My promise for 2017

writewhatscaresyouAnother year has come and gone. On a personal level, this year has been the best year so far. I’ve let a lot of my anger and bitterness go. I’ve accepted some hard truths about myself. I’ve opened myself up more than I ever have. I’ve discovered that I’m capable of loving and being loved. I’ve discovered that I am able to be happy.

However, this year has not been so good as far as my writing. I’m just not taking the time to do it like I should. Work has completely taken over everything, especially these past few months. I’ve taken on more responsibilities, and in turn, it has diminished the amount of time I have to simply sit down and write. When I have the time, I’m so exhausted that I end up vegging out in front of my laptop and while away watching videos on YouTube. I love Grav3yardgirl, in case you’re wondering.

I haven’t worked on anything other than my NaNoWriMo novel, which is no where near complete. I’ve written a lot in the way of short stories, but my blog has been neglected. I haven’t done any book reviews since February, and I promised someone I’d do one. I promise to get to it in January.

My blog is suffering. I don’t receive the number of views I was getting in previous years, mainly because I’m not writing. I don’t write much because I’m busy on a personal journey, one that I chronicle elsewhere, but not ready to share with you. It’s deeply personal, one of self-discovery and acceptance, but there is still a ways for me to go before I’ll share it here.

As for reading, I’m not reading as much anymore. I miss it. I miss sitting down and losing myself within a story, of tagging along for the journey, wondering where the author intends to take me. I miss letting my imagination run wild as I picture in my mind, the action written before me, translating words into action.

So, for my 2017 resolutions, this is what I resolve:

  1. Read more
  2. Blog at least twice a week
  3. Set aside time to write on my works in progress
  4. Love more and hate less
  5. Forgive and let go any lingering resentments
  6. Exercise my body as much as my mind
  7. Learn something new
  8. Travel as much as I can
  9. Learn to live and embrace what life has to offer
  10. Be happy

This is what I resolve. I want to improve my life, to find love, to find happiness. I want to get back to following my dreams of becoming a writer. I want to explore who I am, what I am, to write about my life. There’s a lot to do this next year. 2016 has brought me closer to the person I’m supposed to be. I can’t wait to see where 2017 takes me.

Happy New Year to all my readers, and keep reading!

The maturing of Howard Wolowitz

The last episode of The Big Bang Theory reminded me of something that I had grown to believe as of late. If you haven’t watched it, this is your warning that there will be spoilers ahead. With that out-of-the-way, let me proceed.

At the end of the episode, Howard Wolowitz, played by Simon Helberg, received a call informing him that his mother had died in her sleep. Carol Ann Susi, the actress who voiced the unseen Mrs. Wolowitz, Howard’s mother, passed away from cancer in November. Instead of employing some gimmicky storytelling and having her move away, which would have been contrary to what we know of her, or having another actress come in, the writers chose to kill her off of the show.

Not that my opinion counts for much, but I believe it was the best course of action. Carol Ann brought a character to life, one who had absolutely no screen time, yet somehow managed to steal the scene. She was obnoxious and overbearing, intimidating and prone to employing guilt-trips to keep Howard from leaving. I doubt anyone could have matched her skill to bring the unseen mother to life. I’m glad we will never have to see anyone try and fail.

Now comes my confession. For the past year, I had begun to wonder if the character should be written off the show. Let me say that the thought is not because I thought the Mrs. Wolowitz to be unfunny, rather I thought Howard needed something catastrophic to happen to motivate some character growth.

Out of all the main cast, Howard was the one I hated the most in the beginning. He was crass and pushed the line between funny and creepy. He came across as desperate and perverted, a sad case of a loser with no hope of ever finding a woman, that is until Bernadette came along.

However, over the course of the past few seasons,  Howard did grow, probably more than all the rest of the characters on the show. Yet even so, he was stuck between being a man and a child, a son being held hostage, never really embracing what it meant to be a husband.

I wondered if losing his mother would fuel a maturing of the character, letting go of the overbearing mother that he never was able to leave. He had become totally dependent on her, much to Bernadette’s annoyance. She accepted it for the time being, but playing the second woman in her husband’s life certainly rankled and I have to ask how long would someone like her actually tolerate being treated that way?

So I believed Mrs. Wolowitz should have to die at some point. The only other character to have lost a parent is Sheldon, and that happened sometime prior to the start of the series. This is the audience’s first time to witness how this group will rally around their friend, and how Howard will struggle to grasp what it means to lose this mother.

