One year ago, the coronavirus tore a destructive path through New York City. It was new; there were lots of unknowns, and before many of us understood what was happening, we were sick. I wrote the following about what occurred to my family during that terrible period. The lone update I would add is how many friends and family have reached out to say that they would have helped us. I am grateful for them and each new day.
In Mid-March, right as New York City, coronavirus cases were starting to go off the charts, my wife and I became very ill.
It started the day after the Mayor declared a state of emergency, and the sickness ran for more than 45 days. Three weeks of that time were pure hell. Hallucinatory in some ways.
The sickness started with a slow windup – about a week of nose runs, fever, sore throats, and general weakness, but even then, it felt like nothing we had ever had before. I tele-healthed my doctor, and he said that we should stay home because if it was coronavirus, all you could do was “ride it out.”
The worst part of the illness occurred over four or five days. At this point, we were having trouble breathing and getting out of bed. Walking twenty feet from the bedroom to the kitchen felt like running a marathon. It came in intense waves that would ring us out.
We, of course, have children as well. Two beautiful daughters – 4 and 8. They became sick, but it only lasted a few days, and their symptoms were mild. My oldest was aware of what was happening. She learned about coronavirus in school and was also very cognizant of masks and the talk in the subway and street corners.
When we were at our most severe, she would try to make us get out of bed. If we got up, she thought that we would be okay. One day, she asked me if dying was good. I was confused by the question, but then she explained, “If dying isn’t good, why is it happening to so many people right now?” Crying, she told us that she didn’t want us to die.
My wife was much sicker than I was. While she didn’t get out of bed for four days or so, I could at least make it to the kitchen and take care of the kids (they watched a lot of Disney +). Her breathing became worse and worse and more labored. She tried sleeping with the pillows propped behind her, but that only helped minimally.
On the turning point night, I thought my wife would have to go to the hospital. It was dark outside, and her breathing stopped and started. At that point, we could no longer avoid discussing what might happen to the kids if we were hospitalized or worse. One of the insidious things about the coronavirus is that we couldn’t call our parents or friends to help. We were trapped. If we called our parents, we risked making them sick, and if we called our friends – who would want to endanger themselves or their families?
Luckily, my wife didn’t have to go to the hospital, and incrementally, we began to get better over the following weeks. Unlike other illnesses I have had, the coronavirus took at least an entire month to recover from.
As we got better, though, I was unable to sleep for nights at a time. I would get up regularly to make sure that everyone in the house was still breathing. This continued through the recovery, and I am still working on processing what happened.
A couple of things that were godsends during that period – I have been a regular meditator for many years, and at my lowest moments late at night, my mind would return to my father, who has been dead for ten years and the camping and fishing trips that we took every weekend of my youth. I guess that was when I felt my safest and most secure.
Our recovery has been long, but we are incredibly grateful for all that we have. There were multiple times when I was sick that I would think of my life and wonder how a boy from Oklahoma ended up stuck in the middle of a pandemic in New York City. I imagined a lot of scenarios in my life, but that one never crossed my mind.
Recent years have been a time of pressing questions for humanity. We stand at a historical junction where we can embrace an uncertain future or cling to a rose-colored past that is neither glamorous nor fair as some people desire to remember. Democracy is on a razor’s edge, autocrats are on the march, social unrest has reached a boil, and the earth cries out as climate change sends us warning after warning if only we would listen. And the pandemic, of course, has decimated lives, upended economies, and kicked disinformation into overdrive. None of the issues we face are tidy or will be resolved soon. For a world raised on neat and clear-cut stories, the thought that we may be in this for the foreseeable future is exhausting. It can leave you demoralized, beaten down, and paralyzed with indecision. Like many, I have also hit the pandemic wall. At times it feels like groundhog day with the same routine over and over.
Each of us processes these challenges in our own way. For myself, this has led me to reevaluate what my priorities are. My writing, for example, has continued sporadically, but all the issues stated above have taken precedence.
Last March, my partner and I contracted a severe case of COVID that went on for two months. There was roughly a week-long period where I wondered daily if we would make it through. The lingering effects of that sickness led me to be more grateful than before. It made me more aware of savoring each moment, whether playing with my children, taking a bike ride, or doing something as mundane as washing the dishes. I have by no means mastered this and probably never will, but I find myself trying more, and that is a start.
