Pathways of the Dead Winter 2014 Tour: Day 5 and Weekly Status

Welcome back to the Pathways of the Dead blog tour. Today, we have Day 5 and an interesting interview with Nicky Peacock.  Here’s an excerpt:

 I’m all about characters. Don’t get me wrong, situations can be interesting, and I enjoy scenarios that are like puzzles, difficult to solve but rewarding in the end. Still, I keep coming back to those crazy, weird characters. There’s nothing like connecting with a good character and telling his or her unique story. They are the reason I keep on writing.

If you’re interested, hop over to the post and show that blog some love. Go on, do it!

Oh, and did I mention that you can win a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book? Yeah, you can enter on each of the stops over the next two weeks. I plan to post and provide a link to the differing sites each day, so make sure you hop over and enter for your chance to win.

All right, and with the daily update posted, let’s talk business. It’s actually been a very busy couple of weeks. In addition to starting a new day job, I’ve been cranking out these guest posts on a near-daily basis. It’s required some real self-examination and examination of the Among the Dead series and is getting me pumped to finish the first draft of City of the Dead, which I am hoping to do this Summer.

In the meantime, I’ve made some real progress on Chapter 13 of the sex addict novel; this chapter shows us his darker side, which works well as it’s book-ended by some very sweet scenes. The goal is to present the guy as both good and evil, dark and light, encompassing the best and worst of human behavior. Like most of us. Also took Chapter 5 and a brand-new Chapter 6 to my critique group last Sunday and it did fairly well. As expected, 5 came out a little better, as 6 was still a rough draft. They gave me a lot of great ideas for updating things, including one that I think will bring some gravitas to the whole book.

Oh, and that suggestion also led to the new title (hopefully the final one) for the book: Came to Believe. It’s a sort of double-entendre, both a sexual reference and a reference to the recovery process through the 12 Steps. I’m quite pleased with it, actually.

That’s it for this week. Work continues, and I’m hitting those word counts again. Just need to keep on with what I’m doing for now.

Survivor Guilt in the Dead of Winter

If I am one thing in the business world, it is this: a survivor.

Since entering the professional work world in the late 90’s, I have been witness to six rounds of layoffs at various companies and narrowly escaped three more, jumping ship just before the ax came down. In that time, I have been the target of “right-sizing” only twice, once in 2001, and once just this year. Earlier in my career, I attributed my good fortune to doing something right, that the company found value in my efforts and decided to keep me on when others had been deemed superfluous. Then I went through a period where I believed it all to be good luck and nothing but; these days I recognize it as a bit of both, some of it is having the foresight and initiative to be in the right place at the right time as changes come down the path and some is blind luck in being in the right position, just as it is sometimes blind luck that we get cut when someone else does not.

But the thing is, even knowing all that, I still suffer extreme survivor’s guilt every time I escape the ax, and this time I managed it, albeit much more narrowly than in the past. In a roundabout way I’m telling you that I still have full-time employment at the same company, though my title and team have changed. I find myself spared of the job hunt for now. Celebration, right? Well, sort of. The new team seems cool and the challenges interesting, I’ll give it that. It’s not the position itself that poses the problem – it’s the sudden silence in the hallways. The empty cubicles. The good friends who weren’t spared.

It’s weird,  because some of the people for whom I’m most concerned have expressed that this whole thing represents an opportunity, so there’s no need to carry around this guilt. Yet I do it anyway. Why? Because it’s who I am, I suppose.

I did not, however, write this post to be a downer. I wrote this to serve as my weekly check-in with you guys. Things have been slow, to be honest. The word counts have not been up to par and writing has been a secondary, maybe even tertiary, concern. This is not so unusual; February and January are historically the slow months, but they are also frustrating every single time they happen. Each time the old fears come creeping out from places unknown, whispering that I’ll never write again, that this time it’s over for good. All nonsense, of course, and I keep putting one foot in front of the other slowly, but those voices visit all the same.

Work continues on Broken Wing. I’m up to Chapter 13, and have been there for a few weeks. The fault does not lie with the chapter itself, as I think it’s a fairly interesting character study portion, but rather with the situation. I believe this will clear up as things move forward. I still have not put out the Pathways print version, again a victim of the bottleneck. I don’t have an ETA on that one yet. I hope soon, the poor book deserves more than it’s gotten so far. We have a book tour scheduled next week (expect to see more info here), so I hope it picks up.

Other than that, settling into a new, if temporary, position. We’ll see how that string plays out, along with the planned move to California in the Fall. Until next time…

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The States of Thingses

Apologies for the radio silence, wanted to give myself a full week to process the news. For those who missed the last post, last Friday my day job informed me that my department would be banished to oblivion and all of us had the option to compete for new internal jobs or take the severance package. I’ll keep my thoughts on the process itself to a minimum as I have no desire to burn bridges and understand that business does what it needs to do. I don’t believe this had anything to do with my abilities or the abilities of the folks in my department, nor do I think this was done out of any malicious intent. We just got caught in the middle of a bidding war for the company. It happens. I’ve been through it before.

