Three Years

On January 20, 2017, I resigned from my job working for the United States Department of Defense. I had worked there for just over 6 years, having started at the end of September, 2010. It was the second real job I’d ever held in my life, the first time I truly started earning a living rather than scraping by. It was far from the best job ever, but the people I was around made it worth it — for that first year, at least. Things slowly got worse as the years passed by, leaving me to deal with more and more bureaucratic types as time went on. This came to a head when my new supervisor told me that I needed to “learn to hear better.” After that, it was purely downhill for my last 6 months, going between the equal opportunity office (completely useless), my upper management (completely useless), my union (completely useless; see a trend here?), my higher headquarters (useless), and even my government representatives (thoroughly, completely useless). I’d had enough and by the time they finally scheduled a mediation between me and my director, I was ready to quit. I’d told myself that if the director could at least be honest with me, I would stay. He couldn’t do that. So, that very day, I tendered my resignation. I would not be part of an organization that embraces evil.

Evil comes in many forms. We tend to think of classical interpretations of evil: massacre, torture, rape, and so on. We ascribe it to demons and devils, placing it on a pedestal for supreme acts. The truth is that evil can be quite small as well, a tiny little thing that on the face of it may seem inconsequential. I always remember Grant Gilmore’s famous saying: “The better the society, the less law there will be. In Heaven, there will be no law, and the lion will lie down with the lamb… The worse the society, the more law there will be. In Hell, there is nothing but law, and due process will be meticulously observed.” That’s the United States Government: process, process, process, with no deviations. Rules, rules, rules, and more rules. Only in specific, favored circumstances is this ever abandoned, and it is almost always done by those bent by their own egos. There is to be no questioning of these rules, procedures, or policies; no explanations why they exist; no exceptions granted, unless one is willing to apply an oral fixation upon the proper superior’s posterior. Or if one is somehow perceived as “better” to these superiors. Truth be told, I was never aware as to why I had to go through so many hardships to bring my serious discrimination issues up, while my coworkers were able to simply move away from problem areas on simple request. Apparently the same process was not allowed for me.

In the time since I left my employment from the United States Government, I’ve written four novels, five short stories, published the bulk of my novels, created several pieces of cover art, taken a road trip to Seattle, had a hernia repaired (that sucked), lost my mother, and gotten back into flight simulators where I’ve made a bunch of new friends. I often find myself angry when I look back at how I was treated, but then I have to remind myself that had I remained, I would have lost out on an entire year with my mother — time that I never would’ve got back. I probably wouldn’t have completed those novels or short stories, never completed those art projects, or met those people in flight sims. I would have been contributing to evil, no matter how small, instead of breaking out on my own path. From that day forward, no matter how hard it’s been, it has been my road, my path, my future alone. And that’s something a federal bureaucrat job with benefits and pension will never be able to provide. I’m not beholden to the thinking so prevalent among many government employees: “Just a few more years and I can collect that sweet pension!” True, I may have to work until the day I die, perhaps at menial, pointless jobs; but no matter how dull, no matter how dreary they become, I can sit back and say I at least followed my conscience, instead of remaining slaved to the petty, evil whims of a bloated, overpaid, under-worked bureaucracy. And that counts for something.

I drink my coffee in the afternoon

Yes, it’s true: I am not a morning person, but I drink a cup of joe between the hours of 1400 and 1600 (that’s 2-4PM for those not aware of 24 hour clocks). It is cheap instant coffee and masked with sugar and creamer, as my grandfather preferred it. I don’t bother with it in the morning as I rarely, if ever, want to get out of bed for anything. Nonetheless, I do make an effort to do so because I like to keep a schedule going with my exercise, which in this time of year means weights and treadmills. Not as entertaining as bicycles for me, but my lungs don’t hold up too well to the typical midwest winter temperatures. No, mornings are not for me, even when I got up at ~0500 (5AM) working for Club Fed. Nothing much happened before 0900 (9AM; do I have to keep doing this?) so even arriving at 0630 left me with a lot of downtime. Did I mention how much I hate getting up in the morning?

So, American Thanksgiving has come and went. I went to my sister’s for this event and figured it would probably be the usual (sit in a corner, play inside my head, nobody wants to try to communicate with the deaf guy, etc.) but one of my sister’s friends asked me about writing books. Sure, I write. I mean, I’m not exactly a best-selling author or a successful writer or even a good one, but I write. She’s got lots of good ideas and things she would like to write, but she asked if I would be willing to write it for her. Well, yeah, I could, but why can’t she? She doesn’t know how, she says. It’s easy; just start somewhere. A conversation. An event. A description. Anywhere. Anything. It isn’t that hard. It doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to start.