Unlike many fans of the show, I do not lament that the original premise of the show has changed. Had it not, I doubt the show would still be watchable. Life is about growth, and in storytelling, character development is integral in keeping the audience hooked. Without it, the story lines become stale, and there is limited stories to be told. So, as people in real life change, so too must a fictional cast of characters.

So for Sheldon to be the one to offer Howard words of comfort, says a lot about how much he has grown. For Howard to let Sheldon say his piece speaks to his evolving maturity. These are not static one-dimensional characters, but complex and ever-changing people, learning and grappling with the same hardships we deal with in real life.

I shed a few tears when Howard announced that his mother had died, and I sobbed quietly as they all tried to come to terms with the news. As much as I thought I wanted to see Howard grow, I admit that I will miss hearing Carol Ann’s screeching voice. I thought I was ready for it to happen, but now that it has, I realize that I’m not quite ready for her to have left. Her passing leaves a hole in the show, one that will never be filled, and that’s the way it should be.

My shell

introvert1All my life I’ve heard from countless people who I just need to come out of my shell. As if I really have a choice. It’s a strange fate to become a prisoner within your own mind whenever you find yourself surrounded by people you don’t know. I’ve learned to cope at work by scripting opening lines to say to customers. Nothing elaborate or witty, just a simple Can I help you? – or – Is there anything I can help you find? is enough to oven some form of dialogue.

But apart from that, it’s not a true conversation, at least on my part. I listen and offer my advice, suggesting the best option for their price range. Sometimes they heed my advice, other times they get angry because what they want to do is so plain stupid that I just can’t say that it’ll work, and no amount of logic will get it into their head that it won’t work. And when it fails, they do come back angry. Those people just need to die.

But I’m going off on a related tangent. This is about how I relate to people. I only open up to people I like, to people I trust. I can’t fake it. I can’t just talk like some people can. I don’t work that way. Yes, there are a few people who I’m drawn towards, that somehow get me to drop my barriers without me even realizing it’s happening, but that’s rare. Usually, I clam up, answer in short, clipped phrases, and don’t bother to elaborate. It’s just the way it is, though most people are incapable of grasping that one simple truth.

What I get so often, most especially from management, is that I need to come out of my shell. I’ve learned not to take it personally. It’s not their fault they have no grasp of psychology, that people are inherently different, and that my introversion is not a pathological condition that needs to be cured. My social anxiety is another story, but I really don’t want to delve into that bag. We’ll be here for months deciphering that mess!

Instead of appreciating what I do, and I believe I contribute a lot, I’m penalized because I’m not a gregarious personality. I’m naturally laconic, but if they’d bother to take to the time, they’d realize the depth of who I am. They’d come to discover that I have a dry, sarcastic sense of humor, oft-times self-deprecating, but always ready for a laugh. They’d learn that I have ideas and dreams, and yes, that I’m a real boy!

But no. They, as most people, don’t value me, and others like me, for who I am, for who we are. We’ve become invisible in today’s society. If we’re not putting ourselves out there, then we might as well give up. There’s no point trying because we’re not out there hamming it up with the people who matter.

If anyone cares to get to know me, I’ve put myself out there every time I publish another blog. I can also be found, to some degree, in the short stories I write. I write what I feel, what I know, what I fear. This is how I am, a writer trying to forge a meaning full connection to a readership that may or may not care, and that’s okay. I’m going to write regardless of how many people read what I write. I’ll treasure those who do, especially you who take the time to open a dialogue with me. Truly, all I know to say is thank you!

What gets me is being told to come out of my shell. I don’t think I should have to justify myself. I don’t think I should defend myself. There comes a point when it becomes less of a suggestion and turns into another case of bullying. No, I’m not saying that I’m a helpless victim. I’m not. What I am saying is that those who tell me that are inconsiderate and tactless, and quite frankly do me more harm than good. Every time they say that all I hear is that I’m not good enough being who I am. After a certain point, it’s easy to despair and stop caring.

But that’s who I am, and screw you if that’s not good enough. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do, after I watch the new episode of The Big Bang Theory. It makes me laugh, and I love to laugh, but you’d already know that, if you knew me.

Practice and discipline

It’s hard as an aspiring writer to sit back and read a book and not compare myself to the author of said book. Am I alone in this? I know I’m not. I remember feeling that when I became a music major twenty years ago, and I would listen to another student perform. I couldn’t help but feel that my own talent was lacking. So I quit.

