Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, Publishing, Shifting Isles

Authoring: You’re Doing It Wrong (Or: Happy Birthday to Me!)

MatchmakersToday, I turn 33 (finally an adult! … in hobbit years, that is), and I’m celebrating by launching my first m/m romances. Seems a bit strange and backwards to be voluntarily working on my birthday. Then again, writing isn’t really work. At least, certainly not like the day job.

Even through the frustrations and hassles of editing, formatting, writer’s block, and the emotional ups and downs, writing ultimately is all love and no work. I love it. It’s my passion. It’s the only thing I want to do with my life.

And so, I’m celebrating. My birthday present to myself this year is the release of the Matchmakers Trilogy: three gay romances set in the world of the Shifting Isles.

Am I qualified to write m/m romance? Debatable. I read a lot in that genre (almost exclusively in that genre, truth be told), but that may or may not mean much. Will the books go over well? I have no idea. I’ve already sold more books this morning than I have over the entire last year, but that may change over time. I suck at marketing, and I know that. I know I could be selling a hell of a lot more books if I sat down and put in the time to properly promote them, but it’s not what I want to do. Would I like to sell more books? Of course. Who wouldn’t? But is that what I’m in it for? Yes, and no. I’d love to make a career out of writing, but I don’t do it for the money. I do it for the love. So I’m authoring wrong. I could be authoring much better. But marketing just hasn’t ever been a priority for me.

Will people like these books? I don’t know, and I honestly don’t care all that much.

Alright, yes, I do care, but not to the point that it will make or break my day. I do write for my readers, of course, but mostly I write for myself. I write because I have to. I write because I love it. I write because it’s the only thing that gets me truly excited every day. After spending all my school years wondering what the hells was wrong with me, since I had no goals in mind, while all my classmates were off pursuing their future career studies, I’m just grateful to have something about which I’m passionate. That’s all that matters. Instead of wondering what the hells I’m alive for, I’ve got my stories, and that means everything.

I still can’t believe these books didn’t even exist in concept until six months ago. Six months. Just six months from concept to completion. Three whole novels from start to finish in six months. Good gods, I must have been out of my mind to even consider such a thing, but the Muse commanded and I obeyed.

And I will readily admit I love these stories. I love these characters. Even if these books don’t go over well with an audience, I have never been so excited or so proud of something I’ve written. These even surpass my love of Return to Tanas (Shifting Isles, Book 3), and I thought there was no way anything was going to top that writing experience.

Releasing the Matchmakers books is also part of a simple matter of self-validation. After having spent so much of my life hiding and pretending and trying to be what I thought I was supposed to be, this year I’ve finally come to the conclusion that life is too damned short to be miserable. Life is too short to wear a mask. Just the simple matter of being able to say “I read nothing but gay romance” and of being able to write what I want regardless of the reception and to be true to myself in every small way I possibly can, to own my identity and to not be ashamed…what better gift could I possibly give myself than that? What better gift could anyone give himself than the freedom to be himself? Such a seemingly small mental switch, but it makes a world of difference.

To stand up and say, “I am.”

So, today I am 33. Today, I’m not ashamed to be trans. Today, I’m releasing three gay romance novels, just because I can. Just because it’s what I want to do. Just because it’s what I love.

And if even one reader enjoys them, even better.

The Matchmakers Trilogy is now live on CreateSpace and Amazon, in both print and Kindle formats. They are also listed on Goodreads, and I’ve got a small Pinterest board started for the trilogy. The books can be purchased separately, or in one combined volume at a discounted price.

Publishing, Shifting Isles

Self Care, Deadlines, and Sanity

After weeks of struggling, I’ve finally accepted the fact that my self-imposed publishing schedule is not going to be met.

I know. Self-imposed. Not exactly a big deal, right? Not like there’s a publisher out there to drop me, or like the world is going to end. But for someone who loves deadlines, who hates disappointing people, who will beat himself up one side and down the other rather than let someone down, it was a hard pill to swallow.

But, for the sake of my sanity, and the long term quality of my product, it has to be done. Consequently, I’m pushing back the entire publishing schedule of the remaining Shifting Isles books. There’s just no way I can put out Betrayal (Book 6) in time for its projected release date of June 30th and have it be any kind of good.

