Third Time’s The Charm

Third Time's The Charm

Really, guys, I’m trying here.

I tried while we were still in Albuquerque for all of February. But there was just so much left to do, between selling the house, learning how the RV worked, fixing everything that broke, etc. So I kept putting it off.

“Vegas.” I kept telling myself. “I’ll get back on track once we are in Vegas.”

But Vegas has been no easier. I kept parking myself in local coffee shops, trying to siphon off their WiFi. Once my coffee was ready and I was settled, though, stuff just kept happening around me. Vegas is no place to focus and write, it turns out, when you are given to watching the human drama unfold around you. I just kept getting distracted.

So, I bought a $10 coffee pot (after swearing I wouldn’t put one in the RV), brewed myself some liquid inspiration, and closed the blinds on all the windows, so I wouldn’t be distracted by all the interesting stories taking place around me here in the RV park.

And here we are. Let’s see if I can manage a coherent thought or two before I am once again called away by the multitude of distractions here on the road.

Two For The Road

In case you’ve come to the party late, we’ve moved!

Melissa and I decided to make a change, bought an RV, put the house up for sale, got rid of 95% of everything we owned, and hit the road. We spent February at Enchanted Trails RV Park in Albuquerque learning the ropes of our new home, then headed for Vegas, where I am currently sitting now. In the dark. Not looking out the windows despite the interesting noises coming from next door where it sounds like our neighbors are getting ready to head out.

There are a TON of stories I could have told you all about the transition of the last four months. In fact, I tried on several occassions to put together a coherent blog post about what was happening.

But blog posts are actually kinda labor-intensive. Back when I was doing one a day it used to take me anywhere from 3 to 6 hours to produce something readable. And that was when I was still in practice.

Now, when my creative muscles have been resting so long that they have atrophied, I’ve been unable to focus for longer than 10 minutes at a time. So I finally gave up and started putting up posts on Instagram instead, just to try to keep friends and family in the loop. (@tjeremyschofield on Instagram if you want to follow along.)

And now, here we sit. We have an RV, two dogs, and an itinerary full of potential destinations. All of which have developed cases of the Coronavirus, of course, because why not.

The Road Ahead

So, the plan is sorta like this:

I fully intend to keep everyone abreast of where we are and what we are doing. I have probably a dozen posts worth of material already if I can just sit down and push them out of my brain and on to the internet.

I will be talking a LOT about RVing, life on the road, our experiences and mistakes. My mother handed me a very nice camera the night of our going-away party so I will be attempting to learn to use it and actually include real, live pictures of the places we are visiting.

Vixen, after dinner in Vegas

Misdirected will still continue to talk about life with disabilities as well. (Did you know how HARD it is to get pharmacies to refill certain prescriptions (like anti-seizure meds) away from your home town? I sure didn’t.) We will probably not be talking much about bariatric surgery any more, though, which will make many of you sad. For the record, we’ve both been losing weight again since hitting the road. Stress and a malfunctioning RV fridge are one heck of a diet combination.

And a BIG thank you to our supporters on Patreon. Last month, you paid to repair our leaking toilet. This month, you’ve just paid for my replacement “thermistor”, which I will be installing in our broken fridge later today, hopefully enabling us to start using non-frozen food again. I’ll be updating Patreon to reflect the new reality of our life on the road Real Soon Now.

And, yes, now that we are no longer spinning around like a demented carousel, I will begin writing fiction again. Be looking for big Ash Falls news in the very near future.

I think I’ve actually managed to finish (for once), so thank you for your continued interest in our ongoing experiences! You can keep track of us on Instagram and Facebook (@Tjeremyschofield), or you can subscribe here to find out when something new and interesting gets posted. We’ll be using the #travelswithmaggie hashtag to note our adventures, so feel free to follow along. (The RV is named Maggie May, yes there is a story, and yes I will share it with everyone soon.)

Traveling With Maggie (And Melissa and Vixen and Delilah),

Jeremy

NoNoWriMo

NoNoWriMo

Ever since I became a writer, I have dreaded November. Not because of elections, though that is a legitimate reason. Not because of turkey-induced food comas. Not even because of Black Friday, which should terrify any rational person attempting to maintain a budget and reduce their carbon footprint.

No, every year I dread the coming of…NaNoWriMo.

