Thursday, December 29, 2005

What have I learned?

This has been a year of tremendous growth on my part. I have made a lot of changes in both how I live my life and how I perceive it. I have grown as a writer, as a man, and as a person. I am better all around because of 2005 with the one exception of my waistline, which I am feverishly whittling away. This was a hard year in many ways. But nothing worthwhile comes without pain and struggle. I have struggled a lot this year. The result of this struggle has been the reaffirmation of many beliefs and the letting go of others. What follows are a few of the lessons I have come away with this year:

"Man is the measure of all things." Socrates said that 2000 years ago. What it means is that each man determines his own worth and the worth and value of everything in his life. What we value speaks a lot for who and what we are. No one can tell us what we should or should not value. That is for each man to decide himself. But once we determine what our ultimate value is, each and every action we take should be in line with achieving that value and any action we take that interferes with that is what I would call a sin. I use to say that I will never lie on my death bed and say, "I siwh I hadn't made love to that beautiful woman." That was my rationalization for sleeping with every beautiful woman that offered herself. I reasoned that it was far more likely that I would regret the women that I had not made love to than that I would regret the ones I had. I have been lucky in that so far I have no major regrets aside from the women who are no longer in my life. But if any of my exploits had caused me to lose my children I would have had many.

I have learned this year that I value nothing more than the happiness of those I love and my family and my children above all. They come before any of my own personal needs and desires. I would sacrifice anything to ensure them a happy and successful life. True, I cannot do them any good if I am unhappy, so the struggle remains to find that balance between the things that make me happy, my writing, working out, martial arts, reading, a healthy and active sex life, and the things that maker them happy. At one time I believed that my own happiness was incompatible with the happiness of others. I believed that in order to make myself happy others would inevitably get their feelings hurt. As a sex addict this was undoubtedly true. The emotions involved in sex always led to someone getting hurt since my addiction made me at times emotionally unavailable and at other times emotionally dependent. As a parent I must resolve this issue. I can't neglect myself for the sake of my children any more than I can neglect my children in order to run off with other women. Conquering my sex addiction and making a few painful sacrifices has given me the freedom to find happiness in the happiness and achievements of my children. And I don't mean by becoming a "Football Father" trying to live vicariously through his children, but by learning to appreciate the things that they do and to look at the world through the wondrous eyes of a child, rediscovering the beauty and mystery and fun in everyday life.

I love women and I always will. There are women that I will never fall out of love with. That's just who I am. I can't change that. There is a woman right now that I know I will never stop loving. But this year I have learned about letting go. This is by no means an easy process but it is a necessary one. There is only room for one woman in my life.

I have learned this year about balance. My life has always been a juggling act. I juggle my sex life with my love life, (which have at times been two completely different and exclusive things)with my creative life, with my athletic life, with my career life, with my family life. It sometimes gets to be too much and things suffer. I have learned this year that I can only do so much. I have come up with the perfect word count that allows me to write everyday without taking time away from my family or from my workout and relaxation time. That number is 850 words a day. I can do that with ease. That means that a short story could take between four and five days and a novel between four and five months depending on the length and how much editing is necessary after the first draft is completed. I bring Christie to the gym with me which gives us more time together without me having to sacrifice my physique for it. I have cut down on the number of fighters I train, limiting it to only the most serious and committed. And I have a job that I enjoy, that pays very well, and that does not physically and emotionally exhaust me. For once I actually have moments where I can sit and relax.