It took me a few years, but I learned enough to know that I didn’t have what it takes to be a musician. For someone on the outside looking in, it looks like it could be fun, and it is, but it’s called a discipline for a reason. To achieve any measurable success, either as a performer or a teacher, requires hours of grueling practice and studying, and I lacked the discipline to work at it. The only honest thing I could do was to walk away, and for years I was lost.

A few years later, I dropped out entirely, and my life has taken a circuitous route  though life, adrift on the seas of time, having neither purpose nor direction, and when you have no destination in mind, it’s amazing how long it takes to get nowhere!

But eventually you will collide with something, which I did in 2011 and going into 2012. My life fell apart, and everything I had, everything I had worked, I lost piece by piece, until I had nothing left. Even my pride was reduced to a pile of ash, blown away by the wind.

Keeping up with the nautical metaphor, writing became my lifesaver, keeping my head above water as I tried to find my bearings. Being adrift for so long, with no mind on my direction, it took another year for me to begin to rebuild. I went back to school, taking a Grammar and Writing class to end my academic career. Writing, it seemed, became my new goal.

But when I read the professional practitioners of the art form, I’m struck by how eloquent they sound in my mind. I read my own, and I feel lacking again in talent. Perhaps you’re not cut out for this, my inner doubt tells me, feeding my insecurities. You’ll never be a real writer. Why not give up?

Why not? Because this time, I won’t walk away. I have something to say, so I’m going to say it. I may not use the most flowery language, but that’s not my style. I’m rather prosaic in style, direct and to the point. If something is blue, it’s blue and not azure. If someone is in love, they are in love and not enamored. I’m not adept at creating imagery with words, but I don’t believe that’s necessary to the tales I’ve decided to tell.

I trade in reality instead of fantasy, though I am a fan of the latter. I hope that doesn’t mean that the reader will be unable to create the scenes in their minds as they read my simple words. I have stories to tell, simple and hopefully with some underlying truth. I try not to be allegorical in my storytelling. I don’t want to preach or teach a lesson. What I write is personal to me in some way, and my characters are a reflection of me, of my suffering and joys, of what I am and what I wish I could be.

I believe my writing has matured as I’ve become more practiced with the written word. Next month will be my four-year anniversary of my blog, and I just completed my fourth NaNoWriMo this past November. I’ve written and rewritten many of my books, and I’ve read and I’ve reviewed almost two dozen novels. I’m just getting started.

I’m still a musician, if you want to know, though now I play solely for my benefit. I hope to buy an electric guitar in the near future and learn to play some of my favorite rock tunes. But my music is to soothe my own inner demons even if I still dream of being a rock star.

But I don’t have the discipline to be a musician, but I hope I’ve proven to myself that I do have it for becoming a writer. I’ve toiled in obscurity, known only because I’ve chosen to share a bit of my madness unseen via this simple blog. I dream of more, of having my reach extended, as do other writers, to include a larger audience. I want to be read, and my books enjoyed, by as many people as possible.

Until then, I’ll continue to hone my skills in private, sharing snippets to gauge if I’m ready to risk failure and success. I may not be as good a writer as the authors I read, but in my style, they will never be as good as I am. I will never have their successes, but why should that mean I can’t have my own? I just have to keep practicing.


Conquering my fear…well, sort of?

Hallelujah! I survived another week. How did you fare? I hope you made it to the other side intact. Why else would you bless me with your presence, of which I’m extremely grateful.

Before I get started with today’s post, I would like announce the books I have lined up to review next month. I’m so excited I can’t wait to tell you. First up, I have Mitch Lavender’s book, Find My Baby. In it, we meet Zachary, an IT security professional who along with his wife, plan to adopt a child from the Ukraine, Unfortunately, a cyber-criminal with a grudge against Zachary kidnaps the child and holds it for ransom. My review will go up August 4th, but if you want to check it out, you can always follow the link.

The second book is Back from Chaos, by Yvonne Hertzberger. Back from Chaos is the first book of the Earth’s Pendulum Trilogy, which follows Klast, a loner whose destiny it is to heal Earth’s wounds and restore balance to the planet. I will post my review on August 18th.

Now, on with the show. I took a spontaneous trip to the DFW area last weekend to visit my best friend, Amy. Not much happened on the trip, though I did find myself trying to herd an alpaca off the highway last Friday. That was an interesting experience, and a topic for another time.

A fear of heights is illogical. A fear
of falling, on the other hand, is prudent and evolutionary.
~Dr. Sheldon Cooper – The Big Bang Theory~

Me and Amy posing for a cheesy souvenir photo. Photo by cheesy souvenir photo taker.