Don’t be afraid to write something. It doesn’t matter if it gets done in 5 days, 5 months, or 5 years; it doesn’t have to be a literary masterpiece; it doesn’t have to be something everyone enjoys; it doesn’t have to be a smash hit and commercial success. Just write and the rest will take care of itself. Imagine a conversation between two characters, describe a place in as many words as you can think of, think of how you could make a clockwork nuclear bomb work write out the actions it takes for a watch to change the second hand on the clock face. It doesn’t have to be perfect out of the gate and it may never become what you imagined it to be — but you’ll never know if you don’t try. Don’t worry about whether or not your voice will be heard, or even if it can be heard: all that matters is whether or not you spoke to begin with.

Where does the time go?

I had planned to at least try and make monthly updates at a minimum to this, but a quick look on my calendar shows that I missed out on September and October entirely!

I’ve never been very good at tracking my progress, much less talking about it. I started a new novel in July and am only just now getting close to finished with it. Whether or not it will be any good remains to be seen, but regardless I’ll strive to complete it. It’s a complete departure from my preferred genre of fantasy and science fiction, instead shifting toward contemporary military fiction, so it has been a different challenge altogether.

When I worked for the US Department of Defense, I worked in the military equivalent of information technology, so I didn’t get much exposure to other parts of the military. There was some here and there, but as my job was basically communications, it wasn’t a daily occurrence. This means that my latest novel, which ties in with military aviation, has taken a decent chunk of research in order to barely scratch the surface of being authentic. I’ve known several pilots throughout the years, but lacking experience myself means a lot of guesswork. This has left me in doubt as to whether or not the novel can really make it.

Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way; in particular, I have two novels that I wrote in 2016 and 2017 respectively that I decided against publishing for a variety of reasons, but also because they were very different from my comfort zone. One doesn’t get any better by not challenging one’s self, so every now and again I try something new and different. It’s how I got started in this whole endeavor, after all!

With any luck, I’ll have my latest novel finished in a few more days and can relax for a week before returning. If it takes any longer, I think I might die from acronyms…

WordPress and image plugins

Prior to switching to WordPress, I had my own PHP based website linked to a database. I made the change from a custom design to WordPress for a variety of reasons, some of which I’m now doubting, but I’m trying to stick with it. That doesn’t help much in regard to certain things like image resizing.

I might be living in the past, but resizing images to a smaller, more practical size is one of the key tenets I’ve tried to stick with when doing any kind of web work. In this day and age, I suppose it’s not as big a deal as it used to be, but it’s still one of those old habits that I don’t want to shake.

Perhaps I don’t know the right name for it, but I’m having a rough time finding a plugin that will resize images to a specified size and link to the original or enlarged version within the content. You would think that would be pretty straightforward, but no… Nothing out there! As a result I’m trying to take some old code I made for my custom website and shoehorn it into a WordPress plugin. We’ll see how it goes!

UPDATE: I ended up making my own plugin!

Zippy McZooms

Zippy McZooms and the Intergalactic Cereal Bowl is now available on Amazon Kindle and Smashwords!

The first novella in the series, follow Zippy McZooms, op- er, captain of the Intergalactic Unionized Alliance garbage scow, TR-4SH Scoupedia as he cleans up the Core Verses of waste and general refuse! While working quite hardly (most assuredly!) to clean up an old Wormgate location, he comes across what must be a cereal bowl, towing it back as general refuse. He later finds out that the truth behind the bowl is contested, and he will have to battle the greatest minds of the Alliance to prove his theory correct!

Get it today on Amazon Kindle and Smashwords!

A Shadow of a Man

A Shadow of a Man, the first book in the series, is available now!

On the eve of a Fifth Divide War, the Conglomerate and the Federation are once again preparing for war. Into this, Adrina, Jaques, Michael, and Eleanor are thrown into a plot far deeper than anyone imagined. At what point do myths and legends become reality? Explore the world of the Divide, Northam, and a shadow that has been brewing for eternity!

Get A Shadow of a Man on Amazon Kindle or Smashwords!

In addition, you can read A Shade’s Memento here or for free on Smashwords!

Carmen Ahearn and the Fire in the Clouds

The first book in the Carmen Ahearn series, Fire in the Clouds, is available now!

Follow Carmen Ahearn as she takes on the case of Wyn, a boy with seemingly forbidden magical power. Does the boy have access to knowledge banished from the mortal realm, or is there something far more sinister at play? In the roaring 20s, not all that glitters on the streets of Philadelphia is angelic.

Get Fire in the Clouds on Amazon Kindle or Smashwords today!

Not sold yet? Learn more about Carmen’s troubled past and relive her experiences in the 5th Mage War in Machinations of Brutality, a Carmen Ahearn short story, for free here or on Smashwords!