Besides life happening (sometimes a ten-hour day at a desk job just kills the muse), I’ve been so absorbed in writing the Matchmakers trilogy over the last few months that I’ve just not been able to focus on getting Betrayal written. I tried dragging my focus away from the trilogy so I could keep myself on schedule, but that only resulted in me getting nothing done at all, so I finally gave in and let the words flow where they wanted to, even if it took me off track. Then again, in the long run, it was probably a good thing. Sometimes a book idea comes along at just the right time, and I’ve been learning a lot about myself in the midst of writing this trilogy. In conjunction with therapy, this was just something I apparently really needed, mentally and emotionally, so I’m slowly getting to where I’m grateful for the derailing rather than stressing over it.

‘Self care’ has been the new mantra I’m trying to adopt, and in this case, it means going where the muse wants to take me, rather than where I think I ought to be.

So Betrayal won’t be available in June, as promised. However, it’s looking very much like the entire Matchmakers trilogy will be available sometime this summer. Maybe I’ll do a special release on my birthday in July.

Then, back on track.

Hat-Tips, Links, and Shout-Outs, Inspiration, JA Wood, Publishing, Shifting Isles

A Year of Excess

Wow. 2015. What a year! And I can’t believe it’s about to end already. Where has the time gone? I swear it was just yesterday I was packing up 2014 files at work to store away, and now I’m about to do it all again.

As for writing? That’s been a rollercoaster all on its own. It certainly didn’t help that life was seriously getting in the way all the while…

 

Excessive Anxiety

To people who have never experienced shyness or social anxiety, it’s difficult to explain just how debilitating it can be to try to be social. Add in any other layers to this anxiety, and it can be downright earth-shattering. Even something as simple as going to the grocery store requires an internal pep talk, deep breathing, and a whole lot of hurry.

It can be terrifying to go through the day feeling like you have a spotlight trained on you at all times, when all you want it to just curl up in a dark corner in the safety of your own house and hide away from the world. You don’t want to be seen. You don’t want to be acknowledged. You definitely don’t want to have to interact with anyone for any reason whatsoever.

That’s not to say I’ve been a complete hermit. I did get up and go to work every day, but it was robotic. Habit. Familiar. Fifteen years of going to the same office every day made it easier to stick to that routine without having to talk myself into it each morning. I did go to the grocery store, because it was necessary. Other than that, I pretty much stayed home. Home was safe. Home was comfortable. Home was my own familiar territory where I could be myself and not have to constantly put on a mask for other people and pretend to be something I wasn’t.

Through all that, I could turn to my stories for solace and escape, except for one problem:

 

Excessive Writer’s Block

Gah! How completely frustrating! After having written Return to Tanas (Shifting Isles, Book 3) in pretty much a matter of weeks, it then took me over a year to complete the next book, Broken (Shifting Isles, Book 4), which is due out at the end of this month. I struggled with this one to the point that I almost threw my hands up and quit. I just could not get the plot to come together. It was almost unbearable to reach the point at which I realized the story wasn’t working and demanded a complete rewrite.

So, I finally gave in and did a rewrite. Scrapped some 50,000 words (half a novel), and started over entirely from scratch.

Twice.

Then, thank the gods, it finally started to come together. Move a few key scenes to different plot points, and what a difference! The character arcs and plot progression finally flowed the way they were supposed to. After battling this one for over a year, Broken is finally and blessedly finished and about ready to be released. Now, of course, I’m way behind on the writing schedule I had set for myself early in the year, and though I know it’s not true, there’s a part of me that’s inclined to blame that at least partially on…

 

Excessive Work Hours

For the last year and a half or so, I’ve been working 10 hours a day, 6 days a week at my day job. No lunch breaks. I pretty much park myself at the desk and I’m there until closing, eating like a Hobbit (every two hours) between answering phones and writing up invoices. I’ve done this schedule before, and I’ll probably do it again, whether I like it or not.

Alright, so, it’s not quite as bad as I make it sound. It does pay the mortgage. It does pay the bills. It does give me a definite sense of security and familiarity. I don’t take lunch breaks mostly by choice — it’s just easier to be there all day rather than leave my customers waiting, easier to be there rather than coming back from a break and trying to play catch-up. Still, it’s exhausting. For a person who thrives on solitude and silence, being in a noisy environment all day long, especially with the constant drone of conversations layering over one another, it leaves me at the end of the day with a bone-deep ache for peace and quiet.

