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Fuck Scallops; or, Monsters of Rage and The Death Throes of a Lifetime of Inadequacy

There I sat, all alone in the dark kitchen, at that black-stained round table, sitting in my usual chair facing the wall, tears streaming down my puffy cheeks. The table was cleared, the area surrounding my plate showed concentric circles from where the sponge had scrubbed away the remnants of dinner and the dishwasher was running to the left of me. Gentle thumps and bursts of water were the only noises that could be heard outside of my sniffling and sobbing.

In front of me sat the same white plate with the cornflower blue design on it that was there two hours prior; on it was a collection of small, beige pencil erasers sitting in some form of goop. Scallops they’re called, seafood that was common in the New England area and for some reason my parents ate regularly. To me, they were pencil erasers, tasting like them dipped in ammonia, with a similar texture only with added slime, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t eat them.

“Mom?” I cried, hoping that my meek, tear-soaked voice would carry down the narrow hallway into her bedroom so that she could hear me and free me from my prison. “Can I go to bed now?”

“Not until you clean your goddamned plate,” she snarled back. Some might imply that memories distort with time; that the good ones become sweeter while the darker ones become more ominous and twisted. The vividness of this memory has stuck with me for the entirety of my life, although I’m unable to say exactly what year it was, what month or what day it was. The actual details of that memory are crystal clear.

My father was at work, he worked second shift at a factory that manufactured seals for airplane parts. To this day I’m not exactly sure what that means or why anyone would want these parts from an outside company and not just manufacture them in-house, yet it was what he spent the entirety of his life doing. That meant that he wasn’t home, or if he was, he was passed out after a few drinks on the couch. To say that my memories of my father for the first fifteen years of my life are foggy would be an understatement, I’ve reflected on this many times since I myself became a father; about how I wanted to be there for them no matter what, how I didn’t want to be missing.

Part of what hurt so bad when he was missing was that he was never there to protect us, to see what we were going through. There were plenty of times when it felt like my sister and I needed to be saved, like we needed a rational voice to be an advocate for us in the face of our terror. Sitting there, in that chair, with a plate full of scallops was one of those times.

All of it was a part of an intricate game that unfolded throughout my youth where I was a much-maligned picky eater; a source of frustration and anger that only compounded all of the other parts of an already difficult home life. No child wants to be in trouble, and I didn’t want to displease my parents or make them upset, yet there I was, on almost a nightly basis having these same events unfold. The problem was, this food really wouldn’t go down. The smell, the texture, the taste and everything about them made everything in my body tremble, elevated my anxiety to a different level and made me feel even worse about myself. I’d try to eat, but my body would reject it, my stomach clenching, my throat not letting it past its defenses.

So I tried. I tried because it felt like it was all my fault, like I was a terrible child. I, the one that my mother would openly call her “favorite” in front of my sister, was the problem at dinner time. Throughout my young life I had learned to work around my mother’s idiosyncrasies. Today they’d be categorized — justifiably so — as abuses, but back then everything was squishier, less clear and the age of Reaganomics, MTV and our ignorant Catholic-guilt-ridden New England culture meant that it was all justified.

The young me tried to parse these events, to rationalize them and compartmentalize them into logical obstacles that I needed to simply overcome. Many of these events have been tucked away into the deep recesses of my subconscious, or remain foggy shipwrecks that will never be explored. Perhaps for the better.

Some memories were clear, though, like this one. This was one of the few, along with the time I was in my bedroom, needing to go pee while my mom watched a movie, and knew that she didn’t want to be disturbed after bed. We were to call downstairs and ask permission to go to the bathroom. Somehow, the idea was that children don’t want to sleep and instead just want to pester their parents to the point of insanity. Her answer broke whatever hope that I had left of being safe that night.

“No, hold it.”

But I couldn’t hold it. I had been holding it, sitting there at the edge of my bed, legs crossed and wiggling, writhing with guilt that I had to disturb her. So I had waited, waited for a time when the movie was softer, waited until she had cooled down from her last outburst and found what I thought would be the perfect moment. Instead, “No, hold it.”

So, deeply ashamed of what I had to do, I gathered up a handful of tissues and laid them out on my ugly, mustard yellow carpet, pulled my pants down and peed as neatly as I could on the tissues before balling them up and throwing them in the garbage can in the corner. All throughout this I was crying, an anxious mess that she’d find out and hit me, that she’d call me names or worse.

These weren’t unfounded fears, but from experience. Experience like that time when my sister discovered a spider in the backseat of the car when we were riding somewhere and began to cry. This was too much for my mother to handle. At her wits end, she screamed and shouted for my sister to stop, to cut it out or she’d pull over and leave her on the side of the road. My sister, no older than four or five at the time, continued to cry over her very real fear of spiders and my mother pulled the car off to the side of the road. She jumped out of the car, opened up the door, unbuckled my sister’s safety belt and yanked her by the arm out of the car, dragging her to where the fence was on Strawberry Field Road in Warwick. I kept my head down as the backdoor slammed shut, she got in and drove off. I felt like I was going to explode, gently sobbing to myself, afraid to even sniffle as to see what would happen next. Would I ever see my sister again?

“You can’t leave her,” I cried. “Please, go back.”

She did, eventually, but there was a lesson that had to be learned. None of this seems to compute with her to this day, we don’t talk and haven’t really since 2001. Last I heard, her explanation was ridiculous, along the lines of “I know you were upset that I ‘Smother mothered’ you and all…” A convenient fabrication of something that I can never remember saying that at least can help her live with herself, a lie that helps her get through her day as opposed to actually dealing with why she isn’t a part of my children lives or mine.

But back to that night, where I’m sitting there, at the table, once again a crying, blubbering mess of a chubby boy who was just screamed at for something that I literally had no control over. A lone scallop sat dangling from my fork, impaled on one long prong and looming ominously in front of me. There would be no help, no reprieve or understanding for me, so I did what I had to do and I put it in my mouth. Immediately things felt wrong, the taste hit my tongue and drove my body to recoil, the texture made it nearly impossible to chew without feeling rubbery and there it was, my gag reflex. In a heartbeat I was vomiting a somewhat clear, sticky fluid, it pouring out and burning on the way up like only stomach acid could, splashing onto my plate and all over my would-be dinner.

“Mom,” I grumbled. “I threw up.”

“I don’t fucking care,” she stomped out of her bedroom in her mocassin slippers and nightgown, the way that she stomped when she had truly lost it, those times when violence wasn’t just a threat, but inevitable. The metal heating grates in the hallway clanged and popped while she stomped over, the hallway that just moments earlier had felt immense was all of a sudden far too small to let me prepare. “I’m sick of this shit, and you are going to eat that!”

