I Can’t Believe This Is My Life

If you know me, you know I’ve had an interesting life. If I were a superhero, my origin story is pretty solid.

Maybe you don’t know much of that story. A good place to get some info about my childhood and past would by my Thanks Series, here on this website.

I think about living in western New York with 25+ other kids, born and being raised in a nomadic cult that splintered off Scientology. I have vivid memories of walking down the streets of Manhattan as a three-year-old, hurtling on my stomach across a frozen pond near Quakertown, Pennsylvania, and lifting weights in a slowly collapsing garage in Dallas, Texas.

For seventeen years, that orphanage style of living was my life. With morning and evening rituals and weekly Sunday ‘celebrations’ (songs, scriptures, speeches, candles, incense, etc), and greeting the adults with “God bless you” in place of hi or just ignoring them– I never really got why or what the religious stuff was. I still don’t know what the cult’s main doctrine was. Through my research, I know more about its really colorful origins than I get about its tame manifestation that I lived in through most of my growing up.

That was all my world. I saw families in movies and on TV and in books. Intermittently I saw them in the world around me. I fantasized about having a family. First about being a child in a regular family of a mom and dad and siblings and later about having my own family with the woman who was my true love and kids who got to be in a loving, devoted, united family. As my naivete faded and my cynicism grew, I doubted that would be something I would ever have. I would see the crap I had to live through and know what could have been and sometimes mutter to myself, “I can’t believe this is my life.”

I also fantasized about being a published writer. I wanted to be a novelist, telling stories for a living. I wanted to be rich too. Who doesn’t? I wanted to live in a nice home with plenty of space and a good kitchen.

These things– a happy, delightful family and successful novel writing– became my two most important dreams. Dreams I thought would always be dreams.

Life evolved. I left the cult at 17. And more stuff happened, including finding faith, volunteering as a missionary in Brazil for two years, going to college, a ten year career as a teacher, meeting and marrying the coolest lady on the planet, having a bunch of kids, lots of travel, lots of business failures, and more.

And this week has been rough. Heck, the last few months have been rough. I have a very stressful job, a commute that is longer than I thought it would be and very challenging sometimes, and pressure to write a lot and write well and push my blossoming writing career into something that can actually be financially rewarding. As I get older, and maybe partly due to the stress of life today, anxieties seem to be getting worse and I am struggling to get my health and weight back under control. This new job that seemed like it would be a financial home run is not, mainly because living costs in Washington are much higher than expected. Groceries are similar to Utah, but everything else is pricier.

I spend my days alternating between full-speed ahead and blindingly fast work and emails, and staring at my screen trying to figure out the right way to frame an idea or process. All of it at a breakneck pace so I can somehow, miraculously, get out of the office at the right time to catch the right shuttle (which hopefully isn’t delayed) so I can get the right train. And if I’m off by a couple minutes, I miss the train and have to wait another 25-40 minutes for the next one.

The traffic here is terrible. The shuttle ride to the train station should take 10-15 minutes. Two evenings ago, I was on the shuttle for 45 minutes and I missed the last train. Ended up taking the bus to my car. All together, my commute was 2 hours+.

I was recently infuriated by circumstances beyond my control.

I say these things and my dear Annemarie sees or hears it and wants to fix it. But that’s the thing– it doesn’t need to be fixed. It’s not worth trying to fix. The job can be improved so that stress is reduced, and I can work on timing my commute better and working efficiently enough to get out on time.

It doesn’t need fixing. Writing full time eventually will eliminate a lot of the stress, but other stress will surely show up. But this stuff doesn’t need fixing; it needs getting through.

And I’m sick of getting through stuff without rising and finding joy. Life is about joy. So this post is to remind myself that I need to see the joy surrounding me– practically overflowing the cup of my life and days.

Joy has a name, or names really. Annemarie. Thomas. Hintze. Lily. Nathaniel. Benjamin. Wallace. The familiar warmth of my wife next to me as I fall asleep. My kids’ earnest, sweet hugs and obsessions and kindness and play and happiness.

Then there’s the fact that I have books published. Stuff I published and stuff published by a real, factual publisher. I’m writing books and stories at a blistering clip and I could be going faster. I live in a warm, spacious home full of the people I love most and full of warmth and great food and noise and peace.

