Reviews: Grounds for Murder, and The Jake Ryan Complex

New feature here on the blog where I do short reviews of what I’ve been reading or watching or listening to. Today I’m going to talk about two books I just finished reading:

Grounds for Murder (A Coffee Lovers Murder Mystery Book 1) by Tara Lush

Now this was a much-better book and one I will recommend even if you have to pay for it (and it’s on sale at Amazon for $1.99, link here).

As you can see, this is a murder mystery set in a fictional South Florida beach down called Devil’s Beach. The main character and amateur sleuth here is Lana Lewis, former investigative reporter for a newspaper in Miami and now barista and manager of her family’s coffee house in her hometown. The book starts with the murder of Lana’s hunky Italian barista Fabrizo. All the evidence point to suicide as it looked like he took a fatal swan dive off the roof of the building he lived and worked in.

I though the premise of Lana being a former investigative reporter was intriguing and it works very well here. As an investigative reporter (she got canned from her job in Miami which is why she’s back in her hometown), Lana would know how to ask questions and find information. She’s very smart in this respect and I really like that. She’s also dealing the fallout of her rather messy divorce (her television reporter-douchebag ex shows up but she sends him on his way) and she’s kind of sort of licking her wounds from her divorce and the loss of her job.

With help from her new barista Erica, Lana works to solve Fab’s murder by working through an eclectic cast of characters and potential suspects, dealing with preparing for a big coffeemaking competition with Erica, and also her growing attraction to the island’s very hot police chief. So there are colorful characters, goofiness, laugh-out lines and observations, and a well-crafted mystery here.

This was a well-crafted book especially with the character of Lana. She’s about thirty years old and has knocked on her ass pretty good. But she doesn’t do a lot of sad-and-sorry for herself and also her conflict about her attraction to the chief of police is solid (she’s hesitant to act on that because he’s ten years older than her like her ex was so she’s not wanting to get hooked up with an older guy hoping he doesn’t turn out to be a douchebag like her ex).

The mystery was clever because not only did Fab-the-dead-barista get around, he was involved with some shady characters on the island who had motive to hate his guts and possibly want him dead. This is a book I will highly recommend and I am definitely going to read the next book in the series (though it’s not scheduled for release until December of this year).

The Jake Ryan Complex by Bethany Crandall

This is a book categorized on Amazon as ‘Single Woman Fiction’ and ‘Friendship Fiction’. I would call it contemporary romance as that was the main plot but it was written in the first-person of the main character, Mackenzie ‘Mac’ Huntress. Great name for a character but to me, a little of out of place in a straight contemporary.

The title comes from the movie ‘Sixteen Candles’, which I grew up watching and loving though I can now admit to its faults (that’s another blog entry for another time). Jake Ryan was the hero of that movie and made many a teenage girl’s heart flutter back in the day. He wasn’t a bad guy but more like the tall, dark, and handsome teenage hero with the angst. The story is of how the main character in this book held up all the guys she dated to this standard set by a fictional character. An interesting premise but the execution left a lot to be desired.

I will freely admit here I’m not fond of first-person narration as I feel it is a bit limiting in terms of being able to get into individual characters. In this case, the book was only written from the point-of-view of the lead female character, Mac. She meets a guy who is like an older version of the fictional Jake Ryan (multiple comparisons are pointed out throughout the book to this) and begins to fall for him.

The main conflict with Mac is that she has a demanding mother who she has decided to lie to in order not to set boundaries and deal with her like an adult (Mac is thirty-nine by the way in the book so if she was ten years younger I could this as a possibility but not for someone pushing forty). Mac’s invented this fake boyfriend and now that her mom is coming to town for Mac’s younger sister’s wedding preparations Mac is scrambling to either make this lie a reality while trying to date the real-life version of Jake Ryan she’s found.

It all works out though I could see most of the plot twists coming a mile off. The last third of the book also felt rushed and the big issues not fully addressed. Three out of five stars and not something I’d recommend unless it a freebie.

