When you are me… And those of you who know me the best know this, you have moments of inspiration, and those moments can be, and generally are few and far between. Once upon a time… Because all good stories begin as such, or so a battle-hardened revolutionary from a universe that exists solely in my mind (or does it?) once said… Once upon a time, I was a child who thought he would be the next Stephen King. Those of you that know me know this as well. My mind overflowed with ideas. Did you know that I wrote my first short story when I was my oldest Minion’s age? If you read my author bio, attached to ENDWORLD – A Novel you did. I started my first novel at 15 too. Only a couple of people know that. It was called THE OAKS, and it was a ghost story that featured a specter modeled after Jerry Garcia. Yep! I did that. I haven’t the slightest idea what happened to it. It’s likely downstairs in storage on one of the many hard drives that for some bizarre reason I decided to amputate from my first, three computers and keep. They’ve been sitting in a sealed shoebox now for decades. There’s no way anything on them could likely ever be recovered. So I can safely assume at this juncture that THE OAKS, and so many other stories and started novels of mine are lost to time, and youthful stupidity. Ever hear of a disk drive Frank? Of course I have. But where’s the fun in that?
I never became the writer I thought I would become in my youth. Two novels, completed and one left to finish (the story? Done, but my edit is ongoing, and has been on an extended hiatus since February of this year). Dozens of poems and short stories, not to mention novels started but never completed, journals filled and yellowing in my secretary desk downstairs, and this blog. Frighteningly? This is the most sustained and consistent writing I have ever done, which is pretty sad given how often I post something these days. When you look up “prolific” on dictionary.com you do not see my face. But honestly? I am okay with that. I’ve written more than many write in their lifetimes. And I am proud of my accomplishments. So for the small segment reading this (all 25-30 of you, sarcasm as always fully intended), let me get this out of the way right now: This is not meant to be a depressing post. This is not your old buddy the Madchronicler crying “woe is me” or seeking attention. There is no need to call or slip into my DMs on social media and ask me if I am okay. I am fine. Better than fine honestly, and way better than I’ve been in years. I’m writing this with a bit of a smile on my face so in the immortal words of that eminent sage of modern wisdom and hilarity Wayne Campbell, “chill INSERT NAME HERE. Take your Ritalin.”
To dial it back a bit, while I have never been prolific as a writer so to speak, when inspiration strikes me? It hits hard. Like a semi barreling down I80. And I go from writing these little ditties every couple of months to banging out whole, 300+ page novels in a year. Sadly? Those 300+ page novels generally take a lot longer to finish and one year ends up being four. Or in the case of CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD, six. For those of you reading this that are waiting for HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD don’t worry: It won’t be 2025 by the time I publish it. I’d wager end of year this or Spring 2023 at the latest. So once again, “chill INSERT NAME HERE. Take your Ritalin.” And to be honest? I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing over the last couple of months, but nothing that has seen the light of day. Literally. Everything I’ve done has been presented after dark to a group of my besties for between 5-8 hours every couple of weeks as we, ever-closer to the big 5-0, have embraced the geekiness of our youth and the once-cult, turned mainstream attraction that is Dungeons and Dragons. I’m 10 or so sessions into my first stint ever as a Dungeon Master, or DM to those of you that know the lingo and to be honest? I’m having a blast. But writing a fantasy role play for a bunch of high school and college buddies is not the same as composing a blog entry or, more importantly, writing a novel for public consumption. But still? Inspiration again. I’ve been driven to each, new session like I’ve rarely been driven to anything, save for writing a novel before. So as my buddy Tigger would say, “same difference.”
But the inspiration to force a bunch of middle-aged guys to face off against Warforged and Drow, not to mention Hobgoblins and the occasional Thug is not the same the inspiration that goes into composing a novel. And that’s where I find myself this unseasonably cool and clear Saturday night in mid-August. Once again, facing a question of inspiration.
