Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Simmering Pot of Life

It's been an interesting couple of months.

First, I've been trying to get used to a new day job. The biggest change is my schedule. I've gone from being home on or about midnight at the latest most nights, to walking through the door at 2 or sometimes even 3. Since most of my writing was done when I got home from the old day job, that's been an interesting transition, to say the least. I've slowed down, and while I say it's temporary, I have to wonder at that. I wrote at a breakneck pace for all of the last year and a half, which has made me wonder if I was going to reach a point where I would run out of ideas. That hasn't happened yet, thankfully, but I'm starting to see my newfound slower pace as a blessing in disguise. I still write most every night, but now I'm finding myself relaxing into it, letting the scene flow rather than racing along until it was done.

This has ended up making me love my craft more, strangely enough. By slowing down I've discovered I get deeper into my character's heads, spend more time on their thoughts and feelings about what's happening around them. This is a good thing, I think. I reserve the right to change my opinion if this current project lingers on too long, but for now, I can say with confidence that I've rediscovered what I love about this writing thing in the first place.

On the health front, things are continuing to improve. I've had to get my meds adjusted, but that's part of the process. I successfully went from smoking to vaping, and have now gone down to the lowest nicotine content available for it. If things continue as I expect them to, I should be nicotine-free in about a week and a half, at most. I won't lie; that's something of a terrifying prospect. Nicotine and creativity have always been linked for me, and I do have the worry that if I no longer have the nicotine, I won't have the creativity, either. I know it's silly, but I can't help wonder about it. I'll laugh at myself in a couple of months when I look back and see I had nothing to worry about, but for now, I'll just have to wait and see and trust that things will work out for the best. Strangely, I'm confident they will.

Good news on the publication front: THE JOURNAL OF JEREMY TODD is moving along for release this June. I spent a pleasant couple of days discussing cover ideas and art direction with the guys at Sinister Grin, and came out of it even more excited than I was before about this one seeing the light of day. We've got an awesome idea in mind, and I can't wait for everyone else to lay their eyes on it!

Something fun: if you'd like to tell me in person what you think about it, or any of my other stuff, you'll get your chance this summer! I won't be working it, but I will be attending Scares That Care at the end of July, so feel free to say "hi" if you see me there!

There are other things going on, but unfortunately, I can't talk about them just yet. Suffice it to say, my career is on the track I wanted it to be, and I couldn't be more thrilled about that. Believe me, I'll be letting everyone else in on them as soon as I can.

That's it for now, just a quick little update to let everyone know what's going on with me lately. I hope to talk to you all again soon!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Much Can Change in a Month...

If you’re not interested in a personal post, you might want to skip this one. If you’re only here to check up on the progress of my writing or things of that nature, you might just want to skim it. If, on the other hand, you’re actually interested in me as a person and not a writing machine, stick around. You just might learn something.

As I write this, it’s my forty-second birthday. My age and the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything are now the same (kudos if you caught that reference). I’ve already talked about how my life changed over the last year in regards to writing, so I’m not going to rehash that. What I AM going to do is talk about some of the other massive changes my life has undergone, and most of them in the last month.

Some of you may know or have picked up on the fact that I quit my day job earlier this month. I wish this was because I was earning enough from writing to support myself, but that’s not the case. Actually, the reasons are more important than that.

I’m one of those people who won’t go see a doctor unless I’m at death’s door. I don’t know why, that’s just how I’ve always been since I got old enough to make the decision for myself. Well, shortly after the New Year, I broke down and went to get checked out. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure several years ago, but like an idiot, I stopped taking my medication for it. Things became stressful at the day job, with people showing up to work when they wanted to and things of that nature, which only made my health issues worse. To cope, I was self-medicating to some degree, up from the normal couple of beers or so I’d drink while writing to killing a fifth of scotch or bourbon in a couple of days. I was smoking like a chimney, and generally doing everything I could to kill the stress I was feeling. The problem was, I was killing myself, too. My heart had started beating so hard it was nearly coming out of my chest, and to say I felt miserable would be an understatement.

So, afraid I was going to have a stroke or a heart attack literally at any moment, I broke down and went to see the doctor. Ever hear the old adage your life changes in an instant? I understand that now.

Let me get this out of the way right up front: I’m not dying. Well, no more than any of us are, at least. That doesn’t mean I don’t have things to deal with, though.

They took my blood pressure five times over the course of that two-hour visit. The average reading was around 140 over 110. In case you don’t know, that’s the danger zone, folks. I was informed that had I not come in, I would have most likely had that heart attack or stroke within a week’s time. They did an EKG right then and there, and didn’t like what they saw. I was put on some heavy-duty medication and told to come back in a week. They also scheduled me to have an ultrasound on my heart, which I did. The end result was that my left ventricular and aortic chambers were enlarged, and I have a slight murmur. I was, in effect, killing myself, and being quite successful at it.