Out and About (from behind the wheel of an Uber)

Ever since the great San Antonio Snowpocalypse of 2021, people have been getting out and about here. Every week since the great Winter Storm, business has been booming for me and my fellow Uber drivers. It’s nice to see people out and about even though they still drive like the biggest dumb-ass assholes like they always have and always will. I’m going to try and take advantage of this busy time and scrape up as much money off the streets of San Antonio as I can because in four years of being an Uber driver, there’s always a bust after a boom.

Now why are people out and about more than ever?

My pet theory is the great Storm made people finally snap and want to run out of their houses and apartments screaming like crazy. A year of working from home, social distancing, and having the best excuse to avoid socializing with jerks finally wore out for so many. So when people snap here they seem to do two things: run out and buy all the stuff that you don’t use to wipe your butt with, and go get a shot and have a twenty-four hangover afterword without the booze and puke.

I also think the change in occupancy at the White House and Congress, and the rapidly-increasing availability of the miracle shots has a lot to do with it, too. Also, sending out a lot of money to people so they can spend it and have businesses hiring again and so damn desperate to hire that wages are going up gets people out and about, too. Because let’s face it, tax cuts for the wealthy and inept handling of a pandemic didn’t bring people out in droves unless they were in Florida and had already fried their brains on sunshine, booze, and other chemical substances.

But the good thing here is people are still wearing masks a lot. I think mask-wearing is something I won’t let go of any time soon because I like the ability to mutter nasty comments about dumb-asses and assholes they can’t hear. It feels good to vent on these bozos yet be kind and hold back my aerosol droplets that may or may not contain covid-cooties.

A year ago, the streets and highways of San Antonio were almost empty. Parking lots were empty except for H-E-B, Wal-Mart, and all the home improvement stores. But in the neighborhoods I drove through in the afternoons, I did like seeing families walking and biking. I hope that continues because it’s good to get outside and soak up the sunshine and exercise, too. Hopefully people won’t get back on the nutso rat-race of go-go-go all the time but I don’t think that’ll happen. It’s such an act of defiance to live a life that isn’t an endless rat-race because peer pressure is still such a bitch.

Dear people who still think you have to give in to peer pressure like you did back in high school: You don’t have to like you didn’t have to back then.

But I do think there is a change happening. When I first started talking about creating a house on wheels and living on the road, people’s replies to me were like hearing I was the neighborhood crack-head. Now people reply to me with a ‘heck ya’ and that they’re seriously considering it, too. Because although we’ve had a change in administration at the federal level, the state levels are still full of opportunistic dumb-asses with Texas and Florida trying to one-up each other every five minutes. And too damn many people won’t get a shot to save their lives and other people, too. And too damn many people can’t think their way out of a toilet bowl and believe conspiracy-theories and racist right-wing propaganda either. So I don’t think we’re out of the woods just yet. I think there’s a good-size light at the end of the tunnel we’ve been slogging through these past four and a half years but I still have enough cynicism to believe the light might be on an oncoming train, too.

I like seeing people out and about, though and even the dumb-asses on the roads and highways because it means people are still both smart and dumb. I don’t think it’s so much the Universe likes balance but the Universe tells us that because of free will, people have the ability to choose either to do the right thing, or try to see who can be the biggest dumb-ass. There will always be dumb-asses but as my father used to say, don’t let them ruin things for you.

Nick of Time – A Free-Form Blog-Conversation

Back in my school days of legwarmers and MTV, I did a lot of free-writing. It was in English classes most days as a way to get started writing. And like the nerd I was and still am, I loved that kind of writing. It was supposed to not be read by anyone but I always assumed the teacher would take a look at it so I never wrote anything really revealing. But I liked the idea of just sitting down and writing without stopping.

When I re-started this blog I had the idea of doing a weekly series on a given topic. But that petered out as I thought my writing wasn’t where I wanted it to be on that given topic. I was writing about the past and I didn’t want it to be just a re-hash or just a straight compare/contrast. I felt like I needed some framework or way of explaining why I’m writing like I am. So I pulled back and let my mind go to work on this and eventually a thought came to my mind:

We weren’t having the conversations back then like we are now.

Then a couple of days ago, this thought came to me:

Writing is a conversation.

