The Sharp Knife of a Short Life

Mom

My mother died.

I don’t remember her, not on any conscious level. But her absence has been a void in my world that I…

I can’t even begin to express.

But the love she gave me, in her short life, all she got to live, before I was even really aware…

Has kept me alive.

Has made me a man who truly loves, and who can accept love.

Has kept me alive.

Has nurtured hope, even when I can’t make myself stand.

Has kept me alive.

I don’t even have a photograph of her. But I feel her smile in me. Life with her would have been so much goddamned better.

But she has kept me alive.

Mom, this song of the week is for you….

The Band Perry – “If I Die Young”

I’m Back. Ish.

Tim, with hat

Hi.

Nice to see you. Yeah, I know, it’s been a while.

I’ve been largely offline for months, and so socially out-of-touch that calling me a shut-in would be sadly appropriate. In that time, I haven’t accomplished much to speak of, either; I was in almost full retreat from the world and I let most of the things I’d been juggling crash to the ground.

I stopped doing social media. I rarely answered the phone. I mostly left my cave only to get the mail (about once a week) and to go grocery shopping (every week or two). I even stopped reading my personal email for the most part, and as a result I now have over sixteen thousand unread messages in my inbox to dig through.

Basically, my motivation and energy collapsed into a black hole and I went with it. It was a surrender to fear and failure, but also a release I needed to keep breathing. At first, I thought that I’d get back to things tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that…but as time passed, I was more and more weighed down by my own indolence, and I came to see that this break from responsibility, and from the world, was very possibly necessary for my actual survival.

How did I get to this dark and dreary place?

I had some physical health problems. Nothing major, but enough to wear on me. I felt weak and, because of the depression, unable to care for myself as well as I need to.

People close to me had health problems, including someone who is now fighting cancer and relying on me for help as she undergoes treatment.

My beloved cat, Scamp, was killed by a coyote.

I ran into professional obstacles. My indie-published version of Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, beautifully illustrated by Gary Chaloner, wasn’t exactly selling like gangbusters in spite of great reviews and responses from people who read it. As I write this, the book has a 4.6 stars out of 5 rating on Amazon, and it has had rave reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, and folks like Daniel Pinkwater and Zack Stentz (a screenwriter of Thor, X-Men: First Class, Fringe, and other notable productions). But it has only received 17 new reader reviews since its release in May 2013 (the rest were from its earlier edition from Putnam), and that’s not enough activity to help it rise in Amazon’s algorithms to be seen by more potential readers. I wanted very much to continue the series as planned, in fully illustrated volumes as nice as this one, but I was losing faith that the market would support that.

Also, as some of you know, Gary had to leave the series because of scheduling concerns, and when I hired artist Tess Fowler for the second book, she ripped me off. This was a blow to my budget but even more to my confidence. With that unfortunate trauma fresh in mind, I was faced not only with finding another artist but with the fear that this sort of thing could happen again. And, as noted above, I wasn’t even sure whether I should stick with the plans for illustration at all.

And all that was stressing me out like crazy.

So, I sank. I disappeared. I hid. I hibernated. As much as I could, I recovered.

My only real joy during this time came from my son, who is now away at college and thriving and who is an exemplary human being who makes me very proud, and my hot tropical sweetheart, Nydia, who is always there for me and ever understanding of my battle. (Happy Valentine’s Day, baby!)

Thank you, also, to those of you who may have messaged me, worried by my absence. I’m deeply touched by your concern and hope this post answers your questions. It’s times like this that you find out who your friends really are.

Now what?

Now…I drag myself back into the light and try to rebuild.

On the personal level, I’ll be tentatively reacquainting myself with the world at large. I’ll be back on social media. I’ll start digging through my email. I’ll keep fighting the ever-hungry darkness that is my depression, and I’ll try to start taking better care of myself again.

On the professional level, I’ll ease myself back into writing, and I’ll be putting a great deal of thought into how best to expend my energy and resources.

