On Writing

Sweet Home
Home. (Photo on VisualHunt)

The past fifteen months have been interesting for me.

I’ve undergone a bit of a transformation, though beautiful butterfly I am not. I have become more aware of who I am. Perhaps I’m a little more assertive than I once was. I’ve certainly become more prone to reminiscing about my younger years, though I’ve weathered a number of repressed memories as well.

Amongst all this, something curious began to happen.

A constant throughout my life has been daydreaming. It’s partly how I dealt with upsetting situations. I’ve suffered from social anxiety (never officially diagnosed) ever since I was a child.

For whatever reason, the way schools dealt with this issue was to, well, ignore it, really. With nobody listening to my concerns and no help given in regards to how to cope, I was prone to acting out. I have precious few happy moments from my childhood. Unsurprisingly, I am alone in those few happy memories.

The one coping mechanism I came upon by myself was daydreaming. Ahead of any social interactions, I would try to imagine every possible scenario I’d be faced with, and how best to handle it. Sometimes it backfired, but more often than not I found it beneficial.

A natural offshoot of this behavior was a healthy imagination. I soon grew fond of dreaming up random characters and the adventures they would go on. I’d occasionally try to put these imaginings to paper, but finding nobody to read them, typically relegated them to the big garbage dump in the sky.

I never left behind my precious coping mechanism. I still use it to this day, though I’ve made some progress combating my social anxiety. As a result of flexing that muscle for so many years, I’ve also become really good at daydreaming.

Jump back to fifteen months ago. I was going through one of the darkest periods in my life. I was facing the real possibility of having to start my life over once again, both financially and emotionally.

Needless to say, I was doing some seriously deep thinking during this time. I frequently daydreamed not just to make it through the day, but to distract myself from my misery. It was in this daydreaming that I had a thought.

That thought was of an encounter between a young man and an old man, who was sitting on a porch. One had a plasma pistol, and the other didn’t seem to care that it was being pointed at him. That thought grew into a great story idea.

That story idea grew into After, my first novel.

Working on After became another form of therapy, a way to escape. I worked on it late into the night after everyone had gone to bed for the night. For an hour or two, everything went away and there was just Alex, me, and a journey.

It would turn out Alex and I both were on a journey of self-discovery. I found my way to, if not the light, a brighter place in my own life. Meanwhile, I continued to forge a meaningful life for Alex.

I released After at the end of March 2017 through self-publication. I had no great hopes for it. The novel was my first published work and I had zero social media presence.

I swallowed (some of) my social anxiety and forged a Twitter account to go along with my new website(another love of mine.) I did my best to start garnering interest for both the website and my new novel. I also paid for some pell-mell advertising and crossed my fingers.

Imagine my surprise when I almost immediately had people reading my book on Kindle Unlimited, and even buying copies of the eBook edition. I even had some sales of the physical edition. Could I be on to something?

Spurred on by my accidental success, I worked up another idea I had about a detective murder mystery set in the future. Spurred on by the (relatively) astounding success I had with my first novel, I began my work by mid April of 2017. That idea would of course grow into my second novel, Preservation Protocol.

Skip to November. This was a big deal for me. Here I was, a brand-new author, poised to release my second novel in less than a year. Preservation Protocol was longer, more detailed, and showed real growth for me as an author(at least to me.) I even had a pre-order on it for the eBook edition a few weeks ahead of its official release.

Then something curious happened. I only had two pre-orders, and I was one of them. The day of release, I sold three copies. Fast-forward to the present: January 2018.

I haven’t sold any more copies.

I’ve thrown far more money at advertising the book than is reasonable. I’ve moaned and groaned about it on Twitter to the point of annoyance, I’m sure. Still, no takers.

It’s as if Preservation Protocol is in some weird black spot in everyone’s consciousness. I’ve actually seen a recent surge in interest for After again, but no follow-up purchases of my latest novel. Anyone who has said anything about After has been largely positive.

What people have said about Preservation Protocol has also been positive, for that matter.

Needless to say, I’ve not taken the wholesale rejection of my latest offering very well. I started writing my third novel, Something Deeper, shortly after releasing Preservation Protocol. I’ve struggled to find the same fire I had in my soul for the first two novels.

I’ve fought to convince myself that I’m a good writer, or even a passable writer. I’ve walked down the dark road all writers follow at least once in their lives. Maybe I should just put down my pen, maybe for good.

Maybe I should stop working on this new book. Maybe I should delete this new book. Will anyone even ever read this new book? Is it even worth punishing myself late at night by continuing to work on it?

Yes. It is.

I’m not sure what changed between my first release and my second, but what I know hasn’t changed is my passion for writing. Despite all the negative thoughts I’ve had, I’ve never stopped enjoying the process of creating and exploring new worlds. I’ve struggled, but I still want… need… to see what happens to Simon Travers in Something Deeper.