The blow never came to me, but I winced just the same, her fist slamming down against the table by the white ring that sat just off the center from the time a casserole dish was on the table without a towel underneath and burned straight through the cheap finish. My dish clanked on the table, the puddle of my sticky vomit dancing on the plate along the small, rubber ammonia erasers while the jets of the dishwasher whirled around.

There I sat, crying, shamed, covered in my own vomit and feeling like less-than-dirt, and I sat for hours. She had slammed her door shut hours prior, but I didn’t dare get out of that chair, didn’t dare sneak up to my room because of fear of reprisal. So hours passed before I mustered up the courage to empty my plate into the trash, rinse my plate and slink off to bed. No, this was not the beginning of my complicated relationship with food, but perhaps was the impetus to shut me off from the world for ages to come.

Reading a book about picky eaters has brought this all rushing back to me, reminded me of a lot of these complicated childhood memories of food, inadequacy, the fear, anxiety and violence that came along with them. Imagine that after almost 34 years you read someone saying, finally, “You aren’t crazy, you weren’t crazy, it’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.” It took that long to hear that, to not feel shame that it took me almost 30 years to start eating spinach, or that eating out at new places or at someone else’s house has sent me into panic attacks in the past.

Obviously, the issues in my childhood go deeper than just food, but there are so many memories that are linked with food, spanning throughout most of my life. From the ones with my mother, to my step mother snidely remarking to my sister that she should get some cake now, because her brother was just going to eat the whole thing, all while I was standing right there like I was somehow subhuman garbage. We’ve made our peace and I’m happy to have her in my life now, I appreciate what we’ve gone through together and all that she did to make my father so happy in the final ten years of his life, but things weren’t always easy. These memories stretch into adulthood, even being misunderstood by people that have meant the most to me, forcing me to obscure most of my issues or at least downplay them.

Yet, here I am. Always trying, always evolving, always wanting to do better. I have a much better understanding now, but most importantly, I’m able to say that it’s not my fault. It’s not my fault. All of this I want to do not just for me, but for my children as well. There are times when I feel overwhelmed, when I can feel that rage boiling over inside of me, the bile that flowed through my mother’s veins invading mine.

Everyone has that fear of turning into their parents and in my weakest moments, the ones where I snarl at the dogs for barking and waking the kids up, or when I need to leave the room because both kids are screaming crying at what feels like absolutely nothing while I haven’t slept in 32 hours to gather myself and take a few deep breaths I’m afraid. I’m not afraid like I was as a child, but I’m afraid of my children being that child. I’m afraid that what lurked inside of my mother is also inside of me; a monster that nobody wanted but is always laying in wait, triggered by the drop of a hat.

I know that I won’t let it, just like I won’t miss these important parts of their lives, but it’s all there and it’s all real. But just as real is the pride I feel when I see my boys gulp down everything from peaches, pears and bananas to green beans, sweet potatoes and mashed peas. Because that’s what matters, that’s what’s real; wanting to do better for my kids and to make their lives better than mine was. If there comes a time when something repulses them, I’ll understand, just like I’ll try my best to understand other issues that are bound to arise and just like I won’t let that latent rage monster consume me and destroy lives like it tried to destroy mine.

‘All I ever wanted, to be left alone’

Sometimes there are just these strange, lucid moments of utter clarity and perfection. These are the moments that we all live for, no matter what you do, what your talent is, how much money you have or where you live. Clarity is beautiful. The past week I’ve been obsessed with a Prince song called “Way Back Home.” It’s a song off of ART OFFICIAL  AGE, which like most of Prince’s later work, has been completely dismissed.

I get it, I really do. Prince had some rough times when it comes to official releases. He had issues with his identity on every level, from his sexual, spiritual, artistic and even personal identity. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen an artist be as truly conflicted as he was. He struggled with religious convictions from the mid-80’s forward, before he finally became a Jehovah’s Witness and his whole outlook changed.

A good portion of his career was spent alternating between running away from and attempting to recapture the song Purple Rain. In a way, it was a work that was simply so many things to so many people that everyone wanted him to recreate it for the rest of his life, while he would go through phases where he rejected that and other times when he yearned to be loved again and would try to create a new Purple Rain.

Listening to ART OFFICIAL AGE it’s pretty clear that by the time that 2014 came around he was starting to feel more comfortable with his identity, or he was at least comfortable speaking about it. While PLECTRUMELECTRUM with 3rdEyeGirl was Prince enjoying himself through some of the best guitar rock imaginable alongside the talented backing band, ART OFFICIAL AGE was Prince reaching out to the world and making himself more vulnerable than perhaps he ever has been.

While ART OFFICIAL AGE is nowhere near his best album, it features a suite of songs that I find it impossible to ignore. Without anything else to call it, I’ll call it his “affirmations.” That’s what my playlist on Tidal is named.

There are four tracks that just fall short of twelve minutes, featuring British singers Lianne La Havas and Delilah (La Havas on Clouds and affirmation I & II, Delilah on Way Back Home, both on affirmation III). In a way, it feels like Prince is doing what he always did throughout his career by lambasting the commoners for their ways. It starts with Clouds.

“When life’s a stage, in this brand new age
How do we engage?
Bullying just for fun
No wonder there’s so many guns
Maybe we’re better off in space”

Life is sort of a stage. The song ponders if there is value in a slight romantic gesture if its done in private and not on a “stage,” such as an Instagram, Twitter or Facebook post. If the world can’t see it, did it really happen? Prince, is all of his, well, Prince-ness then has Lianne act as a voice speaking to him about being put in suspended animation and revived 45 years later in a time without all of the superficiality.

Interestingly enough, the next time we hear Lianne she warns him of what he’ll have to do to interact with women again. Affirmation #1 is “There are no such words as me or mine.” They are explained as control mechanisms created by mankind for essentially enslavement. The song bleeds over into Way Back Home, which was actually released by Warner Bros. as a single.

Take a second to process that, because this was his return to Warner Bros. and he selected a song that was not only not much of a catchy pop or funk song, it wasn’t a ballad and the song felt like the most honest that we’ve heard him talk in ages. It’s a threadbare song in many respects, with the only constants being a waning kick drum, a seven note (alternates between six) melody in F minor on guitar and a background whooshing. There are other parts of the composition, such as a cameo from his famous drum machine, a bit of a synth here and there, but what makes this song powerful are the words and delivery.

Delilah’s vocal-fried delivery of the chorus add another voice to what is otherwise a stark appeal to the listener, explaining his struggles with being who he is, dealing with expectations — both internal and external — and how he’s failed. My god, he talks about how he failed without ever saying it, but this song is about him picking himself up, about not letting failure define him.

