The Convergence Trilogy

Three and a half years and almost 512,000 words later, I’ve finally finished my first trilogy. Well, a trilogy in five parts, anyway.

I was living in Redmond, Washington at the time, deeply depressed and trying to come back from the worst time of my life. I wasn’t just broke, I was depressed. I had been fired from my job and narrowly avoided jail time because of some stupid, stupid choices. I lost half of my friends. I had to move out of state (California) and start over from scratch, sleeping on my friend’s couch. Things weren’t great.

I flew up to Alaska for a week to see my best friend’s baby son right after he was born and found myself out bar-hopping that weekend to say hey to people I wasn’t friends with in high school like things had changed after graduation. I found myself walking the streets by myself, mind clear and taking in the way the streetlights bounced off of the snow with the kind of focus only the truly, deeply lonely have.

It was February and it was cold, so I ducked into The Anchor, a now-closed sports bar, to warm up and maybe grab a drink. The dance floor was packed and clumps of friends hung on each other, taking pictures they could or would only share a fraction of, screeching at each other in decibels only be heard by dogs and drunk white girls.

I wanted a clump, too, but I was clumpless. Dejected, I decided maybe I’d be better off finding a drink somewhere else and started to turn away. Through the crowd came one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen and she headed straight for me. She embraced me and told me that she believed in me and that she thought I was a talented writer from the stuff I had put up on Myspace/Facebook.

Now let’s back up a second. The first time I had ever seen this woman was seven years prior to our bar conversation. I was a sophomore in high school and I was in my United States History class. It was towards the end of the year and she was graduating, so she poked her head through the window from outside to say goodbye to my teacher and I was immediately taken by her. I made it a mission to say hi to her the next time I saw her and introduce myself. Unfortunately for me, there wasn’t another opportunity before the school year ended.

I would see her around town from time to time after that but I figured it would be weird to stop her out of nowhere just to say hi, me being this kid she’s never seen before. What would I say? How would I say it? I felt weird for even wanting to do it, honestly. But then a day came that she popped up as a mutual friend on MySpace and I said, “Fuck it” and sent her a friend request. To my surprise, she accepted.

I still didn’t say hello.

For over a year we were friends online, our only communication being my sending her a message for the holidays as I did to all of my friends, and her appreciative response.

So it surprised me that she would recognize me in person at The Anchor. It surprised me even more that she would take the time to come and say hello and that this relative stranger, one who I had admired and been intimidated by for years, would tell me that she believed in me, that she would tell me she felt my writing had promise. I was surprised she even paid attention.

I’m not big on God or fate or destiny, but I do like playing the long odds. I like the idea of luck, good and bad, of high and small percentages, of chance. I don’t know what the chances were of my being in town that week, deciding to go out, deciding to go downtown, deciding to duck into the same bar she was in at the same time she happened my way, for her to recognize me or choose the words she did, but I needed it bad. That one interaction changed things for me in a big way.

I went back to Washington a renewed and inspired man. She and I started a dialogue via email that would lead to our having a long, strong friendship. I started to write.

I dug out a few shoddy chapters I had written the summer before that had been inspired by a dream (not something that happens to me often, as it turns out). A lot of what I had already done was garbage, but there was some stuff worth salvaging there.

For the next six months, I hammered out Waypoint, my first novel and the first part of what would become the Convergence trilogy. The words came quickly and easily. I had developed some severe bronchitis around that time, too, so a large part of that could have been because of the codeine cough syrup I had been prescribed and was using semi-irresponsibly.

Along the way, I picked up a couple friends who volunteered and agreed to read and edit as I wrote (my friend Ben and his wife, Karina, who I didn’t know too well at the time, which actually worked out perfectly because she was very blunt about her opinions). At the end of those six months, Waypoint was finished and I found myself new problems to have: I was terrified to release it.

What if it sucked? What if nobody liked it? What if they made fun of it? What if my friend from the bar was wrong about my writing? What if I was a fool for wanting to pursue writing as a career (this last question still plagues me)?