So I will continue to write. I will continue to release novels, even if only a handful of people ever enjoy reading them. I’ve decided it doesn’t matter, because I enjoy writing them.

Just over six hundred people read After last year. That’s nothing over a nine-month period, but it’s everything to me. I will hold that in my heart going forward.

I may never grow rich or have thousands of fans, but I will have fun. I’ve discovered a trick so few manage to pull off in this world. I can create whole worlds.

I can see untold tales from lands far away and people long gone. I feel the emotions of people not yet born, in realms yet to be discovered. I hold the darkest secrets of the most holy.

I am their seer, their scribe, their friend. I accept my duty to commit to paper their stories. I will sing their songs and preserve their names.

And I will always find joy in it all.

Star Wars: Flawed Perfection

This is not the alt text you're looking for. Move along.
It’s been a long, drunken journey

Yeah, I’m going there.

I will start off by saying that I enjoy the Star Wars movies. I was introduced to them as far back as three years old. My earliest memory involves me picking out a Darth Vader light saber and insisting that the red one was the good guy’s sword.

That said, the Star Wars saga is a twisted, convoluted mess of a series. There was no clear plan for the very first movie, let alone for a nine-movie-long saga. Quite frankly, George Lucas didn’t know what the hell he was doing.

Lest anyone forget, Lucas’ first movie, THX 1138 was not a success by any measure.  It could be argued that the only reason American Graffiti turned out as well as it did was due to it largely being based on Lucas’ own life. Star Wars was similarly based on a love of Lucas’.

No, I’m not saying that George Lucas is an alien. Everyone knows that, anyway. As many people know now, Star Wars was a love letter to the old Flash Gordon serials of Lucas’ youth. When he couldn’t obtain the rights to Flash Gordon, he basically set out to make a rip-off of it.

Writing the original Star Wars was a giant mess in and of itself. Looking back over the Wikipedia article about the writing process, Lucas didn’t seem to know what to do beyond write something science-fictiony. Looking over it as a whole, Lucas was relatively clueless as to what he was doing.

It would take him three years and uncountable rewrites and reimaginings before he finally put down the script… just as they started filming the movie. Lucas has admitted he was heavily influenced by numerous different sci-fi adventures he had seen and read. Star Wars was a lasagna whose different layers were built upon other writers’ works.

It kinda worked out okay though, in the end. Star Wars was a huge hit, and it is a good movie, but I think a large part of that is owed to luck. The movie is a veritable hodgepodge of other movies and books mixed together with a heaping helping of classical adventure archetypes added in for spice. That said, it would seem that Lucas had found his footing in Star Wars.

Except he had not. Lucas didn’t even write the base script for The Empire Strikes Back, though he would ultimately polish it into the story we saw on the big screen. It also wasn’t until this point that the trilogy… well… became a trilogy. It’s also the point that Darth Vader became Luke Skywalker’s daddy.

Darth Vader had not been destined to be Luke’s father when the first film was made. This introduced the first of many contradictions in the continuity of the series. It’s also the main crux of my argument, here.

From the beginning, Star Wars has always been a crapshoot. The first movie was supposed to be another movie entirely. The second movie morphed the series into a trilogy. The third movie, as far as I know, was supposed to end the trilogy.

Also, as far as I know, there was no grand plan of doing three prequels to the original trilogy. Insert your “Spaceballs: The Search for More Money” joke here. It should be said that Lucas claims he always wanted to do the prequel trilogy, however.

Whatever the truth is, the prequel movies were made, and the nerds rejoiced. Again, I enjoyed all three movies, though many swear they were terrible. Both sides are right.

The prequel trilogy showed a level of writing not seen in the first three movies. The plots and storylines were much more polished and coherent. It was evident that careful thought and planning had gone into the over-arching story that bound not only the three movies, but the prequel trilogy to the original triology.

My main beef with the prequels is twofold. Firstly, while the writing is cohesive, it is also emotionally flat. George Lucas has come a long way in his writing, but handles emotion with all the grace and nuance of a mentally deficient refrigerator.

The other major problem with the prequels was that the story they had to tell was set in stone, and had to be spread out across three movies. This problem can be seen the most in the first movie, which feels like it could be simplified to “pod racing and baffling good luck.” While The Phantom Menace does a good job of setting up the rest of the trilogy, it meanders relentlessly on its way there.

That brings us to the sequel trilogy. I can honestly understand at this point why George Lucas didn’t have much interest in doing the “final” trilogy. These movies, thus far, epitomize everything that’s wrong with Hollywood today.

There is no clear outline for this trilogy. It is literally being hammered out as they go along. The first movie was a total and complete send-up of the original Star Wars film. Kylo Ren is Darth Vader, rebels are trying to bring down the establishment, Starkiller Base is the Death Star, a lot of time is spent on a desert planet, etc.

The Last Jedi, if anything, seems to be an even more confused mess. It feels more like a generic sci-fi action/adventure movie than ever before. Without getting too deep into the plot of the film, it epitomizes the idea of delivering over-the-top moments versus building plot and character.

