Excuses, excuses. Life gets in the way.
I can’t believe it’s May 2017. It seems like yesterday we made the permanent move from Detroit Michigan to Fort Myers Florida. But that was October 2016, seven months ago, the same month I attended the Florida Writers Association Conference in Orlando where I was both a presenter (Writing Retro-Punk Fiction) and an award winner. It was an auspicious start to my new full time career as an author, one that I had big plans for. Until life got in the way.
After my retirement in March 2016 and before our move to Florida, I decided to suspend writing on the sequel to DragonFly, my WW2 dieselpunk series. Book Two, Spies in Manhattan was progressing reasonably well but I found that the burden of downsizing, preparing the house in Michigan for sale (which involved a lot of painting, gardening & other fixer-upper projects) and the up-and-down nature of the house selling process was too much of a distraction. I decided that working on writing my non-fiction satirical work, A Survivor’s Guide to Working at a Big Corporation was better suited to the vagaries of my chaotic schedule because each chapter stood alone and chapters could be written in any order.
Nothing ever works out exactly as planned. However, one thing that was firmly fixed on our calendar was the trip my wife and I had booked to India as a 40th wedding anniversary present to ourselves. We flew from Miami to London and then on to Delhi in mid-January 2017 for a ten day tour that included Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and the Ranthambore Tiger Preserve. It was a spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime trip. I won’t bore you with the three hundred photos I took. We came back with some beautiful souvenirs… a sandalwood carving of Ganesh, the elephant-headed Hindu god and a small Rajastan silk rug for our new home’s foyer. Out of twenty-one people on the tour, I came back with an additional souvenir no one else did… a nasty intestinal infection.
This was no ordinary traveler’s diarrhea. It took hold a few days before we left India and persisted for the week we spent in England before we returned to the US. None of the over-the-counter medications had any effect at all. I didn’t eat anything but Jell-o for four days. When we got back to Florida, the doctor put me on a course of antibiotics but that had zero effect on whatever was destroying my digestive system and sucking the strength from me. Tests on my stool eliminated e. coli, salmonella, shigella, norovirus and other more common sub-tropical intestinal maladies. The conclusion was that I had somehow ingested an amoeba, a parasitic microbe that if left untreated would result in dysentery and serious permanent complications to my digestive system. I was prescribed a course of powerful anti-microbial drugs. I suffered severe side effects but the drug did the trick and the pesky little invader was thoroughly nuked! However, I was extremely sick for four weeks with the intestinal parasite and sub-par for another two weeks afterwards. The end of February approached and needless to say my writing was at a complete standstill. Otherwise things were going great. I was a happy camper again physically and we continued to settle into our new Florida lifestyle.
One day in late February, as the northern US was being ravaged by severe winter blizzards, we were sunning ourselves on our lanai when we couldn’t resist the urge to adopt a cat. Our previous cat, GeeBee, had died of old age before we’d moved to Florida. We pined for a new furry friend and as chance would have it, one appeared in our local paper that seemed the perfect cat for us. We named him Jazz. He was nine years old, a bit chubby and because of his age and weight had been passed over for adoption many times. He’d been at the animal refuge for a year and a half. We were happy to rescue him and he seemed happy to be rescued. He moved into our house on March 1.
Progress on A Survivor’s Guide to Working at a Big Corporation was going really, really well. So well, I set a publication date for May 1. This semi-autobiographical self-help book/memoir was to be accompanied by a satirical novel, Harvey Drinkwater & The Cult of Savings. That fictional work had been written many years ago but the sensitive nature of its irreverent expose of corporate culture required me to hold on to publishing it until after I retired.
Life got in the way again. Don’t you hate that when it happens?
It was a Saturday night, April 8, warm and beautiful. We’d had a great day at the Naples Botanical Garden followed by a trip to the homemade ice cream shop. It was after dinner at dusk, wine glass in hand when the call went out, “Jazz has caught another anole.” The brown anole is a small lizard that sneaks into Florida lanais and harmlessly feeds on stray insects. Cats love catching them. They are Florida’s equivalent of feline entertainment. Eating one isn’t recommended apart from the fact it’s cruel and unnecessary. So up I get to find the cat and see if I could get the blaggard to let the poor thing go. It was dark, the cat was well hidden behind some patio furniture and as I stepped forward, my foot landed on the cat’s back, he rolled like a wet banana peel, I slipped backwards and jammed my heel on the lanai pavers, putting my full weight on my right ankle. I didn’t hear it pop but I felt it dislocate. The pain was excruciating. (Side note: a good thing for a writer to experience so we can describe more accurately the true pain an injured character might feel). I remember the paramedics arriving but not the journey to the hospital. I remember the ER doctor resetting my ankle with a quick tug. I then waited a day, my ankle in a temporary cast, before a specialist performed reconstructive surgery to repair five broken bones using a combination of plates, pins and screws. All of these will now be a permanent part of my attempts to pass through future TSA metal detectors at airports. By the way, Jazz is absolutely fine. He didn’t even suffer a bruise.
Life surely does get in the way, doesn’t it? I’m lucky in so many ways. I don’t have much to complain about really. I have author friends who have it so much worse than I do and get so much more done! Who am I to grouse about this latest disruption to my publication schedule? It’s a lesson all aspiring writers need to learn at some point. And it’s a lesson taught in a variety of ways, some more painful than others. We write about life but we don’t want life to get in the way of our writing? How stupid is that? We consume copious books on author productivity, design fancy spreadsheets to track our word count, and mark off every day on the calendar as if time was our enemy not our friend. Life and writing fight for the attention of our egos, mess with our real jobs, screw up our family time and frustrate our friends. At the end of the day, we don’t have anything to complain about. Without life, there is no writing, not the other way around.
I’ll stop whining and just say the latest drafts of A Survivor’s Guide to Working at a Big Corporation and Harvey Drinkwater & The Cult of Savings will be going into final editing reviews soon. Publication will not have a firm date but I’ll venture another one of my optimistic estimates and say it will be around June 1. Then I promise to resume Spies in Manhattan with a renewed energy and a mended ankle!
No more excuses!