Jesus really nailed April Fools this year.
I get adopted a lot. It’s a trait that I am very proud of. Sometimes I’m a side show, sometimes I’m a lost puppy, sometimes I’m just really entertaining. But as we move into the Easter holiday I want to say thank you to all the families that have taken me in over the years. My own family is pretty great, but having so many other awesome groups open their houses to me and accept me as one of theirs has been some of the best experiences of my life. So, happy Easter to all my families, blood, water, and otherwise.
Unfinished stories. Like many others, I love Firefly. But how many of us would still love it if it survived four, five, seven, ten seasons? The longer the show lived the more likely it was to disappoint us. They gave us a universe, and characters we loved, and in the decade plus that has passed, we have all been able to tell ourselves the stories that would have been.
The Sword of Truth novels, I just finished the final book, ten years after a finished the second to last book because as things were winding down I realized I was going to be disappointed with the end.
Sometimes unfinished stories are the best kind of stories.
There is a beauty in unfinished stories. A childlike sense of wonderment that you don’t have in stories that go to completion.
On more than one occasion I have had near romantic comedy level meet-cutes. Those first meeting moments that are near perfect. How could anything ever top that moment?
Well, seeing as I am single, there is an argument that you can’t top a great opening. At some point the wit fails, and I just want to wear sweat pants.
But I still love those unfinished stories. The what ifs, the what might have beens.
I’ve been told on a few different occasions that the best parts of my stories are the romance(Sometimes I’ve been told that as an insult other times as a compliment). This has lead me to some contemplation of what genre I want to write in once I wrap up The Primal Age Trilogy.
I’ve always enjoyed Science Fiction as my field of play, but I have been seriously considering a switch up.
Well, as I wrap this up, this post was more for you than me. Writing my thoughts helps me wrangle them. However, if you have opinions, I will gladly listen.
Extra, extra, read all about it…
My protege has her first publishing credit in Akashic Books Fri-Scifi. Check out her flash fiction piece here:
To tell the story of how proud I am of her for this next step in her writing career, I have to go all the way back to the beginning.
Breanna, or as I call her Tali(We are both huge Mass Effect fans), got stuck with me about five years back. At the time I was finishing up my MFA and was literally owned by the great and lovely Kaylie Jones who had me 40 hours a week on an internship and an additional 20 as a graduate assistant. One day while slaving away at building the ground work for Kaylie Jones Books in my mother’s basement(I know such a writer cliche), I get a phone call from Kaylie.
As had become my custom I watched the phone ring for about ten seconds pondering what task was about to get added to my list that I had titled First Thing Needing Done(The list had well over 40 things on it at one point). I took a deep breath and answered that call.
“Justin, I have a couple of young writers here who like writing sci-fi. I told them I don’t know shit about that but I know a guy who does. Would you be okay with me giving them your information?”
Of those young writers, Breanna was the only one with the fortitude to survive me. I put her through the paces(Good old Stephen King’s On Writing) and kicked her writing teeth in when necessary. Somehow though she has stuck around. I was always tough on her and explained that a day would come when she’d face down publishers and editors(worse yet, reviewers) who don’t care about the blood, sweat, and tears a writer puts into their work so if she didn’t have thick skin she wouldn’t make it.
Over the past five years Breanna has become a nearly daily correspondent in my life, and has grown from fledgling writer into a valued friend of mine. I’ve told her from the beginning that my goal was to give her everything I learned, and to make her better than me. With this short glimpse for the world to see her brilliance, I do believe we can all agree the student is closing in on the mentor.
Proud of you, Tali.
January 1st, 2016 sometime after midnight, before sunrise:
While visiting one of my college roommates for New Years in Florida. I found myself over a fence to the pool in his community with two of my other roommates. We were chatting about life, and I had made a comment that I thought 2016 was going to be a great year for me.
Famous last words, right? One of the main reasons I prefer equilibrium to optimism, but I digress.
By the end of February my girlfriend of four years and I split. Her being the bread winner I moved out of the place we bought together, and back home to my moms(at the ripe old age of 28). Being the floater I had been my entire 20s I wasn’t able to get a mortgage. So, I picked up a full time job working for a friend’s landscaping company during the days, maintained my coaching at night, and then when summer came returned to assistant managing the pool I’ve always worked at.
I literally did nothing but walk my dog, work, walk my dog, work, go to sleep. I was growing fatter and unhappier. But a brief glimpse of good news, my second novel is releasing. This is awesome right?
Nada mucho. It was supposed to come out in August, but something went wrong with the preorders and they started shipping in June. I will spare you all the details about how that kills roll out and opening day sales and just say that it was DOA. Two years of work, just lost in oblivion. Good times.
In July I was returning to Florida for a water polo tournament. A 15 hour drive gives a guy a lot of time to soul search. I decided I was done. Turned in my two weeks the day I got back.
Now back to square one. Lost my primary income, job history, and no chance the second book is going to alleviate my financial burdens. Still living with my lovely mother who was kind enough to keep a roof over my head every time in my 20s I returned to square 1.
Prior to my relationship which had ended that February, I always had the goal of coaching water polo at the college level. In fact only ever been three things I’ve really wanted to do with my adult life: Coach Polo, Teach English, Write.
On a whim, I logged into a website that hosts the college openings. I saw there a tiny college that used to be an opponent of mine had an opening. Things are looking up right?
