Tuesday, May 16, 2017

And Breathe...

I'm finally doing it. I promised it before, and ended up going back on it time and time again, but this time I'm actually going to follow through: I'm taking a break.

I've discovered as I've worked my way through OBSESSED (formerly CLUTTER) that the words have been coming harder and harder. Where I was finishing a chapter a night, now I'm doing good to finish a chapter in three or four days. The story's there, it's just not coming as easily as it once did. At first I thought it was because of some of the things I was trying to do with this one, but then it occurred to me that it was more because I was creatively exhausting myself. So, to try and reverse that course, I'm going to take a break.

As it stands right now, I've got about three or four chapters left to go with OBSESSED. I'm going to finish those up so the story is out of me like some terrible childbirth, and then I'm going to shift my focus to other things until sometime after Scares That Care in July. I've got ideas and things on the bench, but I"m going to hold off starting them for now. One, the third book in the Time of Ashes Cycle, has a long planning period before I can even think about digging into it, as well as a third and second draft respectively on the first two books in that series. I've also got what may turn out to be a modern-day fairy tale rattling around in my head, and while I'm excited to start on it, I know I'm not where I need to be to write it just yet.

Instead of new stuff, then, I'll be working on revisions for the literal mountain of manuscripts I've accumulated over the last couple of years. I really want to get my post-apocalyptic tale cleaned up and submitted (got a couple of targets in mind), I need to finish getting the Cochran books squared away, and then I've got the stand-alone stuff to fine-tune as well. Somewhere in that I'd like to play with some of the less broad tales floating around in my imagination, and maybe send some of those into the wild (anthologies? Patreon? newsletter? all or none of the above?). I also need to get back to focusing on the business end of this somewhat, too, since I've got THE JOURNAL OF JEREMY TODD launching right before Scares, and MUDCAT in the pipeline for edits and publication soon, too. I want both of these to do well, so that means I need to pay attention.

So, a breath. A break. And then back to the insanity once my gray matter recharges. Of course, knowing myself as I do, I'll probably get too restless to actually relax and will be right back into the thick of it before I know it.

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!