I have never thought of writing as being a conversation but I realize when a writer puts their words out into the world for anyone to read, they’re starting a conversation. I used to think writing was just my way of telling my story but not having a conversation that is a give-and-take kind of thing. Now I haven’t really heard from a lot of people who have read my work over the years and those that have given me feedback have been very kind and generous and thoughtful.

I have come to realize I need to face something else that I don’t think really think I’ve talked about before. I call it ‘push-back’. It’s a term from my former call-center days that I dealt with on a daily basis because it wasn’t someone just ranting and raving to you on the phones. It was being told I didn’t know what I was talking about when I did have the knowledge and experience to back me up, and it was also being told my communication skills were essentially crap. Push-back was done to wear me down, to undermine my confidence and doubt my abilities, and to make me doubt my own knowledge and experience.

This is in turn has led to a fear that still lives inside of me, the fear that if I go too far in some way, shape, or form, my world will be kicked out from under me. I used to fear losing my job all the time for any mistake I made or if I found the courage to speak out against something. I still have to work with the fear I’ll lose what little I have though I keep coming up with backup plans because that’s just what I’ve done all my life. I’ve written a lot of this off to anxiety and over-imagination but I think a lot of it was fueled by my past. I’ve had a fear that if I ever pursued my writing all the way I’d be exiled and hated.

I’m already an exile and I honestly don’t think I’m hated. I think I’m mostly forgotten and thought of as an anti-social hermit who is probably a real snooty bitch on occasion. I’m honestly not anti-social but I’ve been called a bitch when I’ve just stood up for myself and pushed back at people who were being thoughtless and cruel to me.

So do these lifelong fears and anxieties have to do with this blog?

Over the last few years, my writing has led me down some long and sometimes dark and scary paths in my mind and my heart and soul. It’s led me to go through the storage unit of my mind and open up and deal with things I’d put aside for so many years. I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer or write constantly to pull myself off that dark path. I want to have fun and not feel guilty about that like I have in the past, too.

So I may or not write a blog series though I will if I want to. Mostly, it’ll be whatever is on my mind after I start my second cup of coffee. I may write about politics, social issues, or anything deemed ‘controversial’ though I’ll do my best to put a warning label on those pieces for those with delicate sensibilities. If you do want to respond and try to undermine my confidence in myself and my writing abilities, take that and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine At almost forty-seven years on this planet I’ve probably heard every variation of that bullshit and I’m still alive and kicking. Besides, I’m not writing for bullies or people who think they have the right to dictate what my life should be, or who just want me to shut the fuck up.

No, I’m writing for anyone who wants to read what I have to say. And I hope to connect with people who have been through things like I have and dealt with thoughts and feelings like I have. I want to give people something to think about, and hold on to in need. And I’d like to give out a few laughs or nail a really good piece of sarcasm.

Nick of Time – The Feral Ferocity of One Member of Generation X

This is a re-post of a piece I wrote over a week ago but instead I’m using it to start this week’s series of posts. You might say these are of a ‘political’ nature and they are, but they’re also observations of what’s going in this world and me calling bullshit on a lot of it. So read at your own risk.

The Feral Ferocity of Generation X

About a week or so back now, a New York Post column and Fox News broadcast said Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1980) would save this country from ‘cancel culture’ because we knew what it meant to be canceled.

As a member of Generation X, I burst out laughing at that bullshit. Then like the rest of my generation I got mad. A sleeping dragon was awakened on Twitter with over thirty-five thousand tweets on this that were gems of defiance, lists of what we had ‘canceled’ though in our day it was called ‘banning’, and stories of how we were raised ‘feral’. In plain English, you don’t fuck with a generation left home alone who only got attention when some asshole adult didn’t like what we were watching, listening to, or playing. Everything from our music, our movies, our books, and our games was the target of every conservative asshole in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

And we’re going to save conservative assholes now from being canceled for being racist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, lying, conspiracy theorists and attempted coup-and-war mongers?

No. Hell fucking no.

For those of you reading this who aren’t too familiar with Generation X, here’s a primer on who we are and what we’ve been through. And for my fellow Xers, here’s a stroll down memory lane.

First, the term Generation X comes from Billy Idol’s first punk band and a really crappy book of the same title. My dad said he thought Xer was better than Boomer.