Speaking of character, Luke Skywalker comes off as more of a convenient plot device then the continuing arc of a beloved character. Leia Organa similarly seems to be there simply for the character recognition and as a place-holder. Her big “force” moment in the film feels like tacked-on lip service for the nerds in the audience.

At this point, I don’t know if there will be a truly satisfying end to this third trilogy. Disney seems more interested in delivering over-the-top cinematic moments than developing a mythos. Bottom line: Disney gonna Disney. And if their past is any indication, the third movie in the trilogy will not be the last.

Sure enough, there’s already been an indication that the original main movie line will continue, though not necessarily continuing with the Skywalker clan. These movies will undoubtedly continue to make way more money than they have any right to. These movies will continue to spawn more movies and spin-offs, and I’ll probably watch them all.

I truly am a fan of the Star Wars universe. I truly enjoy watching the movies. I’m simply disappointed that, after all these years and all these movies, the powers that be still can’t get their shit together and create a cohesive universe.  Flying by the seat of one’s pants might have worked out for Han Solo, but that doesn’t mean it will continue to work for Disney.

The Star Wars films are great popcorn movies, but they can be so. Much. MORE. Disney has the power and the talent to weave a storyline to rival that of the Marvel movies. The only real question now is, why aren’t they doing it?

 

 

 

Christmas

And Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy etc...
Merry Christmas, y’all.

It’s Christmastime. You know, Santa spoils your kids, you drink some eggnog, you put up with your relatives(again,) stuff like that. Everyone enjoys their extra day off, goes to work hungover, and waits a week to do it all over again, minus the presents.

It’s not that simple though, is it? I mean, it’s not for me. Humans like to paint with a broad brush. The truth of the matter is that everyone celebrates the holidays in their own way. Furthermore, not everyone feels the same way about the holidays.

I’m not just talking about people that celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, either. Some people have elaborate traditions that must be honored and adhered to. Others go through the motions, smiling around the growing ball of stress in their stomachs. Then of course you have the people that just want to blink and have it be over with.

It’s a fascinating look into the psyches of people. Christmas is unique in that respect. Few other measures cover so many aspects of the human mind with a single stimulus: Christmastime.

Now obviously most people first experience Christmas as children. This is one of the earliest opportunities parents get to pass down generational traditions and beliefs. For children, it’s their earliest exposure to the idea of such concepts.

My earliest memories only involve the jolly fat man bringing me presents on Christmas morning. We had to watch the Peanuts Christmas special, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. That was it, in the beginning.

There was no baby Jesus. There was no midnight mass or We Three Kings. My parents weren’t religious at all. I still recall with a smile a moment from later in my life that sums it all up quite well.

We went through a period of going to church and some of us, well, grasped it better than others. I said to my father in passing that we were Christians, and he replied “No! Don’t tell people that! We’re not Christians, we’re Catholic!”

Religion was not really our thing, is what I’m saying.

That moment came after my father remarried following my mother’s passing. My step mother was absolutely religious. She even had one of those cool/creepy Jesus figurines ripping its chest open to point at its little Jesus heart.

Now understand I totally fucking hated going to church. It was Catholic church on top of it, so even worse than normal church. Christmas was different, though.

I still couldn’t wait to leave church as soon as I got there, but there was something… different… about midnight mass. It had an altogether different feel to it than normal mass. It felt peaceful, almost magical, dare I say sacred.

At the time, I didn’t really understand it. I think I was between nine and twelve when we went to midnight mass. Looking back, I think it was the specialness of it.

It was night versus day. I was up instead of in bed. We sang old Christmas songs instead of those weird Catholic hymns. There was a charged feeling to the atmosphere, an air of quiet anticipation, all with that underlying feeling of sacredness.

While I didn’t miss my father’s second wife, I did miss that feeling when Christmas rolled around. It took a number of years to realize that it wasn’t the church I missed, or all the strict, arcane rules that surrounded it. I missed that quiet, peaceful, sacred feeling that came with Christmas eve.

Years later, I think I have a better grasp on it. We humans hit the ground running at top speed (some of us terribly hungover) at the beginning of the year. We don’t really get a chance to slow down and catch our breath until the end of the year grabs us by the face and makes us pay attention.

It’s like a good, hard slap. The year is almost over. It’s time to celebrate, though for many of us it’s just one more stress-point in a year full of stress-points. For people like me, it signals it’s time to realize that we’re nearly out of money and that life-saving tax return is so, so far away.

I actually see people getting angrier, not more cheerful, as the year draws to a close. Modern life has dictated that this be a stressful time of year. The bills pile up, we bleed money to buy gifts for everyone. Budgets get stretched to the limit. We drag our corpses out of bed before the sun rises to go to work until after the sun sets.