I come out of this time of contemplation with a stronger understanding of why I write and a greater responsibility to what I put into the world. I have finished a novel and hope to release it in the fall. I am recommitted to the work that I do, but also understand that I am only human and that it is okay to let go with no feeling of guilt. I don’t need to compare myself to others. The highest success is focusing on my own happiness and being committed to my family, friends, and striving to make the world better than it was before. As I mentioned, there are no easy answers, only the beginnings of understanding and what I hope will lead to wisdom.
What big questions have you struggled with over the last year? What answers have you found?
Childhood Rites On Sale
October is the season of Halloween, sugary treats, things that go bump in the night, and — the release of Childhood Rites, my new horror tale that will raise the hackles on your flesh and have you double checking the locks on your doors.
From the story description:
“When Eric Deal answers a knock on his front door, the last person he expects to find is Justin Findley, a childhood friend whom he hasn’t seen in years.
But Justin isn’t there to swap pleasantries. He’s searching for Stan Whitman, the hard-partying final member of their old trifecta, who recently disappeared from their hometown after meeting a mysterious woman.
Soon, Eric and Justin are navigating the East Texas piney woods in pursuit of their friend, where they will discover that the truth of what happened to Stan is more terrifying than anything they could conjure in their darkest imaginations."
Perfect for reading over a couple of chilly fall nights.
Buy it here.
Most authors who take the Kindle Scout challenge will tell you as an aside that the third week stretch is the most difficult part of the month long competition.
You’re not new anymore and you’ve yet to hit the final few days where numbers tend to rise again You’ve emptied the pockets of your social media contacts and turned them upside down looking for change. You’ve contacted everyone you know including the local ice cream truck driver and your Aunt Petunia’s estranged hubby who ran off to become a NASCAR Driver. Obsessive thoughts of asking people in line at your local burrito shop to vote for you skitter through your mind.
No matter how many people you flog or share your book with by week three you begin to see diminishing returns. Along with that, comes a drop in morale (I talked about this last week) and invariably a slide off Hot and Trending for a few extended periods. Every insecurity that you’ve harbored since you were a kid afraid of creepy crawlies in the dark, passes through your besotted mind, weighing you down with anxiety and a feeling that your Kindle Scout campaign will end in doom.
When those feelings come (and they will) be sure and remind your self that this too will pass. It’s only a competition after all and life will go on after Kindle Scout one-way or the other.
Even if I lose I’ve learned a lot about marketing and promotion and got a look under the hood at how many fantastic authors are self-publishing and trying to follow their dream. My suggestion is don’t put additional undue pressure on yourself and those feelings will fall away as you focus on getting through the long slog and finding new and increasingly creative ways to get eyeballs on your book.
As I hit the seven-day remaining mark, what else can I say about the past week? I dipped out of Hot and Trending for almost a whole day once, while other days I was in it only in it a few hours longer than that.
After depleting my social media contacts I reached out to online groups I belonged to who were kind enough to share the link to my book. I also stepped up my Twitter game and reached out to people through LinkedIn. Also, not everyone will nominate your book as soon as you send your message. I’ve had several emails from people in the past two days that I contacted last week.
For the last 48 hours I’ve managed an extended run in Hot and Trending, we’ll see how long I can keep that up. The book is currently evenly split this between people voting from the Kindle Scout homepage and those coming through a direct link. By far my biggest source of traffic comes from Facebook.
If you haven’t had a chance to nominate my book there is still time! Also, if you’d like to see exclusive illustrations for the print edition of The Shadow Of All Things sign up for my monthly email blast.
digital copy of the novel. Okay, that sounds like a better deal, you say, so how do I vote for your book?
Easy. Click on the link here and you’ll go straight to the page where you can vote on my book.
So what is this The Shadow Of All Things book that you keep talking about?
It’s the first in a new science-fiction/urban fantasy series about the Elyuum, otherworldly, spectral creatures. If you like alternate universes, conspiracies, monsters, horror, action, adventure, mystery, and a sprawling cast of richly-developed characters fighting against ultimate evil, you’ll enjoy this book.