We were the first generation raised by divorced parents or where both parents worked and we came home to an empty house. We were called ‘latchkey kids’ because of it but we knew how to take care of ourselves because that’s what was expected of us. We came home, got a snack, watched some tv, then ran around doing chores and starting dinner before our parents came home. Ate dinner then watched our shows and if our shows weren’t on we went to our bedrooms and did our homework or just listened to music and read or played games.

Our culture is extremely important to us. Our music, our movies, our books, and our games are sacred. We listened to heavy metal and hard rock, punk and alternative, New Wave, and rap and hip hop. We watched a ton of MTV and cable tv and movies over and over because there weren’t a million channels available and this was long before the concept of the internet and streaming services was even a gleam in someone’s eye. We listened to the radio on boom boxes outside, rode our bikes or walked, or took buses and trains, hung out with our friends or wandered around on our own. We left the house in the morning and didn’t come back until dark.

We grew up on dystopian science-fiction and the constant threat of nuclear war. As a young kid in the 1980’s I honestly thought the bastards in the White House and The Kremlin had their damn fingers on the buttons ready to blow us all to hell. That’s why we danced and partied around the world when the Berlin Wall came down and would love to dance in Red Square when Putin and Company are finally put in a gulag.

When this damn pandemic roared to life we told y’all how it was going to play out because we’d seen the damn movie so many times. If we were lucky, we got to quarantine but most of us probably didn’t. We don’t think we’ll get to retire to some swanky swinging retirement community in Florida or Arizona. We tend to think we’ll retire to some rat-shack apartment or if we’re lucky on the road. For a lot of us, we expect to work until we can’t, or until we’re in the grave and the boss has a séance to get us to find someone to cover our shifts.

So we’ve had enough of everyone’s shit. Because while we were growing up too damn fast, we were also living through the AIDS epidemic and rampant homophobia, racism in ‘welfare queens’ and crack cocaine. We chanted ‘No Justice, No Peace’ after four white police officers were acquitted in almost beating to death a black man named Rodney King. We watched ‘Do the Right Thing’ and said ‘Fight the Power’. And we knew the real reason the heat came down on NWA was because the powers-that-be shit bricks when they found out white kids at Harvard were listening to ‘Straight Outta Compton’ and God forbid they’d want to do something about the racism, poverty, and violence plaguing our black brothers and sisters. Divide and conquer was the strategy deployed back then, but it’s not going to work now.

We’re punks and gangsters, sluts and princesses, dweebs and dorks. We’re what you want to see in us, but not how we are. And most of all, we ain’t here for anyone’s shit anymore. We may be the smallest demographic but we’ve got the best music and the longest memories, the skills to survive, and we’ll call out your bullshit and cancel conservative assholes once and for all.

So You Want to Be a Writer

This is an article I wrote last August but am re-posting again now.

I want to be a writer, but I don’t know how or where to start.

Yes, I’ve seen and heard this said by people for many years. And for anyone who has said that, I may have some answers for you. Though I do want to say right here and now, I didn’t say that at all when I started writing thirty-six years ago. I just picked up a spiral notebook and a pencil and began to write.

How did I know to do that? Simple. I knew what I wanted to write, which back then was poetry that I could turn into song lyrics. Sadly that dream didn’t come to fruition because I couldn’t find an Elton John to my Bernie Taupin. So I moved on and decided I wanted to be novelist then later on through my high school years, a screenwriter. After high school, I kept up with the screenwriting for a couple of years then went back to novel writing. Now I’m working on my novel, three book-length non-fiction projects, short article-essay type pieces like this one, the occasional poem, YouTube video, and short stories.

So now that you have my background let’s get back to the statement that started it all:

I want to be a writer.

Why? And I’m not being mean by asking that. I can understand if you’re not quite able to articulate your answer clearly just yet but you should have some idea as to what inspired you to want to be a writer. Because if it was just a thought out a thin air that sounded good, well you’ve got some work ahead of you here if you want to make that a reality.

I wanted to be a writer because I loved to read and I love words. I also have an overactive imagination and a brain full of thoughts and feeling. I discovered writing was a great way to get all that out of my head like other writers have done since the advent of writing.