All during that time we are supposed to laugh, put on a happy face, and enjoy the season. Is it really such a wonder that everyone just wants it over? So few people remember the reason for the season, and no, I don’t mean baby Jesus.

For me, this time of year has become a time for reflection. It is a time to look back at who I was this year, and to make peace with it. It is a time to remember who I am, and try to find my inner peace before the race begins anew.

I think of the struggles I’ve faced this year. Somehow I’ve managed to survive the year without resorting to bankruptcy again. I’ve held together my marriage. My children haven’t devolved into bratty little hooligans.

I think of poor old Tom, my father in law that passed on two days before my birthday. I think of everything he did for me, how he transformed me. I think of how I will miss seeing his smiling face and listening to his boisterous stories.

I think of the reality that I am now a published author. I savor the reality that people actually want to read what I write. I must accept the reality that, at least for now, I will not make a living with my writing. I also must accept that, for whatever reason, nobody is interested in reading my second novel.

I revel in the fact that I ultimately don’t care, and am happily writing my third novel. I will continue to write and publish novels. I have nothing to prove, except that I will not give up.

These thoughts burn. They tighten my chest and bring tears to my eyes. These thoughts are who I am though, and I will learn to process and accept and fucking embrace them.

And as I sit here tonight in the dark, when the last of the presents are finally under the tree and a glass of scotch is in my hand, I will smile as I watch the lights twinkle.

Despite all that life has thrown at me, throughout all of the trials and tribulations, I have survived.

I sit here typing this, realizing that for the first time in a very long time, I know who I am again. I can accept my shortcomings again. And I can love myself again.

Yes, tonight I will sit here alone in the dark, soaking in the sacredness not of Christmas, but of the transition from one year to the next. The pain of the year will fade as the I prepare for the brightness of tomorrow morning. This sacred moment of silence when everything is possible, and hope can grow eternal, will envelop me once more.

May you all some day find this sacred peace. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and many happy returns.

Changes

So different...
The same, but different…

I’ve been thinking about my childhood lately, for whatever reason. One place that I kept going back to time and again (both in my head and in my childhood) was the Berlin Mall, appropriately enough in Berlin, Vermont. It occurred to me that this mall saw me grow up and change, and it changed right along with me.

The mall, as best as I can remember, opened up some time in the mid to late eighties. Before then, the only option was the University mall in Burlington, Vermont. That was a forty-five minute drive from where I lived back then. The idea of having a place you can go to, with a whole bunch of stores, ALL under one weather-proof roof was amazing to me.

Going there was a treat for me. I still remember many of the original stores. The toy store was Kay-Bee Toys(later K-B Toys because… reasons?) Almost across from it was an independent pizza place. Further up was a magic shop (I believe called The Magic Shop?) Just past that was a candy shop where you could still get candy by the piece.

Further up ahead was the other restaurant in the mall: The prerequisite Orange Julius. They had the best pizza dogs in the universe. The other end of the mall had a flower shop, with a Walden books across from it.

Then there was a Footlocker, and an optometrist. There was a largish music store called The Music Shoppe that sold musical instruments and video equipment in addition to tapes and CDs. Up and to the left was a tee-shirt shop of all things. They even did custom air-brushed shirts. They didn’t last long.

Beside them was the mandatory video arcade, imaginatively called the FUN Arcade. It was a bit on the small side, but there was always something new to play for a number of years. Surprisingly, it played a smaller role in my life than the other stores, though it remained a constant as I grew up.

The Berlin Mall only had two stores to begin with: J.C. Penney and a Rich’s department store. A few years on it gained a Jo Ann Fabrics in the middle. I remember how much it blew my mind, seeing a huge store appear where once there was only a blank wall.

The mall became a much larger part of my life as both of my parents found jobs there. My mother worked at the pizza joint. My father worked at the Kay-Bee Toys. He would finish his stay there as assistant manager.

It was great fun for a time. I got to go hang out in the toy store with my father. I’d go over to the pizza joint to see my mom and have lunch with her. It was a classic kids’ dream, but it wasn’t to last.

The first change came in 1989. That was the year my mother died of Leukemia. It’s one of the prime reasons my memory of my childhood is so spotty. Needless to say, losing the person your world revolved around is profoundly damaging.

One of the most profound healing moments I had happened at the Berlin Mall, however. My father and I were hanging out with one of my father’s friends at the mall. He was a big guy that we all lovingly called Bear. He’d end up changing too.

But at the time, he was an anchor for my father, and almost a surrogate uncle to me. We were in and around the flower shop for whatever reason. I got it in my mind that I wanted to write a letter to my mother and float it to her with a balloon.

I wrote the letter, and my father got me a balloon from the flower shop, knowing that it wouldn’t provide enough lift to take it away. Surely enough, the letter didn’t even lift off the ground. In stepped Bear to buy a second balloon for me.

