Around twenty years ago—though I never really knew why—my ambition was to become a famous architect. Over the years my goal switched to psychologist and librarian and now I’m a novelist, which should tell you something about the passage of time. Anyway, my pursuit of greatness began with learning everything there was to know about Frank Lloyd Wright—houses, life and times, architectural style, the works. The closest Wright work to me is a private residence in Frankfort, but the closest house museum is Fallingwater in the rural western corner of Pennsylvania. I had dreamed for years of visiting its pastoral setting and hearing the rush of the waterfall upon which the house was constructed nearly eight years ago. I just assumed it was a dream that would have to remain on the backburner, but going through major surgery as well as oncological treatments changes one’s priorities just a bit. For this summer I had planned a vacation to my specifications. It began with the New River Bridge, another incredible feat of engineering and design. That was followed by a trip back upstate and into Pennsylvania, though this travel took the balance of the day and by the time we reached Fallingwater it had closed for the day. Thankfully after a side trip we finally found a motel and bedded down for the night. Fallingwater is quite literally in the middle of a nature preserve—a more rural, bucolic setting could scarcely be found. We arrived early and were able to look around the exterior and the grounds before tours began. You always wonder when you travel somewhere if certain views will be available to you, and I am glad to say that at Fallingwater you can take outdoor shots from nearly every angle imaginable. You can’t photograph the interior but those images are available in countless books and on postcards in the gift shop.
The remnants of a tropical storm that entered Texas
and finally spun northeast toward the Ohio Valley created an exceptionally
larger and louder stream and waterfall, which acts as a natural source of air
conditioning for the main floor of the house thanks to a hatch in the living
area. So was it worth the trip? Absolutely.
Monday, August 3, 2015
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before—either I am suffering from seasonal affective disorder, or I am trapped in deep, dark depression. I am familiar with both, and my life has been nothing but a morass of anxiety, depression, and frustration for approximately four years now. I cannot find a job, or career, or decent source of income; I am nearly thirty-one years old and have seldom ever been in a self-supportive job. I have never been in a mature, adult relationship. As the years quickly pass I grow increasingly disillusioned with life, humanity, and my own abilities. By the time I marry and have children, I will be too old to enjoy any of the experience. I was already a poor candidate for everything, and now that I have to take at least one day per month for a doctor’s visit, it seems even more unlikely any employer or woman would want to hitch their horse to my wagon.
It is all but impossible to find a job around here unless you A) have nepotism on your side or B) know someone who can connect you with someone important. Sadly I am not related to anyone in a position of power, and some people whom I have known for my entire life pretend not to know me. I would actually love to move away from here, away from the horrible winter weather and sycophancy and the general sense of hopelessness that permeates Appalachia. But as I cannot earn the required income to move or find a job anywhere, I am stuck here until I die. It makes me wonder why I tried so hard to overcome a tumor and major surgery, because despite my positive thinking to the contrary, my life has not been vastly improved.
I used to count myself amongst the small subset of population who considered themselves optimists, but too many years of unemployment and rejection have led me to realize that positive thinking and hopefulness only lead to more disappointment and rejection when your dreams are stomped on and strewn against the hard, sharp rocks that line the oceans of life. No one is willing to train anymore, yet you can’t get a job without prior experience. The entry-level jobs that should be open to college graduates are not open to me, and the longer I am unemployed the longer I seem destined to remain that way. Even when I am qualified for a position, someone else always receives it over me. I get it already: I am ugly, have terrible interpersonal skills, and don’t present my best self during interviews. But I am a person, too, dammit, and I have feelings and desires and needs. I have skills and abilities. I have two college diplomas and I know how to work hard. Any or all of my references would attest to that fact.
Friday, February 27, 2015
As I stated in my previous post, I only completed two novels last year, and each was shorter than my earlier novels. But it was an atypical year in which I was depressed, exhausted, and finally diagnosed with a brain tumor that required surgery and post-operative chemotherapy and radiation treatments. As I went through the treatments I began the final series of edits for Love for Sale, which was written after Chances. Chances, you see, had to undergo some extensive revisions before it would meet my exacting standards. After some soul-searching I opted to excise an entire character from the manuscript; her scenes and dialogue had to be removed completely, transferred to another character, or turned into brainwaves within the mind of the novel’s heroine. After I went through that process I was ready to publish. What took so long in the publication of both novels was the cover selection process: I had found stock images online but had to wait until I had the resources to license them. I am quite pleased with both images. Chances is available now in paperback; the e-book is available for pre-order with a release date of April 1.
