Honoring A Commitment

DISCLOSURE: Not my raised fist.

It’s been a while since I’ve attended to this website, and this blog in particular, with any kind of regularity. The handful of readers who know me personally will know I have an excuse. Let me rephrase. I have an excuse that I’ve been using.

In a day or so, the one-year anniversary of my heart stopping and breaking my skull on the sidewalk outside will arrive. I was the recipient of what they call, so eloquently, traumatic brain injury. For any of you who are considering getting one of your own, I don’t pretend to have any influence or control over your decisions, but if you asked me, I’d recommend against it.

Listen. This happens to people all the time, all over the world. Based on my own experience, I’ll go out on a limb and say none of us would have chosen to break our brains. To use a phrase that has embedded itself in our popular parlance, it sucks.

Then, if that wasn’t fun enough, in March my heart stopped three times in one day. For the first, I was alone in our bathroom with everything going as planned. My next conscious realization was that I was face down on the bathroom floor, with my butt up in the air. And immediately this thought formed in my mind: “No way I’m going out like Elvis.” Profound, I know.

DISCLOSURE: Not my finger!

I got up, moved to my living room chair, and awaited the arrival of the visiting nurse that had been coming since the first incident, to check my vitals, etc. When she arrived she had placed an oximeter on my finger, and she told me shortly after that she saw the reading go from 98% to 50%, then at last to ZERO. My eyes rolled back, and my heart once more stopped beating. This time it lasted a very short time, as she’d tapped on my heart, which apparently was sufficient to jump-start it once again. I’d have done it myself but, you know, dead and all.

At exactly the same moment my wife answered a phone call from the company that watches over folks like me wearing the heart monitor that had been stuck to my chest since the January event, saying, in effect, “Get that boy’s upwardly pointed Elvis ass to the hospital.”

DISCLOSURE: Not my ass being carted away!

The ambulance was called and in a very short time I was on the VIP stretcher, where the event repeated itself a third time, with the EMTs asking me “Do you know what just happened?” I don’t remember my exact response, but I feel it was something like, “Durp?”

An hour or so later I was sporting a brand new scar, through which a brand new pacemaker had been installed. After a few days’ stay, I was home again. Generally speaking there was improvement at that point, mainly in that I stopped dying over and over again. Frickin’ Elvis.

Anyway, a nine-month period of very little writing commenced. Occasionally I’d post a poem. I also wrote a couple of blog posts, but as far as the get-to-work stuff, there was essentially none.

I shall now give you my reasoning behind not writing: I didn’t know if I could do it anymore. I didn’t know if I could be “good” any longer.

The reason for this was a growing number of symptoms, both mental and physical, that seemed to counterindicate any such ability. Oh, also, I was scared shitless. There is only one thing I’ve ever been able to do with consistent success, and that is writing. If that ability was gone, I figured, so was I. There was one reason to continue drawing breath and that was my family.

Punchline: over the course of the year I came close to losing that more than once. I acted like an ass (non-Elvis) a lot more than before, and I would be lying if I did not tell you that I didn’t want to hang with me much either. So over the enduring time after the accident, this reason, I was convinced, was gone as well.

“But surely you had friends online! You have readers from all over the world!” Well, aren’t you just a smarty-pants?

My readers are awesome, and many of them, upon finding out what had happened were (are) incredibly supportive. But the folks I connected with more regularly were not especially happy with who they saw me become, and to put it plainly, stopped talking to me. The problem here, in my estimation, was that these were some of the greatest people in the world, and I’d managed to alienate them.

Yay, Scott.

So What’s Different Now?

Well, not everything. My confidence, which is to say ALL of my confidence, has not come running back to embrace me as we dance in circles and sing about the circus or something.

DISCLOSURE: I’d be thrilled if this was me, but it’s not.

But a good deal of it has.

I’m still not writing anything on my own, although I’ve been researching the living hell out of a subject germane to the story. Oh, And Craig A. Hart and I have begun writing – yes actually writing – the third installment of the Maxwell Barnes series. And, thank you to all the powers that be, my work has been up to or at least approaching par. I’m writing like Scott. And that’s bringing a feeling of pride and contentment and is not at all the trainwreck I’d feared.

I See. So is that it?

Well, that’s a pretty big deal, Philistine. But no, that’s not it. Because the immense amount of research on MY book has brought me to a place of readiness and excitement. Excitement to the point that makes my instinct tell me to shop the book to agents this time. I did this one time in the past, but it didn’t lead to anything, and to be honest, I wasn’t writing then like I’m capable of writing now. Will it be good enough? That remains to be seen, but my gut tells me it will be.

See, this is the thing, since I’m tossing confessions around like they’re Mardi Gras beads:

I’m AM good. Saying otherwise is humble and admirable, but it’s not 100% true. I’m the kind of good that those books lined up by neatly numbered ranks at your local K-Mart, with their flashy division tabs are alleged to be.

But here is a news flash: The ranking is based on sales. Presumably, this would indicate quality as well. Unfortunately, in truth, it is far more related to the general public’s propensity towards action-packed schlock or flimsy negligee sexual romping, neither of which is bad as element of the book, but neither of which generally indicates a great book when that’s all there is to it.

DISCLOSURE: Finally a picture of me.

So why bother attempting to get my book in one of those ranked slots? Because I believe that once the work reaches a certain level, the writing itself will supersede the gunplay or the other kind of boom-boom. At a certain point, the readers who are still capable will say something along the lines of “Whoa.” They’ll keep reading. They’ll tell their friends to read.

Now, I’ve achieved this to a degree with my independently published works, and I have a pretty good bundle of those built up now. But my goal is to move past the level I’ve been able to achieve with these books. My goal is for you to walk into K-Mart, (or Target or Walmart or… do I dare?… Barnes & Noble), and I’m hoping when you do you’ll see the book, and pick it up. Maybe you’ll say, “Hmm,” or something equally profound. Maybe you’ll start reading page one… then two. Then my dream-come-true scenario has you pause on page three and say, maybe audibly: “Whoa.”

I’m hoping LOTS of people do this. Literally millions of people. Overambitious? Unrealistic? Well, I guess we’ll see. I personally believe it’s completely realistic. I’ve been wrong before, of course. The fact is, next to writing being wrong is one of my greatest skills. So maybe I am mistaken again.

But it doesn’t FEEL like it, and I’m proceeding based on that feeling.

Come on. Let’s find out together.

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