As for Doc Wilde…I remain committed to the character, and to his fans. I remain committed to the folks who supported us on Kickstarter, and to the promises I made to them. I’m sorry it’s taking so long, but I’ll make good. The ultimate state of these books will depend on how the market continues to receive them, and if I am able, I will deliver fully illustrated volumes to match the first book. If the market remains soft, I may be forced to settle for nice covers. Regardless, the books will come. (In the meantime, friendly word-of-mouth and honest reviews on Amazon and other sites could be very helpful, and would be very appreciated).

So, onwards and upwards. I’ll be around.

TESS FOWLER: I Let The Artist Have Her Say

As many visitors to my blog are aware, last year I had the misfortune of hiring artist Tess Fowler for art duties on my second Doc Wilde book. I paid her a thousand dollars and received nothing but a handful of rough character sketches, and I don’t even have the originals of those.

I detailed the disintegration of the deal and both my and Tess’s behavior in extreme detail, using our actual correspondence,  in this post.  It tells everything you need to know about our entire working relationship, and about Tess’s choices at the end.

As someone commented on the one followup post I wrote, there are two sides to every story. I agreed and stated, “Tess is completely welcome to share her side here.” Of course, she never took me up on the offer.

She did, however, post a lengthy diatribe on Facebook. I didn’t see it on her page because Tess has me blocked (and I have better things to do than monitor her behavior), but several of her friends sent me the information pretty much immediately. A couple even provided actual screenshots of the post and its resultant discussion.

I’m going to share those screenshots with you. This is the closest thing to Tess’s side of the story that she has provided, and I feel no compunction about showing it to you because it was posted publicly. I’ll offer commentary as we read it together.

1

First, everything I have ever posted on this matter is demonstrably true. There’s a reason I used our actual emails and was so thorough in my account; I wanted folks to have all the information they needed to come to their own conclusions about what happened. There are no emails I refuse to show publicly, and you may notice that she says there are but never shows them to anyone.

And yeah, based on my experiences, I’d definitely recommend nobody else hire her. I’m not running a smear campaign, but I damn sure can’t give her a good reference.

2

Bullshit. I stand by the post I linked to at the start of this one as a rebuttal of what she says here. I in no way abused Tess, and since my feeble attempts to contact her to ask that she resume work (attempts she completely ignored), I have made no other attempts to contact her. It’s easy for her to claim that I am “stalking” her, but I challenge her to prove that very libelous charge.

Further, since shutting me out as described in the original post, she has neither tried to discuss matters with me nor in any way offered in any way to continue the work. She blew me off entirely, kept my money, and I’ve had no contact with her of any sort since she did, not even these mythical emails she references yet again without producing them, except that the day I first saw these screenshots I emailed her, offering to get back to work whenever she was ready. She never replied.

I, however, was very public about the fact that I was willing to get back to work with her. She is a talented artist, I liked her take on my characters, and I was already out a thousand dollars so it was fully in my interest to try to get my money’s worth, even after the trauma I’d already suffered.

For the record, that offer no longer holds. I’ve accepted the loss of my money and the lessons learned and there’s no way in hell I’d work with her again.

3

Again, the emails she could produce, but doesn’t. Ever. Whereas I shared damn near every meaningful correspondence we ever had.

And again, bullshit that she ever offered to continue work after communications broke down.

And note here that I am “a madman.” What she means is that I suffer from depression, and she’s trying to use that against me. In a very libelous way.

4

I’d really like to see those emails. If called on it by someone, at most she could produce (and possibly misrepresent) emails I already quoted in my original post, because there has been nothing since. Again, I tried to sweet-talk her back to work after the communications breakdown, and then I’d have jumped on the chance to get back to work on the book because I had, after all, already paid her.

Now, the discussions began:

5

Again, portraying me as crazy because I’m depressed, and the continued insinuation that I’m stalking her via email and phone.