2022 has been an interesting year. You could argue that “interesting” can be interpreted in a number of ways and in both a good and not-so-good context. The good? A great job. An amazing family and support system of friends and colleagues. And the not-so-good? An ex-wife-remained-friend that went through a lot this year, only to come out on the other side of it with a smile on her face and, as she said herself the other day via a GIF, feeling “born again.” She may or may not be reading this right now but if she is? I want her and all of you to know something: I am damn proud of her. I’ve seen people go through less than what she went through and come out changed for the worse, and she has come through it renewed and inspired herself about the next stage in her life journey. I’m excited to see what she does next. To reiterate a point I made in my last post, divorce is hard. Hard on you. Hard on the kids if there are any. Hard on a lot of things. But if you can… If the situation allows you to, remember who you were before the day when you decided you weren’t any longer. Keep that close to your heart and mind, even when the love you once felt has departed and the confusion and all the other emotions that come with it are tempered. Because there may come a day when you’ll be thankful for it. I was. Shit, I am.
Necessity and responsibility have trumped inspiration this year. Yet over the last month or so, I’ve felt a twinge of it coming back. Growing stronger and more prevalent until it reached a fever pitch, earlier this week and I went so far as to cancel my scheduled D&D session with “The Party” in the hopes of devoting an entire weekend to working on HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD. Needless to say there was outcry, and said session did happen as scheduled last night (though admittedly, I may have taken a bit of frustration out on my motley crew of Half-Orcs and Genasis, Humans, Halflings and Changelings; fortunately they all survived). And this morning when I awoke? The urge to dive into the book was MIA. So? I got up and went about my usual, Saturday without the Minions routine: Breakfast, a bit of house straightening, grocery shopping and a nap. By the time 7PM EST rolled around I was resigned to not writing and turned on the Phillies game.
Yet through it all, there remained an inner dialogue between what I like to call Frank Prime and Frank Sol (shoutout to Matt Mercer of Critical Role fame for the inspiration with Pumat Prime and Pumat Sol (see: Campaign Two: The Mighty Nein)) about inspiration. Specifically what inspired me to write ENDWORLD – A Novel and CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD… And what inspires me, or does not inspire me to finish HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD now. And it was there, in the midst of my Saturday thoughts that I figured out something I’ve been apparently working on figuring out for a while.
The first two books were inspired by my past. Book One? My time as a late-teen and early-adult with my own Mighty Nein, the friendship and specifically the love I found and lost there. Book Two? My marriage, subsequent fatherhood and dissolution of the former. These were things that I knew, and have written about before but it was the next recognition that came as a surprise to me and when it hit? My eyes opened wide and I said… I literally intoned, “huh” to my empty house, and my confused looking cat who was simply trying to nap before hearing her hooman’s voice. Book Three? It is not inspired by anything that has happened to me before this moment in my life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. The after-effects of Books One and Two remain for HEAVEN is… We’ll say loosely informed by my past, as is my life this night as I sit here typing these words. And those after-effects or mental aftershocks will never go away. But the inspiration for what comes next? It is the unknown. The ability to forge a narrative not based on where I have been but a true accounting of where I want to go. The long and winding road beneath a crystalline blue sky ahead that leads… Somewhere. To a door? Perhaps, though the road before me right now is quite clear. I envision a smooth and for once not rutted path through a grass-filled valley heading westward. Lush, summer greenery rises up into the foothills flanking me and the sun? It has just started it’s mid-day descent toward the horizon. I hear cicadas droning in the grass… Birds chirping as they go about their business. A light, slight and gentle breeze caresses my cheeks as I stroll, ever-onward into an undetermined future. As for what I will encounter there? That remains a mystery, but one that I am excited to investigate. I realize, as I sit here typing these last words in time with the crickets singing outside my open windows and the not-so-distant drone of semis and cars speeding by on I476 that this my friends and oft time casual readers?
This is peace. This too is how it feels to be “born again.”
May you all sleep well tonight and have the most pleasant of dreams. Thank you as always for reading the random musings of one psuedo-madman co-existing with you on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. And to Simeon Cobblepot, Pia Kha’shu, Gordjuck, Mondragon, Castor Raines and Ames/James/Amelia?
Roll for initiative.