Oh No, It’s NOvember

National Novel Writing Month is a torture device…err…a “productivity challenge”, designed to get authors to write more. The premise is this: spend every single day in November writing better than 1,500 words a day.

Every. Single. Day.

At the end of the month, you should have a 50,000 word manuscript – a first draft of a novel that did not exist at the end of October.

I know novelists who use NaNoWriMo every year to prep their next novel. They are tremendously gifted and driven authors, able to keep their eyes on the prize without wavering. They push through all distractions and arrive at November 30 glistening in literary sweat, holding aloft their manuscript in triumph.

And then, there’s the rest of us.

Is It Safe To Come Out Yet?

Every year, I have attempted to participate in NaNoWriMo. I have begun like a house afire, sometimes getting as far as 25,000 words into a new novel. And then, it happens. Real Life sets in. My writing schedule gets interrupted. My motivation wanes.

And I find myself on December 1, standing amidst the ruins of my lofty intentions, with nothing to show for it but aching hands and a pounding headache.

And sometimes a hangover.

But worst of all are the after effects. This drive (and failure) to create invariably leaves me drained and miserable, without the slightest motivation to create for weeks and even months at a time.

After NaNo 2018, I was unable to produce a coherent written thought for five months.

But, this year, things were different.

The Outcome Of Tragedy

As early as August, I was already flirting with the idea of not showing up for NaNo this year. Why bother?, was my prevailing thought.

Then September arrived.

September was, without a doubt, the worst month I have lived through in my 49 years on the planet.

I’ve recorded elsewhere the gigantic shitshow that was September of 2019, and will not retread it here. But so many deaths, in such a short period of time, did something to my brain. I was so overwhelmed by grief and anger that the creative process within me just…went away.

And I arrived at November 1st knowing I had not a single thing to say. So I didn’t even try.

30 days later, I feel nothing but relief at the absence of guilt over my failure to write a novel in a month.

NoMoWriMo

Now, this isn’t for everyone. I know for a fact that NaNo remains a powerful tool in the arsenal of many other writers.

But accepting that I am not one of those writers has been nothing but a tremendous weight off my emotional shoulders.

Does this make me less of a writer, or even a good human being, than those who are able to succeed at this task? Maybe. But if my disability has taught me anything over the years, it is this: you should challenge yourself to overcome your perceived limitations. But you also need to accept your limits once you have found them, and look for growth in other directions.

And NaNo is a race I can’t finish. So I will look for other courses to run.

I am still healing, but at least I didn’t injure myself further this November.

So Ready For 2020,

– Jeremy

Microphone Check

*TAP* *TAP*

“Hello? Is this thing on?”

So…yeah. Yes, I am still alive. No, I haven’t moved to Canada (but more on that later.) And, yes, Misdirected has lain fallow for nigh on nine months now.

So, where the heck have I been, exactly?

Funny you should ask that…

In The Beginning, Was NaNoWriMo

So, in what has become a yearly ritual, I participated in NaNoWriMo last November. This attempt to write a 50,000 word first draft of a novel in a single month has turned into a yearly nightmare of outlandish expectations and frustrating failure. Every year I fail. And, every year, my failure leaves me paralyzed with Impostor Syndrome for months afterward. (Yes, Impostor Syndrome is a thing. Google it if you are unfamiliar.)

My most recent bout left me unable to produce just about anything until March. Just sort of sitting around, whistling Dixie, waiting for the lights to turn back on in my brain. Everything I wrote was crap, and immediately disposed of. Everything I read seemed an order of magnitude above anything I could ever hope to produce. Good times.

So, this year, I have declared my liberation from NaNoWriMo. My wife and my family members have specific instructions: If I start making noises about participating in NaNo this year, they are to strike me firmly across the face multiple times and then tell me to go lie down until the feeling goes away.

I am sure that NaNo is an awesome tool in the right hands. One of the members of my writing team (BTW, I hate you, Joe) uses it to draft the entire novel he will be working on for the next year. But, alas, it is not a tool for me. Under normal circumstances, I can easily produce 50,000 words in a month. They just can’t seem to be all related to the same project.

So, if that brings me up to March of this year, what the heck have I been doing since then, you might ask? Oh, nothing much. Just supervising a literary explosion.

The Summer of Ash Falls

Since 2016, I’ve been working on a little project called “Ash Falls.” It is a setting I share with several other very talented authors, all telling tales of dark doings and grim forebodings in a fictional city in Oregon.