But I don’t know how, or where to start.

This is actually doable though to get good at writing will take a lot of work. Some people are naturally gifted verbal storytellers but on paper, or in a digital format like most writers use today, not so much. But in order to know where to start, you do need to know why you want to in the first place. And also, you need to figure out what you want to write. Is it stories? Poems? Essays? You don’t have to stick to one thing and yes, you can do more than one thing at a time though I strongly encourage you to finish something before moving on to the next project. Whatever you decide to write should be something you want to do because if you’re making a conscious choice to write, you’re doing it for yourself first and foremost.

The ‘how’ part is just a lot of work. Basic writing should start with basic grammar, punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure, which hopefully you will learn in your basic education in school. You can also find lots of books, articles, and even YouTube videos on the many aspects of writing. But in addition to studying, you’ll have to write. And keep writing, and learn how to edit, revise, rewrite, and keep doing it until you find the flow as I call it. And know there will many times where your words won’t flow out of you. When that happens, you’ll have to figure out a way to work through that.

My advice is don’t write for attention, approval, fame, glory, or to get a date. Trust me, writing doesn’t work like that. Successful writers write because they want to, they believe in what they do and they’re willing to put in the work to get good at it.

Many years ago when I started writing, if I had announced with joyful abandon that I wanted to write people would have said this to me in total seriousness with absolutely no joy: “Great, kid. Now get to work.” Back in those days, if you wanted to be taken seriously you had to put in the work. You had to study, practice, and really keep at it. Today… not so much to my chagrin.

Frankly, I’ve always been puzzled by people who just think they can dash off words and expect instant gratitude and adulation. Legends in their own mind, I guess. But trust me, past a certain point, they won’t have the long and storied careers of best-selling authors. Whether or not I’ll ever hit a best-seller list remains to be seen but it won’t be because I didn’t work my tail off to try and hit it with the best work I can produce.

So you want to be a writer.

Great. Now get to work because in the end, it’s the writing itself that matters most, not the title of ‘writer’, or just wanting to be one.

Writing About Fear Is Not Easy

For me, writing about fear is not easy not because I’m revealing things that show I’m vulnerable, but because I have been afraid of how my vulnerabilities will be received. And in the past, they weren’t always received very well. In fact, I’d say most of the time they were minimized, deflected, or rejected outright.

I’ve always thought I was being too hard on people who minimize, deflect, and reject another person’s feelings or experiences but now I realize I’m not being hard on them. I’m speaking my own truth and am also trying very hard not to minimize, deflect, or reject other people’s feelings. But there is a boundary to this and that is not tolerating expressions of hatred, cruelty, or unkindness. It’s not wrong to say to someone their words hurt you because words do hurt. Words are where thoughts and ideas begin, and that beginning can lead to something good or something bad.

What I’ve come to realize is that I am not responsible for another person’s feelings. Each person is responsible for their own thoughts and feelings and how they deal with them. Now I’m sure some wise-ass will say people shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells around someone worried they’re going to hurt someone’s precious or fragile feelings. Trust me, those of us who have been hurt by words aren’t fragile. And our feelings do matter. The goal here is to realize that we all have a choice as to what we say and how we say it.

One of the things I’ve been working on over the last few years with my writing is to try to be as clear as possible in what I’m writing about. I’m a very hard critic and editor on my own work but writing is a never-ending work-in-progress. My goal is to make this about me because this is my story to tell.

Writing about fear has made me realize I’m nowhere near as vulnerable as I was before I started this odyssey of the last few years. I used to tell myself I could take whatever was said to me but it’s taken me a long time to realize that I truly can now. I truly believe myself when I say that I’ve pretty much heard it all before and yet I’m still standing.

Because one of the biggest things I had to work through was thinking I didn’t have it in me to write about things I am now. Fear, politics, and anything deemed ‘provocative were things I ran like hell from, and I ran because I didn’t think I was good enough to write about those things. In reality, it was people who wanted me to be silent and that wasn’t just because they sensed I might not agree with them, but because they felt they knew best for me. Good intentions are just as harmful, if not more harmful sometimes than words of anger and cruelty.

