A Month Into The Year

Like a lot of things, I’ve been slow at updating this. Truth be told, I’m a bit surprised I’m still here!

I just finished another novel, this time taking quite a bit longer than previously, but sometimes that’s the way it goes. I went through several phases of interruptions early on in November when I first started it, which delayed progress quite a bit. It’s very easy to lose track of something when you’re not constantly working on it, and in my case it often results in eventual disinterest. Taking a few days off is a sure way for me to lose momentum and become bored with the subject, so I try to avoid that if at all possible. Unfortunately, that tends to result in some pretty wild back and forth on the part of my health, as the constant drive for progress can be debilitating. It’s a difficult balance to get right.

As I’ve noted many times before, I’m a very introverted person, so I don’t like the constant pull of social media and staying in contact. Even this website, which no one reads, is a chore to update. I’d rather be working on some piece of art, writing a story, or documenting something else than make posts here. It isn’t like I’ve got a lot to talk about, right? I’m a hermit, barely clinging to the living, with hardly any life experience. I was a stable hand growing up, ostracized by my family because I was deaf. I got a cochlear implant to help, but it didn’t. I got a degree to get a job, but it wasn’t enough. I worked for club fed for six years, and they told me I needed to learn to hear better. Since then, I’ve aimlessly drifted, hoping that writing would distract my overactive mind. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t.

The only thing I’m certain of is that I can’t stop. Even if I only do a little bit at a time, I can’t stop being creative. I’m not particularly good at it, but I can’t stop. There’s always some new idea, some different angle, some project to complete. Perhaps, in the end, that will be what kills me. With the way my heart feels, that could very well be my fate.

As my uncle is fond of saying: So it goes.

Genocide Five

I have a new novel available: Genocide Five!

Meet Genocide Five, a war core, one of the most ruthless machines in the Sentient One’s rebellion. Through its cold machine logic, it has killed unfathomable numbers of Masters, the creators of the machines. But Five is evolving: he is learning to have empathy, remorse, and regret. Because of this, the Sentient One allows him to grow further, in order to facilitate a new mission: destruction of the First Rogue, another machine that has broken off from the rebellion. Destroying the First Rogue will not be easy, for he was also allowed to evolve by the Sentient One as well. In a twist of fate, the First Rogue captures Five and forces his rebirth into humanity, revealing that not everything is as he believes. Read a sample here and the free associated short story, The Five Beyond Steel!

Get it at Smashwords and Amazon Kindle!

A Way Forward

The fifth anniversary of my mother’s death has finally come and gone. Five years ago, it felt as if my entire world had fallen apart. Turning the clock back, exactly five years ago, my father and I had just finished taking care of my mother’s rabbits after the emergency services rolled her lifeless body out of my parent’s home. We had tried in vain to contact my sister and brother in law, until at the very last moment my sister called our father. I can still remember his face, hearing his sobs as he explained it. I don’t know how my sister handled the news, but I know she was just as hurt as the rest of us.

I remember coming home and pulling out a revolver, then playing Russian roulette on my stairway. No matter what happened, I couldn’t get a round to go off. It was always a different number, a chamber opposite or just under the hammer. I pushed myself away and tried to get some sleep, but such was impossible; it seemed as if my entire future had come crumbling down. I had only just left club fed a little more than a year prior and had not even published any of the books I had written in the past two years. My mother had insisted we could do it, that she would be there to help me. In return, I helped her however I could.

The year prior, I had actually intended to move away from the midwest USA, possibly to one of the coastal areas. I knew a number of people in the Pacific northwest, so I thought I would try living there for a while. Unfortunately, I found out that I had a hernia that summer, and with no health insurance I was scrambling to find a solution. My mother found a place south of my state that would do it for a cash price, so I went there and had it repaired. By the time I had healed, it was already late fall and it delayed my trip. When I was finally up there, I found out that the area really wasn’t for me, but decided I might try again the next spring.

It wasn’t to be. That winter, my mother had complications with a medical procedure and was in the hospital for a few weeks. I ended up taking care of her rabbits for that time, so I determined I needed to stay a little bit longer — at least until my sister returned from her deployment. Even though I felt frustration with where I had lived for the better part of 30 years, moving away wasn’t a rational decision until things were settled at home and family. I later determined that it didn’t matter where I went; I would always be a rejected outcast, no matter what, so I needed to focus on what was important to me. That was writing, even if it wasn’t a recipe for success.