The job pays less than minimum wage.
But hey, gotta start somewhere, and I am good at living poor.
Within 8 days of finding the job I was officially hired and by the 13th day I was in WV.
Things are looking good right?
Still not quite. I have a job, that pays not a lot, and no where to stay. My head coach was generous enough to supply me a couch and my mom, again being awesome, kept my dog for the short term. Surviving but not thriving.
About two weeks later I convince a local to rent me a place. On the surface seems awesome. On a lake. Great views. Quite road. Ton of amenities.
Except I am paying 25% more than the asking rent, putting a rather large security deposit down, and finding out the plumbing doesn’t work, and neither do any of the cool amenities. But give him a week, the place will be cleaned up, and the plumbing will be working.
That weekend I return to my moms house to load up a car full of my stuff and she follows me back to WV to gladly pass my dog off.
We show up at my future place of residence. Landlord is there and apologizes that he wasn’t able to get any of those things done. Gives me the keys and leaves.
My mom steps foot inside this place, lasts about 90 optimistic seconds, and leaves the building. Now to understand the full effect of this next statement, you need to understand my mom is about as far from a dog person as one can get without actually hating dogs.
“I’m taking your dog home. Figure this out.”
After a rather stressful day, where again my head coach bailed me out letting me store my stuff in his storage unit, my mom left with the dog and I returned to figure my stuff out.
It took about two weeks to get a functioning house where I at least wasn’t handling 1 in the yard and 2 at work. Returned back to my mom’s yet again. Loaded up el Doggo and headed for wild and wonderful West Virginia.
My dog is a rescue. She’s got some issues. Separation anxiety is one of them. While I was at work, she tried to claw her way through the front door to come along, cause well, she likes to always be at my hip. Landlord didn’t think it was as cute of a trait as I did, and I was asked to remove the dog from the residence.
So, slight problem with this timing. My mother was with her friends vacationing in Ireland. I currently reside 4 hours from her place so I am not able to go back and forth to take care of the dog. I call up my middle sister and she agrees to take care of the dog for me at my mom’s until she returns(Surprise present for my mom who I don’t have a way to contact while she is in Ireland).
Upon my return to West by God Virginia, I let my landlord know than when my month is up I will be moving on. Not sure where to, since I literally can’t find any place in a hour radius of work that will allow a 90 pound mastiff mutt with a history of getting evicted, and at this point I am not even worried about the fact that I can’t afford them, just that I can’t find one.
So for the next three weeks I plod through my work day, survive on my 2$ a day food budget, and try to figure something out. One of the graduate assistants I worked with let me know there were only five of them on their floor, so I went about coming up with a plan.
I eventually get permission to rent a dorm room, but not matter how many ways I try to swing it, convince it, charm it, or other wise force it the dog can’t come. I’ve been told my loyalty is almost a fault. So the phone call I had to make to my mom, asking her to keep my mutt was one of the harder calls I ever had to make(though in that calendar year it wasn’t the hardest, since I had to call and as if I could move home after the breakup)
I did the math, with what I was saving on rent, I could buy my mom a fence. So that was our compromise.
So we are around Thanksgiving now. I finally have a place to sleep with running water. (I’d be lying if I didn’t say I enjoyed the Spartan lifestyle of the dorm room) My mom has the dog and a new spiffy white fence. I’ve completed my first season as a college assistant water polo coach. Have now talked my way into teaching some English classes with my Master’s degree. Things are looking up?
If you haven’t got a grasp on 2016 it wasn’t safe to look up.
Get a call from my mom saying that she can’t manage the dog indefinitely. She has to put a time line on it. August 2017.
I was a little angry, maybe a lot a bit angry, but she was buying me time, and you give me time and I can accomplish just about anything.
So on my 15 hour drive to Tampa for new years to close out 2016 I started planning. The crap-pile dumpster fire that had been my 2016 had been nothing but fertilizer. The seeds were planted for all my next steps. I had finally accomplished so many things I had wanted to do. Everything was in motion. I just had to keep moving.
My 2017 has been amazing. For those of you wondering I managed to buy a house in WV where the mutt and myself happily reside in a nice little town in Banjo-land. (Due to my closing getting pushed back my mom did end up keeping the dog until the first weekend in September)
What seemed like the worst year of my life while I was living it, was actually the best year of change for me in all my years on this planet.
So, are you still with me? (Yes, but we are ready to yell Get on with it!(bonus points if you get the reference))
Here as 2017 winds down, I want to remind everyone that when things aren’t going to plan, aren’t going the way you wanted or the way you saw, no matter how bad it gets remember that there are many different paths to get through this life, and the universe might just be nudging you in your new direction. When life takes a crap on you, put on the gloves and work it into a garden then watch what grows.
Be brave, my friends. Be brave.
p.s. Also be safe this New Years, but have an epic one.
Hydration, jet fuel, tubthumping radio, and words on the page. Life is good.
Tracey: When you can’t run, you crawl, and when you can’t crawl – when you can’t do that…
Zoë: You find someone to carry you.
Despite my pride, like everyone else there are times I need carried. Here is a thanks to those who have carried that burden while leaving my pride intact .
And the devil whispered, “you won’t survive the storm.”
I whispered back, “I am the storm.”
One of many favorite quotes of mine. The world will always be chaos. The question is can you master chaos or will you let it consume you.