Ben and Karina insisted that I was wrong, that the book was good stuff, that it would all be fine. Gradually, I gave in. Tentatively, I self-published and released the book online. To my astonishment and relief, the general consensus has been that it is, in fact, a good book. The reception was so positive and the enthusiasm so high in regards to discussing the characters, the world they lived in, and the plot twisting through it, that I decided to split the second and third novels into two halves so I could get my readers more material faster.

Death Worth Living For came next, and it was around this time that I gained arguably my two biggest fans: a pair of traveling jewelry salespeople who would host a couple events a year at the jewelry store I worked in. They would read as they traveled, one of them speaking my words aloud while the other drove. When we saw each other, they would pelt me with questions about the characters and their motivations and actions. They would theorize what would happen next (often, they were wrong. Sometimes, they would give me an idea I hadn’t considered before).

I was most of the way through As the Earth Trembled Part One when my grandparents – for all intent and purpose my parents, as they had adopted and raised me since I was five – both passed away and the woman I loved left me for someone else.

I was able to finish and release that half of the book, but it took a long time for me to get my confidence, my inspiration and my wits back. Longer than I’d like to admit, but I was able to work through it eventually and yesterday I released As the Earth Trembled Part Two for the Kindle, finishing the Convergence trilogy (in five parts) once and for all.

Three and a half years. Over half a million words. I’ve sold almost three thousand copies of the books, which is not a lot, really, but I’ve paid a bill or two and bought a drink or ten with what I’ve made. I’ve accrued some four and five star reviews that I’m proud of, and though I got some separation anxiety regarding my characters as I finished up, it’s so rewarding to see other people, friends and strangers both, grow equally as invested in them.

If you, my faithful, wonderful readers, would like to check out the books yourselves, refer them to a friend who might like them, or get them for someone as a gift, here’s where you can find them:

For the Kindle:
Waypoint
Death Worth Living For Part One
Death Worth Living For Part Two
As the Earth Trembles Part One
As the Earth Trembles Part Two

In paperback:
Waypoint
Death Worth Living For Part One
Death Worth Living For Part Two
As the Earth Trembles Part One
As the Earth Trembles Part Two

For the Nook:
Waypoint
Death Worth Living For Part One
Death Worth Living For Part Two
As the Earth Trembles Part One
As the Earth Trembles Part Two

And if you’ve read these books so far, if you’ve taken a chance on my work – whether you enjoyed it or not – or suggested them to friends or family, or even lent a copy to somebody: thank you so much. Your support means the absolute world to me. I may write to get the ideas out of my head, but it’s an audience that gives those ideas their first breath of life.

As for me, I’m on to the next one.

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Schrödinger’s Gun by Ray Wood | Tor.com

I’ve been busy with putting the finishing touches on this book and in doing so have neglected the blog. I had a couple really vivid dreams last night that shook me some. In one, I was mauled to death by a polar bear. I wasn’t a fan of that one, to be honest.

In the other, I met and reconnected with the woman I consider one of the closest and best friends I’ve ever had. It made me want to write a post I’ve kept on the back burner for some time, but it’ll likely be lengthy and full of emotion,  so it’ll take a couple days to put it together while I sort my thoughts.

In the meantime, thanks for sticking with me! Enjoy this short story from Tor by Ray Wood!

http://www.tor.com/stories/2015/02/schroedingers-gun-ray-wood

Wanderlust

“Why do you insist on ruining your own life?”

I had a friend ask me that at a bar one weekend when I went to say goodbye to her cousin, who was visiting. It struck me as…a fair question, if strangely timed. I certainly have been self-destructive at times in my life, including relatively recently. The last few months, though, I feel like I’ve been in a pretty solid place in most regards. I’m more self-aware, more productive, more patient in so much as it regards to my relationships with people.

She meant it present-tense, I think, though I didn’t ask. That’s not the kind of conversation I like to have when drinks are involved, and it’s definitely not the type of conversation I want to have in public. It has bothered me, though, and I’ve had time to think about it.