That didn’t do much to budge the letter, either. By this point, the story of what I was trying to do started getting around. My father, somewhat embarrassed, was telling Bear not to waste the money. Bear was pretty-well ignoring him at this point.

After about twenty dollars (in eighties money!) and a few contributions from others, my letter was finally buoyant. Bear, my dad, and I went out the middle entrance of the mall. Tears in all of our eyes, I let the letter go.

It floated up and up. Others stopped to watch the large wad of balloons as they soared higher and higher. I watched until they had turned into nothing more than a dot in the sky, smiling.

I think in my heart I knew the letter wouldn’t actually reach my mother. All the same, it was a large step towards beginning to heal for me. It was made possible by my father, Bear, and to a lesser extent, the Berlin Mall.

The years crawled by, and I grew older. Eventually I began riding my bicycle to the mall. It was a grand journey for me: About two and a half miles on busy roads.

I was a solitary child. We moved every couple of years, it seemed. I never managed to stay in one place long enough to make permanent friends. Over time I preferred to just be off on my own.

My trips to the Berlin Mall became my happiness. I’d take whatever meager amount of cash I’d managed to scrape together and find something cheap to treat myself with. More often than not, that was Bazooka Joe bubblegum at the candy shop.

There was more than shopping to be had at the mall, though. At one point during the summer there would be the boat show. I’ve never been much of a boat person, but it was impressive to see all those big, shiny boats inside the mall!

The prerequisite parking lot carnival would pop up once or twice a year. Then the circus started coming there. It was the only circus I ever got to see in my life. My most notable memory was riding an elephant that would eventually go on a rampage a few years later. It was ultimately gunned down by police.

Perhaps my fondest memories were from Christmastime at the mall. I remember walking there once in the middle of a snow storm. I went to the Orange Julius and used some of my pocket change to get a small coffee, the world’s youngest adult.

I had to go. I was going Christmas shopping, and there was plenty to sift through there. Every season, Christmas-themed shops would pop up in empty store fronts, or set up booths throughout the mall. You could get everything from hand-made ornaments, to statuary, to original paintings and everything in between.

I remember spending hours wandering around, just taking it all in. I was alone, but not alone. The mall had become my friend. It was someone I would come to visit, we’d have an adventure together, and then I’d go home to whatever.

Things changed as I grew older. Rich’s eventually folded, robbing the mall of one its most important anchors. A dollar store (incorrectly called All For a Dollar) also folded. It had been a treasure trove for a poor kid like me. The magic shop had died and gone long before either of those stores.

Over time, the magic began to fade. The mall had become barren, robbed of its life as people had fewer and fewer reasons to come visit. I was finding other interests as I grew, but part of me wept for this old friend.

Eventually, the world’s (seemingly) smallest Walmart moved in where Rich’s once was. The mall experienced a rebirth as shoppers once again filled its hallowed halls. Things would never be the same as before, though.

It continued to struggle, and so did I. Now out on my own, I took a job at that Walmart. My old friend had now become home to me. I was a cart pusher. I spent a beautiful summer getting thin and bronzed, prowling the parking lot for stray carts.

But Walmart is Walmart, and when I hurt my knee, they kind of shrugged and did nothing about it. I limped around trying to do my job for a few days, but to little effect. Eventually I just didn’t come in one day.

I went on to make a series of not-so-good decisions in my life that took me away from my precious mall. Perhaps, in a way, that was a good thing. It continued to change. Stores continued to move out and change hands.

I used to pine for my mall; to return one day and try to find that childhood magic I remembered so fondly. I don’t want to go back now, though. You see, my friend has grown up, too. He’s no longer recognizable to me.

It’s been a while since I checked, but I do believe every store I mentioned at the beginning of this article is now gone. I’m not even sure the arcade is still there. My best estimate would put maybe two stores remaining that date back to the earliest days of the mall’s existence.

Like me, the Berlin Mall has grown and changed. In some ways it’s been for the better, in other ways for the worse, not unlike myself. It stands as a strong symbol to me of the path life leads us all on.

We are born, and we grow. We find happiness where we can, before life and work take us away from what we’ve grown to know and love. We make do and find new ways to thrive and be fruitful.

But those childhood memories will be with us… with me… forever. I know now that I can never go back, but I can close my eyes and remember. For me, those memories are an escape from a world that has grown so, so cold.

I don’t miss the Berlin Mall, I miss what the Berlin Mall once was. I miss who I once was, but both of us have changed.

But I will always remember what we both once were.

Goodbye, old friend.

 

Go Team

Yeah... No.
Looks like a fair fight, don’t it? -image via clipart-library.com

So lately in the news, they’ve been talking a lot about the GOP and stuff. You might have heard something. It’s nothing much, really… Just a flaming train wreck heading for a TNT factory…

Before I go any farther, I just want to point out that I identify as an Independent. In fact, no. I identify as an American. I’m tired of all this pick-a-side bullshit. Allow me to elaborate.