The last song, affirmation III, is him being forgiven amidst the ending of this strange, four-track sci-fi arc where Prince gains telepathy powers. In fact, he accepts who he is.

“You’ve probably felt many years in your former life, u were separate from not only only others, but even yourself.
Now u can see that was never the case
U are actually everything and anything that u can think of.
All of it is U”

As a writer, all of this strikes a major chord with me and just reminds me of how devastating of a loss his death was. Famous people — people that I don’t know — die all of the time. I can enjoy their work still, appreciate it, but usually without the accompanying pangs of defeat and sorrow that came this time around. Growing up I always had a deep connection with music, to the point where I’d search out music that understood where I was and what I was feeling. I’d express myself through the lyrics, finding power and strength through them.

I’ve always seeked sadder, darker music. In a way, it’s just a reflection of how I’ve lived. Part of being a writer is wanting to express yourself to the world, to be able to just tear out a part of your essence, put it onto the page and show it off to the world. It’s being able to finally do this after feeling like being unable to properly do it any other way for so long. Prince was always different. His music could be sad, it could be fun, it could be deep, it could be surface or downright insane.

But that is what art has always been for me; it has been an outlet. Other people’s art has been inspiration, it has told me that I’m not alone. Yes, I think differently sometimes, I get depressed, I get upset and I turn inward to try to figure it all out. This four-song arc is, simply stated, exactly what I was looking for right now. In part it’s because I see myself in these lyrics. I am searching, I am dealing with a lot of these same thoughts, insecurities and the inner turmoil. 

I’m trying to find exactly what my voice should be. I’ve done a lot of things for the sake of being “commercial” and to make money, but the reality is that isn’t why I write. I don’t write to make money, although I do make a living as a writer right now and couldn’t be more proud. I’m writing because I want to say something, I want to have an impact on someone else and I want to let people inside. I never wanted all of the bullshit that comes with being “successful” — although I’d gladly accept it — I just always wanted people to know me. At the same time, I have always found solace in my self. Writing is a way to simply get all of this out of me, at the end of the day, I really just want to be left alone to be me.

Not always, but sometimes, that is all that I want. I get it. I absolutely, 1,000% get it.

When I find myself having a difficult time dealing with other people — with trying to express myself to them only to be unable to find that common ground to start from — I turn inward. Not everyone is going to understand me, nor is everyone going to get or like me. That will always hurt and I’ll always try, but at the end of the day, while I’m in no way going to compare myself with anyone else, put myself anywhere near anyone else’s level, I’m different. I think differently, act differently, want different things.

Things are going extremely well right now, with us just a few weeks out from the pending birth of our twin boys. I have a new job writing for Uproxx’s front page — which is fantastic — and I’m currently juggling between a few different book projects. I’m not sure how I feel about them yet, but one is out to readers, another is just starting while another is forming itself in my mind. If any of these are actually what I want to express to the world is another question, but I’ll get there.

I need to go easier on myself. Even Prince had his misses. Some people aren’t meant to only release limited, solely genius work. It’s a mythos built up by a few exceptional people and not a standard to hold other people to.

All-in-all I should be proud. I’ve taken myself for the misshapen peg that I am and found a way to make it all work. I’ve done it on my own terms.

“I never wanted a typical life
Scripted role, huh a trophy wife
All I ever wanted, to be left alone
See my bed’s made up at night
‘Cause in my dreams I roam
Just trying to find, trying to find
My way back, back home

So many reasons why
There’s so many reasons why
I don’t belong here
But now that I am I
Without fear I am
Gonna conquer with no fear
Until I find my way back home
Until I find my way back home
(Find my way back home)

Most people in this world (Most people in this world)are born dead
But I was born alive
(I was born with this dream)
With a dream outside my head (outside my head)
That I could find my way back home
My, my, way way back home

Is this the way? (Is this the way?)

Power to the ones who could raise a child like me
The path was set
But if you look the truth will set us free
I’ve heard about those happy endings
But it’s still a mystery
Lemme tell you about me
I’m happiest when I can see
My way back home
Can you see
My way back, my way back home”

Falling Home

I’ll admit it, I’ve had sort of a tough time coming up with something to post on here of late. There is a lot of stuff going on in my life, but some of it I’m just not comfortable talking about, some of it pertains to my writing career and some of it is just regular life stuff. Needless to say, just like always, I’ve been working a lot. That’s kind of what I do. Hell, this is technically working and it’s 2:06am on a Sunday morning.

Science fiction has been on my mind a lot and I’ve been questioning what my path will be moving forward. I’m a few drafts into the follow-up to Terminus Cycle and I’m not entirely sure that I feel like it’s done. In fact, my latest thinking is that I need to do a rewrite on it. That is disappointing considering that it’s 140,000 words and I’ve put a lot of work into it, but releasing it as it is really won’t be doing myself any justice here. Not that it’s bad, but it’s just missing a key something from it that is hard to put your finger on. I’m pretty sure that I’ve figured out what it’s missing and how to fix it, but that project is shelved for the time being.

If you were actually anxiously-awaiting the follow-up I’m genuinely sorry that I’m not living up to my original road map for this whole series. Originally I had envisioned book two being out by the late summer and that would have been entirely possible, but realistically, it wouldn’t have been very good. I work quickly enough, but working quickly doesn’t always equate to pumping out the best work, that’s why revisions and rewrites exist.

Ironically, the book that I started working on during my off-time at the end of last year is nearing completion. I’m going to give it another revision pass before I start looking into beta readers and feedback on it, then go from there. This was me revisiting an older story that I worked on over ten years ago, but fleshing it out, honing the style a bit and making it a bit less, well, ridiculous. I guess that you could still call it science fiction, but it’s post-apocalyptic fiction for sure.

For those of you that know me you know that I fucking hate zombies with a passion now, although I used to really be into them over ten years ago. There may be some in this, but I promise you that this isn’t another stupid zombie book. This book was fun to write, it’s action-packed and has a pretty interesting cast of characters. I’m not sure if I’ll shop this around to traditional publishers and agents or if I’ll just toss this one up on my own yet. As much as I feel like this could be *the one* that sells really well as an indie title, the allure of being traditionally published is still a big one for me right now.

I guess I finally did something with my life-long obsession with Mad Max.

But, really, who knows, right?

I’m still in sort of a daze as my grandfather passed away on Thursday from a rather short and brutal battle with mesothelioma. This has really been a dick-punch of a year thus far, hasn’t it?

