As the title suggests, this is the last blog post. For how long, I’m not going to say. It could be indefinite, it could be only a few months. But for now, I’m not planning anything new for this blog, except for publishing and appearance news.
It’s been nearly a year since the end of the chemo and the doctors said it’ll take about a year to fully re-adjust from the treatment. Over the that time, I’ve tried to get back to writing and tabletop rpgs. In the beginning, I knew I was having trouble. I’d just finished the treatments, so I assumed it was just part of being full of cancer poison. As time went on, my focus and concentration–essential when creating stories of any kind–seemed like they weren’t getting better. I considered it as “being out of practice” or “mental rust.” But in the last week, I realized that, no, in fact it’s a real problem.
One thing that hit home with me was talking to player in a Semi-Organized game I’m co-game mastering. She was asking me questions during a lengthy conversation and when it came to us wrapping up, I realized I could only remember one of her questions to bring up with the other GMs. That is very unlike me. I used to have a great short-term memory and recalled key points of conversations with ease. That conversation hit home that something has changed. The other thing that I notice came during my replay of Batman Arkham Asylum. I’ve played this game maybe 3 times through. But there is one bossish fight I did not remember–the two Titan henchmen fight, for those that played. There is a decent amount of focus needed because you have to dodge every attack for the guys your fighting. And about 2/3rds of the way through the fight, I could tell my focus started to slip. This slipping happened every time I tried the fight and I know it took me much longer to finish that it did the other times I played it. This was confirmation of something I was trying to deny when it came to writing: my focus is shot.
This is common for people who went through chemo treatments. They call it chemo brain, which I don’t like. It sound childish and silly for something that, at least for me, is a major setback. But I have it and can’t deny it anymore. I’ve got to retrain myself to work around it. Because of it, I just don’t have time to keep a blog like this one updated and current. I do recaps for my Unknown Armies game and I’ve learned I need a good week just to edit because of the concentration, focus, and memory issues. There is no way I can manage consistent blog posts here.
I want to thank those of you that have followed me through the last seven years here. Hopefully I’ll be back one day, but I never make promises if there is doubt I can keep them.
It’s strange to think that a year ago today, I was admitted to the hospital to figure out why I had full body pains for a month. I would then end up not leaving for almost another month. If you missed it, you can check out this post, then this one to catch up. I’ll be honest, I had every intention of just ignoring it, because, let’s face it, not much happened other than things left in the past. The only reason I’m writing this post today is because as I was celebrating and supporting a friend on an incredible achievement, the events of the last year deluged me and what I thought were sturdy emotional constructs.
I’ve always been one champion those like me that enjoy time alone and embracing introverted tendencies. There is a significant difference between being alone and loneliness. Being alone is something that humanity responds to on a broad spectrum: from the hermits to the Facebook friends collector, we all have a certain amount of time we can exist away from people. Loneliness, however, is an invisible erosion of the mind that you don’t always feel, like the wind whittling away a mountainside. Loneliness exists in an empty bedroom or in a pack stadium, among family and strangers and imaginary friends.
There was a lot of loneliness during the chemo treatments. Granted, I had my family always there to help. My nurses were some of the best I’ve ever had. And I had friends checking in and keeping things as normal as possible. But for fifteen weeks the chemo would wear down the tumors and loneliness wore down the mind. A time did come when I was so washed out and feeling little more than an “ugly bag of mostly water” that I didn’t have the mental or emotional strength to even perceive the effects and eventually the cancer was gone, chemo stopped pumping, and my body began to recover.
I took the time after the chemo as being a delayed start to my year. February through July never happened, much like a coma, and I was going to slowly attempt to complete the plans I had for the year. Reconstruct and reassemble the life lost in that time, repair the man I was. But that is the insidious nature of loneliness. Its corrosion is not visible. If you try to forge something new with corroded material, it’s doomed to collapse. It’s in our nature to prevent this at all costs because we learn as babies how terrible loneliness is. A part of us still hears our cries for Momma when we were helpless and knew nothing of this strange world. But sometimes we forget that creation comes from ruin. Loneliness, for all the pain it can cause, is like the wind: a force for change and something knew. Many believe that happiness is the cure for loneliness. And I think that is part of the right answer. It’s memories. I say that because we all do things that make us happy, but it is usually small, momentary bursts. They have no permanence. Memories create the strata to rebuild a mountainside and fill in the pits left by loneliness. Only by making new memories, finding new inspirations, can you begin to recover.
So this post is to thank everyone that has contributed to the new memories that are helping me rebuild. The old friends who, after decades apart, can pick up right where we left off. The new friends that inspire and humble me as I continue to discover more about them. The ones I call family, by blood or trust, that are always there if I need them and the strangers open to taking a chance.