Last year I completed two novels in short order. It was a slow year for me, as in the previous two years I completed no less than twelve novels of varying lengths. It was a difficult year, though, for a variety of reasons. Chances, the first novel, never felt quite right to me so I decided to let it marinate for a bit while I wrote another one. Love for Sale was originally born from an idea for a still-unwritten novel—I simply took the plot and twisted it on its end. The book was written in a matter of weeks—I have this irrational fear that if I don’t write quickly, I will lose both my inspiration and ideas. I submitted it to a large international book contest where it was ultimately selected for the top twenty-five and then one of the top ten finalists. My writing received exposure like never before when the entire book was uploaded to its own webpage. Unfortunately I didn’t win the contest but I did edit the book and, several months later, I have a complete manuscript packaged with a beautiful cover. The paperback is available now and the Kindle edition is available for pre-order—it will be released on Valentine’s Day.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
One month after I completed my radiation treatments, I went back for a follow-up MRI of my brain. I am relieved to announce that the doctors found nothing of note—they think that my brain is looking fine, albeit different given the surgery and treatments I underwent. The current plan is to continue with a scheduled chemotherapy regimen as well as intermittent scans to make sure I progress normally. And based on the type of tumor that was removed from my brain, the scans will be used to make sure it doesn’t reoccur.
And yet despite my clean bill of health, I can feel myself slipping back into the depression I thought I had left behind me several months ago. I feel trapped in a life that just won’t let me get ahead. The book I started writing fizzled out after 36,000 words or so, well shy of my 60,000-plus word goal. The editing and publication of two other completed novels seems a slow, laborious process that I can only hope will provide some reward to go with the risk. My book sales have been decent if not spectacular—then again, they never were spectacular, but merely just enough to get by from month to month.
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Prior to my cancer diagnosis, I had entered a dark place in my life. While I was never suicidal or self-destructive, I found myself within a deep depression; completely at loose ends and wondering if my life would ever begin. I had botched yet another job interview, though mercifully it had been done over the phone, in both questions and rejection. My crushing disappointment was mostly unseen, hidden as best as I could from those around me. I was utterly exhausted, unable to sleep, and even brief trips to and from town would leave me completely drained of energy. The good news, if you can call it that, was my fatigue had a medical cause. While I am still not sure I am any closer to finding a paying position, I have tentatively resumed my job search. If I were to be interviewed and/or hired, I suppose logistics would have to be figured out afterward—for medical reasons, I am unable to drive and will remain that way through March or April of 2015. As I have previously stated, every day of life since my surgery has been a blessing; if a person was so inclined, they might even say my old life ended October 8, 2014 and I was reborn October 14 upon being discharged from the hospital. I came out of the surgery a different person, but in the best way possible—I actually enjoy life now.
Friday, December 26, 2014
In life we wear many different masks. As children we wear various Halloween masks—I was mostly a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, though once I went as Garfield and twice as a vampire, no mask required. As adults our masks become emotional: we feign being happy, healthy, or satisfied when we are anything but. We pretend to be excited or overjoyed for others’ success when in reality we are dying inside: resentful, jealous, or even bitter that we are not experiencing the same thing. But I am here today to tell you about a different kind of mask, one that is very much real and physical. It is a white, plastic mesh mask that I wore to receive twenty-nine radiation treatments into my brain.
The mask was placed onto my face as a warm piece of plastic, which the therapists then molded into shape. Each morning before going into the machine to receive treatment, I would lie flat atop a table and have the mask locked down so that my head was unable to move. This act, while not necessarily comfortable, was essential to my treatment; it made sure that the radiation was delivered to the precise spot necessary each and every time in order to destroy any microscopic cancer cells that might have remained after the removal of my brain tumor. For the first few weeks I would receive a scan prior to the four-minute treatment. For the last few weeks, as I began to respond to the treatments, my scans were cut down to two per week. But for the final six treatments, the radiation was delivered in more accurate six-minute doses.
The radiation, much like the mask, causes some irritation and discomfort, but you understand going in that the process is for your benefit. And considering that I, in my perpetually-anxious state, didn’t expect to survive the craniotomy, well, everything else since October 13 has felt like a gift, a blessing, and a second chance at life.