2012 New Year Declaration

Well, here we are.  It’s 2012…  The last year of the world (Yeah, right!)  What are we going to do with it?

I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions.  I don’t like to set myself up to fail and that’s what I think New Year’s resolutions do for me.  But I’ve been thinking about what I want for this upcoming year.  Lot’s of things have come to mind of course.  Yeah, I’d like to lose weight… again.  Of course, I’d like to get back into the habit of going to the gym and get in better shape… again.  I’d like to get back on the blogging bandwagon…. again.  I don’t write here nearly as much as I should.  Not as much as I would like to.

I read a while back on Jen Lancaster’s blog that writing is a muscle and like with any muscle, you have to keep exercising it or that muscle get’s weak.  That makes perfect sense to me and I’ve experienced it first hand.  If I don’t write regularly, I find it harder to get back into the habit.  So I would like to write more.  Ideally every day, though that may be easier said than done.  I’m going to try though.  If you’re looking for me to make a “resolution” to write more, forget it.  I ain’t gonna do it!  But keep checking back, hopefully you’ll see more writing more often in the new year.  According to that fancy pants year-end review thing that WordPress put together and I posted yesterday, I had 69 new posts last year.  Sixty-nine new posts out of 365 days…  That seems kind of shameful to me.  This year, I hope, will be better.

Anyway, thinking about 2012…  I’d like to eat better.  Cook more, learn to make new, healthy, but interesting recipes.  I took some time during my stay-cation this past week to really clean up and reorganize my kitchen and I’m amazed.  I should probably be ashamed to admit this, but whatever.  When I looked at this apartment more than four and a half years ago, I liked it a lot.  The guy who lived here before me didn’t have a ton of stuff and the apartment wasn’t terribly cluttered.  I liked it (except for the inordinately small closet) and I was interested, but the thing that put me over the top, was the kitchen.  It’s not large, by any means, but what put me over the top was this beautiful kitchen with the black marble slap counters, the stainless steel appliances, the gas range and oven and the over-sized sink.  I didn’t notice until moving in that it didn’t have a microwave or a garbage disposal, but I owned my own microwave and I’ve managed to make do without the garbage disposal.  Over the years, the kitchen counters became a dumping ground.  I walk in the door with my mail in my hands and I walk straight into the kitchen where I dump everything on the counter.  For months now, I’ve had so much clutter on my kitchen counters, that I had only one small section of counter space to do my chopping and mixing and plating.  My kitchen was no longer my friend.  The other day, I took some time to go through the stuff on the counters and put a lot of it away.  I threw a lot of things away and some additional stuff that I haven’t used, but I’m not ready to part with, got boxed up and taken down to the garage. I now have a wide open and beautiful kitchen I’ve regained the ability to appreciate.  Now it’s time to make proper use of it again!  I’ve even been remarkably consistent about putting dishes in the dishwasher the moment I’m finished with them, instead of piling up dishes in the sink and on the counter before they finally get into the dishwasher.  Yay me!  🙂

Like I said, I’ve been thinking a lot about the kinds of things I want to accomplish this year, and there’s one thing I keep coming back to more than anything else.  I want my book to be published.  So instead of a New Year’s Resolution, I’m making ONE 2012 New Year’s Declaration, by the end of this year, barring unforeseen, and very positive intervention, The Teacher, by Kevin Riggs, will be published in one form or another.  (And that does not include matchbook sized Christmas Tree decorations.)  I have very high hopes for some sort of successful deal with a real publishing company, but barring positive results of that endeavor, I will self publish this book before the year is out.  Stay tuned!

Getting Real

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The Editing Stage

So, I finished the first draft of my novel on the day after Thanksgiving.  Many, MANY moons ago, I printed out a hard copy of what I had already done (less than half the finished work) and started editing those pages.  I got through ten chapters before I put that down and didn’t look at it again.  Eventually, I went back to writing with a renewed vigor and determination (and another round of NaNoWriMo to motivate me.)  Since I finished the first draft I decided to go back through those old edits and update the soft copy before I did anything else.  Interestingly, many of those edits had already been done in the soft copy, which tells me, not only that I did them during some other burst of editing, but also that I was on the right track since I thought the same thing more than once.

I finished that last week.

Today, I have before me a completed, fully printed, hard copy of the book; 416 pages, 208 sheets of paper.  And you know what?  For the first time, it looks real.  All double spaced and Times New Roman-y, just the way an agent/editor/publisher wants it.  It feels kinda strange…  Good!  But strange…

My next step is to go through the hard copy, with a red pen, and hopefully a clear, unbiased mind and edit it again.  I know there are sections that need work.  I know that there will be rewrites to be made, but I’m pretty excited about this process all the same.