So I’m looking around myself today. My wildest dream of having my own family has come true. I work at Amazon. Amazon! I write books and they get published and people read them. I speak four languages. I am a gifted teacher and I love to teach the Gospel. I am blessed, lucky, and life is overflowing.

I can’t believe this is my life.

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A Serialized Story Anthology

Friends! Netizens! Countrypeople! Lend me your thoughts.

I’ve been kicking around an idea for some time now and would like to get your thoughts.

Say you saw a book on Amazon, or online at B&N, or other fine web establishments.

It’s called something awesome like Fantastical Science and Other Serialized Lies.

It has a cover that hearkens back to Frank Frazetta’s Conan artwork, without the revealing attire and misogyny. It’s stylized and the characters are larger than life. The cover might even remind you of Darrell K. Sweet’s work (Wheel of Time) or stuff by Michael Komarck (google him– I’ll wait).

Or just enjoy this image:

http://www.komarckart.com/bk_cov43.html

The blurb says something like this:

Enter seven extraordinary worlds with the first installation of stories by authors Jimmy Authorness, Alice Writerly, et al.

Fantastic Story title one: A two sentence slug about the first story.

Fantastic Story title two: A two sentence slug about the second story.

At the end of the blurb, you are told that the next compendium of installments in these wonderful stories will be ready on a given date one month or less from the day you’re looking at this first book.

So it’s a serialized set of stories– but only the first installment in those stories. And you get to read seven different ones for the price of one book. And the series will just continue. One story might finish in four installments, then have its place taken by a new story, while the other stories just continue on their merry way.

Does all that make sense? What do you think? What questions do you have that I might not have thought of?

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On Dreams

Dreams. It’s hard to know what to tell my kids about following their dreams. I spent years off and on following my dreams. I lost all of our money years ago pursuing a dream of being a financially stable business owner. I spent a few years working full time as a freelance writer and trying to make writing be the focus of my work life– and what supports the family. I failed.

It was so disheartening to feel like I was on the right path, again, doing what I loved, again, and then failing. Again. And my family was growing and I needed to be supporting them and we were so lucky that Annemarie had found a great job she could get paid to do while working from home.

So after grieving the defeat of another dream, I went back to work. And really put my head down after making a serious plan with Annemarie. We pushed at that plan and it came to fruition ten months later with me landing my first real job with actual benefits that wasn’t teaching in a classroom (which I love, but will never pay me properly). Things got better as we stayed focused and worked with real purpose. Daily effort towards our goal lifted us- and it was awesome.

Then extraordinary and life-changing 2014 happened and we made it through. We were changed. Broken and rebuilt better. And off we went on this Amazon and Washington/Seattle/but really a small town adventure. It’s harder than I thought it would be. It’s so taxing and I feel so exhausted sometimes and my bed is only a few steps away. But not yet. I have writing to do because making a good living as a writer is the only real, important dream that hasn’t come true for me yet and I don’t have any reason to not make it happen. (I only had one other dream by the way: have a family.)

So, I’ve been thinking about dreams and work, probably because I feel like I’m almost always doing it. I guess there are a few things I used to imagine about having my writing dream come true that I want to comment on.

  1. Publishing a book will be the culmination of my writerly hopes and dreams!

It’s not. It’s the beginning. Actually, it’s not even the beginning. The beginning was when I chose the career dream of being a well-paid full-time writer. Publishing my first book was wonderful and a dream come true but it’s a milestone more than anything else. And like all milestones, it’s green and metal and you pass it pretty fast.

Okay, the passing it pretty fast thing is the truth. It goes and you realize.. wait, I have more work to do.

So back to work I go.

2. Everybody I know is fully invested in my dreams!

Not true. Many people I know are somewhat invested in my dreams because they’re wonderful people who just never seem to run out of space in their beautiful hearts. And if they can spare a ‘Like’ on Facebook, that’s really actually great of them. If they comment, that’s very sweet. If they buy one of my books- that’s near saintly. And reviewing? That’s worthy of deification.

This isn’t to say you’re on your own. You have love and support and people who won’t give up on you.