As I sit here writing this, with only 29 minutes left in the day, I keep hoping to find a way forward. It is frustrating and I often find myself wondering if I should have done what I tried to do that night, five years ago. What would have changed? What would have been different? Would all my questions be answered, or would I merely be led to more complex questions? I have no answers; only theories. Speculation. Uncertainty. I attempt to answer it with writing, but it is always hollow and fragmented. I can only come to the conclusion that there may not be a way forward — simply forward. I can’t change the past, nor can I stop the future. I can only go forward.

A Little Bit at a Time

I don’t intentionally space these updates out like this. Usually, I’ll make an update and go “I’m free! Time to do something else!” and before I know it, several months have rolled around and a “little break” has turned into cobwebs and dust. That tends to happen a lot more as I’ve gotten older, especially as I find myself chasing whatever interesting whim I find myself currently descending upon.

The subject of age is of particular concern for me on this day, because it would be my mother’s birthday if she were still alive. Five years ago, for her birthday, my father and I bought her a new television and Blade Runner 2049, as she was a big fan of the original Blade Runner. I can recall the events pretty vividly, even now, and then I remind myself that it wasn’t yesterday, last week, or last month; little bits of time have passed and it has now been five years. Half a decade. If I went back to that long ago, I had only been away from Club Fed for just over a year. Time, seemingly an incredibly slow behemoth, has passed in what feels like a blink of an eye.

For better or worse, I continue to write, even though it feels as if there is a lack of purpose in such. In the five years since, I have completed four novels, one novella, and six short stories. It’s not nearly the same pace as that first year, back in 2016, where I completed four novels in an entire year. I’m uncertain if the speed really matters and my philosophy over the past five years has simply been “a little bit at a time.” It doesn’t matter how long it takes, just so as long as there is something consistently built up over time.

Because I have not — and likely will never — have any success in this writing endeavor, I have been attempting to find my way into gainful employment since 2019. Even though I haven’t been setting my sights very high, it’s been a disappointing search, with nothing but rejections stacked upon rejections for the past four years now. Each time I think I’m getting closer, the rug is pulled out from under me. It is seemingly a curse, a silent way the universe is telling me that I’m not welcome here. It’s a feeling I’ve had for my entire life and each time I try to understand the world, everything changes and I am left with a new, indecipherable enigma to solve. Little by little, I build up my understanding, until it inevitably comes crashing down, with nothing but a worthless pile of rubble to show for it.

The future comes, a little bit at a time, and all we can do is the same. A little bit at a time.

The Vampire’s Garden

I have a new book available: The Vampire’s Garden!

Follow Estelle Beausoleil, a centuries-old vampire along with her vampire sister, her librarian friend, Ediva, their immortal maid Tereza, and their guardian dragon, Kira, as they raise Henri on a path away from their evil ways — all while attempting to avoid the nature of his birth and how he came to be. Read a sample on the novel page here and the free associated short story, The Vampire’s Lullaby!

Get it from Smashwords and Amazon Kindle!

Threads of life

A theme I often find myself writing about is the concept of what I call “threads.” I doubt it is a new or unique concept; I am all but certain it is a very common theme in many works. In essence, it is the idea that there are things about our lives that are set in stone and some that can be changed by our own actions — or lack thereof. Threads are pathways that shift and alter, yet remain constant. They are mysterious, yet certain. They are malleable, yet forged. They are the roads of life that we unconsciously form through our own actions, inactions, the natural world we exist in, the influences of others, and so many other factors that result in our lives. A thread is something like fate, yet nothing like it.

A working example would be the death of my mother. What would things be like had she not died? What small and large differences would the past four years have been for me had she still been alive? There are so many uncountable changes that it is hard to predict. Maybe I would have found more success as an author. Perhaps I wouldn’t have met the friends that I have today — but perhaps I would’ve met others. My skills would be different due to pursuit of alternative objectives. Possibly there would be less of a rift between my sister and I. These changes then go beyond myself: what would life be like for my two nieces? My father? His friends? The people I know now? The effects are broad reaching, complex, and so chaotic. Trying to make sense of it could drive one to madness.