A Fond Farewell; or, All Hail the King of Strong Style

Last night was a strange night for myself, both as a grown-ass-man and a fan of such an oddity as Japanese pro wrestling (which I call pro wres, because that’s what they call it, not “puro” or “pure-o-ree-sue”). Last night I got to watch what will most likely be Shinsuke Nakamura’s final match within a New Japan Pro Wrestling ring, alongside some of the names that he came up with, or that he competed against for years. I was tired while watching the opening matches, found myself doing the dishes to stay awake during the intermission, but still fixated on the video reel that they threw together of his farewell press conference and career retrospective.

My god.

In a way, it’s kinda crazy. I got to watch Shinsuke Nakamura throughout his entire career with New Japan Pro Wrestling, with all of the bumps along the way. That means from the rushed young lion phase of his career right into the “Supernova” phase that saw him, a young wrestling prodigy, tasked with carrying not only the struggling company on his shoulders, but the struggling world of pro wres as well. At the time Shinsuke was an awkward young guy, there was supposed to be a chip on his shoulder, but instead it seemed like he was just some young kid thrust into a position that he clearly wasn’t ready for and everything that came with it.

They wanted him to fit a mold, to become the living embodiment of stars from years past like Nobuhiko Takada and the legendary Shin’ya Hashimoto. They didn’t want him to be himself, and perhaps, he wasn’t quite sure who he was at that time, either. I got to watch him grow from that awkward kid with an entire culture and history of pro wres on his back to a confident, self-fulfilled performer who was so incredibly sure of himself that it was hard to believe that he was ever anything else but the King of Strong Style.

I’ve been following his career since the beginning, watching while he journeyed from that awkwardness to not only accepting it, but being proud of it and turning it into a vehicle to express himself to the world and be proud of who he was. All of that happened while I, myself, grew up and had to deal with similar issues. We all grapple with these growing pains and becoming the person that we really should be, which sometimes is a stark contrast from what we envisioned for ourselves.

A tearful goodbye.
A tearful goodbye.

For Shinsuke Nakamura he wanted to be what New Japan and the fans wanted him to be. He wanted to be that bad ass, that saviour of Antonio Inoki’s vaunted Strong Style pro wrestling, but it didn’t fit. Nakamura wasn’t that bad ass by nature, he was a kooky, eccentric guy that absolutely could be an asskicker if he wanted to be, but never seemed comfortable in that role. So he spent years in the black, Lion-mark trunks trying to embody the perfect Inoki warrior without anything ever fitting.

Similarly, for years I tried to fit into a mold that I felt I should at least attempt to squeeze into. I wanted my father to be proud of me, I wanted to prove that I could do these things that no one thought I could ever do. I, that eccentric kid growing up whose self image was that of a quiet, conscientious kid who could follow rules and make everyone else happy, wasn’t really that kid. The shock on my face in fourth grade when my teacher singled me out as one of the class’s biggest troublemakers and loudmouths was palpable. That was a joke, wasn’t it? When my desk was moved to the center of the room alongside other kids that I had always turned my nose up at and believed that I was somehow better than was a strange wake-up call.

Yet that quiet, nice kid was still what I strived for. Climbing a corporate ladder, taking advantage of these “born leadership abilities” that I had and “making something of myself” felt important. In fact, while I was doing that my father was so incredibly proud of me, to the point where it broke my heart at times. After years of being disappointing to both myself and to my family (or at least perceiving that disappointment), I was finally doing the right thing. Of course, it wasn’t actually the right thing for me. Creatively I had died a slow death, watching as all of those ideas that once filled my mind became less and less tangible or exciting, instead setting it aside to take life “seriously.”

When people think of intellectual pursuits or viable forms of entertainment I’m sure that professional wrestling is at the very end of the list, if not barred from that list entirely, yet it’s something that I’ve always been drawn to. As a bigger kid growing up who wasn’t exactly great at traditional sports I saw pro wrestling as such a natural fit for myself. I could do that, I thought. People liked me, and if they didn’t like me, they at least listened to me when I spoke, even if I never saw myself as deserving of that attention. Literature was always my main hook, but pro wrestling never quite went away, instead I searched for something that I could assign more meaning and value to, which led me to watching stuff beyond the traditional, southern-style wrestling in the US.

When I first saw Shinsuke’s new attitude I wasn’t sure that it worked. That awkward, vanilla, boring guy was gyrating, dressing in tight leather pants and acting like a mix of an 80’s rockstar and a traditional martial arts bad ass a la Hashimoto. That guy and the new guy in the ring were such disparate characters that connecting the dots seemed nearly impossible. A mohawk that he didn’t even bother to spike? The “YeaOh!” call after his matches and the weird peace sign-finger gyrations. What?

I was absolutely skeptical, yet I had to keep watching. Something about him was magnetic. Not only had he finally gotten more comfortable within his own skin, but he was one hell of a performer. In fact, he was probably one of the best that I had ever seen in the ring, which was saying a lot. But all of this happened while I myself was grappling with who and what I really was and where I was heading. I was watching someone that I had given up on entirely remake himself and find his true, inner self in a strange embodiment of self-actualization, and he was absolutely stellar.

Right now I’m in a different place than where I was when I first saw Nakamura back in 2002. A lot has changed. Some of the bad, some for the good, some for the great. I have a lot of incredible things to look forward to and for that I’m eternally thankful. Last night I thought that I wasn’t going to make it, but talking to my wife after she woke up kept me up long enough to tune in to watch the match. A lot of that was strange, looking back. I was laying in bed, watching a live New Japan event on my phone while my wife sat next to me reading something that I had wrote on her Kindle. The difference between that kid locked up in his bedroom with his latest giant box of VHS tapes from Lynch sitting on that ugly, green shag carpet upstairs in my parents’ old house and that 33 year old man in bed was that of night and day.

A Young Shinsuke. Still kind of a giant nerd.
A Young Shinsuke. Still kind of a giant nerd.

This entire week I had been reflecting on my work, past and present, and was coming to certain conclusions about where I needed to head next. Some of that reflection was that my work has improved so much that I almost don’t recognize my past work as my own anymore. The novel that I’m currently in the midst of revising was worked on as a sort of fun, relaxing break from what I considered my “serious” projects, but now I’m finding that the writing, the style, the narrative and the characters are simply much more striking and interesting than anything else that I’ve ever done. That meant coming to the tough decision to shelve the science fiction book that I was looking to release next to give it more time to sit before I return to it and give it a full rewrite to get it to exactly where I want it to be.

Sometimes self-realization requires accepting of one’s self and to strive for exactly what you want yourself to be, as opposed to trying to fit into a mold that seemed like an okay fit at the time, but the further you got the more of a pain in the ass and restrictive it grew to be. I’ve had a lot of influences in my life and I’m not about to pretend that Shinsuke Nakamura was the main one, but it would be crass to ignore the impact that his work and journey has had on me.

AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura on 1/4/2016. Now both with WWE.
AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura on 1/4/2016. Now both with WWE.

So last night I got to witness the send off for one of the greatest in-ring performers of this generation, of a guy that I got to watch grow while I, too, grew alongside him. The tearful, emotional send off from some of the most hardcore fans in Japan, his friends and rivals had a profound impact on me. That was a man who impacted lives across the world, and this wasn’t his funeral, nor was it his retirement, simply a send off while he prepared for a new chapter in his life in America under the WWE banner.

Will I enjoy his work in WWE the same as I did in New Japan? Who really knows. WWE is essentially the popcorn movie to pro wres’s action-drama style, the summer comic book movie featuring the big stars, the big special effects, sometimes a profound story but mostly a bunch of bullshit with talented people involved uniformly, while pro wres can be a lot of things, overlapping a lot of different genres. But I’ll still be watching while I, myself, evolve and grow into the man that I’m comfortable and happy being, in hopes of one day being able to be as happy with myself and my work as the King of Strong Style was with himself.

#YeaOh.

(If you’ve never seen him… just watch)

Of Art, Viability, Respect and Genre; or, Self Reflection and Forgiving George Lucas

Some of the topics that I grapple with from time-to-time have to do with commercial viability and creator intent. As a writer, I’ve always felt that my strengths were more along the lines of the absurd, strange and thought-provoking nature. The first novel project that I worked on was predicated on wanting to make big, bold statements and to do so through a carefully-tuned, broken narrative structure. It may have been a bit of a large undertaking considering my lack of experience in writing novels and the commitment to the art of long form.

When I reflect on that story, sometimes I cringe and other times I get nostalgic and want to start it all over again and make it work. Basically, I always looked at writers who were presenting stories that were a bit different and looked up to them, wanting to be able to add to that lexicon of work some day. I saw writers like Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick, Thomas Pynchon, Haruki Murakami and even David Foster Wallace and that was what I wanted to do. Granted, my technical knowledge and interests might not line up with some of them, but I always wanted to create something that was frustrating for all of the right reasons and was left open to interpretation. A lot of my short fiction that I produced throughout college fell along those lines, including tales of god-like airline passengers that crash a jet to make a point, a young army veteran with a sheet of metal lodged in his head that kept him teetering the line between lunacy and lucidity and scenes of extreme, casual violence.

When I ventured off on my new journey into writing in late 2010 I found myself in a bit of an impasse. That crazy novel that I had began back in 2006 hadn’t gotten very far and looking back at it, well, it was a mess. I had some complicated ideas for it written out somewhere, but the actual novel itself had a lot of problems. Having never written anything longer than 20-or so pages before I found myself having a difficult time keeping tenses correct, which was only compounded by taking weeks and months off in between writing sessions and opting to write in a stream of consciousness fashion. This led to some utterly profound and interesting segments as well as some complete garbage that simply couldn’t be saved.

So the idea was to simply start over. The thing is, I was severely “out of shape” mentally. While I’ve tried to never masquerade as anything beyond what I am, I always considered myself a pretty smart guy, but not reading or writing on a consistent basis for a few years while working a menial, soul-sucking job left me without much left in the tank. Picking up old favorites to read was difficult, trying and frustrating, my mind quickly wandering elsewhere, which was a problem. I felt like I had simply let any intelligence and wit that I once had fade and degrade beyond repair. If you’ve known me for a long time, you’ll know how absolutely soul-crushing and difficult this was for me. But I persevered, I kept trying and eventually that hazy cloud began to roll back a little bit at a time.

I became deeply entrenched in MMA and kickboxing, simply because I had been involved in both for so long and it was the world that I knew, as well as the world that knew me. A large part of my identity after college was tied in with those sports and my work writing about both (kickboxing, mainly), so I rolled with it. One day I sat down and decided to work on a short story, with the concept being imagining what it would feel like for a down-and-out fighter who was once incredibly famous and successful to be to get out of bed with all of his physical and emotional aches and pains. I wrote for many hours straight and eventually found myself sitting on 14,000 words and a lot more left to say. I had unwittingly found myself a new novel project, which would go on to be “The Godslayer.”

Once again, in retrospect, I see problems in that book from on the sentence-level to the conceptual-level. Agents and publishers didn’t seem overly interested in it, but were encouraging for me to keep going and come back to them with something marketable. Men don’t buy books, never mind sports fans, they said. I shrugged, figured that with my contacts within the industry I could release it, get some support and go from there. I also wanted to do so without spending money, which was a very big mistake. I think that “The Godslayer” is a good story and I’m glad that I told it, but I think that my exuberance for releasing something and hoping for some commercial success may have clouded my better judgement in giving it the fine-tuning that it deserved.

I’m talking revisions, editing, the works. Maybe some day I’ll revisit it, or maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll someday try to wipe it from existence, who knows. That cloud that I spoke of before had rolled back some, but I found myself back in a familiar place again; working hard, long hours and finding myself mentally and physically unable to do much else beyond work and be grumpy. My identity being tied to MMA and kickboxing led to me getting more and more work in the field, going deeper and deeper into the well.

My dream of being a successful novelist was still there, but I had placed it on hold in hopes of making enough money so that… I’m not really sure? There wasn’t really an end in sight, just this thin hope that if I saw enough success in what I was doing I could some day stop and leverage it into publishing books. No, it doesn’t really make much sense, but that was where my mind was at.

When I was thinking about my “career” as a novelist, I found myself frustrated and dejected. “The Godslayer” did pretty well considering that the marketing that I had was calling in favors with friends to publish articles about it, making podcast appearances and writing guest articles for websites to promote it. Also, yeah, like I said before, kind of a mess of a book that I should have been more careful with before releasing. I had always loved science fiction, dating back to my love for Star Wars and the expanded universe novels being what got me into reading when I was younger, pushing me off into other science fiction and later other books outside of sci-fi, so why not write sci-fi? Science fiction has that commercial appeal with readers and, in my mind, there was a lot of garbage out there already. I could probably do something pretty cool, pump out a series pretty quickly and follow the blueprint that a lot of self-published novelists had set over the past few years. I’m a smart dude, I could do this no sweat.

In summer of 2014 I decided to step away from as much of my work in MMA that I could and focus solely on this new plan of whipping up a science fiction series quickly, getting it out and getting some buzz going. My point of reference for science fiction literature ended somewhere in the late 90’s and I had grown to be of the mind that not much had happened that was worth reading or being concerned with after then. I had kept up with television and film, for sure, with some all-time favorites being Star Trek DS9, Babylon 5 and Firefly on the TV side and, well, not many new sci-fi movies were classics, exactly.

