A Moment to Breathe…

… has been a scarce luxury over the past several months. The latter half of summer brought with it drastic changes in my life both jarring and exhilarating. After a wonderful vacation that included a week in Rehoboth Beach, DE and a weekend at Shore Leave’s 40th anniversary SF convention, I returned to work at 7AM on Monday July 16 only to be walked out an hour later. My position had been eliminated and after 17 years with the company, I found myself unemployed for the second time in my 25 year IT career. It was not entirely unexpected. We knew changes were coming. My manager was laid off while I was on vacation and after I left, at least two more people were terminated, including a director. 

Fortunately, I was offered a generous severance package, my wife immediately added me to her health insurance through her employer, and I also qualified for unemployment, all of which provided a financial buffer while I began searching for another job. I wasted no time. I could have taken at least a few weeks off to recover and enjoy the rest of summer, but I was plagued with the fear of being out of work for months or even years. Also, I knew that my interview skills had atrophied after 17 years of desuetude. 

With worry and panic gnawing at me, I nearly accepted a position in September with a small company nearly an hour away, but at a salary $25K less than what I had been making at my previous employer only 15 minutes from home. Shortly after, a larger company I had applied to contacted me for a phone interview, which led to an on site interview, which resulted in an offer. The salary was perfect and as for location, it was directly across the highway from my previous employer. I could not have asked for better. 

I am starting my sixth week in the new job and it’s quite the adjustment, not merely in regard to the longer work hours and the culture, but also to the fact that I am a one-man show. Where they once had two IT techs for the facility, they now have only one. The company downsized approximately a year ago and headcount was trimmed across several departments. 

At the same time all of this was happening, Steven H. Wilson and I were preparing to release our next book through his Firebringer Press publishing imprint. Firebringer Take Two is a double horror novel comprised of my paranormal mystery novella, Like Mother, Like Daughters, and Steve’s vampire tale, Freedom’s Blood. If you follow me on social media, or this blog, you probably saw a surfeit posts about it. We ran a Kickstarter campaign in September and held the book launch at Philcon (the Philadelphia SF Convention) last month. In the weeks following Philcon, I packed and shipped over two dozen paperbacks to both our Kickstarter donors and as thank you gifts to our advance readers.

Firebringer Take Two Final Covers

Shortly after losing my job in July, I was invited by my local writers group to give a presentation on a topic of my own choosing at our November 24th meeting. Since I knew that Steve and I would be running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the new double novel— and since no one else had presented on Kickstarter to the group before— I created two slide decks on Planning and Managing a Kickstarter Campaign as well as a live look at our successfully funded campaign for the double novel. The presentation went smoothly and although the audience was small, given the holiday weekend, engagement was high. 

As you might imagine, all of these changes and activities disrupted my writing routine. That’s putting it politely. Obliterated my writing routine would be more accurate. 

I had planned to submit a new short story to the Farpoint 2019 writing contest as soon as it opened in September. As with last year’s contest— in which I took second place— a photograph was sent to all of the convention’s writer guests as the story prompt. It was not until I attended the weeklong Mindful Writers Retreat in mid-October when I finally made time to focus on the picture and conjure a story idea. I wrote a hasty outline while at the retreat, but then put it aside to focus on the SF novel. Finishing the first draft of the novel was, after all, the main reason I attended the retreat and I came to within one chapter of doing so by the end of the week.

On the second day of the retreat, I received a call from Cat & Mouse Press to inform me that not only one, but both of the stories I submitted to their upcoming anthology, Beach Pulp, had been accepted. Of course, that news resulted in an hour or two of enthusiastic texting, emailing, and social media announcements. That’s the kind of disruption that’s always welcome. 

Since returning from the retreat and starting the new job, I managed to carve out a paltry six hours for fiction writing and most of that was over Thanksgiving break. As for that Farpoint short story contest, I missed the deadline while juggling all of the above and the new job. There’s a first time for everything and while I was disappointed, I decided to continue writing the story anyway because I loved the idea. 

It’s Sunday as I finish this blog post and now I’m off to finish decorating the house for Christmas, catch up with a small stack of back mail on my desk, and then, AND THEN… do my best to finish the aforementioned short story followed by the final chapter in the first draft of the SF novel. If I get them both done by the end of the month, it will make for Happy Holidays indeed!