For years now, there has been a growing divide between the Republicans and the Democrats. Then Obama happened. Oh, BOY did Obama happen.

As usual, the Republicans were all like “Eww! A Democrat!” Once in control of like, everything but the presidency, they set forth to stop that Democrat from successfully doing anything, well besides the Affordable Care Act. We must stop this brown man, they cried! He is too Democratic! And brown!

This was the tipping point for the GOP. The idea of opposing teams became amplified throughout Obama’s eight years in office. It became less about getting their own ideas heard and utilized, and more about making sure the other team, the Democrats, lost.

Stopping Obama became a win for the GOP. Stopping the Democrats in any form was a win. Mission One for GOP: WIN. How? By making those dastardly Democrats LOSE.

Hell, if you want to boil down the 2016 election message from the Republican party, it was thus: If you elect US, we’ll make them LOSE! Then we’ll WIN!

Entering that same election, you had a large number of people in this country that were fed up with nothing getting done in the government. The Democrats (somewhat rightfully) pointed fingers at the Republicans as the reason legislation constantly ground to a halt. The Republicans pointed right back saying the Dems want to pass bills that will destroy the economy!

Enter Donald Trump.

Let me start by saying I don’t think Trump is exceptionally smart. I think he is exceptionally lucky, and conniving to a disgusting degree. This man got into the presidential election for one reason and one reason only: Free Advertising.

He’d throw his hat into the ring, get some free publicity. He’d go to NBC and say “See? I ran for damn president! GIVE ME MORE MONEY.” He’d get dropped in favor of a more traditional candidate, and then that would be that.

But something curious happened.

Those same people that had been worked into a froth by the lack of governmental action saw in Donald Trump an outsider. This dude’s gonna go in there and turn shit upside down! He’ll be his own man! He’ll fight for US and not THEM!

So the unthinkable happens: Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee for president of the United States. Why would they do this? This man does not know what he’s doing!

They were well aware of that. They were also well aware that he was their best chance of… Wait for it… WINNING. They’d just have to hold their nose and hope for the best.

Well, something even more curious happened.

Donald Trump won.

Thanks to a push by people desperate to get out from under the horrible, icky Obamacare, the Orange One grabbed the gold. He’d get rid of your Obamacare costs! He’d build a wall to keep out the icky brown people! He’d boost the middle class!

But let’s leave Donald behind for a minute(always a good idea. Heh.)

The GOP had done it: They OWNED the government! ALL of it! They WON! So… Now what?

The Republicans had become so focused on the Democrats losing that it had become a measure of them winning. They were in charge now, so they didn’t have to keep making the Democrats lose. They already lost!

This led to instant consternation in the Republican party. Some simply didn’t know how to deal with this new situation, so they started trying to make their OWN team lose, apparently. Starting with: Obamacare.

It’s no news that the GOP failed not once, but TWICE to repeal Obamacare, one of their campaign promises. Well, the senate failed. The house GOP members made damn sure to point out how hard they WON at repealing Obamacare. What the heck, senate GOP?!

That itching need to win started nibbling at the souls of the GOP again. They needed their Rocky moment if they wanted to survive the 2018 election cycle. Enter: Tax Reform.

Like the Obamacare repeal, things went sideways early. The idea was to lower taxes not only for the middle class, but for EVERYBODY! YEAH! Wait… That could cost a bit of change…

Interesting that the GOP is notorious for NOT wanting to inflate the deficit. They closed their eyes, held their breath, and said “It’s okay! The economy will improve so much that it will pay for itself!”

Fun Fact #1: No, it won’t. Not even close.

The current consensus is that the Tax Reform bill will cost $1 trillion in the long-run, while increasing the GDP by… 0.8%.

Well… At least our beloved middle class will get a tax cut! We’ll be delivering on campaign promises!

Fun Fact #2: No, not really.

Again, consensus shows that while some middle-class Americans will see short-term savings, ALL middle-class citizens will eventually see MORE tax debt as a result of this bill. Now the one-percenters? Heh, guess what? They’ll eventually pay LESS.

So they had a bill that would cost the middle class more in the long run, greatly benefit wealthy people and big business, and explode the deficit while not necessarily creating any new jobs or boosting wages.

Oh yeah, I forgot about that.

You see, this bill was also built up as a surefire way to bring tax money back to the US. Not only that, but these companies would be making SO MUCH MONEY that there’s NO WAY that they won’t hire more people and pay them more!

That’s called trickle-down economics, and it’s been proven time and again to not work AT ALL. The likely result: Big businesses will add the record profits to their already record profits and just absorb it all. Screw the little guy… Including the middle class.

Sounds like a no-brainer to just let this one go, right? I mean, they still wouldn’t have a win, but at least the voters would see the GOP was working in their best interests, right?

The bill passed the senate early Saturday morning with a single (retiring) member of the GOP dissenting.

THEY WON!