I’m also following in a legacy of women who have come before me in sharing their stories of their fears and overcoming them. From women like Elizabeth Gilbert, Cheryl Strayed, Shonda Rimes, and women from the generations younger than me like Taylor Swift and Demi Lovato. I have so much admiration for their honesty and courage because I have a strong feeling they’ve felt fear like I have when they were getting ready to share their stories with the world.

For the longest time, I thought I had to always turn a negative into a positive in some way. That’s bullshit like the saying  I’ve committed to my mind: someone else’s comfort is not more important than someone’s pain. I’ve learned I don’t have to write off the negative with a positive and it’s okay to feel both ways because that’s life, good and bad.

In the end, it’s not easy for me to write about my fears even after I’ve done a lot of work to get through them. So far, no one has reached out to me with wringing hands or harsh words though I do expect that to happen someday. I’m ready for either one with a head tilt to the side followed by one word, “Really?” What I tell myself is people like that are in the minority and that I have to keep myself from giving power to them over me that isn’t theirs to have, nor do they deserve.

There is a quote from the author Anne Rice I read many years ago in a biography about her that has guided me in this journey over the last few years:

“Sometimes you have to go to the places you fear the most.”

You can go to those places and come out of them alive and well. And if you chose to, you can write about them. I write not only for myself, but for anyone reading these words. Not just to help myself and help people, but to shine a light on truths that have been hidden in darkness and silence. I write to give words to fear in order to loosen the hold fear has had on me. Some people think if you talk about fear you’ll give it power but that’s not true. I used to think that but not anymore.

Writing about fear is not easy yes, but once you give words to it, you break the silence surrounding it, and yourself.

My Third Fear of Following Through: Attention

In order to have a chance of being successful at my goal of being a self-supporting writer and creative content producer, I will need to market and promote my work and by extension, myself. And the thought of this scares me because I’ve always said I’m not comfortable with attention on me. Why? Well, that one goes back even further than the first two fears.

Some of my earliest memories are as a young child in school being teased and bullied because I stood up in front of the class and maybe wasn’t totally perfect, or I raised my hand too many times. Or worse, got called a ‘teacher’s pet’, which was never a good thing. Worst of all was when I fell on my ass in gym class and kids laughed and no adult came over to check on me to see if I was alright and help me up. So I learned pretty damn fast if I did my best to stay quiet and not fall on my ass then maybe people wouldn’t laugh at me or bully the shit out of me.

Luckily, my life did get better to some degree by high school because I met people who weren’t assholes. I had classes with people who weren’t all jerks and who were actually kind and supportive. Now in the working world, that sometimes was a different story. There it started back up with dirty looks and comments behind my back. But two incidents really did a number on me and it’s shocked a lot of people when I tell the stories.

I was in a training class for yet another call-center job and our instructor was reading out loud from the workbook and she said if anyone had a question to raise their hand. Well, I had a question so I raised my hand and as soon as the instructor told me to ask it and I started to speak, all of my classmates then decided to talk at once and drown me out. Now, were they told what they did was wrong and to apologize to me? This bitch-instructor told them they were wrong and threatened to send us all home for the day but in no way did she stand up and defend me. And like the wimp I was at the time, I didn’t say anything. I sat there looking down at my desk trying not to fall apart and burst into tears. I was afraid if I said anything or even looked up from my desk that bitch-instructor would have thrown me out of class. Needless to say, I didn’t stay in that place for very long because I knew they didn’t have my back and never would.

Then in another call-center job at a place I’d worked at before and returned to, the instructor took me aside for a one-on-one talk and basically told me to keep my mouth shut and not say anything at all in class or help people out. She said there was no need for me to share my knowledge or experience with anyone and that I was basically interfering with her job (which I wasn’t though she was a pretty shitty instructor). After that, I kept my head down and tried not to draw her attention on me. One of my classmates did ask why I wasn’t speaking up or helping and I told him I wasn’t allowed to.