I did some serious soul-searching that night after I got home and filled my wife in on my stupidity to that point. I realized quite clearly that if I didn’t make some serious changes in my life, I wouldn’t have a life to change for very much longer. Change number one: the drinking went from borderline alcoholic back to reasonable again, FAST. A beer or two a day? Fine. A normal-sized Scotch or bourbon every now and again? Still okay. My wife even told me I am allowed to have a glass of red wine every day, should I so choose (since red wine’s good for the heart; what a kick that I only liked blushes and whites, isn’t it?). Going to bed half-drunk (if not fully drunk) every night? Over. Done. Not happening.

Change number two: the smoking. I haven’t quit, but I’ve cut back. I’m evaluating options for how best to quit altogether, and will be putting those into action within the next week or so.

And change number three: quit the stress-factory that my day job had become.

For those of you who worked with me or just wondered why I’d done that, there’s the reason. A bit more complicated, but that’s it in a nutshell.

Now, maybe it seems insane to leave a job I’d held for nearly seven years, and that not only paid my bills but kept me insured. Why lose my health insurance during a point in time where I obviously need it the most? Well, my stress levels dropped almost immediately, that’s why. I’d rather fret over trying to figure out how to pay bills and medical expenses than keep making reasons to need that stress in the first place. Money stress is one of those normal, everyday things we all deal with. The rest of it wasn’t. And without the rest of it, the money stress doesn’t seem nearly as bad anymore.

There’s been good stuff, too. Most of it after I started trying to get myself back on track, funny enough. Less than a week after leaving the old job, I had a new one. That has proven to be a stepping stone to another job, that will have a more stable income, and benefits down the line, if not immediately. I had a wonderful response to a story I submitted to an anthology (that I can’t talk about at the moment), and while I didn’t make the preliminary ballot, I did end up on the reading list for the Stokers—off a self-published debut novel I didn’t expect to do anything at all. I’ve actually felt closer to my family, and have learned to appreciate my life more. Maybe it was a horrible way to get there, but emotionally and physically, I feel better than I have in a very, very long time.

So why make this post? Let me be clear about one thing: I am NOT looking for sympathy. I did this to myself, so it would be pretty foolish to expect anyone to feel sorry for my stupid decisions. If you want to pray for me, or send me good vibes, by all means do so. I’ll take all of both I can get. But don’t feel bad for me. I made my mistakes, caught them, and am trying to correct them. That’s just life.

No, I’m making this post so maybe it can serve as a warning or a help for others. I am living proof that you shouldn’t muck around with your health. If something’s wrong, get checked out. If your job is killing you, find something else. Life is too freaking short to subject yourself to a slow suicide.  There will never be a point where you are completely worry-free, so don’t even try for that. Just try to make those worries as small or compacted as you can. Find something to make you smile and hold onto it for all you’re worth. Simply put: don’t just exist in life, actually LIVE it!

Okay, I’ll step down off the soapbox now and wrap this up. I think, ultimately, I made this post because I needed to point some things out to myself, to take stock in a public way so there’s no chance of me lying to myself down the line. I did it to clear the air and dispel some rumors that flared up at the old day job after I left. And I did it because, well, I’m damned proud of the changes I’ve made in the last couple of weeks. I wish I hadn’t been forced into making them, that I’d simply come to them naturally, but things happen as they’re supposed to. All I can do now is capitalize on that.
Thanks for sticking around through this, and I’ll talk to you all again soon!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: 2016 in Review

When I first sat down to write this, I had something completely different in mind for it. It was going to be a long, drawn out thing that really had no bearing on anything, and was ultimately a rehash of things I’ve already said several times before on this blog. So I changed my mind, and decided to do something a little different.
If you want to see what all I was up to this year, just read back over this blog, or check out my posts on Facebook or my tweets on Twitter. The story’s there, if you care to look. Instead of repeating all of that, I’m going to go in a little more personal direction with this year-end wrap up.

See, for most of us, 2016 was a harsh year, a year in which icon after icon fell before our eyes. If only we’d known when Lemmy left us last year, it was Death cracking its knuckles as a warm-up for the events to come. However you voted in November, we now find ourselves in a place we can’t predict, and that’s a little terrifying, too.

But for all the bad, 2016 had some great moments, too.

See, my goal for the year was to publish a book, with the expectation that I didn’t care if anyone bought it. I met that goal, and wildly exceeded my expectations.

