Here’s my problem (well, one of them)

This is something I don’t ever talk about. To anyone. Ever.

I suffer from anxiety. It’s an un-diagnosed thing. It’s something that I honestly didn’t even realize I suffered from until a few years ago. I don’t know what I thought it was prior to this amazing moment of self-realization.

What people don’t know is that I am rife with self-loathing. I often don’t like myself very much. And when I don’t like myself very much I cannot for the life of me fathom why anyone else would. Sometimes I’ll even push people away because I think I’m undeserving of anything positive anyone has to give me, emotional or otherwise. Or worse, I’m certain that the only reason why people tolerate my presence or include me in things is out of pity. I’ll question everything I do. Being an author, a parent, a husband, a boss, an actor, a musician. All of it.

I have good days, like most everyone. I also cover it up by acting full of myself and making jokes. A lot of jokes. Always making shitty jokes. Sometimes the jokes are just for the sake of making jokes. Other times, not so much. I’m also constantly seeking the approval and affection of others even though I will probably never feel deserving of it.

I’ve always kept it hidden because, for whatever reason, it causes me shame. Then I feel anxiety about my anxiety.

I don’t suffer anxiety attacks often. Rarely, even. But when I do, Katy bar the door. I feel uncomfortable in my own skin. I can’t breathe. I want to strike out at everything and everyone. I want to be untouched. I want to be held. I need people but want to be left the hell alone. All at the same. Damn. Time.

I want to destroy everything near me; both tangible and not.

Why do we not ever talk about this? I mean the royal “we”. I suppose I’m a slave to that outmoded concept that since I’m a guy I’m supposed to be strong and bottle everything up. I do. The problem then is that the bottle gets too full. Or more to the point, the bottle gets shook like a beer; the contents under too much pressure until the force inside is so strong that it can crack the seal and blow up, spraying the messy contents all over the damn place.

Am I going to get better? No. Am I going to do anything about it? Like seeing a professional? Probably not. Am I going to try and be more mindful of my own emotions and allow me to validate(?) my feelings and thoughts? Possibly.

At the very least I’m going to try.

You don’t look a day over stardate 47988

My two earliest memories about sci-fi involved the two biggest names in Sci-Fi of all time: Star Wars and Star Trek. I remember being not quite yet in pre-school and playing Star Wars with a Fischer Price F-15 and a GI Joe turret cannon playing out the trench run scene while it played out on the TV on HBO (I feel like in those days it played aired on HBO about four times a day). The other was having my first die cast model of the USS Enterprise, the refit model that debuted in The Motion Picture. 

I loved that little starship. I took it everywhere with me; to the grocery store, to grandma and grandpa’s, and to pre school. I was insanely proud of it, which was ultimately my downfall. I showed it to one of the kids in the preschool (her mom was also the teacher which only made her more of a brazen little brat). She screamed, “I DON’T CARE!” and knocked it out of my hand. The warp nacelles and pylons broke away and no amount of Elmer’s Glue would mend it. I think it was ultimately one of five Enterprises that my parents would buy me only to be lost or destroyed.

While Star Wars was my gateway drug, Trek became my addiction, almost a religion. I remember making my parents rush home from some event on a Sunday night so that I could watch ABC air The Wrath of Khan. And there was no greater joy than when my parents rentied a VCR so that we could watch the The Search for Spock. I was adamant that I had to sit down in front of the metallic box that seemed to be the size of a coffee table so that I could “man the conn” and run the machine.

It wasn’t until around the time of Search for Spock that I recall Star Trek airing on local syndication on Saturday afternoons. But when it did, I devoured it. I would watch any episode no matter how many times I’d seen it before. I forced my friends to play Star Trek in the back yard (always with me in the captain’s seat) and I would get mad if they “wouldn’t play right”. When the family got our own VCR I couldn’t wait to record it on TV and would later be reviled to find out that the version I knew so well was not the theatrical version (they’d added maybe fifteen minutes to the television edit for some reason). To this day I know that film better than any other movie in the history of mankind and can deliver the dialog at the drop of a hat.

When Next Gen came out in 1987 it proved to be a real game changer, and I still watched it with a religious fervor; even feigning illness to get out of soccer events if they ran late and would force me to miss an episode. Then came the books! Were they great? Sometimes no, but damnit they were Trek and they gave me more of Kirk, Spock, and Bones–the holy trinity of Trek!

It didn’t take long before the would-be writer in me began to write his own terrible fan fic, often inserting myself or someone like me into the stories.

Star Trek and Gene Rodenberry’s Utopian future taught me so much, back when that was science fiction’s goal. It taught me about the horror of war, of racism, and what the future could be.  Most importantly, it was the spark that lit my early creative instincts ablaze.

Square One

I made a difficult choice this week. It was one that I’d been mulling over for the last several weeks.

