So ... book news. Yesterday, my first poetry collection, Chimeric Machines, won the Bram Stoker Award. The award ceremony was held in Brighton, UK. I wanted very much to go, but the finances necessary for an overseas trip just weren't there for Gary and me. I'm told via Twitter that a lot of other writers bravely consumed large quantities of Guinness at the afterparty on my behalf.

My first novel, Spellbent, came out in December, and so far it seems to be doing pretty well. It's gotten positive reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly, and Locus picked it for their 2009 Recommended Reading List. A couple of noders have asked me questions about print run and sales, and ... I have no idea. I'm hoping I'll get some hard numbers concerning distribution in the first quarterly royalty statement. Big publishers like Random House tend to keep that kind of information pretty close to the chest. Most chain bookstores and some box stores like Target stock the book, and a fair number of libraries have acquired copies. But I know the economy's been particularly hard on public libraries -- if you think your community or school library might want a copy but not have the funds for it, drop me a message. I have some freebies to send out, and I'd rather they went to places where the book will be most enjoyed.

I'm still working on the last bits of the second novel in the series, which is titled Shotgun Sorceress. It picks up right where Spellbent ended, and continues to chronicle Jessie Shimmer's Worst Week Ever. Provided I don't muff the deadline, the book will be out in late October, just in time for Halloween and the World Fantasy Convention, which will conveniently be here in Columbus, Ohio.

Give me a list of facts to organize, a theory to prove wrong or right, or a group of numbers to arrange in the most logical order and I will be comfortable. Give me a hard drive or a stick of RAM or a PCI card to install, a catalytic converter to replace, or a block to bore out and I will be fine. But put a heartbroken girl in front of me, and I've proven time after time that I am not capable of showing any sympathy whatsoever.

I made a girl cry last night. I took her from being a bit depressed to straight up bawling her eyes out and asking for a ride home within ten minutes, all in the name of "figuring her out."

Situations like these are not for me. I wanted to help her; I wanted to find out why she was hurting. I didn't want to make things worse. And now I'm angry.

Very angry. She was my friend, one of the few, and now she probably hates me. I don't make friends very often; too many people piss me off unintentionally. I didn't want to lose her last night but I did because I am wholly incapable of showing even the slightest bit of sympathy or compassion to another human being, especially when they really need it. It's not like I haven't tried to change myself, to make myself try to understand what other people are going through, but this only seems to make things worse. I start asking pointless questions or make insensitive statements to "get a reaction" out of someone, to "figure them out." I need to understand.

And with every failed attempt at a functional relationship I grow to hate myself more and more. I push away the people that might care and hide at the bottom of a bottle of pills, behind a quarter ounce of Sour Diesel or in the hollowed insides of a fifth of Sailor Jerry.

I'm not looking for pity here. I don't want your attention and I don't want to wallow. I just want to change.

Here I go. My last node was four years ago, almost. Maybe this is another beginning. I hope my beginnings can still serve a purpose here. Goodness knows I could use another beginning.

People can hurt you just by not being what you want, who you want, at the right time. Sometimes you're the person that hurts, and sometimes it's you that does the hurting, and I'd like to believe that, most of either times, it's not what you intended. It never seems to be what I intended. There's always someone I hurt, or someone who hurts me. However it went down, I'm sorry either way.

I learned in class tonight that some researchers believe that no words in language are truly neutral or just state the facts. Language can be, simply, whatever the hearer impresses upon them, what they take away from any one moment with words.

It always does it to me. I'm almost 35 now, and watching My So-Called Life reruns can send me back to a place I now only vaguely remember. A time when I had time, or when I made time, to reflect. Now this time, it finds me, stands me up when I feel like lying down, and forces my fingers to work.

There is another term I've picked up in this class, heavily titled, "A History of Reading Research and Theories." It's called episodic memory, memory of information attached to specific events or times. But this is transient memory, as we will remember what was important about driver's ed, but not clearly the name or face of our instructor. Another, my more favorite, is semantic memory. My favorite use of this word comes from the movie Vice Versa, where Judge Rhinehold's character, now possessing the spirit of his son, played by Fred Savage, is listening to an argument with his co-workers on what the plural of moose is: "Can we dispense with the semantics, please?" Oh, and, when Wonder Years was in its heyday, I was in love, real, true, middle school love, with Fred Savage's character. I wanted to be Winnie so bad, to be in that transported decade of Joe Cocker and grainy Super 8 film, but it was not to be. None of it was to be.

I have been a teacher for 6 years, once this year is fully used up. My first batch of students, with whom I stumbled into this profession, are now graduating high school. Some of them still talk to me, still come by to see their old middle school teachers. Many are going off to college, but I take no credit for that; I am credited with only being interesting enough to still run up to see, to visit with, to ask if this will be the year our principal retires. And so, this is the year.

We haven't been making AYP for years now, and our principal is retiring before she can be forced out. After all this time, all this micromanagement and poor leadership, I sit on the fence that lines the poor excuse for a recreational field and listen to the other teachers complain. All these years, we walked our kids to and from every class like a prison, and this year she finally caved and let us have bells. And it has been a live action version of Hungry Hungry Hippos, chasing children who loiter in pockets all over the building. The staff has given up trying to catch them, and I have given up trying to motivate the staff to give a shit. In turn, I have to remind myself why I am still here, and that my reasons are still good. I should have left years ago, some say. I don't where I could go now, though. The kids are great, but if we lose the arts program, that might change. Everything could change, and the market for teachers is shit. Funny thing is, teaching is becoming a pretty bad deal for the money, even worse than before. But I'll come back to that, maybe in another node.

What got me to write this was thefez. He called me for some interview for some research he's doing, and of course it reminded me of this place, where now I just lurk but don't say much. A place where I truly used to live, and now I can't make the time. My hands can't make the time like they used to.

Like a wayward wrecking ball, when your focus is lost and your swing is wide, you can do a lot of damage without meaning to, and that's a part of my recovery. It almost cost my marriage, but at the same time, it took down a lot of real estate in ruin. We're building that sweet loft in our hearts now, with the floor to ceiling windows and wide, hardwood floored rooms without doors. It's how we'd like our hearts to be, and most of the time they are, but it takes more effort to reduce clutter than you think. It takes more effort to not buy than it ever took to have the money to buy anything in the first place. It's a good thing.

A week after my birthday last year, my father collapsed from a fatal heart attack on a warm fall day while a friend was digging the ditch that would cradle the cable to connect electric to the house dad that was almost done building. A week after that, my brother relocated back to the states, and dad was in the ground, under $15,000 worth of fear, confusion, and brass decorated marble. It's six months later now, and there's more times when I almost forget that he's gone then when I remember he's not going to answer the phone anymore when I call to talk to mom. She's a whole other story, my mom. I don't want to share too much on that, because death is death and I'll never be able to paint it any new way. But I do have these two really elegant watercolors of Canadian geese and boats tied up to piers that Dad really liked, hanging in our living room. They remind me of the dream house that dad never got to see finished and I would never live in; they remind me of the naive hope that he always had for us, and it is good enough in itself.

An honest point: every time I write any words that spell out my father's death, I start to cry, and sometimes it's the only time I cry, so I wonder if that's why I write it down in the first place, to feel something. I listen to my mother cry on the phone, and I go numb. Believe me, I care. I love my dad. But my life feels like it engulfs even the grief I may feel, the place where even sound can't escape.

More to follow...

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