That doesn’t mean that my emotions stayed calm. On the contrary. I had no idea what to make of things and what it meant. I went through the fatalistic stages of believing that this meant an end to my career. I imagined my wife and I ending up penniless and homeless (despite such a scenario requiring a disastrous series of events that are unlikely to occur). It all boiled down to fear, though. I actually stumbled upon this long-forgotten quotation from Dune the other day and it set off some thoughts, ones that I’ll talk about below:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

This is never quoted in recovery circles (I’ve checked as part of my research) and yet it feels so important, as so many of the roots of addiction and mental illness lie in fear, the fear that drives us to avoidance. I realized that while I seemed to be obsessing over loss, this was actually a technique to avoid the deeper fear: fear of death.

As much as we ascribe endless complexities to the subconscious – and it is quite complex – sometimes its machinations are simplistic to the point of seeming dull-witted. Loss, for instance, often equals death in the subconscious, which is why we cycle through grief. And so the subconscious pushes this away through all manner of different techniques in order to survive. Chief of these techniques is anxiety, which is the anticipation of loss, a form of living in an uncertain future that avoids the challenges of the moments.

That’s an awful lot of navel-gazing to say that I’ve been afraid of death for most of my life, not just the adult part, and now that I’m entering some of the years where the reaper begins to walk behind, you my subconscious mind saw omens in a layoff that had nothing to do with death. Perhaps the impersonal nature of it triggered me so badly; I often see death as an impersonal foe, able to sweep thousands away with no thought or pattern.

So in some ways, a more personal layoff might have been better for me. Still would have sucked, but might not have been accompanied by such existential dread.

Today, things are a little better. My wife gave me a breakdown of our finances and our ability to survive on unemployment and savings for a good period of time. It calmed me. I have also realized that the the next chapter in my life may begin on the West Coast. Obviously I can’t predict the future, but I can choose whether I feel positive about it or feel negative and dwell in fear. One makes me feel okay and able to take on the challenges of the day and the other keeps me shriveled up in a ball and miserable. I know which one I prefer.

Oh, and on more practical matters, this obviously affects release schedules. Print version of Pathways is on hold until things become clearer. I just can’t afford the proofing process right now. I understand this will be a disappointment for a few folks, but I’ll keep you posted. I had briefly contemplated a “sell-out” moment of writing erotica in hopes of making money, but a few hours with a story convinced me that I’m not very good at it and even if I were, the passion is just not there. I’ve returned to work on Broken Wing, though it’s slowed somewhat with the other things going on. I’ll return to publishing soon enough, and I still write every day. That will not change short of death or terminal illness.

Anyway, just a check-in with old friends and new acquaintances. Hope all is well in your world at the moment.

Where Things Stand

So it’s been awhile. Well over three months, closing in on four, and I’m sure some people have questions about my silence. Maybe not many, but a few. To be perfectly honest I couldn’t have told you what the silence meant. It’s not that I didn’t feel inspired, it’s just…well, look. I sat down to write, really write, back at the end of August and I discovered something new: while I love writing, I’m not fully in love with being a writer. And I think the two things are very different.

What has this realization meant? An almost total pull-back from marketing efforts. A long, hard look at what I want to do with my career. A lot of writing, and I mean more than I’ve written in my entire life. Lots of considerations, and my mind tends to work best when I push those ideas to the subconscious and plow ahead with day-to-day life, so it’s taken some time to get here.

This isn’t a resignation letter, although I do recognize it sounds like one, especially with that ominous title. It’s more a statement of intent. I mean, first things first, did you guys know I released my third novel a few weeks back? I really did! The sequel to Corridors of the Dead, Pathways of the Dead, is out there, and I’m proud of it. Yet I’ve done zero marketing, and again it comes back to the question of why.

The truth is that my heart is no longer really in dark fiction. Oh, I plan to finish the Among the Dead series, don’t fret on that one, dearies. The first draft of City of the Dead is already halfway finished and on the backburner as I plow through the first revision of my next novel, and I know how most of Portal goes down, including the ending. It’s going to be a fun ride.

But it’s not where my heart is.

Today my heart is with a deeply flawed sex addict dentist named Dean and his struggles after his wife passes away in a tragic car accident. It’s with a woman who moves back to her small town home after 20 years in the wilderness to discover that not much has changed. It’s with a circle of friends and how one tragedy forms a fulcrum that changes their lives in a myriad of ways.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve rediscovered my love for literary fiction and want to take it “mainstream”. I’m plowing through the next book, tentatively titled Broken Wing and Rusted Drill, and plan to pitch it to literary agents once it’s done in hopes of getting a deal with a larger publisher. As I told a coworker last week, I’ve never really known how to sell books like Room 3 and Corridors of the Dead, but I know just how to sell Broken Wing and its sister titles. If a major won’t take it, I’ll scour the smaller publishers. I believe in the title and think it will place somewhere. Will it sell? Well, I hope so. No way to find out unless I try.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to self-publish the dark fiction with Qwendellonia, at least until the end of Portal. I guess it just means that my indie experiment currently has an expiration date. Maybe I’ll end up back here afterwards, who knows? But I think I’m ready to communicate with you guys again either way, in a more mature fashion. No more bullshit.

Good to see you again.

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