But you are on your own. You want this? You want to reach your dream? You’re on your own. (Unless you get ridiculously lucky- and frankly that luck might just ruin you as a person.) Your fingers type those words. Your feet run those miles. Your hands build that business plan. So draw on your support when you can, but remember- you want this thing. It’s entirely up to you.

So it’s back to work.

3. I’ll be satisfied if I can just get a book published!

Nope. Not a chance. You’ll be so giddy you jump out of your skin. It will hit you multiple times and it will feel surreal and it will be immensely gratifying. You should pause and soak in the beautiful validating experience. Own it, recognize it. 

Then accept that the feeling passes. You’re not satisfied and you shouldn’t be. You see those bestsellers? Those people who work their butts off to write stuff that is sometimes better than yours and sometimes not as good?

You want to be that. You want to do that.

So it’s back to work.

What I’m saying is that dreams are a spark in life. They’re not something to be ignored or shuffled aside for practicality’s sake. We should follow our dreams. I think we must, that by doing so we stay young and maintain the ability to see and feel wonder and awe and pure excitement.

But the saying that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life is popular garbage. Realizing dreams is non-stop work. It’s daily homework. It’s exhausting and what is spare time, anyway?

It is work, it is work, it is work. It’s delicious exhaustion. It’s a passionate daily grind. It’s a boring daily grind sometimes too.

I will tell you that choosing the work that I do with my life, the place I put my best energy, is the greatest feeling ever. I look forward to the day that it is my only career. But until then, I’m going to keep working daily. I’ll take appropriate breaks and I’ll enjoy the ride, to be sure.

So I guess I’ll tell my kids that dreams can become reality. Those dreams becoming reality looks a lot like work.

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Salt Lake Comic Con 2015

I am going to be at Salt Lake Comic Con 2015. That would be this week.

I’ll be there on Saturday only.

I’m both excited and terrified. If you know me, you know I’m really hesitant about going into crowded places. I get really antsy when in a press of people. And I’ve heard that Comic Con is packed!

But I’ve always wanted to attend one, because the people who attend are my people! And not only do I get to attend my first Comic Con ever, but I also get to be there as an author with my first traditionally published book!

There are not enough exclamation points, so I shall stick to the ones I’ve already used.

I’ll be signing at the Future House Publishing booth on Saturday from 9AM-11AM and from 3PM-5PM. Copes of Beat will be available for purchase by you and your lovely friends, enemies, and roommates. I will sign all of them. I will also, upon special request, compose a personalized haiku for you if you buy a copy of Beat and ask me to sign it for you.

To find the Future House booth, look for the huge silver robot- the Book Bot.

I’ll see you there!

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Share Bravery and Win a Signed Copy of BEAT

You can be the winner of the first copy of Beat signed by me- with my new author signature. Yes, I changed my author signature so it would be more cool. Cooler. More coolest.

Here’s a picture of my daughter showing you exactly where your name will go:

My daughter and my book. Two of my loves.

My daughter and my book. Two of my loves.

 

Take luck!

Anyway. It’s easy. Just share this contest post somewhere on social media- Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest- I don’t really care. Then add a comment to this post.

Not just any comment, though. First, tell me where you shared this post. Then answer this question in as many or as few words as you like:

Question

What is something you have done that took courage- real courage? Something that scared or intimidated you. Something hard- that you had to push hard to beat or overcome? Maybe you were like Nik in Beat and had to overthrow a smiling, lying tyrant. Or maybe you were scared of heights but you bungee jumped into a bowl of pudding anyway.

Write your answer in your comments. You get one entry for sharing this post and commenting.

I’ll give you more entries if you share this post again and then comment again in the same way! Limitless entries! Game the system! Woohooo!

Seriously, game the system and share everywhere. When the contest ends, I’ll put all the entries into a randomizer and we shall see what the randomizing gods determine.

Anyway, the contest will go until Saturday September 26. Why? Because that’s the day I’ll be signing at Salt Lake Comic Con and I’ll announce the winner from the con! Yes, I’ll send it to you. Yes, I’ll send it anywhere in the world. Yes, I’ll pay for postage.

Better get to sharing. And remember: First share this post, then comment on it telling me where you shared it and telling your story. That’s how you get entered into the contest!

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