I have learned that religion just ain't in my future. I will never be the one to repent on his death bed. I am more sure of this now than ever. I don't need any imaginary friends. I have real friends that love me and support me and that I can always count on and more importantly I have me and the strength of my own will, which has once again proven equal to any task I set before it. My arguments against various religious mythology have not gotten any stronger. It is merely that the emotional component is now there to support the intellectual. I have no need of a higher power. I have now conquered ever obstacle put before me. I have endured every trial. Everything I ever wanted to change about myself I have changed. I am now closer than ever to the most perfect me I can be. I have reshaped my mind and my personality with the power of my own will and mine alone. When things got hard I did not cry out for Jesus or Allah or Buddha. I did not pray I reasoned and I endured. The last two years have been the darkest I have had in the last two decades and if I made it through these without turning to alcohol, drugs, or religion I believe I can now say with confidence that I will never need such emotional crutches. This year I will run another marathon as a testament to what my will can do on its own, unfettered, unencumbered, and unassisted. I got a tattoo after I ran my first marathon on a bruised and swollen foot, finishing the last nine miles in excruciating pain. The tattoo says "indomitable spirit" written down one pec in Japanese. This past year I have earned that tattoo with feats of emotional endurance that rivaled even my performance in the marathon. I ran this entire year on one foot and I made it to the finish line.

I have learned that I still have miles to go in my development as a writer and I am making strides in that direction. I have also learned that if I persevere I will achieve my literary goals just as I have achieved every other goal I have put before myself. I have signed up for writing workshops and rededicated myself to my craft. I am going back through all my old reference books on the craft of writing and rereading some of the writers who first influenced me. I have started two novels and will complete them both this year 850 words a day. I will also complete two more novellas and hopefully another collaboration. I will sell at least one novel. I will sell both novellas and I will sell a collaboration. I will sell a novel to a mass market publisher this year. There's nothing to it but to do it.

For the first time in my life I can honestly say that I am a good man. I am not satisfied but I realize that this is just who I am. I will never be satisfied. It ain't in me and that's my problem not the people in my life. I am a great father who has made every effort to ensure that his children will rise higher than he has. I am a good son and grandson. I call both my mother and my grandmother every week just to tell them that I love them. And for the first time I can say that I am good man for the woman in my life. I don't cheat. I can say that with all honesty for the first time since I was fifteen years old. I am not just a recovering sex addict. I am recovered. I need nothing more sexually or romantically than what my woman can provide. I am whole now. And 2006 is going to be a damn good year. I love all you mutherfuckers.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Collaborate with who?

So, I guess the cat is somewhat out of the bag as far as the possibility of Keene and I collaborating on a novel sometime in the future. This project is at least a year away and has only been briefly discussed so I wouldn't get too excited about it yet. Brian's extremely busy and will probably only get busier and saying that I'm busy would almost be redundant. Still, if we ever get the chance to write what I suggested to him that we write you guys are going to be in for one hell of a treat. The fact that Brian would even have the balls to agree to writing something like this with me speaks volumes for the man. Brian's definitely got a brass pair.

Okay, so that was cruel of me. I tell you not to get excited about it yet and then I wet your appetite with that little teaser. Don't worry, by the time we do have a chance to write it you won't even remember this entry.

In the meantime, I really do want to do a collaboration this year, but I have no clue with whom. I really like the idea of collaborating with Maurice Broaduss on something, but what? I just don't know what he and I could come up with together. Every storyline I have floating around in my head right now just would not be his cup of tea. Both our politics and our religious beliefs differ greatly in many areas though I'm sure there are many areas upon which we agree as well. The funny thing is that I'm actually coming up with storylines that would work as I sit here telling you guys that I can't think of any. Okay Mo', expect an email from me soon.

I'd love to do a collaboration with Ray Garton, but I hear that he's not much into collaborations and I doubt he'd make an exception for me. I'm just not that big of a fish yet.

Ever since he beat me in the Delirium gross-out contest back in 2000 due to me actually holding back for once and saving my most disgusting entry for the final round which I assumed I'd be in, I've been curious about the idea of collaborating with the talented Mr. Patrick Lestewka. But I hear he's not writing horror anymore. Oh, well.

Shane Staley has been suggested and you know, the more I read of his stuff the more I think that might actually work. His sense of humor would make an interesting blend with my style. Definitely someone to keep in mind.

Believe it or not I've been batting around an idea for a retelling of Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor story from The Brothers Karamazov that a guy like Carlton Mellick III could possibly breathe some life into. I'll definitely have to give that some thought. That would be a lot of fun to write.

Ed Lee is still too busy and probably getting too big to screw around with a small fish like me anymore.

Jack Ketchum is definitely out of my league (it helps to know your limitations).

