I Am Still Alive

The blog has been quiet for a long time. Today is my “blogiversary”, so I’m mostly just posting to say that no, I am not dead. Not for lack of trying – more on that later.

First an update on some projects: The Father Chessman series is still in progress. Book 3, Oaths of My Fathers is written and is sort of ready for beta readers… kind of. Book 4, Crimes of My Fathers, is in progress, but it ran into problems. The final book 5 is still pending. The sequel to Hell Bent, Stone Killer, is near the end of its first draft but hasn’t been updated in a while… for reasons.

OK, so why the silence and all the delays? In short: bad health, both physical and mental.

I’ve been in the hospital a lot with an ongoing series of small-bowel obstructions, i.e. the plumbing keeps getting jammed up in the most inaccessible space. I’ve had thirteen now, I think, but I’m starting to lose count. It might be more. I’ve had two surgeries attempting to fix it, and who knows, there might be a third in my future. The mortality (aka “Will this kill me?”) goes up with age, so it’s just going to get more dangerous.

On top of that, when I went into the hospital for my most recent one, I tested positive for COVID-19. It was asymptomatic, and I have since tested negative after the recommended isolation period where I was limited to two rooms of the house, all on my lonesome. I appear to have come through unscathed, but I have a followup with my doctor soon to check for any lung/heart damage. My message to you: Wear your mask!

I should also say that somewhere in the early 2010s I sustained a back injury – more accurately several repeated back injuries – that have left me with herniated discs and chronic pain. Oh, let’s not forget the migraines that I’ve suffered since a concussion as a teenager. While they have become about half as intense, they’ve made up for it by becoming near constant, 24/7. (Yes, I’ve had an MRI, and to quote Arnold Schwarzenegger, “It’s not a toomah!”)

Despite all that, I tend to think of myself as being in moderately good health. I’m overweight, but I exercise regularly, including 3+ miles on the treadmill at least five times a week. So, most of my health problems are the hidden, pain-in-the-ass kind of stuff.

The mental health side of things… is hard to talk about, but the more of us who talk about it, the more it’s supposed to help those who are also suffering in silence. The short of it is that I’ve had chronic anxiety and depression for somewhere between fifteen and fifty years. On top of that, I ended up with a bad case of PTSD because of some stuff with my kids – that’s a whole ’nuther story – complete with persistent tremors, full-on flashbacks, and panic attacks. A real shit-show.

So, a few years back, I decided to make my mental health a top priority. (Yeah, “a” vs. “the” top priority… don’t get me started.) So, I’ve been jumping through the medication hoops and doing EMDR therapy and in general putting other stuff aside. Things have improved a lot, but it also meant I didn’t write, paint, or do much else creatively for quite a while.

I did start writing again late last year, starting into Crimes of My Fathers as my 2019 NaNoWriMo project, but that petered out as the pandemic hit. Since I’ve been working from home for 20+ years, my day-to-day routine didn’t change much, but that “world is on fire” vibe dried up the well in short order. I have just recently started writing again, but it’s on a side project that may never see the light of day. Still, it shows me that the machinery is still there and operational. I hope to return to the Father Chessman series soon.

Anyway, there’s more to say, but I’m going to cut it here, lest this slip the schedule and end up as a 2021 update instead. Hopefully it won’t be another year before I can update again.

Not Quite FUBAR (but other acronyms apply)

"Shattered" (c) Dan Thompson 2006

I got an email from a reader recently basically asking if I was still alive, which reminds me that I haven’t posted to the blog in about four months. (Bad blogger. No donut!) He wasn’t asking for much and even said:

Even if you blog FUBAR us Veterans will get it.

Well, I’m not a Veteran, but I do know what FUBAR means. Unfortunately, I also know what PTSD means and from first-hand experience. Yeah, it sucks. My symptoms for it started about two and a half years ago, even though my first full-on “episode” was only last May.

I don’t want to get into the details of the T in the acronym here, but I will say that it’s almost embarrassing, since it doesn’t rise to the clear intensity of combat, assault, or even car crashes. It’s more akin to the frog in the pot of boiling water, and after long enough, the heat got to me. I am getting professional help (meds and therapy) and doing all the things you’re supposed to do when your brain goes wonky, so I’m on the best path reasonably available. I just have to watch out for certain noises in the meantime, and it makes a lot of simple tasks much more difficult.

So, yes, I’m alive, but the last few months have been particularly rough with this PTSD thing. I have made big changes to remove myself from the T part, but my therapist tells me that I’m now dealing with the P part, the maddening hypervigilance for a threat that is no longer there. As a result, I have made zero progress on Getting Books Out The Expletive Door (GBOTED). And no, I am not in a contest with George R.R. Martin to see who can drag it out the longest. That said, I’m actually pretty damn close. The sequel to Ships of My Fathers, titled Debts of My Fathers, is in final text form, i.e. final draft, post-copyedit. I just need to format it, slap a cover on it, and GBOTED. For my earlier books, that was a 3-week process when I didn’t even know what I was doing. So, I’m really only about 3 weeks out from GBOTED.

Which is exactly where I’ve been since April. Hence the Expletive in GBOTED.

I’d like to say I’m turning the corner. I mean, really, I see all the stuff that needs to be done, and I have a plan to do it. Which, again, is exactly where I’ve been since April. Hence the Expletive in GBOTGDMFD!

So yeah, not quite FUBAR, but only because I am too stubborn to accept the Beyond All Repair part. I’ll try to post more often here, and you can also follow me over on Google+ where I post pictures, revel in my geekiness, and occasionally rant a little about politics. I’ve also been doing a walking podcast in a similar vein to Nathan Lowell’s Talking on My Morning Walk. The walking is for my mental health (doctor’s orders), but I fit in 15-20 minutes of chatter at the end of it. Right now there are over a hundred episodes in the bank, and once I GBOTED, I’ll actually start getting them posted and provide links.