Do You Have Angst?: July 2015

Friday, July 31, 2015

Sometimes there aren’t the right words

Thursday night I received a call from an old friend who lost her sixteen year old daughter to suicide. I don’t completely have the words I need for everything that is going through my mind, but I’m also a writer. I need this outlet to express myself and start taping up the hole in my heart so I can be strong if I’m called on. Right now I don’t seem to have enough tape.

I’ve known this friend and her daughter for seven years. There was a period of time during our friendship that we were inseparable. We were both struggling with parts of our lives, and were there for each other. We were so close, and had such chemistry, that people who didn’t know us would often ask if we were dating. An odd question to be asked by a stranger, but I’m sure the age difference and the hot chick / stubby dude combination made them wonder. It was always a joke between us because we were never romantic, just close. One time, we were standing in line at a haunted house, talking with another couple. The man asked, “How old are you?” My friend answered, “29”. He then turned to me and asked, “And you?” I was 40 at the time. The man then concluded, “29…40…that can work.” I teased her about that for years.

Her daughter would often spend the night. She was several years younger than our own daughter, so they were sometimes great friends, and sometimes reluctant friends in a sisterly sort of way. My wife and I adored her. She was bright and always full of energy. I fondly remember many nights watching old Star Trek episodes. She would often sit next to me, something my teenagers were much too old to do, so it was pretty wonderful. When she discovered that we had a mini trampoline, she would jump on it while watching shows until we got tired. One day while driving her to my house for a sleepover, she proclaimed there was a monster in the car and it was in the front seat. I teased that the monster had to be in the back seat. The mock argument went on for some time, and that became our nickname for each other, monster.

As it happens sometimes, my friend and I fell out of touch. We began working for different companies and saw less of each other. She found the right guy, fell in love and got married. It became harder to spend time together. There were some hurt feelings in the parting, I’m certain on both sides, and it’s more complicated and boring than I care to go into. But as time heals most wounds, earlier this year we met for drinks. One thing led to another and the company I work for hired her on. It’s been great seeing her every day again, a touch of what things used to be when we were close, and I’m happy to have her back in my life. Before I left work Thursday, we went for a brief walk, much of our conversation was about her daughter and how fast she was growing up.

My friend called Thursday night to tell me she had found her daughter after getting home from work. Understandably, her mind was all over the place and she was worried about taking time off after just getting hired. We fortunately work for an amazing company with great people, and I hope that I made it clear to her that she had nothing to worry about. My wife, who was standing there listening, said that I explained myself well, that I was strong for her, but to me it’s a bit of a blur. I had to muster up some of that strength and courage I write about to choke down the sobs. Writing about it is much easier than actually doing it.

I rarely cry to the point that I’ve wondered if my tear ducts had dried out long ago. It’s not because I’m a man, or a sociopath, I just don’t. I didn’t. I guess now I do. I’ve been heartsick over the last 24 hours, and the tears seem to stop only when I become exhausted. Losing someone, and the mourning process, is possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced.

I also feel like the most selfish person in the world right now. What has happened isn’t about me, it’s about my friend and her family. We haven’t been close for years, not like we were. That young woman who died wasn’t my daughter. But she was a part of our lives. It hit so close to home. I was always very fond of her, and that never changed. If it hurts me this much for me, I can’t even begin to fathom what her family is going through, what my friend is going through.

My heart goes out to them, and especially to her. I will do everything I can to be there when asked. To my friend, and her family, I can only say this. Your daughter was an amazing person and my family couldn’t be more grateful for the time we got to spend with her. Thank you for letting her be a part of our lives, and a part of mine.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Angst Team Profile: Brandon

Over the next year I’m going to occasionally shout out people who are a part of my team on this blog. Writing is rarely done alone. It takes a team of supporters who are there for you in many ways. Some read and critique, some shoutout and share what you’ve accomplished, some show up to the party and help with the heavy lifting.

This blog post is to recognize my good friend, Brandon. Before I start, something you need to understand is how very different we are. I’m a nerd and a half, he isn’t. Brandon loves sportsball in all of its flavors and I went to games because I was in the band. I love video games, he may have heard people talking about them once. He has fitness down to a science, and I struggle to pick up the fork filled with cake. To say we are different is an understatement.