I’m officially signed up to participate in a writers workshop, starting in February.  There will be real, published, accomplished authors in this group.  To say that I feel out of my depth and a bit self-conscious would be an understatement.  But the leader of the workshop, a published author herself, has already given me very positive feedback on the few pages I sent her last week and I can’t wait to hear more (even if some of it is constructive criticism and not accolades…  accolades would be nicer though…)  😉

Baby Steps

I keep clicking on the Firefox tab with WordPress on it thinking, I should post something here and then I click on the Microsoft Skydrive tab thinking, I really want to work on my book.  And then I click on the facebook tab to see if I can fish yet.  And I just keep bouncing around between the three tabs trying to figure out what to do now, while effectively doing nothing at all…

I’ve done a little bit of work this morning, which is, of course, what I should be doing.  But I either don’t have a lot to do right now, or I’ve forgotten something terribly important…  Honestly?  Either one is possible.

I’m not sure why I’m not more enthusiastically following through…  Well, maybe it’s more accurate to say that my enthusiasm for the two writing options is equal and one seems to cancel out the other.  But the truth is, I’m also aware that I set out to write something very different the other day when I was here, and I’m… not really embarrassed, just reluctant, I guess, to make another stab and having something like that be the end result again.

Finally, though, I just decided that I needed to get this out of my system and then I can go back to the book and so here I am.  You’re welcome!

There have been a few, relatively small, but relevant and significant developments recently that seemed worth sharing.

After the Spring EMT class ended, I had some idea of the path I wanted to follow.  My end goal in this Emergency Medicine business would be to work part-time as a Paramedic (with a good salary) and part-time in some sort of Community Outreach/Education role.  (OK, if I’m being completely honest my ideal scenario would be to do something along those lines with a Fire Department, where I could make a Fire Department salary and work Fire Department hours, without having to be a Fire Fighter.)  I mentioned all this to Mr. Williams on the way out of the building on the last night of class and he told me they have positions like that in the San Francisco Fire Department and when I was ready he could put in a word for me.  Great!  So now I just have to get ready…

But in order to be ready, of course, I need to go to Paramedic school.  One of the prerequisites for paramedic school is between five hundred and a thousand hours of practical experience in Emergency Medicine.  But how could I get those hours and still support myself?

A few days later I had a conversation with my boss about the possibility of me working part-time in my current role, fully expecting him to be negative about it.  Much to my surprise he immediately, and without hesitation said, “sure.”  Of course, almost immediately he started to backtrack.  He wasn’t so sure it would work in my current position, but he was happy to help me find a place within the organization where it would work.  He promised to make some calls.

Some time passed and nothing really happened.  He told me periodically that he was trying to touch bases with a specific someone in a specific department that he thought I might fit into with my skills but of course the specific someone was never around when he went to see her.  They played a lot of phone tag and missed e-mails and finally, just as I felt nothing was ever going to come of it he copied me on an e-mail with the woman and her assistant, with a suggestion that she and I should talk directly.  I was of course open to that and she wanted to set up an informational interview… in five weeks.  Beggars can’t be choosers.

A few weeks ago, John asked me if I had met with this woman yet.  I told him I had not but that I had an appointment scheduled with her.  He suddenly had the “brainstorm” that I might be a good fit in the department in charge of disaster recovery and business continuity and he promised to contact the person in charge of that group.  I don’t think that ever happened.

I had sort of given up the hope that things would work out for me to work part-time for my current employer when the time finally rolled around for my informational interview.  As expected, the person I met with didn’t really have much to offer in terms of possible positions within the company under her direction.  She agreed that disaster recovery/business continuity might be a good fit for me and lo and behold, she works with those people.

While the informational interview itself, didn’t garner much result, I came away with some good advice about my resume, and her promise to send a note to a gentleman in Southern California who oversees disaster recovery/business continuity for the entire state for the company as well as reaching out to some of her counterparts in the medical centers to find out if they have anything that would fit the bill.

Later that day, I was CC’d on a couple of e-mails between the two and as it turns out the SoCal man will be here in Oakland next Monday for meetings and agreed to meet me for lunch to discuss my situation.  Later still, that day, I had a meeting with John (my individual Monthly Meeting which happens about once a quarter, whether I need it or not).  He informed me that he had discussed the idea of reducing my hours with his boss and his boss was open to the idea.  Suddenly I find myself with a realistic option to work for my current employer reduced hours (part-time) and work part-time as an EMT, if I can find a job.  I would keep my hourly wage, though I’d no longer be salary.  I’d keep my benefits with only a slight increase in the cost of the premiums and with the addition of the pay I’d earn as an EMT I’d only be making slightly less money than I do now.

Now I just need to find a Part-Time EMT job.