It also leaves me with little time to take care of things for myself. Even just trying to get to the dentist or the chiropractor can be a challenge. And one thing I’d been wanting to do all year, but hadn’t managed, was to go visit my old high school so I could take my English teacher, Ms. Mayfield, a copy of one of my books. Though I was always the math wiz in school, and never thought I’d pursue a hobby or a career in writing, Ms. Mayfield helped foster a deep and long-lasting love for philosophy and the written word. Finally, just the other day, I had an opportunity to stop by the school. I didn’t get to visit long, but to see her again was so cool. She has such a passion for words, something I’ll never forget. And to see the smile on her face when she had my book in her hands — that made all the struggles worth it. Ms. Mayfield is one of those teachers who makes you love school, who makes you excited to learn, and she’s definitely a person I’ll treasure forever.

But, after a bunch of hugs, smiles, laughs, and shared memories, I had to get back to work. The office was a disaster when I got there, and a bit overwhelming, but I managed to get everything righted and caught up and then finally take a breather when I found a few minutes of quiet.

One of the perks of working for the family is that I’m allowed to write in my downtime. When the phone gets quite and the flow of invoices slows down, I can fire up the laptop and knock out a few thousand words, if I’m lucky. I’d never be able to get away with that working anywhere else. And for a while I really thought I was going to be stuck having to find another job until we started getting…

 

Excessive Good News

Thanks to the very nasty divorce my mother put my father through a few years ago, the family business wound up with an obscene amount of debt in order to buy her out. We’ve been teetering on the edge of collapse because of that for so long, there wasn’t even a tunnel, let alone a light at the end. Every day I woke up thinking this would be it, that we’d lose everything, that I’d lose my house, that I’d lose my writing (alright, so I’m a bit dramatic). Then, this year, everything turned around.

Debt still there? Yes, but suddenly it’s more manageable. The bills are all paid. I don’t have this terrifying stack sitting beside my computer anymore. I sit at my desk and look around helplessly because I have nothing to do. No budgeting to plan. No bills to decide which to pay and which to let go another month. No stressing over how to shift things around to make sure my employees get paid first. The To-Pay slot in my filing rack is empty. It’s so weird! And after having put myself on voluntary cut pay for almost two years, I finally got my regular wage back, so I’m saving money again. No more fretting about losing my house, my sanctuary, my safe space where I can be alone with my characters and forget the world for a while.

But not having to stress over work meant that there was suddenly all this new space in my brain to worry about other things, which meant my anxiety spiked. Until, one day, I finally got angry, put my foot down, and decided to make a change. First discovering and then attacking the root of my anxiety meant I could finally see a possibility of life — not just existence but life — in my future. Which led to…

 

Excessive Happiness

Now, if you had asked me, any time prior to a few months back, if it were possible to be excessively happy, I’d have laughed in your face. Excessively happy? No such thing, right? What could possibly be so bad about being too happy? Was it even possible to be too happy?

Oh, yes. It’s possible. It’s so incredibly possible.

Once I decided to do something for me and started moving forward, the happiness started out exquisite. I hadn’t felt true happiness in so long that it was such a relief! Finally, I was starting to feel alive!

The happiness was so intense that it was almost erotic. I would lie on the couch on a day off work, just staring out the window with a big smile on my face, almost (and I never in my life thought I’d use this word in a serious manner) writhing with pleasure just from being so damned happy.

After a few days of this, it got to be overwhelming. I couldn’t stop smiling, laughing, giggling. After two weeks, it became such a burden that I found myself wishing for sadness or anger or even numbness just to have an emotional break!

Eventually the happiness tapered off to a sense of contentment. Things moved forward, I took some necessary steps, and I had high hopes for the future.

Then I wound up with some time off work to recover from an operation, and I went into it thinking this would be exactly what I needed. A nice little break from work, some quiet time at home, a chance to get caught up on my writing and editing. Ah, yes, I was definitely looking forward to it. What I was not expecting, however…

 

Excessive Boredom

Yeah, so…being at home, post-op, sounds like a nice relaxing time in theory, but reality was a bit different. I wasn’t in much pain, but I was so damned exhausted while my body healed that I couldn’t seem to get my brain out of a fog. I had eleven straight days of not having to go into the office to look forward to, and suddenly I had nothing to fill them with.