I kicked the whole thing off with the novel Inheritance. Then, for a year and a half – not a peep has been heard out of the city. I’ve added authors, edited books, rejected short stories, and generally made a nuisance of myself for two years now, waiting for the whole project to come to fruition.

And this Summer, it arrived. Hoo, boy, did it ever.

Somehow, it worked out that every single one of our initial novels (with the exception of my original one) was completed within a few months of one another. Instead of a measured release schedule of one or two novels a year, we suddenly were dealing with the release of FOUR novels within a four-month period.

Thus was born the “Summer of Ash Falls” event – a celebration of Ash Falls exploding from one lonely novel to a full back catalog of five novels, with two more on the way before the end of the year.

Since March of this year, I have been editing. I have been suggesting revisions. I have been hammering on release dates and looking over the shoulders of frustrated authors. In general, I have been shepherding this project along like a nervous mother dropping her “gifted child” off for their first day of Pre-K. Sure, I recognize the inherent genius in my authors. But will the rest of the world agree?

So far, the answer has been “Yes.” Pre-orders and sales have been really good, despite our having about $2.49 in Marketing funds to work with.

So, like the proud parent that I am, let me introduce you to my “kids.”

The Lineup Of Unusual Suspects

Never Bring an Axe to a Gun Fight

Surely you need a police procedural featuring werewolves, drunks, and immortal serial killers, yes? Then you need Holly, by William Aime.

What Heaven Didn’t Want, Hell Couldn’t Handle.

What is left when all you ever loved is taken from you by forces you don’t understand? Revenge. In another place and time, Rob, the protagonist of Reborn by Corinne Kunz would be a superhero. In Ash Falls…not so much.

Don’t Look For The Lost

Take one secretive coven, one morally ambiguous witch, and one BIG mistake, and you have Coven Ascending by Joe Mankowski.

And, coming this September to round out the #summerofashfalls event: the immortal bikers of J.M. Koczwara’s A Dead Sun Rises.

And we still have two more titles on the horizon: The Perpetuals and Fallen will be hitting the shelves before the end of 2019. And, if you are so inclined, you could always head back to where it all began and pick up a copy of Inheritance.

The Future’s So Bright…You Know The Rest

And that, gentle readers, brings us to today. The books are written, the editing (mostly) completed, and we are ready to look forward to 2020. Are there sequels coming? You better believe it. We won’t just leave you hanging on the fates of Brian Drake, Lydia Pike, and the rest of the residents of Ash Falls.

As far as Misdirected is concerned – yes, I should be getting back to a semi-regular writing schedule now. I will talk about what I am writing, what I am thinking, and what I am observing as usual. And I will NOT participate in NaNo this year. Nope. No sir. Not me.

As far as fitness-related info is concerned…there is not much to report. The results of the bariatric surgery are still holding up pretty well. I am all the way up to 189 (from 175), mainly due to the lack of dedicated physical activity that results from sitting in front of a monitor 24/7. But, my waistline is down to 34 inches and I can still hike 10 miles without collapsing afterward, so I am not terrifically worried. I just need to buckle back down and put in some time at the gym instead of just walking around the neighborhood to clear my head.

Thanks for all the concerned inquiries about where I’ve been and what has been up. I look forward to re-engaging with all of you in the weeks and months to come.

Sharpening My Pencil And Putting On My Sunglasses,

  • Jeremy

NaBlogWriMo 12: Turning “Now” Into A Place Worth Being (Overcoming Perfectionism and Getting Published)

(One of the coolest things about running a shared universe like Ash Falls is that you are forced to interact with other authors. You know…” sharing.” And what is especially exciting is when you discover a new author hiding in plain sight.

Our compatriot, K. Edwin Fritz, did just that in a coffee shop in New Jersey when he struck up a conversation with Jeanette Koczwara. That conversation led, eventually, to the creation of Ash Falls’ immortal biker gang from ancient Persia.

When I needed someone to put together some thoughts on moving from thinking about writing to becoming a published writer, she seemed like a pretty obvious choice. 

Take it away, Jeanette!)

Notebooks, Gremlins, and Tea

Now that we got past the overly inspiring title, a little introduction is in order.