I came to strange realization last night. Since the beginning of the month, I’ve concentrated on getting back to writing. Everyone always says give yourself time, be as fit and ready as you can before going back, blah, blah, blah. Now, that’s all well and good and I would be the last person to say that you should be writing the second you believe you can. But that adage only works for more common, relatively short-term recovery life incidents like a death or broken arm. Not only that, but from my experience, artists are skilled procrastinators. Give them an inch and they’ll take a light year. So, I figured seven months in remission is enough time.
But every time I tried to write, I hit a snag. It’s not a block, because the story is right there in my head with my inner voice narrating the hell out of it. My hands were the problem. It’s like the fuse that powered the Thoughts-to-Typographical Output Machine in my head blew. I knew what I wanted to write, but unlike writing this post where I think and type in unison, my fingers laid motionless on the keyboard. And it didn’t even stop at stories. Working on the Unknown Armies campaign: making notes, jotting possible ideas, became harder to type down in files to keep them organized.
The first realization was that it was something to do with computers. And when I thought about it, I realized that since the fourth grade, the majority of my writing has always been on a computer. I remember the day I convinced Mrs. Dziura I could write faster on a computer than hand writing. Still the best con I ever pulled because my handwriting was terrible, but I was one of very few kids that grew up with a computer in the house–I can still hear the clacking of the Commodore 64 keys as I failed miserably at the typing game we owned. Not only that, but it’s been my main tool of communication. After moving to New Jersey, method of conversation would always veer towards typing than talking. Actually, I take that back, I did a lot of chatting on AIM and ICQ in high school. It’s very strange to have this stalwart impediment in the way I communicate, especially in relation to what I love doing.
Then the second, bigger revelation hit me. In the past, every time I felt like I was starting to get my groove and move in a successful direction, something health related knocks it down. When I figured out what I wanted to do with Scavenger after deciding on a totally rewrite of the first third of the book, blood clot in my portal vein and medication that made me barely functional for 6 months–these was also the time where I wrote two consecutive chapters with the POV character going unconscious at the end, because I was always going unconscious as I was writing. “The Tethering” gets publish, I’m getting interest in Scavenger while making publishing connections and friends, getting ready to do revisions, and then my liver decides to just up and disintegrate on me. Finish my MFA with clear and focused plan on finishing Nostrildamus and I get riddled with cancer from my feet to my mouth.
Put the two together and you have a subconscious conditioning of working creatively on a computer = you’re probably gonna die.
Is it silly? Sure it is. If I didn’t already have a story somewhat similar to this situation, I would even say it could be a good story idea. But it doesn’t make it any less challenging to correct. But, being the stubborn ass that I am, I’m certainly not going to let even myself get in the way of writing. To hell with me!
As an experiment, I tried writing by hand last night just before going to bed. Now, I’ve said in person that I enjoy writing by hand. I find the words come easier and I flow into the story faster when I hand-write something. The only I don’t do it often is 1.) my hand writing is still terrible and 2.) between the transplant and the chemo, my hands aren’t very strong and are quick to tire. But before I went to bed last night, I took out this sketch book I’ve had since college that I use at time to story ideas or think through story details, and began writing the perpetually narrated story in my head.
No, I did not write the whole thing, and no, did it became some miraculous transformative experience that moved me deeply. That’s too cliché for me. But I wrote. Not a lot, not all great, but there are words on a page. And I know when I go back to it, more words will travel from my mind to my hand to paper in my funny way of writing and maybe in a couple of days I’ll have a story.
If you caught my time in The Game Master’s Corner, you may have caught that I’m putting together anUnknown Armies campaign. This is probably the most excited I am to play a game. I’ve had the core book for around a decade, but I never could find a group of people interested in trying a completely new game. Most of my friends wanted to play either Dungeons & Dragons or any of the many White Wolf games. But Unknown Armies has intrigued me because of how different it was to games I’ve played up till now.
I won’t go to far into it, because there is a lot to talk about, but I will touch on part of my favorite aspects:
Playing normal people – Most games, you play extraordinary people. You are some one specifically trained for a specific task (e.g. Warrior, Thief, Decker, Jedi. etc). It’s the extraordinary people who have the fun and adventures and ordinary people are background elements to make the game world feel real. Unknown Armies starts characters off as just average people and the game play is about becoming extraordinary and the consequences it brings.
Madness that matters – Many horror games have madness or stress mechanic. But most of the time it’s a mechanic that doesn’t really do anything for the game unless you role-play it, so it becomes really a second health bar. But measuring madness is vital to the mechanics of Unknown Armies and is better detailed to fit is significance in the game. It also goes further in that it tracks how hardened you are to some kinds of mental stress and how that is just as bad as going insane.