I couldn’t write. I tried. Oh, believe me, I tried. And I knew I had so much to do in order to get back on schedule, but I just could not get my brain to properly engage. So, I took a break from trying, and tried to read instead.

Couldn’t do that, either. I couldn’t focus.

I did ultimately manage to put on a show and zone out while watching it, which provided a bit of a distraction, but even that didn’t hold my attention for long. So I wound up on the couch, staring at the wall, bored out of my gorram mind.

At any other time, I could easily spend a Sunday lying on the couch with nothing but my thoughts and characters to keep me company. I love that. It’s my favorite way to spend a weekend. But during post-op recovery, my brain couldn’t even handle that. So…I got nothing done. Ugh. All that productivity I was looking forward to, and none of it came to fruition.

Eventually, things stared to go back to normal. I went back to work — on restriction, which sucks (no hauling around cases of antifreeze for a while, dang it) — and got back to my stories. I finished the last of the editing and formatting of Broken that I’d been putting off, and the writing for The Five-Hour Wife (Shifting Isles, Book 5) is going well, so I should be just barely on schedule for the posted release dates I’d set for myself. That is, if I can keep on track while my imagination is bombarding me with…

 

Excessive Book Ideas

I was nice and focused on the Shifting Isles series, sticking to my schedule and looking forward to hitting my target release dates. Yet, in the meantime, I keep getting ideas for more books.

Sometime earlier this year, the J.A. Wood series popped into my head, and hit me with such intensity that I knew I’d have to ultimately write it (a series of books set in the world of the Shifting Isles, but taking place prior to the events in that series). Based on the ideas I currently have for it, this new series will probably fall somewhere in the 5-6 books range.

So far, anyway.

And then I got an idea for another new series, also taking place in the world of the Shifting Isles, but pulling in stories of some minor characters you’ll meet in the Shifting Isles books and delving deeper into their own stories. This will be the Matchmaker series, and is currently sitting at a total of three books.

Hopefully it’ll stay that way. For a while, at least. In the meantime, I’ve got a book to release and another to finish, so, I had better get to work. Which means, of course…

 

Excessive Coffee

Mmmm….coffee…..

I Novel, Inspiration, JA Wood, Publishing, Shifting Isles

Writing Therapy

I’m feeling a bit like a failure as a writer lately. Well, for months, actually. I’ve been more or less stuck on Book 4 of the Shifting Isles series since last November, and it’s driving me insane. I deleted 50,000 words, regained a fresh set of 50,000, and now even those aren’t quite working for me. I know exactly where the story needs to go, but I can’t seem to make the words travel from my brain to my fingers to the computer screen, and I don’t know why.

In the meantime, though, I’ve been writing a lot (well, comparatively speaking) in future projects, primarily in the J.A. Wood Series. Considering those books won’t be out for at least three years, and I’ve got a deadline set for Shifting Isles Book 4 in just about five months, you’d think I’d have my attention where it should be, but I can’t seem to drag myself that direction.

And just about the only thing I’ve written with any real urgency in the last several months was inspired by some real-life pain.

I’ve posted before about the fact that I originally got into writing as a means of dealing with the aftermath of having been raped. Putting those words down on paper was by far the best way for me to handle the trauma and get back to some semblance of a normal life. It was a much more effective technique than any session with a therapist ever was.

It seems like any time something bad happens, if I can get it down on paper, throw the problem at my characters, it becomes a more manageable and survivable thing.

Aubbie 3-13-01 to 7-13-15
Aubbie: 3-13-01 to 7-13-15

Last week, we lost our Jack Russell. She was 14 years old, and came to work with us every day. It was sudden, so we had no time to prepare. The void it left was devastating. No more little dog sitting on my lap on the way in to work, no more old lady chasing after her toy in the office and keeping the customers entertained. No more dog-sitting for Dad and having the little cuddle bug snuggled up against me all night in bed. No more belly rubs and rolling around on the floor. No more happy little smiling pant.

I sit here at my work desk, with her bed and her favorite toy right beside me, and I just can’t stand it.

But what did my mind automatically do? It threw the problem at my characters. In the midst of all the crying I did (and thank the gods, I apparently actually can cry!), I started writing a new scene that involved a character suddenly losing his dog the same way.