6

You know what? I do know exactly what I can get away with, because I’ve talked to a lawyer too. For something to be considered libel, it has certain criteria it needs to meet, chief among them the stated information has to be untrue. I’m not worried about her lawyers because I have no reason to be worried about her lawyers. And I’m pretty sure that the three different lawyers she spoke to all pretty much told her that.

7

I think that may be my favorite bit.

8

Ironically, the message I received from Tess blocking me and not responding to my emails or calls was very much “Sit down and shut up.”

9

Tess knew I suffered from depression the entirety of our working relationship. I’m very open about it, and about my battles with it. It’s even all over this blog.

And yes, Gary Chaloner, the original Doc Wilde artist, left the series (he didn’t think he could keep up with the workload), but he remains very much a part of the Wilde family, as well as a friend. Our working relationship was always professional, I was thrilled with the book we turned out together (Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom), and I have nothing but respect for him. We had delays and the book took longer to do than we’d planned, but Gary was never anything less than a trooper and I’d recommend him in a heartbeat to anyone who wants a talented, reliable artist. I invite anyone who thinks Gary left because of interpersonal dynamics to contact him directly and ask.

There was more discussion under Tess’s post, but the topics drifted away from me, so  there’s little point in sharing it. For the record, her post was made way back at the end of January, and there’s been no contact or any activity of any sort between Tess and me since. I intended to post this message ever since, but she’s no longer any sort of priority; the only reason I’m going ahead and posting now is because I want transparency for Doc Wilde supporters, so they know what happened and why the second book is delayed. This was also a way to let Tess tell her side of things.

I honestly wish things had gone differently, that Tess had actually been open to continuing the book. She’s a gifted draftswoman and I think the book we produced would have been beautiful.

Now, I wipe my hands of her.

UPDATE: Another of Tess’s victims has come forward and let me share his account. Read it here.

Down on Kinglet Road (ABC Wednesday, 3/26/14)

Kinglet

I was seven or so when we moved to Kinglet Road.

Our new house was a single story brick suburban box, one of many such in the new development named “Bonanza” because, apparently, of how much it didn’t resemble the Cartwright ranch on TV. The whole development was built on top of a landfill, and when I dug in the back yard for dinosaur bones I would find rotting trash instead.

This was sort of a workable metaphor for Bonanza in general, and for Kinglet Road especially.

Though it is now a loathed place of painful memories and anti-nostalgia, Kinglet Road had potential. When we arrived there, our backyard ended on deep pine forest, and that forest became a refuge for me through my childhood. I spent many days exploring alone, getting away from my various cruel stepmothers and my vicious drunk of an old man. I developed my woods sense there, a sensibility that made me very comfortable leading wilderness trips as an adult. I remember streaking nude along the paths like some pint-sized Tarzan, clambering into the trees to spy on people, howling like a wolf when I was the only one around.

My memories of the old homestead are dank and sharp-edged. All the dark struggles I fight still were launched there in abuse and neurosis and simmering parental rage. Childhood at Kinglet Road was no gilded dream.

As Thomas Wolfe has been quoted so often it’s a terrible cliche, you can’t go home again. Not that I would want to. Home may be where the heart is, but my heart is not in that suburban box on Kinglet Road. For me, home isn’t a place you come from, it’s a place you’re going to, a place you build yourself. Just like family.

Now, Kinglet Road is surrounded by development, and to live there is to know stripmall paradise intimately. All the wild beauty I enjoyed and escaped to is gone.

And, thank the gods, so am I.

K

I’ll return next Wednesday with the letter L. I hope you’ll stop by. I’m a writer and I post about a wide variety of non-alphabet-specific topics. Feel free to comment under my posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog, there’s a button in the sidebar.

Also, feel free try to check out my adventure novel Doc Wilde and The Frogs of DoomIt’s been very well reviewed (KIRKUS REVIEWS: “Written in fast-paced, intelligent prose laced with humor and literary allusions ranging from Dante to Dr. Seuss, the story has all of the fun of old-fashioned pulp adventures.”) and is great for action-adventure lovers of all ages.