For two years now, either mentally or physically, I’ve been working on this new sci-fi conspiracy thriller. I’d been world building, developing characters and backstories, mapping out how the story would go. I even went so far as to decide it would be too sprawling an epic to be told in one book and planned on having it broken into three. The problem, or one of the problems rather, is that I kind of lost myself. Over the last year I’ve been reading The Expanse series of books by SA Corey; Game of Thrones in space for lack of a better comparison. The comparison works in way of story construction and also of style.

Now, nearly all writers are mimics; we read as much as we can from authors writing in all sorts of styles and genres. We find attributes that we admire and steal bits of their tools for our own. This happened to me to where I started writing like someone other than myself. The other problem was that I was writing a thriller but as a mystery writer. It pulled me away from the story I wanted to tell. Even worse, I got fucking bored. Nothing I was putting on paper excited me. It made me think that if I didn’t find it interesting then how on earth could a reader?

But I was over 200 hand written pages in! This first draft was almost done! What was I to do?

I scrapped it. It’s still a story I want to write. But, damnit, I need to do it better. Wednesday night I sat down and started at page one again. Same characters, same overall story. Just hopefully done better. Move this over here, make this guy this type of guy, and so on and so forth.

It’s kind of daunting to go back to stage one with this thing but, after talking it over with my confidants and long suffering editor of 25 years, I feel good about this. It feels right.

I just finished the first chapter. Time to make writing fun again, kids.

Nobody neglects a blog like this guy…

The good thing is I didn’t wait an entire year before posting to this blog. I waited nine months, not twelve so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

These blog posts often serve as a reminder to everyone (and myself, to a certain degree) that I’m still here and I’m still writing. Granted, I’m much further behind than I had wanted to be and some of my loftier goals have gone by the wayside.

It’s mid-late April and I’d had such lofty goals to get a new book out into the world. The problem is that life has gotten in the way (family, work, etc), and I forget the scope of what I’m trying to do with this new project.

While this new book, Colonial Day, does have aspects of a detective mystery like I so often write, it goes so much beyond that. I have to adjust my thinking and remember that mostly I’m writing more of a sci-fi/spy thriller. At one point while I was working on this ongoing first draft I was watching a lot of old Bond films and even read some of the early Fleming books. It inspired me to want to give this new story the same kind of feel. Even worse, my mind would get tripped up with ideas to put in during the second draft when I’m not even close to finishing the first.

One of the big tenets of writing that I often ignore is to just muscle through the first draft; it’s gonna be shit anyway. The real book lies within the second draft. I’ve always wanted to make the first draft as close to the “final draft” as possible. That’s not gonna happen on this one. I know I’m gonna be going back through to add story points and flush out another character’s separate storyline. This book’s gonna be a mother. And already knowing that I’m going to make it a three book story hurts my brain a little.

Also, I found a post I’d made on my Facebook author page a while ago where I’d announced I was gonna I was going to do an audio version of WanderersYeah ,that most definitely did not happen. It’s not that I don’t want to do it, I just got so caught up with everything else going on in my life that I completely forgot about doing it. Finding that announcement made me upset with myself.

I’m not saying it’s never gonna happen. I just don’t know WHEN it’ll happen.

In the meantime, my good buddy, Nate and I started a podcast late last summer. It’s just two nerds talking about nerdy things and being grown ups now. It’s called The Middle Ages Podcast. Check it out, leave a review on iTunes. Subscribe if you like.

Also, if you have been reading my books (even if you haven’t), please go to every place ebooks are sold and leave a review. Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and noble, iTunes. All of them. Also, go to goodreads.com and leave a review there. Doing such things helps with Search Engine Optimization and also helps other people find out about the original content people are putting out into the world.

Now, it’s raining here in Nebraska. So I’m gonna try and force some creativity to eke out of my fingertips.

It’s been so damn long…

Yes, once again I’ve neglected the blog, choosing only to check in every six or seven months.

The good news is that I’m still writing. It’s been slow, but setting up a whole new universe is kinda hard. This new project has also been challenging on several levels. First, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever tried before. It’s a very layered story with a story that will evolve as it goes. I’ve already decided that this new project will be too dense to cram into one book. The tentative plan is to break it up into three books. Just that thought is alone is rather daunting. It causes my recurring fear of “Am I smart enough to tell this story?” to rear it’s ugly head often.

Second, I’m writing this one in a much different style than I’m used to. The Malcolm Connally books and my previous sci-fi book, Wanderers, were all told from a First Person perspective; the tried and true trope of the private detective novel. This time out I decided to tell it in the Third Person; the perspective of the somewhat all knowing and invisible narrator.

To make matters worse, I thought it would be a great idea to set up a B story for my other main character to give her something to do while the main protagonist is off doing his thing. I’ve not attempted to tell a story with multiple story lines since I was in junior high when my writing REALLY was terrible. Then, before I could stop myself, I started a C story as well.