I felt like a bit of a fool at first, thinking the whole mental exercise was highly inappropriate, but after a few days of thinking it over, I simply had to get it down on my computer.

The problem automatically went to my go-to characters, Will and Alex. They’ve been with me from the very beginning of my writing experience, and someday they will actually see existence in print (in I: An Unconventional Love Story), but for now, they’re sort of this ever-present conscience and motivator and emotion dump for all things I can’t figure out on my own. I’ve probably sounded like a crazy person over the years, talking about Will and Alex as though they’re real people, but it’s simply what I have to do just to cope sometimes. To each, his own, right?

So I dumped the grief on my characters, wrote out the scenes, and instantly felt better. The pain was more manageable, the grief less debilitating. It was a way to channel the pain, acknowledge it, and honor the memories all at once.

And now I’ve also got a new element to tie into the J.A. Wood series, since Will and Alex make appearances in those books as well…

Yeah. My entire world pretty much revolves around my stories, if you couldn’t tell. There are days I’m really not sure how I even keep it all straight in my head. Now if only Will and Alex could kick my ass a little bit and get me back on track with Shifting Isles Book 4…

Inspiration, Lethean, Shifting Isles

Epiphany, Self-discovery, and Other Writerly Insights

10857995_1655437044682890_3877588118554457830_nThe more time I spend writing, the more I realize the truth in this statement. It’s amazing how much I’ve learned about myself because of the writing process, and I keep having these little flashes of insight that jump out and surprise me. Sometimes, they even shock the hell out of me.

I recall expressing this very sentiment once, a few years back, about how I was learning about my own philosophical and emotional growth by watching how a particular character grew and developed over the course of writing her story. My sister’s response was, “Yes, but you wrote it, right?”

Right. Exactly. Which probably meant it should have been a conscious thing. Yet, the more I think about my writing, the more I realize there are things coming out that I never even really knew were in my head, and the meaning I’ve been able to derive from those things has impacted me in various ways over the years. Some, trivially. Some, of vital importance.

Somewhere in the middle range of that would be about where I’d put the insight I got tonight while thinking about the latest manuscript I’m attempting to wrestle out of my brain. After three solid months of flying over my keyboard and producing three complete 90-100k word manuscripts, I came to a screeching halt when I tried to attack the fourth. That was in November, and I’ve pretty much been dragging the brake pedal ever since. Four months of almost zero progress. Ugh.

It drove me nuts. (Alright, that’s already too many automotive-related metaphors. Clearly I’ve been working in the family business too long).

I feel a massive void when I get writer’s block, like a piece of my soul is missing. It gets to the point that I want to tear my hair out and throw a fit because I can’t understand why. And, of course, I can’t just step back and let it go, give myself a breather, and come back to it later. I keep trying to force it, which, of course, never works.

So, I start looking for excuses or explanations:

-I’m not exercising enough, so maybe I need that to clear my head. Except, well, really, I’ve gotten along with my writing just fine without exercise before.

-I’ve been under a lot of stress at work for the last year. And that’s an understatement. But now that stress is (mostly) behind me, and has cleared a TON of space in my head. So it shouldn’t be an issue, right?

-I’m suffering a bit of a personal crisis, one that is difficult to talk about in the decidedly red zone in which I live. Hell, it’s the kind of thing that’s not even often accepted in blue circles; and, since I quite decidedly subscribe to neither of those colors, it leaves me feeling a bit stuck in the middle. But, surely, since my writing has always been an escape from real life, why should this one issue hold me back when others in the past have not?

-It’s this time of year. I always get stuck this time of year. Right? Maybe? No, maybe not.

-I’m too distracted by excitement over releasing The Prisoner at the end of the month. Yes, true, quite true, but even that shouldn’t really be stopping me from staying on schedule with the rest of the series.

Well, then, WHAT THE HELL COULD IT BE?!?!

Thus, we arrive at a moment, earlier this evening, whilst in the shower (and, really, why is it that those flashes of insight or plot inspiration always happen when one is covered in soap and nowhere near a pen or a keyboard?!?! *sigh*). All along, these last several months, I’ve been laughing at myself over the fact that I can see bits of myself in many of my main characters in this upcoming series, and was inwardly joking about which one most closely resembled me.