I think these two points make Unknown Armies a game fraught with great terror. But that is just the game. I have to give a little credit for the players I was able to gather to create a great group. The story will center around a group pf people a part of a traumatic experience support group. This alone give the stress and madness aspect of the game so much to play with. In the group we have a perfectionist plumber, a pseudo-Robin Hood foster kid, a ghost Mythbuster, and two circus workers.
The ideas are pouring out of my head.
Another fun thing is that I’m setting the game in Lucin City, setting for the currently ill-fated Scavenger and some short stories. There will definitely be some appearances of the people in those stories during game and I’ll be drawing some inspiration during the game for some new stories I’ll work on through out the year and beyond.
If you’re interested in the game, I’ve made a site that will be a resource for the players during the game. Between now and March 8th, when the game’s first session starts, I’ll be filling out the site with all kinds of info and it will be updating after every session:
Most likely I’ll be talking about the game and getting back into Game Mastering now that I have this going on. Plus, I’m sure the well be some great stories for the table, because there always are in rpgs. It’s one of the best reason to play them.
It’s been a while since the last time I made one of these. And while I’m still the hopeless romantic I’ve always been, I think age has broadened my view of love. But that’s a blog post in of itself. For now, I give you the Every Day After mix. When you celebrate tomorrow, most likely it will be fun bubbly romance, or some may take relationships to the next step and enter all kinds of honeymoon phases. This list is to remind you that when all that effervescence dies down, there is still a lot left to look forward to and cherish.
I’ve been holding off on writing this post. One, because I could find the picture that inspired the idea. Two, because I greatly distaste talking about my physical condition. And this comes from know all too well that despite my greatest efforts, the vast majority of people just won’t get what’s has happened and is happening to me. Many people keep telling me that I should write my story of all I’ve gone through, help give them strength, but they don’t realize I’m really not that strong. I’m a stubborn asshole that learned feeling sorry for yourself about anything is just an excuse which people use to stop change because they are scared. I can’t teach that to people, that took me almost two decades to really figure out, and it was more self-reflection than discovery.
But I do realize probably as many people I know now that have known me post transplant and post cancer, as those who knew me before. So, in spirit of that Throwback Thursday, let me introduce some, refresh others, to what the heck is going on with me.
A few of you may remember this guy. This was the guy I was up until the coma. The last thing I would have called myself was fit, but always had very strong legs and great balance. Not a lot of endurance–I would be middle of the pack come the zombie plague, but I loved finding places to perch and a friend I went Australia with, Eric, told me about Soap Shoes, and I wore those through high school and the start of college, grinding where ever I could. So, if I were to have a part of my body to be proud of, other than my brain, it would have been my legs. A lot of people always thought upper body strength was the ideal until they saw me doing many of the same tasks, but using my legs more than my arms and chest. I also had few back aches afterwards.
Then this happened. You go to bed while one night, end up a banana in the morning. This picture was taken a few days before the coma, but unfortunately I did not have a video camera on stand by so my parents could videotape the encephalopathic gyrations that night to make a GIF for you. I’m still upset at myself over that. It was good story material.
But the coma was a bit of a turning point. Mostly because my body was shutdown due to a failing liver, that persnickety organ. I was off, mostly in blackness, but towards the end on a grand adventure with Disney characters and Muppets for a quest for a Watermelon Slush Puppy. Quick aside: I just realized I prophesies Disney buying The Muppets in my coma. It was kind of messed up, and it will definitely be a story one day.
I also did this to one of the ICU nurses while under. Again, really wish I had a video camera:
Now, quite understandably, once I had my shiny new liver, my body was massively deconditioned. A lot of it was made up in physical therapy, but my legs–thighs to be exact–plateaued and never got near to fully functioning. All the balance and strength I had was gone. I walked slower then some older people using walkers. Interesting note: health insurance companies can deny coverage of physical therapy if you show no progress. Pretty much the last 5 years has been me trying to figure out what is wrong with my thighs so I can get them back to within a normal range of capacity like getting out of a chair or off the floor with out use of my arms.
Now the lymphoma didn’t help either. I gained a lot of weight due to the steroids for the chemo and the ability to not do anything during treatments. As part of my plan for this year is to try and get in a better life style, I tried to do the normal exercise I’ve always done when I try to get in better shape. First time in my life, I couldn’t do any of them. I’ve become a complete opposite of that guy perching all over campus.