Here’s more from the back jacket:
When a man in a torn trench coat warns college-student Evelyn Cheng that something evil is coming down the subway tunnel where their train has stalled, she is ready to write him off as crazy until the lights flicker and the terrifying creatures appear.
Through him, Evelyn discovers she is a seer and that a battle between good and evil is raging in New York City among her kind and the mysterious, otherworldly Elyuum, who seek to tighten their grip on the city.
Spanning multiple universes with a sprawling cast of characters, Evelyn and others must stop the Elyuum before they conquer all existence.
If you liked my Nightfall Gardens series, I’m sure that you’ll be intrigued by my latest project.
So click over to The Shadow Of All Things page on Kindle Scout and give it your thumbs up.
The competition runs through May 6, please share with friends and family as well as come back here for updates.
Thanks so much, dear readers.
the scenario imagining a young Asian punk rock girl standing against one of the doors, head phones on, tapping to her own rhythm as something appeared out of the dark in the glass behind her. That image lingered after the subway started back up. Who was that girl? What were those creatures? The first chapter took shape in my mind.
Almost two years have passed since that happened: two years of tumultuous upheavals, big and small, in our little corners of the globe and around the world. There’s never been a period in my life that so much change seems to be happening to so many in such a short period. The Shadow Of All Things was written in that whirlwind and I’ve tried to do my best to write an entertaining story that also touches on the fear permeating our times.
I’d like to thank the artist Colleen Stiles for her patience as we navigated this long strange trip. I missed several deadlines and we went back to the drawing board on the cover and illustrations (that I’ll reveal in the not far future) several times before we settled on the one you are looking at now. I couldn’t be happier with the finished product. The cover pays respect to NYC and also captures a foreboding, anxious quality in the text.
Thanks so much to my family, friends and of course, the readers of my books for bearing with me. The Shadow Of All Things will be coming out in late May. Stay tuned for more details including an autographed copy of the book, illustration reveal and more.
Literary Spring Cleaning
Yesterday, I tackled a project that I’d been ignoring for eons — paring down some of the several hundred books I’d collected over the last two decades.
The final straw came when I looked around my living room one day and noticed that the bookshelves were overflowing and mysterious piles of fiction had sprouted on my kitchen table, writing desk, and other available flat surfaces.
Fellow bibliophiles will understand. There is nothing harder than culling your book
collection. Each has a backstory or overpowering impulse behind its purchase. The
copy of Religions of MesoAmerica you bought at a secondhand bookshop in Chicago
where the owner chain-smoked and drank Coke out of a can, causes a tangible pang
when you think of getting rid of it, even though you haven’t cracked it in five years.
Besides, you never know when you will need to know more about ancient Mayan religions … at least that’s the way I justify it.
Once I realized I was running out of places to sit, the reality sank in that no matter
how unpleasant the task, I had to do something at last. So, on the first day of spring I set to work, culling my collection into two piles, the books I’d keep and
those that would be donated.
The process was relatively painless, once I was honest (Did I need three copies of
The Windup Bird Chronicle?) and set ground rules: 1.) Was the book a gift or did it
have some meaningful attachment 2.)Would I reread the book? 3.) Was the book by
a favorite author or did it have “literary” merit? 4.) Would I read the book if I hadn’t? 5.) Did I want to keep the book … just because?
Four hours later, I had cleared out almost a hundred books, not as much as I wanted, but not a shabby start. While I was cleaning I ran across several novels that had been given to me as a teenager that had made a favorable impression.
My grandmother on my father’s side fostered an early love in reading by giving me Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines as a kid and later introduced me to Ed McBain,
Agatha Christie, Issac Asimov and others. While I was cleaning I discovered a couple of battered copies of Michael McDowell’s Blackwater series she had passed along to
me. McDowell is probably best known now for writing the screenplay for Beetlejuice.
For anyone who hasn’t read the series, imagine William Faulkner gothic ambiance combined with the horror of HP Lovecraft. I moved those books to my keep stack
and plan on hopefully digging back into them at some point. I see that the entire series is back in print including the volumes I was never able to get my hands on.
All of this got me thinking about great books that have fallen through the cracks, never attained the status that they should or aren’t widely known. Are there any books in your collection that you wish were better well known?