Then it hit me: The protagonist in the current manuscript is someone with whom I absolutely cannot identify whatsoever.

*blink dumbly*

*stare at the wall*

*bang head against said wall*

Bloody hells, why did I not realize this before?

Then, in a rush of tumbled thoughts that followed that insight, it struck me immediately, over the course of all my work, which books were easiest to write and which were most difficult.

Wanna guess which were most difficult?

Yeah, the ones with protagonists I just couldn’t get into, because it was unfamiliar territory.

And if I as the writer can’t identify with a character, how in seven hells am I going to make him or her convincing enough for a reader to identify with as well?

So, not counting the first few novels I wrote a few years back and which will never see the light of day, I started really thinking about my protagonists:

In The Lethean (Lethean Trilogy, Book 1), both Victoria and Landon are bookish and independent. *insert big glaring sign over my head that reads, “That’s me.”*

In Hale and Farewell (Lethean Trilogy, Book 3), Hale is part of a team out of necessity but is naturally an independent player. She likes to work alone. Yep. Me.

In The Prisoner (forthcoming work), Benash loves his routine. Even though he really hates it, he also loves it because it’s safe and reliable. Yep. Me for sure.

In S.P.I.R.I.T. Division (forthcoming work), Asenna is a neat freak, a bit OCD, and a perfectionist. Sounds familiar.

In Return to Tanas (forthcoming work), Graeden doesn’t like restrictions and regulations, especially when the prevent him from doing the right thing, or something he wants to do that would harm no one. As a libertarian / anarchist myself, that’s remarkably familiar territory.

In The Five-Hour Wife (forthcoming work), Jani is a reclusive writer with a side job that’s her true passion, and she idolizes talented individuals from a distance. Yeah, I don’t know anyone like that. *ahem*

And so on and so forth. Then I compare these to the two books so far that have given me the most trouble.

In Uncommonly Strong (Lethean Trilogy, Book 2), I had a remarkably difficult time writing Joseph and Sati’s story. Joseph I could semi-sorta relate to, but writing Sati was like pulling teeth. With tweezers instead of pliers.

Thomas and Spencer, on the other hand…

I loved writing that couple. I loved their quirks, their relationship, everything about them. Thomas and Spencer were so ridiculously easy to write.

For a while, I thought I was simply distracted by the dynamic of Thomas and Spencer because of a few personal quirks of my own, but tonight it hit me:

Thomas was the real hero of the story. Not Joseph. Thomas. The one who was always supporting Joseph and doing everything he could for the sake of Joseph’s happiness. The rock in the family, despite his own sufferings. The one who always put aside his needs and feelings in order to make sure everyone else was alright first. Thomas was the one in the hospital urging Joseph to hold on, and there was no way Joseph was going to survive that moment without his brother’s support.

Why the hell didn’t I write that story with Thomas and Spencer in the lead roles? Looking back, that would have made much more sense, and it all probably would have fallen together a lot more easily than it did.

Then I look at this current manuscript with which I’m struggling (Broken, Book 4 in the next series), and I realize that there is absolutely nothing about Daivid that feels familiar. Nothing with which I can identify.

No wonder writing him feels like pulling teeth all over again.

Clearly, I’m going to have to go through a few dozen more “What if” scenarios to see if I can’t tease out the right detail to make Daivid’s story work.

Because, if I can’t, then the rest of the series either falls apart or remains at a grinding halt.

And I am so ridiculously eager to get to the book and series that follow this one (gods, I must be insane, juggling all these story ideas in my head), that I simply must make this one work so that everything will tie neatly together and progress the story along.

Inspiration, Publishing

Write To Live

A running theme in several conversations I’ve had lately is the overabundance of people who work at jobs they hate (but pay the bills) and would rather be working at something they love (but likely wouldn’t be able to make a living that way).

I know this very intimately.

When I first started working at the family auto repair shop (6 June 2000; I was 16 at the time), I absolutely loved my job. Loved it. I was excited for the new skills, the new responsibilities, the chance to prove myself and earn an income. As an introvert, I wasn’t too keen on the constant interaction with the general public, but as time went on I got to become acquainted with these people, learn their stories, share their hopes and woes — all the little things that get discussed in and around the process of writing up repair orders.