Some of you may know me as the author of A Dead Sun Rises, one of the latest series to be added to the Ash Falls Storyverse. Some of you might not know me at all (but now you do, and it’s too late to change that). And some of you actually know the truth; that I am actually five (5) gremlins loosely held together by knitwear, empty notebooks, and cheese wrappers, and kept running with unhealthy quantities of tea.

You might be wondering how five gremlins were able to pull together something remotely publishable. Here’s the secret: I said “good enough” and hit send.

(It may have been more colorful than that)

Until a year ago I had always envisioned publishing as something far off in my future. That it wouldn’t happen until I finished one of the many stories I’ve started. And even if I found the time to finish something I would need to edit it and write a second draft and edit that and write a third draft and…

You get the picture.

Declaring something “done” couldn’t happen unless it was perfect. And it couldn’t be perfect unless I had the time to perfect it. And I didn’t have that time right now.

I didn’t have that time because there were other things I needed to do first. I needed to find a “real” job. I needed to have my own place. I needed to put on all the trappings of a fully functional adult before I could stop feeling guilty about the time I spent on my unimportant hobbies.

So I never finished anything, because that was for future me. I never took up an instrument like I always wanted, because that was for future me. I neglected reading, because, you guessed it, only future self-sufficient me deserved to spend her time like that.

And I was miserable.

Arriving At The Future

I was pushing myself through jobs I hated. I wasted my free time never quite doing what I enjoyed. I became an anxious mess about everything I did.

Then, I came to a self-discovery. If I keep putting aside all of the things I loved about life, waiting for everything to be perfect, I would never get around to doing them. Future Me didn’t exist yet and Now Me needed to be happy.

I started by finding a local writers’ group. I dedicated myself to writing that one book I always wanted to finish (it’s not finished yet but we have 70k+ words in act 1). I picked up the doorstop I wanted to read and took it everywhere I went. Even if none of it was going to advance my status as a “productive unit in the economy” it made me happy.

During one writers’ meetup, I met K. Edwin Fritz (author of The Perpetuals) and he introduced Fiction Vortex to me. The concept immediately struck me as new, creative, and above all fun. But I still wasn’t considering it as an opportunity for myself (see above).

Then Khurshid came roaring through one of my dreams, a sword of star iron blazing, and I had a story to tell. Then I wrote it. And prepared the email. And proceeded to sit on it for nearly two months.

Because it wasn’t perfect.

Finally, in a caffeine-deprived haze, I mentioned I had this email sitting there and considered aloud whether I should just send it. Myself responded, with outside support, that I should just say “good enough” and hit send.

And now here we are. Episodes 1-4 are available on the StoryShop app!

In a proverbial nutshell, don’t feel guilty for doing what makes Now You happy because Future You doesn’t exist and Now You will only be happier if Past You was happy too.

P.S. I did buy that instrument, too. It’s a GuQin (Chinese zither), and, boy, does it make me happy to bumble along teaching myself with no outside or inside expectations.  

(Follow Jeanette and the continuing adventures of Khurshid in “A Dead Sun Rises” on the Storyshop app.)

NaNoBlogMo 11: National Epilepsy Awareness Month

https://endepilepsy.org/

It seems like you can hardly turn around on the internet these days without bumping into a “Month of” of some kind.

We have months for Obesity Awareness (September), Pet Adoption (October), and Home Ownership (June.) Cancer is especially popular in the “month” category, with Cancer Prevention (February), Brain Cancer (May), and Cancer Survivors (June) all getting months of their own. These, of course, are all dwarfed by the 800-pound gorilla in the “cancer month” room, Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, where you can’t open your eyes without seeing a pink ribbon.

But I normally sort of keep myself out of the whole “month of” thing. There are just too many causes to keep track of, too many things I could be paying attention to, to feel like any one of them deserves more attention than the others. Pick a cause you care about, I tend to think. Work diligently on behalf of that cause all the time. Pay no attention to what month it is.

Then November rolls around, and all my logic flies out the window. There are two BIG barn-burners of causes that I care about that take place during the month of Turkey Day. And I would be remiss if I didn’t chat a bit about them.

The Epilepsy Imbalance

So, how many people do you think will suffer from breast cancer in the upcoming year? (Stick with me, there is a point coming.)

In the United States, over a quarter of a million women suffer from breast cancer annually. Of that 250,000+, more than 40,000 will die from the condition. Over 3.1 million women total have a history of breast cancer in the United States. (All statistics courtesy of www.breastcancer.org)

Now, off the top of your head, how many people do you think suffer from Epilepsy in the U.S.?