With Brian Keene, Starline Books, Chattanooga, TN, July 2016Over the last year, I’ve discovered some incredible authors in the horror genre, both new and old. I’ve read more good books than I can count, and find myself eagerly anticipating more from those folks. And the icing on the cake? I’ve come to know many of them through social media, and feel as though I’ve been welcomed to the cool kids’ table at school. I’ve gotten the chance to meet and talk with some of my influences, and have found them to be more welcoming, open, and kind than I’d ever imagined.

I’ve met some incredible people behind the scenes as well, from Tristan Thorne who was one of the first to help guide me along the path while I was getting CONSEQUENCES out, to publicist, editor, and friend extraordinaire Erin Al-Mehairi, who has taught me more about this business than I ever thought I’d want to know. I’ve gotten the opportunity to banter back and forth with the awesomely kooky and cool (whether she believes it or not) Somer Canon, and have laughed out loud trading insanity with Toneye Eyenot, whose propensity for swapping “I” with “eye” might put some people off, but only served to endear him to me even more. I discovered that Glenn Rolfe has just as much of an admiration for some of the obscure eighties hair metal bands I grew up with as I do. I even got to smile and chuckle a bit as Chuck Buda proclaimed how badly I was kicking everyone’s ass in NaNoWriMo, despite the fact he was right there with me on those word count updates.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet and talk to so many people, from all around the world, people I never would have met had I not decided to walk this insane road called publishing, and I have to say my life is better for it. I’ve shed my share of tears over the course of 2016, just like we all have, but when I look back at it now, I see the joy shining through the clouds.

For me, 2016 was the year I found my calling, for good or for ill. I am going to remember it fondly as I look ahead to what 2017 and beyond will bring.

To everyone who’s reading this, or picked up one of my books, or even just encouraged me to keep going, you have my most heartfelt thanks. To all of you, and everyone else, I hope you have a very happy new year; and as it progresses, may all your dreams come true.

PS: To all those folks who have told me what a machine I am when it comes to writing, I was going to try and prove you wrong by posting my total word count for the year. Once I looked at it, and then looked at it again, then walked away and ran the numbers a third time I decided to simply agree with you instead and leave it at that....

Monday, December 5, 2016

Have a Drink on Me: Three Shots and a Chaser has Escaped!

2016 has been a strange year, both rough and rewarding by turns. Today, in one of those rewarding moments, I am pleased to announce that my second release, a short-story collection called THREE SHOTS AND A CHASER, is now available in both digital AND print editions!

If you’ve read my first work, CONSEQUENCES, you experienced brutal, bloody horror in the style of the old slasher movies from the eighties, only told in my own way. But that’s not all there is to me; this collection demonstrates that quite clearly.

Here, you’re going to find a more subtle horror than I did before, horror not only of sight and sound, but of mind. And if you heard Rod Serling say that line, well, you’re on the right track. See, this time, it’s not Jason or Freddy or Michael or Pinhead that influenced me. Instead, it’s a Twilight Zone, reaching for The Outer Limits, and telling a few Tales from the Darkside.

I’m celebrating, but it’s YOU who gets the reward! In honor of this collection’s release, not only is CONSEQUENCES going on sale, but I’ll be giving a signed copy to one lucky person! So take the chance; if you haven’t read it already, here’s your opportunity to do so. I suggest you read it alongside THREE SHOTS AND A CHASER, see for yourself the range of my creative insanity. I’m curious which one you prefer: fast and bloody, or subtle scares!

Either way, if you enjoy yourself, if you lose an afternoon or two in the worlds I’ve created, then my mission is accomplished. Just don’t lose yourself too much… you’ll want to be back for everything else that’s to come!

This giveaway will be running through the end of December, so you've got a little time. That said, don't wait too long! And good luck to all who enter!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Cleaning Up

Today, my short story collection Three Shots and a Chaser found its way onto Kindles everywhere. There's a paperback version coming in the next few days, once I approve the final proof for it, but either way, it meant I needed to do some updating on the website.

To that end, I also ended up doing a serious overhaul on the Bookshelf page. Previously, I listed everything I'd finished at least a first draft of, but as I looked at it today, it occurred to me that it was starting to become a bit hard to keep track of or see the important bits anymore. So, I cleaned it.

Now, it only shows things that are actually released, or are in the pipeline for release, or that have been submitted for possible release. This way, it's going to be much easier for me to keep it current and updated, and when you all want to see what's out there, you'll be able to much, much easier than before.

What happens when my actual release list gets as long as the written list that was already there? Well, I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. But for now, it made my life a little easier.