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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Adventures in the Real World

Adventures in the Real World

                For four mornings straight, with less than four hours of sleep each night to sustain me, I was already up and moving before seven AM. I drove more than five hundred miles, talked to dozens of book dealers and a handful of other writers, and ate rarely. I was on a panel at an sf con, did several autographing sessions, and spent far too much time on the telephone talking about serious matters to breathe. It was my disastrous attempt to reshape the real world into what I had imagined it could and should be. I failed miserably at some things, excelled at others, and exhausted my reserves.

                Of course, I learned a lot. Each new foray into the real world is a learning experience.

                So I have new tales to tell and new characters to love and hate. My life has been filled with deadlines, so facing a number of deadlines that all happened at once was nothing new. How I coped was to remain fixated on my goals to the exclusion of all else. Now that the adrenalin has run out and the last deadline passed at 6 PM today, I have a few moments to reflect before other deadlines raise their ugly heads and the rat race resumes.

                My comfort zone is inside where it’s warm, sitting down with a screen and keyboard, surrounded by books and cats, and living in imaginary worlds with imaginary people. Acting in the real world and dealing with real people is a challenge for me. I’m aware many of my friends thrive on such challenges, but I’m satisfied to merely survive.

                What never fails to amaze someone like me who doesn’t live in the real world but only visits reality from time to time is the inherent unfairness of it all. There are hoops humans are expected to jump through to join the ranks of the accepted. Those who fail to make it through any of the hoops are excluded and never have an opportunity to advance to the next hoop. Those who fall by the wayside—the handicapped, the underprivileged who have no one to teach them to negotiate the hoops, the infirm or aged who cannot jump themselves, the poor who cannot pay for assistance, those who have no family nor friends to help them—are either ignored or devoured.

                My novels and stories are about people trying to jump through hoops.

                I am alive because, in the past, I had the ability to jump through hoops. From time to time, I misgauged the height of the hoop and fell flat on my face. But I always picked myself up and tried again. I made it through the public education hoops, even progressed through the thesis and dissertation hoops. I made it through the military hoops: ROTC, basic, AIT, NCO academy, OCS, live fire, general staff. I made it through the writer’s hoops: stories appearing in magazines, anthologies, novels; active membership in SFWA, HWA, MWA, ITW.

                I thought I had jumped through enough hoops that I had it made. I was wrong.

                Thankfully, I’m still able to jump. I can no longer jump as high nor as far nor as fast as I once could, but I keep jumping. Yesterday, I fell flat on my face again and had to pick myself up, reevaluate, and prepare to jump some more.

                Once I was a lion jumping through flaming hoops. Now I feel like a bullfrog leaping one last time before he croaks.

                That’s a good description of the hero of my new series of thrillers tentatively titled “Under the Gun.” He’s a modern-day gunslinger, a former army officer and agency man who is over-the-hill at 42. He has been a trained assassin and undercover operative who has always been able to negotiate hoops, to take the hill or go over the hill or around the hill or through the hill. He has never let anything stand in the way of accomplishing his mission. But now he finds his life complicated by love for a woman he has put at risk by wanting to be near her, betrayal by life-long friends, and a body that has been beaten and broken and doesn’t mend the way it used to.

                Two of the novels, Under the Gun Again and Impossible, will be completed by the end of the year. I love the characters, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next. Next is the title of the third novel in the series.

                These are cutting-edge suspense thrillers that cross genres into horror—sometimes even supernatural horror—and borderline sf. They’re fast-moving roller coaster rides designed to elicit screams. When you get to the end of one ride, you want to pay your money and ride again.

                It’s great to be back home after my adventures in the real world.


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