I don’t think Alaska is conducive to my health. Mentally or physically, I’ve become a shut-in who misses the places I’ve been and dreams of the places I haven’t. I want life, and adventure, and love, fleeting and otherwise. This state is harsh. It’s tight-knit and bitter and blunt. The unparalleled beauty of this state in any season belies a darkness that creeps into you if you’re not careful. It’s hard for a lot of people without emotional issues. It’s even worse with those constantly wrestling with their sense of self.

My mind is full of fantasies of crashing waves and sunsets, people-watching in a crowd of strangers, dive bars I’ve never heard of and hole in the wall cafés with local bands playing for tips. I dream of kisses that happen in the heat of the moment, amidst the heat of bodies crammed together in a club, for fleeting glances and those first, free conversations when something ridiculous has brought two people together to comment on it.

Alaska is a cage. It’s home to me, but I’ve got both eyes on the door. I just don’t know how to be self-sufficient enough to leave. I could probably find a willing roommate, and I know how to get around without a vehicle, but it’s the occupation bit that holds me back. I like my current job and it pays me well but to transfer, I would need to learn several new markets that we simply don’t sell in Alaska, and I don’t know how well I would perform in that capacity. At the same token, I don’t know what else I would do.

I find myself writing more in general and more or less excited for the future. I like myself more? Most days? But I wake up some days just feeling crushed and anxious and trapped. I would gnaw my fucking ankle off and go buy a new foot from IKEA if it meant I found a new, stable place to be. I don’t think I’m being particularly self-destructive at this point in time, but at the same time, I’m not doing myself any favors by simply accepting where I’m at, despite the familiar faces, despite that I know this (increasingly violent) city because it has been most of my life.

As I finish up this book and get it ready for sale, I find myself jittery and tense. There are nerves involved, of course, in waiting for the reactions to my finishing this trilogy, but there’s also this spectre hanging over my shoulder, constantly reminding me that I’m grinding this shit out in a place where my dream career has no real place to go.

So there’s that, I guess. I’ll keep you posted, and I’ll keep it honest.

Sex and Online Dating

I’ve been on a self-imposed celibacy kick for a few months now, starting right around the time I decided I seriously needed to stop drinking less.  It’s not that I regret being promiscuous or that I’m going to, I don’t know, save myself for marriage from here on out (I don’t and I’m not respectively), it’s just that I’ve reached a point where just fucking around has put a strain on me mentally to where it’s affected my ability to pursue a healthy relationship.

Not that sex isn’t healthy! Not that even casual sex isn’t healthy! Thing is, though, the last committed relationship I’ve been in was four and a half years ago. Oh, I’ve dated a few women since and been exclusive to them and still even care deeply about them as friends, but I was exclusive out of choice, not an expected arrangement. I don’t know if they were loyal to me; I didn’t care, I didn’t expect them to be. But boundaries set and established monogamy for both parties? It’s been a long,  long time since I’ve had a girlfriend. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been anyone’s boyfriend.

Anyway, to understand where I’m at with this celibacy thing, it’s probably best to understand where I am in terms of how I view sex and sexuality.

I grew up in a modest household with a Christian grandmother and a mellpw grandfather, but I had addict parents and a step-father who owned and ran strip clubs. My mom was a dancer, and my dad was sort of a player when he was young. There was a very liberal mindset on the fringe areas of my youth that fascinated me. I was never taught to body-shame. I was never taught to be ashamed of myself or my sexuality. I was always taught to be respectful of people in general, but especially women.

Anyway, at some point growing older, it all seemed simple to me: if you’re being safe, if you’re being honest with your situations and everything is consensual, then there shouldn’t be a problem. Your sex life is none of anyone’s business, nor is theirs yours. Feel free to save yourself for marriage or for a select few or however many you want. As long as you’re safe, honest, and clearly consenting.

Now, I’ve never been good with women. Romantically, I mean. Our relationships either failed due to infidelity (theirs), depression (mine), differing plans for the future (ours) and probably countless other things that I never even noticed.  I’m a great friend (or I try to be) and I’m a romantic at heart, but I’m terrible at picking up on hints from interested women and I constantly (or have in the past) feel like they’re going to wake up one day and realize they could be doing so much better.