At my last call-center job, I told both of these stories to my first instructor when she asked why I was so quiet in class and her jaw hit the floor both times. She said she would never tolerate the first and for the second she did admit she was a bit weary of me because of all my experience and potential ego. But then she asked me if I could help her out with the class and we became good working colleagues. And later when she became my supervisor I was out for a week with gallstones, she excused all my absences even though I later found out she took some flack for that (this place had the shittiest attendance policies I’d ever worked under).

The reason I am sharing these stories here is this: I’ve heard so much shit about myself in my forty-six years on this planet and I’m still alive. I know now that whatever shit someone says to hurt me, degrade me, humiliate me, or is an attempt to silence me won’t work anymore. Because I know that people who have shit on me forgot it as soon as they walked away from me. But when you’ve been hurt like this you internalize it because at times it can seem relentless. For me, I buried it in silence and that’s what breaking my silence means now.

It’s been very hard for me these past few days to write about these three fears as a lot of emotional crap has roared up to the surface with me. These are pretty intense emotions even years later but I know that with time that intensity might ease off. I

don’t write about this for myself. I write in the hope that anyone who is reading this and has thought and felt like I have will find strength or empathy in my words.

It’s been a real struggle for me over the years not to become angry and bitter though I’ve had years where I felt like that more often than not. What I’ve had to learn is that attention on me won’t always be positive but as my father used to say, don’t let the few assholes in this world ruin things for you.

My Second Fear of Following Through: Life

What I call ‘life’ are things like jobs, money problems, weather, and health. These things fuel the anxiety engine that lives inside of me well-oiled and always ready to come up to speed and drain my energy. These types of problems can make me overthink so many things and in turn create huge amounts of fear and anxiety around problems that shouldn’t be there. Also, this fear and anxiety has made me feel shame and guilt when I turn away from ‘life’ problems and pursue something I want to like my writing.

The roots of this fear date back to the same time in my life as fear number one in that I felt like I had to devote my energy to ‘life’ even if I’d done everything I could and had time to myself. But this one actually got worse in my thirties when I went out on my own because I thought I had to pursue my job as a career and not just as a way to earn money. I honestly thought I could put equal amounts of energy into my job and my writing but that turned out to be a load of bullshit. Then ‘life’ kicked all that out from under me when my dad had a stroke and I damn near lost that job because I was in and out of work taking care of him and trying to get him back on his feet as best as I could.

Now because this fear creates a lot of anxiety it sometimes sends my mind into a train of thought that’s not entirely delusional. The thought is that there are people who want to see me suffer and will come down on me if I don’t suffer enough to satisfy them. There is an origin to this in that I have been told to wipe the smile off my face since things are so bad in life, and also I’ve been asked in anger what I had to smile about. Yes, this was during my twenties and back then I honestly thought it meant that I was a terrible person to have moments where I wasn’t thinking about my own misery.


Yes, a positive can be turned into a negative. And it’s just as bad as people forcing you to turn a negative into a positive, especially when they try to do that by saying things aren’t so bad (when in reality they were). I recently read that someone’s comfort does not give them the right to deny someone’s reality. I sure as hell had mine denied, denigrated, and shit all over. In the past, it was turned into fear and in the present I’m through with that.

This fear also causes me to severely doubt myself and my abilities. It causes me to fear that I will forget something, or that I’ll miss something I shouldn’t have. My dad used to say it was like constantly listening for the elephant to come running up behind you to stomp you into the ground.

This fear coalesced into me thinking that everyone in the world had their shit together and had all the answers and I didn’t and therefore I was a dumb-ass piece of shit person whenever I did mess up. That’s not true of course even from people who claim to have their shit together twenty-four-seven and have all the answers, too. I used to let people like this tear me down inside every time they got the opportunity to call out my mistakes. It took one big snap in my mind almost six years ago to get me to see the bullshit behind that.

Yet the fear still lives in me but now that I’ve really worked through its origins and reminded myself with strength that no one has all the answers, I’m letting it go now. I don’t need to overthink things nor think that I’m going to be ‘bothering’ somebody if I ask for something. I tell myself now if someone has a problem with something I’ve said or did then they can put on their grown-up clothes and come talk to me about it.

