I Did Drugs in High School

Gotcha to click, didn’t I?

I didn’t actually do drugs in high school, but now that you’re here, stick around. What I actually did was a health class report on illegal substances. The report listed in detail the many illegal drugs out there and their extreme dangers.

Then I wrote a summary. I wanted to share it with you, because I found that it captured my voice back then really well.

To set the context: I had been in a cult up until 8 months before I wrote this. My oldest brother did in fact die due to drugs. When I wrote this, I was in my only year of actual public high school. I was an atheist at the time.

I’d love to hear/read your thoughts on this:

***

Well, this is the end of the report. It’s been a long and tedious road, but here we are.

Through my experience and through my learning about them, I have found that drugs are the most evil substance in this world. They are used as a hiding place, to hide from the trials and problems of the real world, which is taking the easy way out. I consider it the wimp’s way out.

But this kind of opinion is very close-minded [sic], and it doesn’t leave any room for other cases. Cases that are those that show human suffering, and the suppression of some of the kids in this world. The ones that unfortunately don’t see anything wrong with hiding in drugs.

I heard from one girl about how her boyfriend tied her up so she couldn’t move. He then gagged her so she couldn’t breathe through her mouth, forcing her to breathe through her nose.  Then he held a handful of cocaine under her nose, so that when she breathed, she would have to breathe it in. Now you know, people have to breathe some time, and she couldn’t hold her breath that long, she tried, but she couldn’t.

This was cocaine, so she pretty much got addicted to it right away, and she couldn’t help it.

You may say, “She should have picked a different boyfriend.” People aren’t always that smart, we would like them to be, but this isn’t paradise. And people change from drugs, her boyfriend could have started as a perfectly fine guy, then the drugs he was using could have caught up with him.

Besides, she had no idea there were people that weren’t like that; this kind of frightening life, and these kind of people were all that she knew. She didn’t know any better.

Well! you say. That’s where the problem is! Let’s try to get rid of this kind of community. Try is the operative word. We could no less do this than learn to grow wings and fly.

People are not perfect, heck, they’re not even close to perfect. You can’t expect unrealistic things out people who don’t see any reason to do anything a bout it. They don’t care about anyone but themselves. And they’ve been taught to be like this from day one, at school and most assuredly at home.

That’s where the problem is: at home. Parents may neglect the child or worse, beat it. They will learn that they are not good, and not worth the trouble, and so they will decided that the rest of the world is not worth the trouble. But no matter what we do, no matter what kind of concerted effort we put into changing this dying world, we won’t help or begin to help everybody. Which is less than perfect.

I think we should settle for less than perfect. Humans could never settle for anything, that’s the way we are, but I think we had better learn to settle for less than perfect. We should do all we can, for all those willing to have things done for them. We can’t change everybody. We have to settle for less than that.

We have to.

I heard a friend say he wanted to leave his home and run away. I said Why? He said because he wanted to. I asked him if he had thought about his parents and friends. He said, Does it matter? I mean, it doesn’t really matter in the big scene of things.

I wish he hadn’t said that.

***

Can you hear me in that little summary/essay? I can see the sprouts that would become who I am today.

 

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Newsletter is Imminent!

Howdy, faithful fans! Exactly one month late according to my goals in the previous post, the Garrish Army (the army of fans and readers and friends and even enemies trying to subvert the system because I am all about sticking it to the man) will receive its first ever newsletter!

The Garrish Army Dispatch will be sent out on March 1. It will include:

  1. Updates on current projects.
  2. An exclusive sneak peek of Usurper, the sequel to Lakhoni.
  3. Possible contests!

I’m so excited! Sign up right here.

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Bigger, More, and Pwnage

If you’ve been following me as a writer, friend, or general human person, you almost certainly know that I don’t have a whole lot of patience. This is good and bad.

With my kids, I need more patience. I’m working on that.

With my writing career, I have limited patience. Strategic patience. Not as much patience as snooty folks say I need to have. I don’t listen to snooty folks. I hear those stories of how this or that author submitted to sixty or a hundred agents or editors before finally getting the deal of a lifetime. You know, like world-famous Kathryn Stockett.