Anyway, I made another mistake here, that mistake was not respecting the genre properly and understanding it. I knew that there was stuff out there that did well, I have a general understanding of what they were, how they were written and how well-received they were, but I hadn’t really sat down and acclimated myself to a lot of the work out there. I knew the classics and knew that there was a market for science fiction so I went for it, hoping to churn out a ton of books in quick succession.

This is where “Terminus Cycle” came in. I’ve talked about disappointments with it before and I stand by them. Reflecting on it, I made some mistakes, and perhaps the biggest mistake of all was not having the respect for modern science fiction and understanding the market. My determination to be successful led me to push for something that I felt would be commercially viable as quickly as I could to build up a library of work. My intent for it was all over the place, with my stress levels on the rise because I wanted to release something that was really, truly great, something that would stand the test of time, but I wanted to do it quickly. That sort of devil-may-care attitude blended together with the pressure that I put on myself to not only write something substantial, but that would help to push my career forward led to some errors in judgement.

My intent was there, but man did it not translate into exactly what I had pictured for it. I honestly shouldn’t be talking about my own perceived failings that much because there were a lot of people that enjoyed the book and have been asking about the follow-up. In fact, those outweigh any of the more critical opinions that I’ve seen, but even then, I have a hard time with it, as just about any artist does with their work. Part of why I’m writing all of this out, though, is because I was watching the recent George Lucas interview from Charlie Rose. George Lucas has been put through the grinder over the past fifteen or so years, which the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens has only stirred up yet again.

Personally I see a lot of what Lucas has done and find stuff wrong with it. There is a lot to poke holes into when it comes to his work, from dialogue to human interaction to pacing and his incessant meddling. But still, George Lucas was the guy who created Star Wars, doing so being a tremendous risk at the time. Yet he succeeded. What followed was a career of commercial films that ranged from huge successes to near misses, all of this from a guy that never wanted to create commercial, Hollywood-style films.

When faced with what he saw as another ten years of his life to create a third Star Wars trilogy and a few commercial busts on films that he helped produce, Lucas decided to hand the keys to LucasFilms over to Disney for a hefty chunk of change and to move on. His ideas for the next few Star Wars films were rejected outright by Disney and he decided that it was time to simply walk away from something that had both consumed and defined his life as an artist and a human being.

Undoubtedly George Lucas fucked up a few times in his career, with those fuck ups only amplified by the fact that Star Wars has been such a beloved franchise that many fans grew up with. Lucas claims that he’s making films again, but that they are more like his early works, the experimental kind that most likely won’t see the light of day but make him happy. Star Wars was an obsession for him, they were his creation, but he’s been forced to move on.

Star Wars, was, if anything, a part of his quest to prove that he was more than just the guy who got lucky with American Graffiti, that he could create a new sort of fairy tale that at the time was incredibly innovative with its use of technology and filming techniques. He, of course, looks back at all of his past work and hates most of it, which really resonated with me today while watching this, because I understood it.

I’ve been wanting to work my way back to what got me passionate about writing in the first place, but I’ve had a number of detours and each time I walk away with more knowledge and understanding, but I also walk away disappointed and frustrated with myself. Along the way, though, I’ve found a new found respect for science fiction literature by spending the past year consuming as much of it as I could, finding myself enamored with the likes of James SA Corey, Ann Leckie, John Scalzi and many more. I read some really great sci-fi and some really mediocre sci-fi. I’ve also read some sci-fi that I don’t really enjoy, but understand the appeal of.

What taking a crash course on modern science fiction has really done for me is to give me that newfound respect for the genre, but also to harden my resolve when it comes to writing science fiction. There is a lot of great stuff out there and I feel like I have a very good grasp on what I want to contribute to it now. I have the “Terminus Cycle” follow-up in a good place right now and I even have more ideas that are bubbling over in my mind, just ready to come out when I’ve got the time and will to work on them.

George Lucas definitely has his shortcomings, as do we all, but he helped to shape a genre for generations to follow while also pushing the world of filmmaking forward into a new direction. That wasn’t always his intention or what he saw for himself, but it became his legacy because sometimes that is simply what happens in life. For myself, I’m happy that I’m at a place where I’m seeing my own shortcomings while also seeing growth and understanding what I want to do as I move forward as a writer.

As I write this it is 2016 and it’s time for forgive George Lucas and respect what he did and how he changed all of our lives, just like we all need to give ourselves a break sometimes and not be too hard on ourselves. As long as we are all learning and trying to move ourselves forward there is no sense in beating ourselves up over silly mistakes or perceived past failures.

So I’m going to post this without proofreading it because, hey, it’s a blog post and I’m tired. So sue me.

“I’m Learning to Live”

A few weeks ago I came to a bit of a strange decision considering the path that I had chosen for my career and my books. That decision wasn’t the easiest and really, I’m not sure that posting about it is the smartest thing because, well, things don’t always work out in the end, right?

Anyway, that decision was to take a long, hard look at Andlios Book Two and decide where I wanted to go with it. As most of you reading will know (or should know), I finished the rough draft of Andlios Book Two in late August and since then have been working on fine-tuning it over the past few months. I took about a month and a half away from it as well to start a new project, but I’ve been back at it for a few weeks now. I’m reaching the point with Book Two to where I’m understanding that there are a lot of things that I’d need to get moving on soon to get it ready for release, mostly being commissioning new artwork and then finding and paying an editor to run over it with a fine tooth comb to catch my [mostly] embarrassing mistakes that I still make after writing professionally for ten years now.

So I jumped back for a second and looked at Terminus Cycle, which included looking at what I did right and what I did wrong. I learned a lot from the release of Terminus Cycle, especially compared to what I learned between the release of Godslayer and Terminus Cycle. What’s funny is that there were years in between the release of Godslayer and Terminus Cycle, but Terminus Cycle was only released in late March and I only have seven months of sales data to sift through. Yet the muscle, money and time that I put into marketing Terminus Cycle and being able to figure out what works and what didn’t work has been invaluable. I also learned just how valuable being meticulous with revisions can be.

I’ve talked about this at length before, but I’m not sure that I put enough time into revising TC and after release I’ve found a myriad of things about it that I wish that I had done differently. There have even been moments where I’ve considered going through and doing those things that I didn’t do to it to jazz it up a bit, but for right now I’m letting sleeping dogs lie.