I met Brandon during my last day job where I did IT and he provides telecom support – so we were sort of on the same team. He mostly kept to himself, but was easy to get along with from the beginning. I think where we initially clicked was our sense of humor. That’s different too, but in a way that we’ve had more than our share of good laughs. Brandon is also a voracious reader, and while he has no interest in fantasy he purchased a copy of Angst soon after meeting me just to be supportive – because that’s the kind of person he is. Of the things we have in common, the most important is Cristi.

Cristi, my incredible, beautiful, best friend, book team member and spokesmodel is also Brandon’s girlfriend. When they first met, at the same company I worked for, it didn’t take long for Cristi to ask what I know about him. (I mean, who in the world would be interested in a 6’2” weight lifter with a great sense of humor?) So, being the helper that I am, I told her all he did is work out, go to church, and he was hung like my little pinky. (Which is still a joke, because how in the world would I know?) Cristi is a very direct person, so she soon asked about these things. He rolled with my joke like a professional stuntman, and despite my “help”, they’ve been dating for 3 years. You’ve rarely met a couple so perfect, not only do they get each other, they look amazing together. (Damn them both ;) )

Brandon is a beast, but he’s not the type of weightlifter that makes you feel bad for not being one. It doesn’t come naturally, he works hard at it, and I admire the hell out of what he has accomplished. He’s also the first person to offer advice and guidance in the most gentle way possible. (During a recent round of advice, he politely suggested “lowering my caloric intake” rather than saying “quit boozing and eating so much cake fatty”.) This is where I feel like we’ve really got something in common. Unfortunately, not the amazing body and dedication to fitness (which I find akin to piano playing, I’d love to play incredibly well without taking lessons. I’d love to be built like a superhero without exercising.) I mean that we are both committed to our goals, we both have a passion for something that means a lot to us. I’ve given similar, positive advice to young writers in the same way he helps friends. It’s a goal of mine to be as good at writing as he is at fitness.

The dude also has a big heart. Not only being there for friends, but he has a special need to help animals. Brandon and Cristi have adopted pets, fostered puppies, and donated to animal charities. Recently my wife and I were driving back from a lake trip, and they were close behind. We struck a deer on the way home. Considering the damage done, I had assumed the poor beast was dead. They pulled over to check on us, and then let us know that the doe was still alive and we needed to do something about it. I wasn’t exactly thinking clearly, but thanks to their guidance we called a ranger station to take care of things. It’s callous, but I wouldn’t have thought of that, and should have. Just an example of something I admire about my friend.

Throughout my life, my closest friends have been women, and sometimes their boyfriends end up with a David allergy. (I’m pretty sure it’s because of my amazing body and incredible hair…oh, wait, that’s Brandon.) Cristi and I travel to cons throughout the year, and rather than getting upset at this, he supports what we are trying to do. Brandon has also been to many cons, taking on the thankless job of watching the booth when we are pretending to be famous, or grabbing food for us. In addition, he has shouted out my books on Twitter and Facebook countless times. He has also been invaluable at Cristi's photo shoots, directing many of her poses while I take pictures.

I know this blog post will embarrass him, but I would be remiss in not acknowledging how important he has been in helping me accomplish what I’m trying to do. Sometimes you need more than a reader, or an editor. Sometimes you need a friend, and he’s become a great one, and that’s why I consider him a part of my team. Happy Birthday, Brandon.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A SoonerCon Adventure!

I don’t know of a time when I didn’t have to work really, really hard for something I wanted. I’m not sure if I just do it wrong or if the universe is conspiring against me. (It is, actually, documented fact). I won’t roll over and say, “Thank you sir, may I have another?” I’m too stoopid to figure out the right way to do things. All I can do is dig in my heels and work harder.

Before I explain, let me start out by saying that SoonerCon was an overwhelming success. It was the first time Cristi and I attended, and I couldn’t be happier, in spite of some challenges that we faced (which had nothing to do with the con.)

On Thursday evening, I drove the five hours from Kansas City to Oklahoma City. If you’ve ever driven the route, it’s very scenic, all of the grass fields you would ever want to see. It actually went pretty quickly, thanks to the audiobook of Jim Butcher’s fifth novel Death Masks (I’m loving his work!), and I arrived in time to set up my table. I was a little worried when I found myself at the inside corner of the back of the room, but as I said, it was my first time attending so not surprising. I crashed hard and fast after a long day, which was good because the convention went from 10am – 7pm on Friday.