About 3.4 million.

It is tough to track deaths from epilepsy since it so easy to have a seizure that then results in death from a secondary cause. But about 50,000 people will die from status epilepticus alone this year. (Status epilepticus is the medical term for “prolonged seizures” – seizures that last longer than 5 minutes.)

The federal government spends roughly five times as much money on the fight against breast cancer than on epilepsy research.

Now, don’t think for a minute that I am upset about the amount of money spent on breast cancer research. God bless the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the millions of women (and men as well) who worked tirelessly to get breast cancer awareness to where it is today.

Breast Cancer used to be a “hidden disease”, see – something that those suffering from it were ashamed to talk about. Over the decades its advocacy groups have dragged it from a hidden disease all the way to pink ribbons and “Save The Ta-Tas” t-shirts.

No, what I am saying is Epilepsy needs its own Susan Komen Foundation. Specifically, we need our own Nancy Brinker. (Susan Komen’s younger sister, who created the Foundation.)

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month

So, this month is Epilepsy Awareness Month and, as usual, the epilepsy community is trying hard to get the word out about our condition. But, somehow, it just doesn’t seem to resonate outside of those immediately affected by epilepsy.

Part of that is straight-up bad press. Our country still believes, after all these centuries, that epilepsy and conditions like it need to be kept in the shadows. We still live in a world where one of the most popular sportswriters in our country feels comfortable saying that a college coach shouldn’t be allowed to coach due to his seizure disorder. (This represents the final time I ever read anything by Peter King or gave a penny in revenue to Sports Illustrated, btw.) And Peter King is not alone.

Also, the disability is, frankly, unattractive and disconcerting to those who have to watch it in action. Nothing sexy here, folks. For most of human history, seizures were mischaracterized as demonic possession, and for good reason: it really looks (and feels) like the controls to the body have been handed off to an extra-dimensional entity. Honestly, it is scary as hell. Scary to watch, scary to live through.

Lastly comes the problem of advocacy. The great majority of us with the condition are under some kind of pharmacological treatment. The drugs prescribed almost always impair our brain function in some way: seizures are, after all, hyper-active brain function. This means that it is tremendously difficult for those of us suffering from the condition to communicate intelligently about the condition. I can write about it fairly coherently, but put me up in front of a crowd of people to talk about it, and it all goes to hell: I turn into a stuttering, stammering mess who can’t remember what points I covered 30 seconds before. The wonders of life with a seizure disorder.

Add these things together and you have a soup that tastes like “no funding here, thanks.”

Extinguishing The House Fire

It all comes down to the old concept: it is very difficult to put out the house on fire while you’re inside the house.

The majority of us know so little about seizure disorders to begin with. Quick: name the one thing you remember from grade school about what to do with someone who is having a seizure.

More than half of you just said some variation of “Put something in their mouth so they won’t swallow their tongue.”

I sincerely hope that whoever came up with this wisdom never had to deal with someone having a seizure. If you ever come across a person having a seizure, do NOT, under any circumstances, try to put something in their mouth. They will merely damage the inside of their mouth even worse. My cheeks and tongue look like war zones after a seizure.

(Let me take this moment to tell you what to do: give the person some space. If you don’t know them well enough to know their seizure frequency, call 911. When their seizure ends, tell them what happened, and be prepared for them to be completely disoriented. Done.)

Down at the grade school level we need to change the narrative pertaining to seizure disorders.

We need the same thing on a local and federal level. People need to be willing to talk to politicians. We need individuals who are willing to donate to charities like the Epilepsy Foundation.

And, more than anything else, we need people who are willing to talk about epilepsy. Not to shrug and pretend it doesn’t exist.

Seriously, look at the numbers: if you know 100 people, you know someone with epilepsy. Just like if you know 100 people, you know someone who has survived or is going through breast cancer.

The great majority of women with breast cancer are now understood to be the warriors and heroines that they are. I can only hope that, someday soon, those of us with epilepsy are recognized in the same way.

Though I must admit I doubt anyone will ever come up with a slogan for epilepsy that has the punch of “Save the Tatas.” Brilliant.

But, ultimately, it is ok if we don’t get our own snappy marketing slogan and pink ribbon equivalent.

At this point, we will take whatever help we can get.

Talk To Someone About Epilepsy. Today.

  • Jeremy