They successfully passed a bill that will hurt the middle class, explode the deficit, and greatly reward big business. They passed a bill that seemingly NOBODY (including some Republicans) likes or necessarily wants. WHY?!

So they could win.

Good luck to them doing that in 2018, by the way. The rest of us are tired of losing. Just saying.

Speaking of losing…

Back to Donald Trump, the man who had to win no matter what because the GOP had to win. Looks like he’s not winning so much anymore these days, does it? No border wall yet, no Obamacare repeal, unpopular tax bill… That’s not to mention the incalculable damage he’s done to the reputation of the US with other countries, including several allies.

Oh, yeah: He’s also possibly going to be impeached for breaking the law.

But remember, they won.

That’s all that matters, right?

 

Acceptance

Trying to reach the top… (Photo on Visualhunt)

(I’m mixing things up a little bit. The end is not as bitter as the beginning. Bear with me, yes?)

I’ve come to an odd place in my life.

Nothing much has changed in the past ten years, to be honest. I used to work for a company that produces copper and fiber optic cables. I can’t name them, or they could sue me for my severance pay.

I got paid sub-standard wages to make those cables for years, while being made to feel that I should be grateful for it. I made more over a number of years, earning meager raises but never reaching the average starting wage for the industry. One year I received a ten cent raise. One dime an hour.

After eight years of loyal work, that company was bought out by an even bigger company. That even bigger company closed our production facility. We were told that we should be appreciative for our (bog-standard) severance packages.

I got lucky. Well, I got as lucky as can be expected, and landed in a crappy retail job for two dollars an hour less than I was paid at the cable making company. It was somehow more stressful and less fulfilling than the cable job.

I truly got lucky a short time later when I was hired by my current employer as an auto detailer. I absolutely love my job, and have been happily working it for nearly three years now. I’m still making a dollar less than I did at the cable-making company, though.

Long story short, I’ve been struggling financially for over a decade now. I’ve done everything right: Be loyal, work hard, stay the course… All that good stuff.

That’s not good enough in this country anymore.

Like countless others, I continue to languish in poverty despite working six days a week. I’ve continued to improve myself, pushing myself to be better. I’ve even taken to writing, releasing two novels this year alone. And yet…

And yet I’m in the deepest debt that I’ve ever been in. I’m in a swamp, and I’m sinking. I’ve been sinking for years. I struggle, and I sink further. I struggle harder, I sink deeper. There is no escape.

I could grab the rope right beside me called bankruptcy. Maybe I will eventually. I don’t know. I don’t want to, though. It’s not just pride, either.

I live in subsidized housing, in an actual house. I’d love to move into a house after they inevitably kick us out in the future. My daughter is on the final stretch to adulthood. Time is running out.

I can’t save for a down-payment on a house since I’m hemorrhaging six hundred dollars a month(I survive by using tax-return money to supplement my income throughout the year.) Claiming bankruptcy would leave me wide-open to save, but nobody will lend to me with a recent bankruptcy on my record.

So I started things over a dozen years ago being desperately poor and struggling to find my way. But now? Now I’m desperately poor and am struggling to find my way.

Wait. That’s not an improvement. Shit…

Okay, well… Here’s my point. I’ve spent most of those years stressed out of my mind, sometimes to the point of being sick, every day of my life. I’ve made increasingly desperate attempts to “make it work” and “figure it out”.

I’ve been like a cat in a bath tub, lately. Jumping and hissing and clawing and crying, trying to find any way out of my predicament. The sides of this bathtub are way too high.

I’m at that breaking point. One way or another, I’m accepting my fate. I’m choosing to accept it with as much grace and calm as I possibly can.

I know now that (seemingly) nothing I do will change my situation. Therefore I will do nothing. Oh, I’ll continue paying the bills… Somehow. I’ll keep being impoverished. I’ll keep writing. I’ll keep this website going.

I’m not going to live in a world of sickening stress anymore, though. I’m accepting that no matter what I do, my situation will not change. It’s stupid to stress over something that will not change, so I’m not going to.

I know it’s not a switch. I can’t just say “I will be happy, now.” I still snap sometimes over stupid shit only tangentially related to our decade-long cash crunch. It’s a process.

But it’s a process that’s been long overdue, and it’s one that I’ve started. David Cassidy died recently. His last words were reported to be “So much wasted time.”

I don’t want that to be me. I don’t want to look back years from now and say “Why did I do this to myself?” I want to know what it’s like to live without stress. I’m not going to get to do it by eliminating my debt.

I’m going to learn to accept it.

I will do what I can to enjoy the life I have. I enjoy my job. I love my family. I find joy in writing. These things I must cling to, savor, revel in. Only through these things can I continue to cling to my sanity.

I can either look at the impossibly-steep path before me and weep, or look out behind me and witness the glorious view my journey has awarded me. I know that I must continue to climb this mountain, but I will find joy in it whenever I can.

In this, may I find my peace.