I admit, I was a little irritated about the 10am start time on a Friday. At most cons I go to, there typically aren’t a lot of con goers that take Friday off work to walk the floors and attend panels. I wasn’t irritated for long, however, maybe five, ten minutes tops. For a con that boasts 1,500 or so attendance, a surprising number showed up Friday, and it was, hands down, the best Friday I’ve ever had at a con for book sales. I was floored. Everyone I spoke with was gracious, welcoming, and happy to listen to me talk about my midlife crisis. I couldn’t be more grateful.

After the con, I had a really nice dinner with Carl, a friend that I’ve known for several years, exclusively from cons. Just an example of one of the things I love most about cons, meeting great people and making new friends. One new friend I made at this con was Wes Bowen, who had the table next to me, and turned out to be one of the best neighbors I could hope for. I highly encourage you to check out his stuff. Good people!
Everything was going smoothly until Friday night, when it seemed the universe again had other ideas about my plans. Cristi wasn’t available to drive down with me, and had a flight scheduled to arrive at 11pm which, of course, had a layover in Dallas because that’s on the way to Oklahoma City. :/ Her flight was delayed so I called Fucking American Airlines (new name) to ask if they could hold her connecting flight to OKC. I was monitoring times on my laptop while on hold, for 15 minutes, when the flight went from On Time to Cancelled. Fuuuuuuuuu!

When someone finally answered from FuAA, I asked why the flight was cancelled and was told weather. I then asked when the next flight would be, and the attendant didn’t know. I told her how disappointed I was, and she hung up on me. She hung up! It was 9pm, and I wouldn’t consider ditching Cristi, so I hopped in my car and headed to Dallas.

She messaged me on the way, worried about her flight being cancelled. I replied ‘omw’. She said, “No, I’m not in Oklahoma, I’m in Texas.” I answered, “Yup. I’ll be there in two and a half hours. Get your luggage, and I’ll pick you up.” Cristi attempted to get her luggage, but the hate-filled FnAA employee in Dallas told her it was already on its way to Oklahoma and would get there when it got there. Cristi threw in the towel, found a bar, and I drove.

Needless to say, when I arrived at midnight, Cristi was in great spirits. I’m glad we didn’t get pulled over, because even though I wasn’t drinking, I probably would have gotten a DUI just from sitting next to her! I couldn’t blame her, and I was totally jealous. Our usual Friday night con plan is to hit room parties, and I’m glad one of us got to relax. She deserved it!

We arrived back at the hotel at 3:30am and I passed out at 4ish. I woke up before my alarm, giving me enough time to find coffee and be con-ready at 10am. I spent the rest of the day meeting some amazing people, being impressed by loads of costumes, and selling even more books. I even bumped into the special guest, Robert Picardo, in the hotel lobby. I gave him a surprised, “Hi!” and he politely said hi back. I could immediately tell he was pretty cool, and from the pics I’ve seen he was an awesome Guest of Honor.  After the vendor room closed, Cristi and I both power-napped, grabbed dinner, and wandered the halls for awhile. Room parties were sparse, but that’s probably for the best because I didn’t mind the sleep.

I had one “Holy Crap” moment that I have to share. If you follow my blog, you know I go to quite a few cons. We see a lot of amazing costumes, and a lot of beautiful people wearing them. When I see a gorgeous woman that really stands out, I’ll lean over to Cristi and say, in my smarmiest voice, “Have I told you, I’m a famous author?” It’s one of my favorite “indie-author pick-up lines”, and totally meant to be a joke, so she made it into a shirt for me. Anyway, I was on the elevator with a bunch of con attendees, wearing the “famous author” t-shirt, and someone asked if it’s true. I said, “I’m not famous, but I am an author promoting my book series.” The person asked, “What series?” I replied, “The Angst fantasy series.” As if on cue, everyone on the elevator nodded and smiled, indicating they recognized the books. I felt like I was being punked! I couldn’t believe the reaction, but they genuinely knew who I was. I was terribly flattered, and humbled.

Sunday was more great stuff of book sales, nice people, a few costumes, and heading home. One woman, who kindly purchased the first book, said that next year she may cosplay as Cristi and ask me to sign her. Did I mention this was an awesome convention? That was never on my bucket list, but it is now.

This con was one of the best for book sales, and I made new friends, and I had fun. As always, though, I also had to work really hard for it. There are probably better ways to write, to con, to live, but I haven’t found the guidebook yet. So, until someone says, “Why didn't you just click this button? That’s all you had to do this entire time!” I’m just going to keep plowing through the challenges the universe keeps throwing at me until I get what I want. I hope you’ll continue to join me in the adventure!

Be sure to check out the rest of the SoonerCon pics on my Facebook page here!