Kathryn Stockett? You don’t know who she is? She wrote The Help. That book that became a movie where the white girl saved the black people? That’s the one. The Help is her first book and it’s also her only book. And she got way lucky. And you don’t know who she is.

Now, I’m not criticizing her at all. I hear her book is pretty good and I liked the movie. You know what I liked more? The fact that she, as an author, got paid. She worked, wrote a story she loved and believed in, stuck her flag in that story and fought for it. She fought enough for it that she got some luck and traditional publishing paid her then paid her more by marketing her book into bestseller status.

Right. On. Sister.

But that’s not for me. I have a serious dislike for the idea that traditional publishing is the way to go because gatekeepers and whatnot. A pox on that idea. I want to be traditionally published with a big New York house. But I don’t want to be traditionally published because I need the validation that I’m a writer. I want it so I get paid finally.

Yes, finally. I’ve made royalties off my books. But if you factor in all the work I’ve done to write, revise, edit, market, etc my books, I’ve made about one cent per hour. Not exactly minimum wage.

In any case, I have a plan for 2017 and it focuses on what I can control, not luck. I’ll make my luck and I’m not going to be patient about it. I’ll write my books. And hoo boy do I have some books to get done. I’m going to continue to work my butt off so that when Lady Luck tosses me a bone, I am ready to catch it and- here’s the important part- add the bone to the bones I’ve already collected. Waiting on luck to build my writing career would be a fool’s move, but expecting luck while doing my damndest to succeed as a writer– that’s just how the universe works.

Not having patience has served me well. When I was laid off from a middling company in 2014 (you remember that, right?) did you think I would be working as a Senior Instructional Designer at Amazon 1.8 years later? You didn’t? Neither did I. But I decided to take my career seriously, took loads of classes, worked hard to crush my next job and the next one, got totally current with my industry, and spoke with confidence and vision with people who were considering working with me. Amazon called and boom, here I am. Travelling the world teaching people how to train and speak and manage groups and create learner-centric training that blows minds. By the time I’m done here, I will have taught 1000+ people.

So it’s high time I treat my writing career the same freaking way, right? Why? Because this is my first career choice, the thing I want to do. 2017 will be the year of pwnage. I will be everywhere in book and person form. My hand will grow tired of signing an endless stream of books.

Game. On.

Here’s what’s happening for the year 2017. The stuff I can control. Some of these have Craft at the beginning to indicate they are part of me becoming better at my job. All of this is aiming at moving my career forward so that I am doing two things: 1) earning actual money from my writing; 2) approaching the time I can write full time.

  1. Deploy a mailing list that is effortless for my readers/fans to use and simple for me to manage. (by February 1).
  2. Send updates, insider stuff, etc, via my mailing list once a month. (First one done by Feb 28, 11 total done by Dec 31.)
  3. Spend 2+ hours each week on marketing:
    1. Mailing list management
    2. Ad campaigns
    3. Testing keywords
    4. Social media promotions/contests
  4. Write 7000+ words/week.
  5. Complete Usurper, the sequel to Lakhoni, by January 31 and publish this year.
  6. Complete Showdown at Serpent Ridge (by March 31) and use it to query agents.
  7. Query five agents a week, starting April 1 at the latest.
  8. Complete outline and prewriting for my memoir.
  9. Craft: Write a middle grade story by August 31. This might be a bad story. I don’t care. I’m going to try it out.
  10. Transfer all of my websites etc to BlueHost. (by May 1)
  11. Craft: Write 10,000 words on the adult dramatic story I’ve been dying to write for five years. It’s called Void. Terrified by this one. Not sure it’s a story or if I just need to get it out of my system. 10,000 words will tell the tale. (by April 30)
  12. Craft: Write the horror story I’ve been sitting on for a year. It’s a short story, I think. (by July 31)
  13. Craft: Read 30+ books across all genres. My author friends publish enough this won’t be a problem.
  14. Craft: Complete at least one online writing course by December 31, 2016. This might just be me listening to all of the last season of Writing Excuses and doing all the writing prompts.

Pretty sure that covers it. What do you think? Doable? Insane? Not ambitious enough?