One thing that I did do for Godslayer and didn’t do for Terminus Cycle was working to get it published through traditional publishers and working through the whole system that is publishing. That means querying agents and trying to get my foot in the door that way. I made a conscious decision with Terminus Cycle to go the “indie author” route with it, and when looking back through the numbers, I’m not so sure that everything worked out the way that I wanted it to. I moved thousands of copies, which is really, really cool and I’ve amassed a decent number of reviews on both Amazon and GoodReads, working out to a 4.0 average on each site. Really, that’s pretty cool, considering Godslayer has zero reviews on GoodReads and 11 on Amazon after a number of years. Hell, I’ve seen books released by major publishers who have less reviews.

I’m tremendously proud that I’ve been able to reach people and stir up enough in them to leave a review of my book, good, mediocre or bad. I’ve been approaching “Book Two” a bit differently and upon reflection, I think that it’s a pretty damned good book at this point. The idea of sinking a whole lot of time and money into breaking even (or losing money) against is a hard pill to swallow at the moment. While I make enough money off of LiverKick right now, the idea of working as a novelist has always been to make it sustainable.

The vast improvement in quality (or quality control, I guess you could say) and how I wrote the book drove me to decide to pump the brakes a bit on publishing this book right away and instead feel through the waters of literary agents and give myself a chance to get this published traditionally. Now, I know what you are saying; isn’t this book two? It is and it isn’t. While this is the continuation of the lore and even some of the characters from Terminus Cycle, I wrote it in an accessible way to where if someone went into it without reading Terminus Cycle they not only wouldn’t feel lost, but would feel entirely comfortable using it as a jumping off point.

I went as far as to rename Terminus Cycle on Amazon from Terminus Cycle (Andlios Book One) to Terminus Cycle (Andlios Origins). Is that a cop out? I’m not sure, but it treats the journeys of Jonah Freeman and Peter O’Neil with respect and helps to establish the Andlios universe for those that are interested. For those that don’t feel like they need to go there? That’s cool as well,  you’ll still hear about their stories and the history of Andlios and the Earthers in this new book as well.

If I do find an agent and do start working on the process of getting this book released through a major publisher it might take a while, which is kind of a bummer for those that are actually waiting for it, but I felt like it had been four years since I made an attempt at working through the traditional publishing industry and have come so far since then. It’s worth a shot, right? If things don’t quite work out over the next few months and every agent I queried shoots me down or simply isn’t interested then I might just move forward with releasing it on my own, but I feel very strongly about this book and that my time and efforts are worth money at this point.

Changes on Amazon and the crazy deluge of self-published works hitting the market are difficult to deal with right now and, in a way, Terminus Cycle got lost in the shuffle. This upcoming book will most likely appeal more to a wider swath of readers and might even be received better, which could mean more success, but having help in promoting the book and distributing it could go a long way to do it the justice that I believe that it deserves.

I do have a novella that I’ve been working on with some of the backstory from the planet Andlios that I wrote in a manic daze back a few months ago that I plan on returning to shortly and running through a few phases of revision. I’ll most likely be releasing that on my own within the next few months once I have it in a place that I want. So hopefully I’ll have a bunch of cool news over the next few months. Until then? Back to revisions and working hard every day.

High Hopes

So I started a new project.

While that might seem counter-intuitive since I haven’t released Andlios Book Two yet, it really isn’t. Andlios Book Two is out to beta readers and has been for about a month now. Some feedback has filtered through and I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to read it and send feedback thus far, as well as everyone else who intends to in the future. Like I said in a previous entry, I’m looking to gain some distance from Andlios Book Two so that when I go back in for another few runs I’m looking at it from a fresh perspective. After a month I’m already seeing some adjustments that I want to make, which is a good thing.

This new project I’m going to remain mildly secretive about for now. I tend to remain quiet about my books until it is time to release them for a pretty good reason, that reason being that things can change quickly when it comes to novels, especially when they are still being written. What I can say is that I’m revisiting an idea that I had in the past and that this one is a lot of fun for me to work on at the moment. The first week I actually took some time off from writing to do some stuff around the house with Lori, then the second week was me looking through all of my potential projects to decide which one to work on now.

At least I’ll never be left wanting when it comes to ideas, right? I picked this one because anyone that I’ve shown it to has gotten excited about it and wanted to read more of it right away, which tends to be a good sign when it comes to fiction. The book itself is still science fiction, but of a different breed. Less focused on space and technology and more on people and the dumb things that we do to our planet, selves and society. The tone is also a bit different, a bit more tongue-in-cheek and fun than my previous books, which helps to give it a different texture.

This one probably won’t be super long, which will be nice considering that Andlios Book Two is currently my longest work sitting at around 140,000 words (Terminus Cycle was 93,000 and Godslayer was 63,000 for reference). The pace that I’ve been going at has been writing about 10,000 words a week, which puts me at over 30,000 coming off of this week, meaning that within a month or two it could be onto the next phase of editing and revisions with it, which could be great. Of course, it could go on hold when I feel like the time is right to finish up Andlios Book Two, most likely after I get some more feedback in and weigh my options on what revisions I want to do, but considering this pacing this new book shouldn’t take too long.

Tough Decisions

There comes a time when you have to slow yourself down, take a look at the what you are working on and make tough decisions. For me the past few weeks have been interesting, to say the least. I’ve been working really hard at revisions on the Terminus Cycle follow-up and have gotten to a pretty good place in it. Pretty soon I’m going to be sending it out to beta readers and wait for feedback to start filtering in. The tough decision that I’ve made is that I need this book to sit for a while.

Initially I had set a lofty goal for myself of releasing three books from this Andlios series in the calendar year of 2015. Terminus Cycle would be March, Andlios II would be August and Andlios III would be December. A part of the reason why I wanted to do this was by studying what was selling on Amazon and how authors were getting attention. It felt like there were two schools of thought to being a success as an indie author; release a ton of stuff in short succession or release one well-polished work and get picked up by a major publisher.

There is a tremendous upside to both, but I tend to work best when I feel like I’m working upstream. The idea of releasing books on my own and being able to do it under my own terms was incredibly appealing, as was the fact that Amazon offers a 70% commission rate. It’s a feast or famine situation to where an author can make a flat rate through a publisher and possibly get royalties in the future if it sells well, or an author can make a lot more if the book sells the same amount through Amazon. Of course, if your book doesn’t sell a ton you are kind of out of luck. I’m not out of luck, but I’ve found that money on marketing is very important to keeping copies moving and that most of the time I just make my money back.

Anyway, this was my plan and as time moves on I’m not sure that I like this plan as much as I did initially. The way I looked at it was that maximizing revenue was the most important thing for me. If it meant rushing through and releasing books that are pretty good but not great I was willing to take that risk. Now that Terminus Cycle has been out for five months and has received both positive and negative feedback I’ve realize that this probably isn’t the best approach for me as an artist.