Now, many times, this is where people would start playing the guilt trip on readers. And to a point, I can understand it since most people would find such a shift in their person as shocking and uncontrollable and have no idea what to do. But to another point, I feel like preying on empathy of others just reinforces the idea you can’t change it. But, I will admit, there are days where I wonder if this was worth it all. Think about this: roughly $6 million was spent to keep me from dying twice in the last 5 years and I can’t do a jumping jack. I feel like we are going to keep people alive, we should be trying to insure they get the best possible life they can have, not just accept they are living and that’s the end of it. But that also means I’m not going to do what I can to get better either. And maybe that’s really why I can’t write about this and help people find strength as everyone wishes I should. I’m not finished yet. It seems finished for other people because I got the new liver that cured me of a genetic illness and survived cancer and chemo treatments. For many people, that is considered done. If I have any advice for everyone, nothing is ever done. Everything evolves into a new challenge. People always think they have crappy lives because they believe that at some point all problems should be solved. But if you think about it, that can never happen. Everything is cause and effect. No cancer survivor is the same as they were before, just as like all the people who lost their jobs during the recession are not the same. Life has a good percent of uncontrollability, but don’t fear that, use it to your advantage.
Interesting news broke yesterday. I’m sure if you have any interest in books, you probably already know about Harper Lee is publishing her first novel, Go Set A Watchman. It was the flashback scenes in Go Set A Watchman were the inspiration for To Kill A Mockingbird. A lot of people are trying to discuss the significance now, before the book is even published and the public can consume the ideas presented. I’m trying to keep an open mind about it, but I can’t help but believe that this will be an interesting case about how much our culture and society have changed since To Kill A Mockingbird was first published.
From a very cynical standpoint, a person could question the tremendous coincidence that this book was found after Michael Brown’s shooting and the death of Eric Garner as well as the critical acclaimed première of Selma. It’s hard to believe in this rapid pace world where everyone is riding what ever current events are getting the most talk that there wasn’t some kind of plan in place. This, by no means, displace the importance the book may have once it’s published, but can’t deny the publicity stunt that it invariably is.
As a writer and literary guy, I think it could start an interesting discussion about Big L literature–the stuff we are pretty sure is going to last well past anyone living today, including the baby that was just born as you read this. To Kill A Mockingbird has pretty much locked in its place for at least American Literature, I’m not that familiar on how the rest of the world views it. At some point, everyone reads it in either English or History class. Unless people banned it, then people read it in hiding to see what made it offensive. Now the interesting part is that most of what gets considered as Literature, American or otherwise, is usually happens throughout the career of a writer. Each new work consumed by society and we collectively define it’s importance to us and out ideals and if it will help pass on those thoughts and perceptions of humanity to posterity. Harper Lee has only had one book published, to date.
What if Go Set A Watchman is a terrible book? Does that change anything about the legacy of Harper Lee? Lots of people only write two books, it one of the oldest clichés of not only writing, but even music and film. And a lot of those great first books, albums, and films are forgotten due to the second’s quality. If it’s bad, could it be that children and teenagers that both books relatively close to each other look at it as net mediocrity that eventually changes how future generations perceive Harper’s work? Could she become literature’s Paul Verhoven?
And what if it’s great? What if this surpasses To Kill A Mockingbird? Will this single a rush of other authors or their estates to look for unpublished manuscripts and start a pseudo-American Literary Renaissance? Will that cause those authors to publish terrible books and everything I wrote above comes into play? Does this change any part of the process of define what becomes Literature? Does this change how we view a writer’s career as it progresses?
I think there is a lot of interesting thing to possibly come out of this and I’m probably anticipating that more than the book itself. I do have worries about the book. Mostly being that I read somewhere that the original editor was not impressed with the manuscript, which was why he said to develop the flashback seasons into a novel to create To Kill a Mockingbird, but apparently that original manuscript will be published as is. Personally, as a writer, if I had a 50-year-old manuscript, I’d want someone I trust, if not myself, to just double-check it. Even more so if the first editor wasn’t thrilled with it. Then again, perhaps that says something about our choice n reading habits. What was blah 50 years ago, is gold today.
To me, there’s no more important moment in any Superman comic than this one:
Why? Because Superman is the alter ego. He’s just the public expression of the real hero, Clark Kent. A man who wants to be a part of the world and do good in it.
You can take all the aliens and crises and super villains and stuff them in a sack. I want to see stories like the one in the video below: Superman saving regular people from the real world. Because to me, Superman is not a physical character; he’s an emotional one. He’s an expression of our need to find the courage to stand up FOR other people. Superman stands for the best aspirations of humanity: compassion, caring, and optimism. It’s hard to tell a story with him because people think it’s all about the shit he can smash, how fast he can fly, and what you…
I found a great role-playing Meetup group down here: Raleigh Tabletop RPGS. This past Tuesday, I partook in a Google Hangout they do called the Game Master’s Corner. It’s a place for us GM can talk shop and ask questions to each other. Check it out and I think I’ll be doing this more often.
2014 was a very experimental year for me when it comes to art. I really got into the photo-editing scene that’s quite big on Instagram. This year, now armed with a computer ready to do some heavy rendering, I plan to go back to my 3D art and begin to merge it with what I’ve played around with this year. So here is the last batch of pieces I’ve been working on.