Me and Amy posing for a cheesy souvenir photo. Photo by cheesy souvenir photo taker.

What really made the trip interesting for me had to be the trip to Reunion Tower in downtown Dallas. The tower stands tall at 561 ft, and was completed in 1978. Dealey Plaza, the site of the Kennedy assassination is about 1000 feet away. Reunion Tower boasts two restaurants, Cloud Nine Café, and Fifty Six, an award-winning fine dining restaurant opened by celebrity chef, Wolfgang Puck.

Did I mention it’s 561 fear-enducing feet tall?

I have a fear of heights. As with most phobias, I know the fear is not logical, but the knowing in no way mitigates the fear. On the drive to the tower, I could feel myself becoming overwhelmed by anxiety. Once we arrived, I balked and I wanted flee the scene. Amy assured me that if I didn’t want to go through with it, I wouldn’t have to. Knowing I was in control allowed me to continue.

The reason for my trepidation is simple. Back when I was in high school, I went on a band trip to San Antonio. While there, we visited the 750-foot-tall Tower of the Americas. I entered the elevator and rode to the top, blissfully unaware of how I would react once we reached the top.

Me and Amy after arriving to Reunion Tower, to meet my doom. Spoiler alert, I survived.

Me and Amy after arriving to Reunion Tower, to meet my doom. Spoiler alert, I survived.

Well, not quite unaware. As we ascended, my panic seemed to rise with the elevation, and when the doors opened, I found myself almost immobilized with fear. I somehow managed to step out of the elevator. I don’t remember much of the experience  other than having to endure the stomach-churning anxiety and the cruel taunts from the other band kids. Never before had I been as happy to be on solid earth.

Fast-forward over twenty years, and the memory of that day come flooding back. I steeled myself against the inevitable desire to flee. I knew I would have to face my fear. If I were to have left at that point, yes I would have felt immediately better, but I would have reinforced my fear. No, I had to immerse myself completely.

After enduring more cruel taunts from the bitch at the ticket desk – which makes me wonder why do people think making light of someone’s phobia is funny? – we joined the line to the elevator. Soon enough we were on our way to the top. In a way, those 68 seconds seemed to last an eternity, but the steady stream of trivia delivered by the elevator operator helped focus my mind on something other than my anxiety.


Posing calmly for a photo on the outside balcony of Reunion Tower. Only over 400 feet above Dallas. No worries. Photo by Amy.

With a calming breath, I walked off the elevator, determined not to let my fear get the best of me. I felt the familiar waves of anxiety, dizziness, shortness of breath, but I refused to succumb to the panic. When Amy suggested I take a seat, I kept walking, stubbornly refusing to lose the battle. Soon, I began walking around the floor, looking out the windows. After a few minutes acclimatizing to the height, I opened the door stepped into the open air of the balcony, where I stood briefly at the edge to have this photo taken before retreating to the relative safety of the inside wall.

After returning to the inside of the observation deck, I played around with the interactive screens, watched a ten minute video of the JFK assassination as told by the last surviving member of the Secret Service detail to have ridden in the presidential limo that fateful day. Then it was time to go down. We spent about thirty minutes at the top, but again it felt like an eternity.

Is this the face of a scaredy cat? Um...yes. Yes it is. Behind me is the inside wall of the observation deck of Reunion Tower. Photo by Amy.

Is this the face of a scaredy cat? Um…yes. Yes it is. Behind me is the inside wall of the observation deck of Reunion Tower. Photo by Amy.

The ride down was excruciatingly long. The operator first went up one floor to the café level, then back down to the floor below, before taking the 68-second journey to the ground floor. At one point, I squeezed Amy’s shoulder out of fright, possibly leaving her bruised. (Sorry, Amy!)

But I survived. The ordeal turned out not to be as bad as I had expected. I did experience nausea, light-headedness, and other unpleasant feelings, but I also had a fantastic view of downtown Dallas at night which I enjoyed. I faced my fear, and though I’m in no way over it, I didn’t let it hold me back! I’m also in no hurry to repeat the experience.

Once on the ground, we visited the gift shop, stopped at the Starbucks for a drink, and I was forced to pose for more photos. I hate taking pictures. I’m so not photogenic! I let my nerves calm down before walking back to the car and riding around downtown Dallas, then heading back to the house and a good nights sleep. I survived.


My reward, a hot cappuccino to calm my frayed nerves. Reunion Tower is lighted up behind me. Photo by Amy