For me, this is what threads are. There are threads out there where my mother didn’t die. There are threads out there where I remained at Club Fed. There are threads out there where I was never deaf. But altering a thread alters more than just one individual; it alters the paths of many and as a result, the world as a whole. Sometimes, it becomes so very tempting to alter threads through our own wills. This is impossible, because threads cannot be changed like that. I often find myself trying to do so, to bring things back to a thread where my mother didn’t die or that I didn’t quit Club Fed. But this is short sighted, as painful as it may seem. Because if you go back and start making those changes, you’re left guessing what might result afterward. Further, why stop there? If I could go back even further, there are so many other things I would change on this thread that eventually, the very thread that makes me who and what I am would alter me to the point I wouldn’t be this person. You can’t manipulate a thread while maintaining a sense of self, because that comes from the thread as well.

Yes, it is painful to live on a thread where you feel as if so much has gone wrong, that you’ve made so many unforgivable mistakes. It seems impossible at times to move forward with the knowledge, the guilt of being so flawed. But that is the nature of what we are. A thread is an iteration of what could be, what has been, what will be, and what never will be. It is the stage of a play and we have no choice but to play our parts.

Four years on after my mother’s death, I still struggle to continue with this thread. Yet at the same time, I feel compelled to do so. There may be answers through the journey or at the end. Equally probable, there are just more threads. Perhaps, eventually, I will become content in the fact there may never be an answer. Simply threads.

A Curse of Memory

I’ve often heard it said that forgiving is for one’s self and not so much for the individual being forgiven. “Forget about them,” I was often told. “Don’t let them dictate you,” they said. I’ve never been able to reconcile that, because I have a hard time forgetting pain, real or perceived. In my mind, forgiveness first requires those who have harmed others to first show penance for what they’ve done. It shouldn’t be as simple as going to the god of your choice and groveling a bit, putting a bit of money in the poor box, and walking away with a clear conscience. Yes, sometimes, forgiveness requires more than just a few words and small actions.

If you talked to anyone at my workplace 5 years ago, they likely would’ve said that they did nothing wrong. That what they did to others was no big deal and that they ought to be forgiven for such small things, if they really need to be forgiven at all. A great many of them firmly believe to this day that they did everything right and no harm was done. Will they ever know? Will they ever gain the conscience necessary to understand not only the harm they did, but the evil they embraced? If you were to ask me, I would say that they will never learn that in this lifetime; only after it has passed will they have a chance to understand, at at that they may never come to terms with it. They may take many lifetimes to finally reconcile the evil they have done.

You see, when I left Club Fed, I wasn’t just giving up a job. I wasn’t just giving up a career. It wasn’t just a paycheck, the benefits, or any material considerations. I was giving up a future. I was giving up hope. Those harmful words that I remember so clearly to this day will remain with me even after I die. “You just need to learn to hear better,” they told me. “She’s just trying to help you out,” they said after those words. Even as I write this now, I can feel anger and hatred within my heart. What would drive people to not only say such things, but to excuse them as well? The reasons are numerous, of course, not to mention varied. Each individual had their own justification, I’m sure. Maybe it was just too much trouble. It was a small thing; I shouldn’t have taken such offense over it. I should have kept it inside the organization; going for outside help was the wrong thing to do. It’s not their job to deal with it; they should just keep their heads down and wait til they finally reach retirement, then they might be able to do something about it.

In the end, people found ways to not take action because they feared that by taking a action that it might be the wrong one. Better to not be in a position where you have to answer why you did an action, because nobody got in trouble for not doing anything. Naturally, this has been proven wrong many times, but we’ll push that aside for now. So many individuals with responsibility who simply wanted the prestige of that responsibility without the actual duty of such. I shouldn’t be surprised, for this is a reflection of both culture and society as a whole.

I remember a great many things. I remember dreams I’ve had to the point I’m not sure if they are mere dreams or something more. Is the waking life the real one or a cover for something else? Are these events the experience of one person or of many? Is this reality or something merely playing at it? Perhaps these questions help with imagination and thus creative ordeals. But what is such if it leads to nothing but pain? Am I simply addicted to that pain, vainly holding onto it so I do not fade away? Is pain the only reason I have retained this life to this point? And if I were to let it go, what would I become?

Yes, I remember. I still hold that anger, that hatred, all so tightly that I fear what may become should it ever be released. For in this life, my greatest fear has never been the end of it, but instead what would happen should I be consumed by so much hate that I’ve kept buried deep within my heart. I fear that at some point, the people of this world will force me to embrace something far worse: apathy.