Charlee Jacob would be difficult stylistically though it would be a nice challenge. Unfortunately, I could see us getting halfway through it and stalling out or scrapping the whole thing due to creative difficulties. I adore her writing style but don't know if I could blend with it. That would be a great test of my talent though and I'm sure I'd come away from it a better writer. But I don't think she does collaborations anyway so there goes that idea.

Another collaboration with Monica O'Rourke is always a possibility. We sort of hit the wall on the sequel to Poisoning Eros. In fact, I have my doubts on whether there will be a sequel. We sort of had conflicting ideas on where the story should go. Still, that doesn't preclude us working together on a new project. It was so much fun working together on our first collaboration and I really feel like we created a masterpiece so I'd always be open to working with her again.

I'd love to do Nikki (aka Fuctbydesign). I have no idea if she writes or not. I just want to have wild circus sex with her.

There are of course others that have been suggested to me over the last few months, Jeffrey Thomas, Randy Chandler, J.F. Gonzalez, Jeff Strand, but I haven't read enough of their work and don't know enough about them personally to know how or if collaborations with any of them would work. So for now the list of possibilities stands at Maurice, Shane, Carlton, or Monica. Any other suggestions?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Big Hairy Audacious Goals

I am typically a very goal driven individual. Yet today as I sit here contemplating the year before me, I find myself feeling listless and unmotivated. I am simply exhausted. This year has been a very taxing one and I feel like taking the next twelve months to sleep off 2005. I don't want to do shit yet there is so much to be done.

Every year since 1999 I have written my Big Hairy Audacious goals and announced them on the Horror Authors Network. The first four years I shattered every goal I set for myself. Then came 2003 and my divorce after ten years of marriage. That year I ran a marathon, I came out of retirement and won a world kickboxing title with 14 second knockout, I sold a story to the Cemetery Dance anthology Shivers III, yet still I failed to meet all the goals I'd set for myself that year. Most of those goals were literary. I wanted to sell stories to Cemetery Dance, Weird Tales, and Space and Time, I wanted to sell my short story collection and my novel. Every year since 2003 I have fallen short of my goals. In 2004 my goal was to train my fighter to a world title, which I did. My goal was also to finish writing the novel I started in 1994 which I did, and to write and sell two chapbooks, which I did. My goals were also to sell stories to Cemetery Dance and Weird Tales which I did not. I never even sent them anything. My goal was also to sell the novel I'd been writing on and off for eleven years. I only submitted it to one publisher which gave me a tentative acceptance and then never replied to another email. My goal was also to sell the two novels I'd previously written to mass-market publishers. I never submitted those anywhere either, not even to the publishers who requested them. So, I rolled those unaccomplished goals over into 2005 and failed to meet a one of them. I did see my novel Succulent Prey published this year though that was as a result of one of the few goals I met last year and so doesn't really count in '05. I also sold my short story collection and saw it published this year which is one good thing. I started two novels this year though I didn't finish either one. I did start a blog this year that has proven mildly successful but since that was never one of my goals it doesn't count either. My biggest accomplishment of 2005 was the birth of my daughter Isis Imala White but if I were cynical I could say that even my contribution to that miracle was made in 2004 so doesn't really count for '05 but conception was really just the easy part. The hard work went in to caring for my daughter's mother all year before and after my daughter's birth and taking care of my new daughter so I still count her birth as a major goal reached in '05.

2005 was an emotional year. My daughter was born this year. My love life went through a blender and I lost someone I loved dearly to gain a future with my daughter and her mother, a fair trade but one that still hurts. I also changed jobs this year, leaving a job I'd been at for six years to go to different devision of the same company. A big promotion but one with its own obstacles and difficulties. Neither of these are enough of a reason in my opinion for me not to have hit my goals. So now, I'm am on the precipice of a new year. I am stuck with the daunting task of creating new goals and the very idea exhausts me. I feel unequal to the task.