DOC WILDE AND THE FROGS OF DOOM

For another fun ABC Wednesday post, visit the Carioca Witch here: Bringing Up Salamanders.

Find many more posts by others, and more info on ABC Wednesday, here: ABC Wednesday

When I Was Younger… (Song of the Week, 3/7/14)

Friends

…so much younger than today…

Since I referenced this song earlier in my post about depression and suicide, it only makes sense to have it as our Song of the Week. Enjoy.

(And help them.)

“HELP!” by the Beatles

Help! I Need Somebody… (ABC Wednesday, 3/5/14)

Helping Hand

[Wednesday falls on Friday today…it’s been that sort of week]

Do you understand suicide?

I do. I don’t want to do it, but I have it on my list of options. Worst case scenario sort of thing. This is because I have chronic, often debilitating depression, and it often makes me doubt I have the ability to maintain my life for its natural duration.

Lose the people I love, not able to take it? Suicide’s an option. Don’t sell enough books and fall into poverty? Suicide’s an option, better than living in a soggy box under a bridge. Fall into a permanent depressive funk in which I can’t even take care of myself day-to-day (which is what started to happen to me last year, which is why I re-entered therapy, got back on the meds, and had electroshock therapy for the second time in three years)? Suicide is always there.

It’s like the cyanide capsule hidden in my molar, ready to be crunched in dire circumstances.

Not a day passes that I don’t think about it, at least in passing. It’s a bloodsoaked thread woven through the fabric of my life, not dominant but always dripping. It’s been this way for years.

Do I think I’ll do it some day? No. Would I be surprised if I did? No.

So yeah, I understand suicide. It is dark and terrible and fucked up, but it can also be practical. Or at least seem so to a mind in pain.

I tell you that so that you know I’m talking to you from the darkness. It can be tough to tell most of the time, because I’m largely a low-key yet upbeat guy, forthright about my problems but not whiny or melancholy or gloomy to be around. But I live in the darkness of this disease, and I speak as something of an expert. And the thing I want to tell you is this:

Help them.

If you have someone in your life who suffers from depression:

Help them.

One of the hardest things to do is to ask for help. I will go days without doing the dishes, or taking out the trash,  or going to get the mail, or showering. I’ll avoid the phone and not answer emails. I am utterly useless during those times, and I am mostly without hope. During times like this, I lose all my faith that I can do the things I want to do with my life. I think of the places I’ll never go, the people I’ll never get to hang out with, the books I will never be able to write, and I despair.

I hate asking for help. So I don’t. But I need it.

So, if you know someone with depression:

Help them.

I think there are many lives lost that may have been saved had the people who cared about the folks in pain actually found meaningful ways to be there for them. It can be a burden, yes. But if you care for them, you won’t think of it in those terms, or at least won’t let them know you feel that way. Help them get the professional assistance they need. Cook them a meal every week. Help them clean their home (even little things like taking out the damned trash can make a difference). Talk to them, show them you care about them, show them you have faith in them.

Help them.

You may just save their life.

H

I’ll return next Wednesday with the letter I. I hope you’ll stop by. I’m a writer and I post about a wide variety of non-alphabet-specific topics. Feel free to comment under my posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog, there’s a button in the sidebar.

Also, feel free try to check out my adventure novel Doc Wilde and The Frogs of DoomIt’s been very well reviewed (KIRKUS REVIEWS: “Written in fast-paced, intelligent prose laced with humor and literary allusions ranging from Dante to Dr. Seuss, the story has all of the fun of old-fashioned pulp adventures.”) and is great for action-adventure lovers of all ages.

DOC WILDE AND THE FROGS OF DOOM

For another fun ABC Wednesday post, visit the Carioca Witch here: Bringing Up Salamanders.

Find many more posts by others, and more info on ABC Wednesday, here: ABC Wednesday