John Prescott

 

 

Fat Mop Zoo Proudly Announces the Release of “Preservation Protocol”!

Preservation Protocol will be released November 4th and is now available for Preorder!

From the author of “After” comes “Preservation Protocol”, a sci-fi mystery adventure!

In the far future, robots and Synthetics have become a part of everyday life for the citizens of New Wave City. Detective Max Kincaid’s okay with the robots, but the Synthetics? Not so much.

That becomes a problem after a meeting with Daryl Marston propels him into a conspiracy involving Synthetics, the mob, and even the FBI. Max must now face his fears as he works to discover who wants Daryl dead.

The problem is, not all is as it appears. Who is real, who is Synthetic? Max soon finds himself in a race to sort it all out before he runs out of time.

The eBook is available for preorder at the time of this article’s publishing, with physical book availability to follow shortly. CLICK HERE to go to Amazon and secure your eBook order today!

Hello Dolly Collection!

Divorce Barbie always gets the car.

Dolls have been around since ancient times, with written descriptions of dolls used as toys dating back to 100 AD. We’ve been collecting and displaying them almost as long. Some people get a little more crazy with their collections than others…

Take Bettina Dorfmann of Germany, for example. Guinness awarded her with the record for the largest Barbie doll collection in 2013. Bettina has 15,000 unique Barbie doll “items”. Yes, they’ve made at least that many. It took 19 years of dedicated collecting to get to this point, and she’s always looking to expand. The most expensive Barbie in her collection cost her $10,000: a “Barbie ponytail #1” with accessories and in mint condition.

The boys can participate as well, and still maintain their manhood. Mattel’s Masters of the Universe collection consisted of well over sixty action figures alone in the original run of toys. This does not include larger creatures or battle vehicles. The series was brought back after a lengthy hiatus with an even larger run.

These figures continue to be made and released as the “Classics” series that are aimed squarely at collectors. Prices can be sky high for these action figures that used to sell for as low as a few dollars at your local department store. Rarer specimens in mint condition can go for hundreds of dollars a piece, while a Wonder-bread promotional He-Man figure complete can start at $1,000.

Now might be a good time to plan a trip to the old attic.

Diversions: The Mütter Museum

The line to get in can get pretty long...
The line to get in can get pretty long…

Writing blurbs about the largest/biggest/tallest/oldest/etc-est is all fun and whatnot, but I think it’s time to branch out a wee bit. So I came up with the idea of Diversions. Essentially Diversions will consist of a random topic of interest. Come read about it here, then go off and explore on your own(just make sure to come back after!) Nothing’s more refreshing than some good-old exploration. 🙂

Face-off!
Face-off!

What better place to start than the Mütter Museum? Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Mütter was originally a collection donated by one Dr. Thomas Mütter in 1858. He freely donated the collection with the stipulation that The College of Physicians add to it and maintain it as a museum.

Besides being popularly known for just being all around “gross” and “icky”, the museum boasts an impressive collection of human skulls. There are also a number of human skeletons (including the tallest currently on display in the US) and “fetal anomalies”.

I win!
I win!

The museum is perhaps best known to the general public for a handful of side-showesque displays that are prominently featured. In fact, the subjects of one display used to be side-show all-stars. The conjoined liver and death cast of the famous conjoined “Siamese” twins Chang and Eng Bunker are on display.

Other oddities include slides of Albert Einstein’s brain, Grover Cleveland’s mouth tumor and tissue removed from assassin John Wilkes Booth. There are plenty of other less famous anomalies to be found, such as the “soap lady” and a rather gigantic colon that’s even spawned its own cute plush doppelganger.

So what I’m saying is, you know, fun for the whole family. Make sure you check it out!

Ocean Dwelling Dynamos

Pictured: Your mom
Pictured: Your mom

The seven seas are teeming with life. The last true undiscovered country on Earth, the deepest depths of the ocean may yet hold immense lifeforms we’ve never seen. Thanks to the buoyancy water affords to those creatures that live in it, the oceans are home to the largest animals in the world.

The blue whale blows away any challengers by a large margin. Full-grown specimens can top out at upwards of 100 feet long and can weigh up to 150 tons. To give this animal’s size some perspective, its heart alone weighs an average of 1,300 pounds. That’s around the same weight as a full grown cow. What could possibly compete with that?

Well, if you prefer your gigantic water dwellers sans vertebrae, then you can always turn to the colossal squid. Best estimates put adult specimens between 40 and 45 feet long. That puts it at about half the size of a blue whale. Humpback whales should take note, though. They are about the same length, and are known to have scars that are believed to have been caused by the colossal squid.

A tad bit squishier, and a lot less deadly, is the lion’s mane jellyfish. The largest discovered was a mere 7.5 feet in diameter, but sported tentacles that measured an impressive 120 feet long. That’s longer than the blue whale up there. Despite it’s impressive size, its sting would be no more annoying than a mosquito bite to our other two seafaring giants.