This year I have to train one fighter back from aserious injury to hopefully recapture his world title. I have to train another fighter who's never stepped into the ring before to hopefully make a big career in NHB fighting. I have to get back into the kind of shape I was in before my girlfriend's pregnancy. I have to clean up my credit and buy a new house because the one I own now is too small. I have to find the time and money to go back to Philly to visit my family and introduce them to my new daughter. I have to find the time and money to do a few readings to promote Succulent Prey and The Book of A Thousand Sins. I have to find the time and money to go to a few conventions to promote Succulent Prey and The Book of A Thousand Sins. I have to finish my latest novel and I have to submit one of the old ones somewhere. These are all things that have to be done. These are not my goals but just the bare minimum necessary for me to have a reasonably productive year. Faced with this, the idea of creating goals on top of these obligations is dizzying. How will I have time to write stories to submit to Cemetery Dance or Weird Tales while trying to finish one or possibly even two novels? How will I have time to chase the major publishing companies to publish my novel while I'm chasing down creditors to remove negative marks from my credit score? How will I have time to write a screenplay or collaborate with any of the great authors I am dying to collaborate with? How will I have time for any Big Hairy Audacious Goals when my life is so Big Hairy and Audacious already?

I have no idea right now so for now my goal is just to get my shit straight and take care of everything that needs taking care of. If I manage to do anything above that I'll take that as a win. Perhaps, by the time the new year rolls around I will feel more rejuvenated and ready to tackle some truly lofty goals, but right now I just need a nap.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Father

I was lying in bed this morning holding my daughter, watching her smile and giggle, looking up at me with eyes filled with love and joy as I kissed her nose and forehead and bit her little cheeks. I laid her on her belly and watched her struggle to find her coordination as she attempted to crawl for the first time, making progress but still not getting the hang of it. At one point she almost fell off the bed, but I grabbed her before she could hurt herself, gathered her in my arms and kissed her little nose again, which brought her to a fresh round of giggles. Then I put her back on her belly so she could try again.

I love my daughter and she will always know that as long as I am alive to tell her. I'll always be there to catch her if she falls and kiss her little nose and put her back on her feet because that's what fathers do. That's what we expect of them. We expect a father to protect and provide for his children, to hug them,and nurture them, and let them know that they are never alone. We expect them to prevent injury when they can and relieve hardships when they are able. We don't expect them to let their children starve when they are able to feed them, to let them suffer when they are able to soothe them, to let them feel alone and unloved when we are able to hold them and love them. We expect a father to show his love through his presence, through his actions, and through his words. These are our expectations of our earthly fathers. They are lofty but infinitely attainable and not unreasonable for even the most flawed among us. Should our expectations of our father who art in heaven be less than these?

I look at my beautiful daughter's face and I wonder what it would be like for her if she only knew me through what she'd read about in a book or heard others say about me? I wonder what it would be like if she'd never heard my voice or felt my arms around her? If I'd never kissed her on the nose and made her laugh? I wonder how easy it would be for her to have faith in a father she'd never even seen? If it would be fair of me to expect her to love me or to believe that I love her? I wonder what it would be like if she sent me letters and emails and left messages on a voicemail hoping that I would hear her and reveal myself to her, that I would appear on her doorstep one day and gather her into my arms, catch her when she fell, or mend her wounds after she's fallen, not ever knowing if there was anyone on the other end listening? Not ever getting any confirmation of my presence? I wonder if she would think her mother was a liar if she was to tell my daughter that her absentee father loved and adored her? I wonder how she would feel about others who claimed to know me or to have seen me or spoken to me? I wonder how she would feel as she looked into each supposed sighting of me and found not one credible story, not one that she could verify or authenticate? As she heard one conflicting story after another? I wonder if she would begin to doubt not only my love but my entire existence? I wonder what kind of love and trust I could reasonably expect from a child for whom I'd never been anything more than a fairy tale and an occasional check in the mail, a miracle that others attributed to her father but which could have just as easily come from the IRS or a secret admirer? I wonder about the intelligence of anyone who would call such a father loving and good.

I wonder this now as I hold my daughter on my lap, listening to her snore as I type away. And I know that she will never have to go through any of that because she will never have but one father and I will never let her down.