustrating and invigorating, and we know what those words mean, so when we feel something that seems to press beyond the stifling borders which normal speech allows, we feel that we need to find some way of expressing it.  I remember somebody asking me once what I thought the job of a writer was, and I said, after much consideration, that I thought our job was to help readers experience the full range of human emotion.  Because so many of us don’t experience it.

Perhaps we need to create bizarre scenarios to allow those feelings out, but in the end, I believe that what all of us are trying to do is connect with others, to communicate those things that standard words and pictures don’t seem to quite accomplish.  So we have to reexamine language.  Sometimes that means making up new words, sometimes it means building an entire universe.

That’s what’s on my mind at the moment.  Hope somebody got something out of this.

Incremental Progress

So, my website is now, technically up.  If you’re reading this the same day as I post it, don’t bother actually visiting the site just yet.  What is there is essentially a placeholder.  The real content, such as it is, will be up in a couple of days.

My friend, who knows a billion times more than I do about computers, is frustrated with me for using godaddy to host my site.  To be fair, I know about as much about website hosting as I do about heart surgery.  I’m sure there are options and I’m sure that some of the options are better than others, but the only way I’m going to find the right answer is if I trip over it.

Anyhow, he had to do some finagling to get just that much up.  And believe me, I appreciate it, because if my history with websites is any indicator, what I would put up would likely cause seizures, and possibly result in a third world war, somehow.

But the situation with my website is a lot like my situation with my manuscript in so much as it is vitally important to me, and yet I have no real power over it.  I am sitting here, practically shivering with anxiety and anticipation, and there is nothing that I can do to make things go faster or slower, better or worse.  I’m just waiting for the next thing that will have a massive effect on my life to happen of its own accord.

Well, that’s life for you, I guess.

Absurdly fast!

Things are happening now faster than I ever would have expected!  Usually when someone I know gets a writing contract, things afterwards proceed at a snail’s pace.  The editor looks over their work, makes some suggestions, sends it back to them.  They do a round of edits, send it back to the publisher.  I’m given to understand that this is often repeated over the course of months.  Then there is the cover art and the dedication, this and that and the other.

I’ve been told that between the time that a book is accepted and put out, it’s not uncommon for a year to pass.

I signed my contract about three months ago, and my manuscript will be a book within a few days.

How crazy is that?

To answer my own question, not half as crazy as I am.  As soon as I received the final FINAL draft of the book, I started questioning everything.  Is the book really ready?  Did I correct all of the mistakes?  Did I set up everything I needed to for the future books?

And, of course, most important of all:  Will anyone read this?

I mean, obviously somebody will.  I have friends who owe me favors.  I have relatives.  They have to read it.  They also have to love it, no matter what.  But will anyone else?

Boring Exhileration

So, my manuscript, Awfully Appetizing, has been accepted for publication through Winlock Press.  It’s amazing, and wonderful.  I’ve been working towards this moment for over a decade, and I don’t mind admitting that I squealed and did a little happy dance when I found out that somebody wanted to publish something I’d written.

I’ve completed about half a dozen manuscripts so far, but this was the first one that somebody actually looked at and said ‘yes, we want to see that in print’ to.  Besides the half a dozen completed manuscripts, though, I’ve started about ten times as many which I never finished.  Or, at least, I haven’t finished yet.

All of this is to emphasize that it has been a long, hard, exhausting road getting here, and I am truly and profoundly thrilled to be here.

But as exciting an experience as this is, it’s also, simultaneously, incredibly boring.

When I’ve listened to authors speak about their experiences, they usually discuss the time when they were writing and hoping to be published, and the time after they were published.  I don’t think I remember more than one or two of them referencing that period in between.  Except when the company that accepted them ended up going under before they put her book out.  That sounded awful.  But right now I am in that moment, when there is so much work still to be done, and so little work that I can do.  Oh, certainly, I’m working every day to finish the rough draft of book two, and I’m working with a friend to try to put together a website.  But all of that is secondary.  The real work, the editing, finding cover art, figuring out how to get the book in front of the right people, that is all out of my hands.  It all needs to be done, but right now my publisher is doing it.

While I sit twiddling my thumbs, wondering what happens next.

This isn’t a critique of my publisher.  Winlock is very good about including its authors in the process, and, truth be told, the whole project is going through the system incredibly fast.  But at the moment, I am not involved in the process.  It’s a bit like sending your children off to school, I would imagine.  You know that you’ve done everything you can, but you can’t help but worry about all of the things that might go wrong.  All of the decisions that seemed so right and obvious in the moment now strike you as potentially foolhardy.  You have to be ready, every day, because if something is requested of you, you want to get it done, to get things moving again, just as fast as you possibly can.  But you have to be patient at the same time.

It’s a wonderful exercise in discipline, and it’s absolutely maddening to experience.

Here we go again

This is not the first time I’ve started a blog.  This is not the second time I’ve started a blog.  I would go on, but it may or may not be the third time I’ve started a blog and I don’t want to be inaccurate.  The point I’m getting at is that these things are ubiquitous.  They are everywhere you look.  You can find blogs by models and blogs by athletes, blogs by celebrities and blogs by politicians.  High schoolers have blogs about the video games they play, and bands have blogs about their music.

Everyone is talking as loud as they can, which raises the question: who is listening anymore?  I signed up for twitter a while back, and in very short order I found myself inundated by announcements from writers who were publishing their first book, and businesses who would love to help me reach my audience, for a low fee.

Not once did I find a post by someone looking for something new to read.  Not once did I get a message from somebody who wanted to hear my opinion.  Now, in fairness, I didn’t exactly ask for any opinions myself.  I’m not judging the people who were on there.  But I can’t help how much of a point there is to all of this.

I am a writer.  I have a book that will be coming out soon.  I hope people will read it.  My publisher has informed me that one of the things I need to do is set up a webpage and create a blog.  I need to connect to my audience.  Or, perhaps more accurately, I need to allow my audience the chance to connect with me.  If they want to.  But I can’t help wonder if this is really the way to do it.

Everyone does it, of course, but that’s the problem.  Everyone does it.  I’m sure that there was a time, not that long ago, when a writer setting up a blog was a new and novel thing.  I’m sure that there was a time when readers who went searching online and found something like this were impressed and interested.  What I’m not sure of is that there’s any real reason for it anymore.  Is there really a chance that somebody who comes online looking to know more about an author will find what they’re looking for in one of these?  Or is this something that we simply do because everybody else does it and we don’t want to be missing one of the ‘magic ingredients’ for success?

Sometimes I wonder.

Tall Tale Teller Taking Time To Talk Trash