Time passed, and the more I continued at this job, the more I became frightfully aware of the big, looming monster always hiding in the shadowy corners of the room. The more I learned, and the more responsibilities I was given, the more I discovered all of the ever-present negative sides to my employment:

Taxes. Regulation. Taxes. Fees. Restrictions. More regulations. And did I mention taxes?

And, over time, these things only got worse. And worse. And worse.

Coming up on fourteen years at this job, I’m so completely burned-out and disgusted by the limitations that I find myself now operating on autopilot rather than being eager to come in to the office everyday. From the moment I walk in the door to the moment I leave, my coworkers and I are so hemmed-in by financial burdens (due to taxes, licenses, fees, etc.) and legal burdens (having to word a repair order just so, having to store items just so, having to constantly fill out any number of reports and forms for the State, etc.) that it just makes work a burden rather than a pleasure.

I now literally despise my job.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not ungrateful. I am very thankful to have a job. I know a lot of people today are out of work and would probably be eager to take my place. I know that, very well. I am exceedingly thankful for being employed and being able to (just barely) pay the mortgage that keeps my sanctuary intact. I am also exceedingly grateful that the conditions of my employment are such that I am permitted to write in my downtime. Still, because of all the governmental interference into my workplace, I just can’t stand being here.

Thus, writing — my love, my passion — is my solace, and keeps me sane when my paid work leaves me feeling empty and meaningless.

And it seems as though a lot of people are in the same boat. Work is not exciting and fulfilling. It’s no longer a chance to learn and grow. It’s just a paycheck — nothing more.

I look back on my high school years and recall all the constant pressure from teachers and counselors to figure out a career path, to determine a passion, to find a direction in life. Back then, I had absolutely no passions whatsoever. I had not a single clue what I wanted to do with my life. I had no direction, no desires, no goals except to go to college and continue getting straight A’s — but in what field, I couldn’t even begin to decide. Thus, like many of my peers, I took a job that paid the bills and kept waiting for inspiration to hit.

And waiting.

And waiting.

And still nothing struck me. I just kept going to work everyday, and waiting for a passion to strike me. My job didn’t inspire any ideas, nor did college. I found myself mechanically wandering through existence — not life, but mere existence — and wondering what was the point of it all.

Then came the best and worst thing to ever happen in my life: I was raped.

I know, right now you’re thinking, “Best and worst?!” Let me explain.

Obviously, rape is traumatic — in that sense, literally the worst thing that had ever happened in my life. Immediately after it happened, I slipped into an even more mindless existence, turning into an emotionless robot that simply went through the motions of working and feeding and bathing, but not actually feeling anything or engaging in life. I could go on for hours about the aftermath, though it’s not particularly relevant here (though, of course, I am writing a book about it all — surprise, surprise). The important part, though, is why this traumatic evil turned into the best thing in my life.

When medication and psychotherapy failed me, I sat down one evening and started writing about what happened to me. I’d never been prone to writing in journals or doing anything with the written word other than for school assignments, but once I got that first page down, describing the most vivid memory I had of being raped, suddenly I found that I couldn’t stop.

The words just wouldn’t stop coming.

In five weeks, I had a 300-page novel on my hands, and a couple months after that, I had a 600-page sequel, and a few hundred odd pages of scraps of ideas for a third. Then came ideas for another book, and another, and another, and before I knew it, I wound up with something like twenty novel ideas stored on my computer. The high school math wiz had suddenly turned into a wordsmith.

And I was happy. I’d found my passion. I’d found my purpose. Without even the slightest inkling of ever actually publishing anything, I kept writing, and kept getting story ideas. I just couldn’t stop.

Writing brought me back to life, gave me something to love, and gave me a reason to live. It’s all I want to do, and though it’ll probably never be an income source sufficient to pay the bills, I wouldn’t give it up for anything. In and around doing my day job, my mind is always on my stories, working out plot lines and figuring out characters. It’s darn near all I think about in the morning while I’m getting ready for work, and all I think about in the evenings while I’m exercising or having dinner. When I’m not reading someone else’s book, you can be sure my mind is on one of my own.

I feel free, and alive, and whole when I’m writing. The day job will have to stay, since I still have to pay the bills, but now I’ve got something more, something worthwhile.

I love to write. And I write to live.