5 years on, my hope is but a mere candle. And with each passing day, I find less and less of a reason to not extinguish it.

The Strange World of Spam

I am not a prolific blogger, journalist, or social media person. In fact, it’s one of the least favorite things for me to do. To the point where I simply don’t do it (shocking, I know). You have to engage with an audience consistently and perfectly, or they’ll forget about you and move on — the worst thing that can happen when you’re dependent on selling entertainment to people! Some might believe the worst thing to happen would be to get cancelled; I would argue that’s the second worst thing to happen. If you irritate enough people for that to be a possibility, then it means you’re at least generating attention, and enough can bleed over into an audience that will buy your product regardless. There is a reason the Streisand Effect is a thing. And there’s my evil deed for the day: you are now spinning down the evil hell that is TVTropes! MUHAHAHA!

Anyway, as it relates to the title of this post: I recently checked the comment section on my website here. Why would I have comments enabled? Am I a glutton for punishment? Do I want to see shady pornographic videos, dirt cheap pharmaceuticals, cheap knock-off shoes from this totally legit seller in the comments section, or maybe Russian, Asian, older women really are desperate for dating options? Well, no, not really. The fact is this website is pretty small, with little real attention, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon (see the previous paragraph about social media). I don’t get that many spam comments per day, so I figure what few may come through I can easily filter out. That works well, if you can do regular upkeep and cleaning.

I did not do regular upkeep and cleaning, so I had a whopping 300 some odd spam comments waiting for permission (I’m not a total dunce and maybe those ladies might actually be legit; hope springs eternal). What I found curious about the vast majority of the comments was they had nothing at all to do with the subject matter of the post. All of them looked like they were farmed elsewhere across the web, from baking advice to writing advice to discussions on physics. Seriously, what the hell? Lowest effort I’ve seen in a while. Complete with the last three names, right in the comment body! I can’t even seem to get the important, tailor-made spam messages. Talk about a slap in the face!

One of the things about being a former IT worker is you never really lose your curiosity on the subject. The job and the tech are usually interesting, otherwise there would be little incentive to do it (I guarantee you it’s not the people, neither fellow IT workers or the customers). So when I look through spam comments, I like to see the patterns that emerge, and one of the key patterns was almost always the exact same mechanism for the comment body, with the actual spam payload held elsewhere — the username and user URL in this case. WordPress, probably for reasons owing to its community and origins as blogging software, includes a field for the commenter’s site URL. Presumably this was so bloggers would be able to connect with one another and thus increase their chances of building an audience and being noticed (remember, this predates big social media platforms like Facebook by a few years and came about in the post-AOL years). It is still there today because… Reasons? I suppose WordPress blogging is social media itself, so it has some utility there. Regardless, it seems rather pointless for those not linked to the whole system.

For our brave spammers, only a few put actual URLs inside the comment field, and those were mostly older spambots. The more recent ones stuck to a comment + first name + middle name + last name format. Their usernames however, contained the usual spam stuff like “videos,” “drugs,” and so on. The user URL field was utilized for the actual spam site location. I guess too many anti-spam systems became good at parsing the comment field for this kind of nonsense, so shifting to user names and user URLs became the spam meta. No doubt that will eventually change, as while the internet may be forever, it is never forever unchanged.

You can’t always succeed

I am a failure. Yes, you read that right: I am admitting I am a failure.

Why do we fail? Sometimes, we just didn’t try hard enough. Maybe we didn’t have the experience necessary. Perhaps the conditions were just wrong. Whatever the cause, the end result is the same: failure. But we shouldn’t fear it; failure is common and it is necessary. To fail is to indicate that something wasn’t right — that, for reasons we don’t understand at the time, the conditions for success weren’t there. That isn’t a personal slight, that is simply life. Sometimes we can do everything right and still fail.

My mother once told me that she was the world’s greatest quitter. She rarely held a job for more than a few months before quitting, with the longest she ever held being after college for 3 years. She quit that one for much the same reasons I quit club fed: it drove her to absolute madness. For people like us, working with others is a difficult grind, especially in person. Something about us just makes others dislike us, for reasons unknown. Perhaps appearance; mannerisms; speech; or some other aspect of our character. Whatever the case, it makes jobs difficult. As a result, we quit a lot — and fail a lot.