These two methods remind me a lot of something from the 90’s that plagued the world of clothing in the way of the one size fits all t-shirt. The one size fits all t-shirt was a thing that existed in the 90’s just about everywhere and was a male extra large. Sure, it did technically fit most people, but it would either be too big or too small. If you were bigger than a male XL it would be way too small for you, if you were smaller than a male XL the shirt would be like a dress. That’s how I view these two methods of publishing and attaining a fan base.

Simply put the method that I chose just doesn’t work for me and how I work. Last August I quit blogging (for the most part) after years and years of making money writing as a blogger. Blogging was a strange process where quality control was inexistent on most sites and the sheer volume of posts that had to be made as well as the expediency of them dictated that they were usually quickly tossed together without much craftsmanship involved. On average I was making about $5 an article and working 6 – 7 days a week outputting many, many articles a day. Under such circumstances the idea of sitting back and combing through an article was insanity. Most were fine the way they were and the readers wouldn’t notice if anything was off anyway.

Once again, sort of one size fits all. Writing on the internet doesn’t work the way that it used to before the bubble burst where I’d be able to write an article for a larger site and invoice them for $35. Pumping out a dozen 300 – 500 word articles a day led to a lot of malaise when it came to writing and a distinct lack of worrying about overall quality. Once again, it’s sort of a one size fits all affair when it comes to blogging. Nothing really matters in the end, just page views and Facebook shares. Crafting a perfect article just does not matter outside of the occasional longform piece.

When reflecting on Terminus Cycle I see the convergence of these two one size fits all mentalities into a perfect storm. I was used to writing fast and loose and was under the impression that the only way that I could possibly work towards success would be to be incredibly prolific. This is where the idea of releasing three books in a year was born and where I decided to overlook some of the problems with Terminus Cycle before releasing it. I wanted it out and wanted to adhere to the plan and in retrospect there are some things that I’d absolutely change.

This has all led me to believing that when it comes to the second book I need to let it ferment for a while so that I can look back on it with fresher eyes and do what I need to do to bring it up to my own standards. I want to be able to create art that I feel 100% about and that when it gets out to readers I can feel completely confident that I’ve given them my best work.

Sometimes I write different things

Writing is tough.

Writing novels can be even tougher. Most people look at writing a novel as this nearly impossible task and when I tell people that I’ve published two already they look at me like I’m insane. Those looks are mostly because I finished writing them, not that I got them out into the wild or anything.

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog you know that I’m in revision hell on the Terminus Cycle follow-up. I am. At times it is cool, at times I have to go back and rewrite entire chapters, which can be fun, and other times it is infuriating and boring. Basically, it’s a mixed bag, but it’s needed to make sure that it’s as great as it can be.

Over the past few weeks I’ve dabbled with putting other kinds of stuff up here to bring in some traffic and push some books out the door. It has worked, which is cool. So right now I’m going to share another article that I recently wrote.

Gasp, it’s about professional wrestling. Crazy, right? I’ve been watching wrestling since I was a kid and it carried over into adulthood. In fact, it was a bit of an obsession in my college years, mostly with Japanese Pro Wrestling (which I refuse to call “puroresu,” by the way).

Anyway, New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 Climax concluded over the weekend and I’ve been left ruminating on the outcome. The conclusion that I came to is that being a Shinsuke Nakamura fan is akin to being a Toshiaki Kawada fan in the 90’s. Check it out here on Cageside Seats. 

“This Can’t Be Good Enough For Me”

The neuroses behind working on a novel can be a bit overwhelming at times. When is a novel “good enough” and when is it “great?” When I released The Godslayer I felt that it was good enough and my stance on it has changed quite a bit. The same could be said for Terminus Cycle. I still find strengths and weaknesses in both books, but when I released them I felt that they were “good enough.” Since then that phrase has haunted me for quite a while.

Maybe “good enough” is just an excuse to get something out and then if it falls short of expectations or people aren’t wholesale satisfied with it I can look at it and say, “well, you know, I just wrote it off as ‘good enough’ and I guess it wasn’t.” I’d read through passages and say, “well, this might not have the level of detail that I wanted, but it gets the job done, so it must be ‘good enough.’” In a way, my whole process was based upon past performance. I’d remember back to college and writing workshops where there were a few people who took them seriously but the rest were just hobbyists in the early ones. In the later ones everyone was in their own world and so worried about just finishing school that everything felt jumbled.

There wasn’t much motivation to really push beyond what I was doing because, well, my peers did not leave much to be desired. I could bang out something the night before, run through it a few times to tighten it up and bring it into a workshop and it’d be one of the better pieces that we’d talk about that week. Things weren’t much different when I was younger and my work was heralded as great for my age. After a while of being good at something and not needing to exert much effort it starts to spill over into the rest of your life. Sadly that “good enough” can no longer cut it for me because my work is no longer just being shared among friends and classmates.

Releasing a novel to the public means that my peers went from that guy obsessed with Lovecraft that aspires to write chapbooks and the girl who was told by somebody at some point that she should be a writer to the heavyweights of the industry. Now releasing a science fiction story for me no longer means competing on a small level, it means that I’m competing for the time and money of readers while the goliaths loom on the same marketplace. I’m not competing with the lost souls of the world, I’m competing with the Scalzis, Leckies, Coreys, Clines and Howeys of today and even classic authors like Asimov, Herbert, Dick and more that I grew up adoring. Hell, I’m even competing with the retiree who always dreamed of writing a novel, sat down, banged something out, didn’t bother with much of a cover or editing but occupies the same market space that I do. That’s a lot of competition and “good enough” might be able to separate me from the dregs of the pack, but won’t push me much further beyond that.

This means that I have to put more into my work to take it to that next level. I finished my first draft of my upcoming book a few weeks ago and recently finished my first revision of it. Now I’m going back and running through another round of revisions before I’ll probably do another and another and not stop until everything feels as tight as it could possibly be. Why? Because “good enough” meant a few quick passes before shipping it off to be edited, polished up and published. That “good enough” might satisfy someone who was looking to simply release a book and hope that someone liked it, but it doesn’t satisfy someone who wants to make a career out of writing. Some would be ecstatic with 25 Amazon reviews rounding to 4.1 stars and the 15 reviews on Goodreads tallying up to 4.23 stars. There are some good reviews, some honest reviews, some brutal and rude reviews, but all-in-all there are reviews. People have been buying, reading and reviewing my book and if someone were to glance through an Amazon listing for it they’d look at it and think that it is a moderate success. It is a moderate success, actually, but I have no intentions of stopping here.

I now feel like I know what will take me to that next level and know the basic steps to get myself there. All that I have to do now is continue putting in the work.

Once again thank you for following my journey and supporting me in whatever way that you have.