Another thing that pisses me off about his fear is me thinking that I’m an immature brat who can’t figure things out for herself. I’ve been on my own for close to twenty years. Yes, I’ve managed to lose an apartment and a car due to the fact that I got stuck in a hole and couldn’t dig myself out. But I’m not the only person in the world to do that and therefore I’m not going to let anyone rake me over the coals because of it. I tell myself I do know how to survive and most of all, I’ve learned how to ask for help and believe in the goodness of people. Someday I hope that I will be in a position to help others who are struggling and show them the good in this world and give them faith in themselves and in people.

It’s hard to write about stuff like this but I do it not just for myself, but for anyone reading this who might thinking and feeling I do, or have been through things like I have. I want people to know they’re not alone, and that it’s okay to think and feel the way they do. And if someone doesn’t like that, remember you’re not responsible for someone else’s comfort or feelings. Don’t forget that because if you do, it’ll turn to fear.

My First Fear of Following Through: People

When I asked myself the question of why I had never followed through on anything, I got one answer: fear. Fear of what, I asked myself. Well, three big fears came to my mind and this is the first one, one that has been let go by me but with some echoes that I can still hear from time to time.

Fear of what people would think, and worse, what they might do to me if I followed through on something I really wanted to do with my life. The root of this fear took hold of me at a time in my life when it shouldn’t have.

When I graduated from high school, I had no idea what I really wanted to do with my life other than write. My parents were okay with this as long as I pulled my weight around the house, which I gladly did. Within a couple of years, I began to make a plan for my life. I wanted to get a full-time job, save up all the money I could, then head out to Hollywood and try to make it as a screenwriter and maybe even a director someday. I told no one of this back then and didn’t plan to until I was ready to put into motion. But life took a different turn instead, and I put that plan to bed with no regrets.

In August of 1995, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and on a hot August afternoon around our tiny dining room table, me, my mom and dad sat talking and I knew that my mom wasn’t going to survive the cancer. It was a moment of certainty that I wish on no one. My father said he felt the same thing that day and we talked about it years later. On that day, I made a new plan and again, told no one about it. I made a commitment to do whatever I could to help take care of my mother and to be there for her in every way I could. I have no regrets about this decision and I’m glad I did it. The problem was, I paid one hell of a price for that I shouldn’t have had to.

The price I paid was silence and guilt for pursuing my writing despite the decision I’d made to be a full-time caregiver. My parents supported my writing when I began to turn to novels, romance novels specifically. They paid my dues to my local and national writing organization chapters along with contest fees, and conference and workshop fees, too. My dad also used to take me to meetings when we were down to one car. In turn, I never talked about my writing with anyone past a certain point. I wrote after I was done with everything I had to do during the day and again, tried my dead-level best not to draw any attention to that. But I failed because my parents were getting shit from people for their decision to support me in my creative endeavors and also when I began to work full-time and also continue to write while doing that.

What happened was that this turned into an enormous fear that I’ve only given voice to inside my head just in the last year or so. I lived in fear while my parents were alive that one day they would sit me down and tell me I was the worst person in the world and that my entire life was a terrible lie and I was a terrible person. I lived in fear that they would kick me out of the house and cut me off because of that. And I wouldn’t have fought them either. I would have believed every word of that. All because I wasn’t at everyone’s beck-and-call all the time, or that I was doing something they didn’t want me to. Worst of all, I never pursued any kind of social life because I feared that would be used against me, too.

I gave people power over me that they didn’t deserve and never really knew they had. I gave people power to hurt me by telling me I had no right to talk about my thoughts and feelings about what was going on and what I was living through. I felt like it was best if I just kept my mouth shut and just took shit because if I spoke out things could truly go to Hell for me. The only way I have forgiven is to remove those razor-sharp talons out of my soul, clean and stitch up my wounds, and put bandages over them. Most of all, I’ve put up shields and defenses around myself.

This fear is largely gone now with me. In fact, I think if someone was dumb enough to try and come at me I’d give a single warning to turn tail and run before I’d barbeque their asses. I’ve got a lot of pent-up pain and anger over those decades when I was silent and living in fear, and I don’t want to unleash it. I just want to let that anger and pain subside enough to just a dull ache.

So when it comes to my follow-through it’s all mine, no one else’s. This fear is gone so now I’m moving on to the next two.