Anyway, sex. Because sex has seldom been a problem over the last 8 years and yet, AND YET when it all began, there were all the indicators that I would be fucking miserable at mixing sex and relationships.

I lost my virginity when I was 15 to a girl my age who was not a virgin and who I liked very much until she cheated on me a week later and wound up with three kids before she was legally allowed to drink. I was distraught, temporarily, as teenagers are wont to be, but found solace in the arms of someone else not long after, albeit briefly. This woman I loved deeply and her family was close to me.

But this isn’t about love, silly, it’s about sex, and I didn’t have much of it. Like, count on one hand the times total in the three or four months between when I lost my virginity (it was an early February) to the last instance (late May? June? Shit, it might have been an October, this was over ten years ago) and then I didn’t have that kind of contact again for years.

I had opportunities, don’t get me wrong. I partied a lot, a lot, and people get frisky at parties, but the only two people I had slept with I cared deeply about, I was super-duper depressed in general,  and so – back then – I WAS saving myself. I just didn’t know for who or what.

I was really into this girl when I turned 18. She introduced me to a bunch of weird music that I liked but would never have discovered otherwise, and we would end up at each other’s houses fooling around but never go all the way. I liked her a lot, man, and I constantly asked her out but she wanted an open relationship (the other guy’s name was Kenny. My first name is Kenneth; this pissed me off to no end). I didn’t want an open relationship – she was the only woman I wanted – but I was willing to make an exception if it was the only way I could get her. Then she FLIPPED OUT on me when I went on a friend date with a friend-girl.

You see? Healthy relationships. I told her that I couldn’t handle the double-standard, especially when I was being yelled at for a non-romantic relationship with a friend who had been there for me through some heavy shit. I broke it off. I was headed to Europe in three weeks and while I would have been faithful had we been in a relationship,  I wasn’t about to start one just to leave right away.

Here’s the thing, though: 18 and single or not, I still knew jack shit about talking to women. A few email addresses and drunk kisses aside, my trip abroad was sexless. This did nothing to detract from the incredible experience I had, and I was more concerned with the hand I paralyzed and spent two months fixing, but my hormones were out of control and I grew frustrated.

When I finally had sex again, it was terrible. I was so bad. I felt so bad for her for agreeing to that. Holy shit, let me tell you, I’m astonished that word of that didn’t spread, that I wasn’t mocked in the streets, that I ever regained the confidence to give it another shot.

I ended up in a relationship not long after that, though, and she was a lot more patient with my inexperience. It helped that there was an actual relationship involved, too. There is strength in an emotional connection to support a physical relationship.

That relationship did end, eventually, though. Not prettily. I’ve found break-ups are seldom neat and romantic notions don’t help for shit when someone tells you they don’t love you anymore.

A strange thing happened then, and I’m not sure how or when: where I failed in relationships I began to excel in flings and one-night stands. Now, I have never misled a woman for sex. I’ve never lied about myself or the situation. If I wasn’t interested in a relationship, I would make that clear and if she was uncomfortable with that arrangement, it didn’t happen.

There were a myriad of reasons for the experiences. Mutual attractions. Mutual emotional desperation. The need for release or just to have fun. Though I’m not friends with most of them now, the reason why has almost never been because of that.

I mean, I love women in general. I love the first time a woman and I come together because there it’s incredibly intimate. Even if, in the large scheme of things, it means nothing, there’s an intimacy to the whole experience. You discover each other’s likes and dislikes, the erogenous zonez, everyone kisses differently, wears their hair differently, puts on a different perfume. It’s exciting, it’s fun. That’s the point.

Then it stopped being fun for me. Not because of the sex or the women,  but because all of these other aspects of my life were falling apart and I felt like a piece of shit. I wasn’t taking care of myself physically, I was withdrawing from all of my friends, I wasn’t writing hardly at all and I hadn’t been for months. My life lacked substance beyond the day-to-day and I started realizing you can only live in the moment for so long when you’re not doing anything good for yourself.