On the upside, last week I hit a major breakthrough and wrote A LOT. Mostly, it comes down to me making the conscious decision to sit down and write instead of sitting down in my recliner and staring at the TV with my brain shut off.

But what kind of world am I setting up?

I thought I’d put up the prologue of this new project up here for y’all to peruse. Now, mind you I DID write the prologue in the first person, the perspective of my main character Callan Jarrett.

I hope you like what you see. Continue reading

SQUIRREL!!!

This is me. Especially when it comes to writing.

Current example: At the end of October, I completed my fifth novel. I was so relieved and happy to be done with it so I could move on to the next project. I’ve been waiting patiently to start with this new book since summer; plotting, thinking of characters, plot points, etc.

Fast forward to now.

I’m feeling overwhelmed by books I want to read. I’ve been recruited to act in a play. There are new songs I want to learn on my guitar. My Hulu.com queue is getting backed up. I want to finish watching The Wire and Breaking Bad. I’ve discovered the joy of killing zombies on Call of Duty: Black Ops II. I want to hit the gym every day.

Hell, even as I write this my head is going cock eyed and my eyes glossy while I watch ESPN and ponder how long I should wait before I fire up the Xbox (because hey, the house is empty and for once I won’t have kids hounding me about playing with me).

I also want pizza.

….What was I talking about?

I’m great at coming up with the beginning part of a story

No, really. The first chapter of book, for me, is probably the easiest and most fun thing to write. Laying down some initial groundwork, introducing the characters, establishing (at least part of) the premise. That is the most fun I have when writing. Everything is fresh and new and full of possibility. 

It’s also incredibly distracting. I will be in the midst of some project, one hundred or two hundred pages in, when I will wake up in the middle of the night or be driving around town and some other loose thread of a story idea will pop in to my brain. Then I find it hard to concentrate on my current project (one I’ve already been struggling with, more often than not) and my mind will keep drifting back to this wisp of an idea that has little or no substance.

For example, this morning I was getting ready for work when a scene played itself out in my imagination. I have no idea what put it in there or where it could go; the possibilities are pretty endless, really. At the very least, it gives me a reason to flex my writer’s muscle a little bit on a Tuesday morning.

Enjoy…

 

 Friday night with the ladies. Just Susanne and her girls. They didn’t do it really enough, that much was certain. But they were all busy, grown women with careers and families to manage. It was difficult for even half of them to get together for a Sunday brunch, let alone all of them for a Friday night on the town.

Often, plans would fall through at the last minute and one or two girls would have to bail on the evening, usually Patty. Her excuses for bailing always varied, but Suzanne knew each time it was because she’d decided to go after some guy or some other nonsense. Each time Suzanne would be left annoyed or hurt but she and the rest of their crew would press on without her.

But tonight, everyone was together. They were all dressed like they were hitting every cocktail party and exclusive party in Hollywood and hoping that they’d be mistaken for the wives of professional athletes. Sparkly dresses, stiletto heels, short hems, plunging necklines. All of the women who had diamonds on their left hands kept them on, but they were still going to get some attention and make men or women or both interested.

First, cocktails at AD8 followed by fine dining at Trend. Then they ended the night by dancing it up at Flux. They hated the names of the places they went, but they had a good time while they were there and they made sure that they were well taken care of. These girls (or at least their husbands) could afford it. They bought the best drinks and food and they tipped their servers well. It also didn’t hurt that there were plenty of other people interested in buying them drinks in hopes of garnering their attentions. It didn’t work.

They weren’t rude, though. They just would thank the gentleman callers for the drinks or the invitation to dance, tell them they were sweet, and then politely say they were just interested in hanging out with their friends. Patty, though, sometimes did need to be reined back in depending on the gentleman caller.

One particular time they were all in a big group on the dance floor shaking it to a hip hop song that none of them could identify, they just knew that they liked the rhythm. Patty was trying to teach them how to twerk and nearly doubled over laughing when a hand rested on her elbow. She turned to see a man staring at her with his mouth open a little. He wasn’t unattractive, to be sure, and he was probably close to her age. That was refreshing, she had been getting tired of sending early 20 somethings who watched too much MILF porn away.

“Susie?” he said to her.

She shook her head, taken aback.

“Um, yes, I’m Susanne,” she corrected him. She hadn’t gone by Susie in over a decade.

The man’s face, although still handsome, was going through a myriad of facial expressions. Susanne found it disconcerting.

“You need to come with me,” the man said. “We need to talk.”

“Um, no thanks, I’m just here to have fun with my friends,” she said as she withdrew her arm and took a step away. “Besides, I’m married.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said, exasperated. “You’re married to me, remember?”