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Hiding

i hide so much
it starts at work when
i talk about stories and art
and only empty eyes respond
because they’re not hiding anything
except emptiness
and my problem i think sometimes
is that i am so not empty
i overflow too much
with hurt for people’s pain
and hurt for people’s loss
and tears for war and precious children
and because we allow it to go on
and i have to hide it
because i can’t cry at work
but i have
sometimes
and i clench my jaw
and stare sternly at my monitor
and absorb the tears back into my
eyes and pretend breathing is
easy and wish it didn’t hurt so much
and i hide how i
just want to create
and don’t want to climb the ladder
and i hide how
every day
i wonder if i could
just quit
but i can’t and shouldn’t
and i should man up because this is my
duty and that feels ok
but then i hide when the beautiful song
comes on and i hide
my disappointment that nobody around me cares about that painting
or that sculpture
or that play
or that songwriter
or that actress
and i get to go home
and then i hide how relieving it is to be
with her
because there’s no more hiding

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The Kanab Writers Conference

This last weekend, I attended and presented at the Kanab Writers Conference. Kanab is a small city in very Southern Utah– about 4 miles north of the Arizona/Utah border. It is the city nearest to the Best Friends Animal Society, which is world famous and back before it was a full on legit animal charity, it was a cult. The cult in which I was born and raised.

After leaving the cult, I moved into Kanab and lived with my dad and his wife, Susan, and their daughter (my half-sister), Emma. That was the one year of my life that I lived like a son in a regular-ish family. Good times.

I graduated from Kanab High School. I had powerful and important life experiences in Kanab. I did summer cowboy and gunfight theater there.

I kissed a girl for the first time in Kanab.

So going to the Kanab Writers Conference was a sort of homecoming. Small town, former unwilling cultist boy goes back to the town where his dreams were hatched- returning in glory and stuff.

Which isn’t what happened. But it was really neat to go back and be a writer who is legitimately on the road and journey to working as a full-time, monetarily compensated author. I drove and walked around the town, soaking in countless memories of friends and chats and minor crimes and the like.

The conference was small and very nice. My books had a nice place in the bookstore. I sold about 15 books– selling out of Beyond the Cabin, which was frustrating because I only brought 5 copies. I should have ordered and brought more, since it is the novel about my life in the cult that ended up just up the street from where the conference was held. People were very interested. I also donated four books as door prizes, which was smart in terms of exposure.

I attended the conference on Friday, but wasn’t able to attend any of the classes due to exhaustion and the need to put the finishing touches on my presentations.

Saturday began with a talk from Laura Wilson, a fantastic photographer who spoke a lot about the practicalities and such of doing art as a business. Incidentally, she is the mother of Owen and Luke Wilson.

Then I debuted my Anatomy of Action class (click the link to get the PDF). I’d been working on it for quite a while and was more nervous than I should have been. I mean, I’ve delivered training globally for Amazon and have been teaching for 16+ years. But this writing business is my passion profession, the thing I want to do forever. I wanted to get this class right. And it went well. The participants were engaged and contributed a lot to a really fun, productive class.

I also debuted my presentation on How to Not Sleep Your Dreams. This was more loose and rough than I would prefer, partly due to the media platform that I’d been planning on using not functioning on that restrictive wifi. I think it was still good, but it could have been better.

So this was the first conference I was able to actually teach at- combining both of my life’s careers. And it was awesome. I loved every bit of it. I talked to writers and had a ball.

A funny thing too: I saw myself in the eyes of some of the just-getting-started writers there. I saw the way they looked at me and saw myself looking at writers at the conferences I’ve attended over the years. I feel like I’m still just getting started, but in their eyes, I’m not. Having people come to me and ask me for advice and my opinion on things and such– well, it’s an odd turnaround. It’s an ego-boost to be sure and I love the validation. It’s surreal though. I’ve got a long way to go still.

This was the first writing conference I’ve done that was not a financial loss- something I’ve accepted in the interest of exposure. I actually came out ahead by a couple bucks- although that’s partly because I was able to pay for my flight with miles rather than dollars.

I come away from this kind of thing where I can be a full-time writer for a couple days feeling great. Fulfilled. Happy. At peace. And that’s so much different from my usual state of mind which is full of discordant notes where my day job and writer job clash. I need to do this stuff as much as possible.

And one day it will be full time. I can’t wait. And while I can’t wait, I’ll keep loving as much of it as I can,

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