In November, the contract for Emergency Medical Services in my county changes hands.  At the end of May, I submitted my application to the new company, on-line, just for the hell of it.  I really didn’t expect anything to come of it.  There are about to be a lot of much more qualified, experienced people looking for jobs in this field and I’m just fresh out of school.  I took all the preliminary steps and e-mailed the recruiter to make sure he was aware of my interest and background…  I may have mentioned I was the top of my class…  maybe.  The recruiter did acknowledge my e-mail and then I didn’t hear anything else.  I can’t say I was surprised.

The same day as my informational interview and my discussion with John about me working part-time, I got an e-mail from the new Emergency Medical Services provider.  It was a questionnaire they called “the next step in our hiring process” designed to get a feel for my personality and whether I’m really built for this type of job.  One of those “there are no right or wrong answers” kind of questionnaires, but with questions like, “are you better able to identify dangerous or risky situations, than others.”  I think I have the right temperament for the job.

The process is slow.  They take over in November and I know they’ve already hired the first round of people; the people who have to ready to work on day one.  But it is my understanding that they are also hiring a second wave of people and that they did reserve a block of jobs specifically for people who live in town and who are new graduates.  It may take a while still but it’s not at all beyond the realm of possibility that I will get hired with this company.

I’m not, by any means putting all my eggs in one basket either.  There are other companies that I have applied to and still more that I should/will but things are looking up.

~~~~~

In other news, it turns out that I know somebody who knows somebody who might know somebody.  My friend Karin had a brainstorm the other day that might turn into something good.  She has a friend who has lots of connections in lots of different industries and places and as it turns out Karin’s friend knows someone who “has connections in the publishing industry”.  Karin sent the first two chapters of my book to this friend who will read and comment on them and send information about publishing.  Certainly, this is a far cry from the success that I fear, but it’s a step in the right direction and a lot further than I was yesterday.

Now I just need to hurry up and finish the book.

Fear of Success

So I haven’t been here in what seems like forever.  I wish I could tell you it’s because I’ve been SOOO busy doing SUUUCH exciting things, but then you’d be expecting me to write about it and well, it’s simply not true.

Truth is, I’ve been busy writing, which, I guess is sort of exciting.  It’s exciting to me.  It’s also frustrating and nerve-wracking and irritating and a whole hell of a lot of fun.  It just. Takes. So. Long!  I have a cheerleader who is desperate to read my book.  She’s read the first two chapters and the “mom” chapters I posted not too long ago.  She likes what she’s read and she’s chomping at the bit to read more.  Sorry!  You’ll just have to wait.

Anyway, I’ve been busy committing all my writing time to the book and I’m really happy with what’s coming out, even it is taking an eternity and a half to create but I’ve noticed that there’s a certain amount of fear that goes with it.  (It would be well to note that fear often has no basis in rational thinking, however…)

I’m fearful that this book is not as good as I think it is (despite significant evidence to the contrary.)

I’m fearful that just because a handful of people have read a small fraction of what I’ve written and liked it, a lot, that it will not be good in the eyes of a publishing company.

I’m fearful that because of the nature of its content, what I’m writing will never be accepted by mainstream publishing and even if it ever does get published, it won’t be by a mainstream house and may not be promoted or marketed enough to sell many copies.

I’m fearful that this is the only thing I’ll ever be able to write.  It took me 32 years to come up with an idea which actually formed into a complete story.  What if it takes another 32 years to come up with the next one?

While I’m enjoying the process and would be happy for any amount of success that might come from it, I have to admit that all of that is tempered with a fear that I might get exactly what I want; a fantastic book, well received by major publishing houses, huge promotion and significant compensation and an opportunity to do more…

I’ve grudgingly resigned myself to the idea that my family may never really know me; never know the full truth about me.  I don’t love this idea, but I’ve lived with it for a long time and it’s…familiar.  But, what if I get published.  What if this book I’m writing, a book all about a young man who comes to terms with his sexuality despite his conservative upbringing and judgmental mother, a book full of emotional turmoil and sexual revelation… and sex, get’s published and promoted and makes even a medium splash in the literary world?  My mother is a voracious reader.  I’m not sure if a book like mine could accidentally find its way into her hands, but the prospect is disconcerting, at least.

I wrote a scene just the other day between our lead character, Calvin and a would-be lover/pseudo mentor, Trip, in which Trip explains his less than blissful relationship with his own family.  Without getting too bogged down in details or giving away too much of my, as yet unpublished passion, Cal has been taken to an Atlanta emergency room after a relatively minor injury.  Trip accompanied Calvin and is waiting in a room with him.  Pay attention to the last line:

Another thought occurred to me that I was ashamed not to have realized earlier.  “Oh my God, Trip!”  I slapped my hand down on his arm which had been resting comfortably on the edge of my bed.  “I’ve done it again.  You missed your brother’s reception.  What was I thinking making you bring me here.”

“Those drugs they gave you must be really good,” he laughed.  “You’ll recall I didn’t give you a choice in the matter.”  He patted my hand still resting on his other arm.  “Don’t worry about the reception.  I was there for most of it.  I won’t have been missed, I’m sure.”

There was something sad in his tone and I wondered what his relationship with his family might really be like.  “I’m sure that’s not true,” I suggested.  “You’re brothers after all.”

Trip just looked at me for several long seconds and then he leaned forward in the chair, and whispered to me, conspiratorially.  “I’ll tell you a secret Cal.  What you saw last night?  The way Tommy acted when you and I were leavin’?  That was just the tip of the iceberg.  My family has really struggled since I came out.  Most of the time I think they’re happier when I’m not around.”  That revelation struck me hard.  What must it have been like for him to accept being gay, acknowledge it, and tell his family, knowing that his father was a Baptist Preacher and his family would not accept him?  I couldn’t imagine what his life must be like and I didn’t understand how he could come off as being so self assured when he had this burden weighing him down when he thought no one was paying attention.

And he wanted me to be in the same boat?  How could he expect anyone to follow in his footsteps and demolish whatever sense of a life they had?  I was about to ask him just that when the nurse walked in.

We ate in silence for a while, crunching on our fruits and vegetables.  In spite of my hunger, I couldn’t bear to eat the white bread bun so I pulled the turkey off the sandwich and ate it plain.  Finally, I gingerly turned my head to look at Trip directly and I said, “I’m sorry, Trip.  I’m really sorry.”

He was confused, “’Bout what?”

“It sounds terrible,” I answered, clearing nothing up.  “I can’t imagine facing my parents and knowing that they don’t approve of me.”  Even as I said it I realized, I already knew how that felt.  I was all too familiar with the look of disdain my mother was so adept at displaying at the merest mention of pretty much any new idea I’d ever had.  I knew that if I were to tell her I was gay that would be the end for us.  The look she would give me, her reaction to that news would be impossible to get past.  “It must be just awful to be faced with that every day.”

Trip’s expression darkened.  “It’s not easy,” he said, his voice was thick with grief.  “My parents had such high hopes for me when I was growin’ up,” he continued.  “They wanted me to be a pastor like my father and like his father and his father before him.  Our family has been leading The First Baptist Church of Savannah for three generations.  Daddy is pretty well respected in the community.”  He paused and as his eyes glistened he gulped hard, holding his feelings in.  “Well anyway, he was.  And then about eight months ago I was caught on film coming out of a club called The Cockpit.  There was a local news crew doing a remote spot outside the club.  I didn’t even notice them at the time and I have no idea what the story was about let alone that I was on film but before I knew it, someone had seen me on the news and it got back to the Convention – The Southern Baptist Convention – and they talked to my dad about it.

“And then a couple months ago Janelle got pregnant and she and Tommy had to have this shotgun wedding.  Which is a sham, as far as I’m concerned and I just know they’re not going to last and I can’t help but think that’ll be even worse for my father’s reputation.  But you know…  At least they’re doin’ the honorable thing in the face of their shame.  There’s nothin’ I can do to make this right in their eyes.  And now, daddy’s reputation is damaged and the Convention is talkin’ about replacing him at the church.  It’s all a big ugly mess and not the way I would have wanted it to be, at all.

“I dreaded comin’ out to my parents and I put it off way too long…  I sure as hell didn’t want them to find out from someone else.  Let alone the whole community.”  Tears crept down his face now and he lowered his head, staring at the blanket that covered me.  “Talkin’ to my parents about being gay was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I owed it to them to be the one to tell them, and I didn’t do it.”

It seems like a long shot at best but I would hate for this book to be the way my family finds out that I’m gay and yet having that conversation is something I’m unable to imagine.    But the flip side of that is, what happens if this book actually gets published?  What if it actually is a moderate (or bigger) hit and I make a nice chunk of change from it?  What if I need to go on some sort of book tour because of it?  What if this turns out to be a really big deal…  And I can’t share it with my family, because to share it with them I’d have to tell them the hardest thing I could imagine ever having to tell them?  And what if I have to go through the rest of my life watching what I say, careful never to give any inclination about any of the experiences that I’ve had as a result of writing this book, just as I have to be careful now, never to mention anything that might reveal the identity that is Riggledo (blog, twitter, e-mail, etc.)

I realize I’m putting the cart before the horse, as I’m prone to do, and I’m not allowing these fears to stop me writing the book, but I can’t help fearing all these things.