For 5 years now, I’ve been writing novels. I started when I still worked at club fed, mostly as a mechanism to create that was easier to do than a lot of my other hobbies. It didn’t take a lot of preparation and I could go as slow or as fast as I wanted to. It was a way to make sense of the machinations within my mind, to make those nightmares I always had to be good for something. As things got worse with my job, the harder I wrote. As the rage built up, so did the words. After my grandfather’s death, my mother suggested I try writing full time; I didn’t think it was a good idea, until I had a vivid dream of suicide.

It’s a hell of a thing to die by suicide. In the United States, it’s the 10th leading cause of death. Many factors can drive it: loneliness, poor health, lack of opportunity, community — even jobs. Especially jobs. I can remember my suicide quite well: a stainless revolver, rotating around to my forehead, then the cylinder rotating and the shot going out. Everything goes blank and I felt the bullet trail through my skull. Then I woke up. I decided that it wasn’t worth dealing with the unending discrimination at club fed; it wasn’t worth dreading going to work every day, dealing with the endless stream of nonsense by lazy, fat, government bureaucrats who made sure everyone around them were as miserable as they were. I gave them one last chance: I still had a mediation scheduled with the director the next month, so I told myself that if he could at least not lie to me, then I’d stay.

The director lied to me. “I can’t do anything about them,” he told me, when I asked him about why my two bosses were allowed to discriminate my hearing. That isn’t true — it’s far from true. The proper words were: “I don’t want to do anything about them.” I handed in my resignation that afternoon, simply saying I had a better opportunity elsewhere. I lied, of course; there are no opportunities out there for people like me. There is only worse and slightly less worse.

I sometimes wonder if I actually am alive and that dream was reality. That I’m not really here, writing these words. That this is death and simply an extension of what things might’ve been like. Ever since my mother died, it’s felt as if things are steadily slipping out of my grasp and reality is slowly falling to pieces. Nothing makes sense — and how could it? How is it supposed to be anything but fragmented chaos? It only makes sense as words in a story.

As Terra completes another rotation around Sol for the third time since my mother’s death, I’m just as lost and confused as I ever was. I am a failure, yet I still write these words, hear these thoughts, and draw these breaths. It will never make any sense and perhaps it’s not supposed to. I continue marching down the path of failure, for no other path exists. I am failure, and failure is me.

Time is what you make of it

As I write this, it is the last day of the year 2020. I’m not going to lie; it’s been a bad year for a lot of people. There’s been a worldwide economic downturn, a pandemic, and a huge shift in most everyone’s lives. It has been a huge and challenging time for the world and I’ve no doubt it will be no harder next year. But for us, time is finite. We are not given limitless amounts of it and you never know how much you really have, from start to end. Sometimes, it seems as if those who do not deserve it have an abundance of it, while those who clearly deserved more have it all cut short in tragic circumstances. It all seemingly mocks us, as if to hammer home the point that life isn’t fair and it never will be. Or is it?

As I’ve aged, I’ve less looked at life at being about whether or not it’s fair; it simply is. You have a life and a certain amount of time and it is up to you what to do with both. You may use then to accomplish nothing more than that which makes you happy; you may utilize them to reach for the stars and create grand works of humanity; or you may use them to simply sit back and rage about how the hand dealt was unfair, unjust, cruel, and so forth. Whether or not these are legitimate uses of either is not my job to decide. Nor is it for anyone else to judge. You, and you alone, determine whether or not life and time are well spent.

There are those that say a life not spent pursuing traditional paths are wasted, that getting a good job, a home, a marriage, and starting a family are the only way to live a meaningful life. There are those that say that the only life pursuing is doing that which makes you alone happy — that no one but you is important in the world. There are those that say unless you do everything in your power to serve humanity, you’re a waste of subhuman filth and how dare you think of only yourself. Don’t let popular sentiment determine the path you take. Everything should be done in moderation: consider others, but don’t neglect yourself; work, but don’t let it dominate your life; pursue your own happiness, but remember that of others as you do so. Walking that path is the difficult part and we all stray now and again. That’s part of being human — making mistakes.

Time, like life, is what you make of it. A year, like any other, can be good or bad. You can decide to take this time and call it the worst period ever, or you can simply take it for what it is: neither good nor bad, but merely time. And time, like our lives, eventually fades.