I decided to be celibate while I figured myself out. This is weird for me for two major reasons:
1. It’s difficult for a guy who was super shy and awkward and didn’t have sex through 99% of high school to pretty much always having options to go back to not having sex at all. I realize that it had reached a point where I was doing it less because it was thrilling and more because I was desperate for companionship, but, again, I was pretty honest about that up front and it took me a long time to see that as a problem.

2. People really want to have sex with you when you really don’t and some of them will get offended when you turn them down. If you’re reading this and you’re one of them: I’m terrible in bed. Just ask anyone.

Anyway, this focusing on myself shit has been really good. I’m drinking a lot less, saving a little more money, and writing a LOT more. I’ll be putting another book out at the beginning of next month. I’ve been waking up rested after having been more productive and I would say 9/10 mornings I wake up generally happy. I’ve been focusing a lot more on trying to make time for friends, online and over the phone if I can’t do it in person.

I’ve started trying to date again, too. Like,  seriously date. Dinner or coffee or a movie or fucking anything that involves me spending time with someone I like and find interesting, and it’s nice because I can go into it with a clear mind, a better understanding of myself and my goals, and comfortable in trying to develop a relationship of real substance.

It hasn’t gone well so far.

Soooo on a lark, I signed up for OKCupid. I’m not even mad about it. I’m not embarrassed. Shit, I dished out $50 bucks so if anyone likes my profile, I can see who it was because I am genuinely bad at noticing.

So it works like this, this online dating shit: you fill out your profile. What do you like? Your favorite foods/tv/books/movies, what are you working on, etc. Message me if: this and that and here or there. Then you can answer from this endless stream of questions. It asks you a question,  what you’ll accept out of someone else’s responses,  and how much it means to you (a little, somewhat, very).

The more questions you answer,  the more it can tell you who matches your interests, likes and dislikes, and whose interests and opinions oppose yours. I’ve had it for a week or two now, and I have to say: it’s ridiculously accurate. I’ll see a profile with a 90% match and they’ll list off a dozen books, films and shows I like, list hobbies that line up with my own and so on and so forth. It’s exciting and frightening all the same.

Things I’ve learned so far:

1. My best matches seem to be in Los Angeles and New York and looking for people in their general area only. This seems to confirm things I already know.

2. Women who match me 55% or less locally have been blowing up my profile.  I can’t imagine why.

3. I’m hesitant to reach out to someone locally because Anchorage is a place where mouths like to run and I seem to have cultivated a much more negative opinion about me than positive, some of which is justified, some of which is from years ago, and some of which is completely false.

But there has been some rumblings of interest and that’s refreshing and a bit encouraging for me. So we’ll see how it goes, and maybe I’ll meet someone at a bookstore or something, if not online. Maybe the woman of my dreams will send me a private message.

Anyway, I’m not sorry for having been sexually active or for being open about my sexuality, and with one exception (an incident which was not my fault), I have zero regrets about that part of my life.

And I’m no saint now. My libido is high and I doubt that will change. Growing up requires introspection in every part of one’s life, though, and I’ve seen that mine lacks a good amount of healthy, supportive, communicative relationships. It so happens that certain aspects need to change in order for me to change that,  and I’m happy to have made those changes.

My relationships with my friends have improved dramatically over the last few months because I finally had enough courage to ask for help, to ask for someone to talk to, and to ask for a few encouraging words when I’ve needed them.

I want to be able to share the love for life and art and this world and so much else with someone, too, and I want to do it without these knee-jerk thoughts and impulses and feelings I’ve had for strangers that catch my eye. I’ve had a pretty shitty track record with that.

Will OKCupid work in the long run? Who knows? I have a couple friends who got married off of it. I’ve had two other friends get married after meeting online in other ways. Right now, I’m taking it a day at a time without the pressure of sex or awkward silences, and with a good amount of information about me (and her) already up front to parse through.

Worst case scenario, nothing happens and I just made you read about my sex life.