A Necessary Update – 8/17/2018

Featured

Hello, everyone. I apologize for not updating the website for so long, but a LOT has happened over the last 12-18 months, and I thought I should at least get back to adding my thoughts and such to let you know I’m still alive, still writing.

Almost one year ago (Labor Day weekend, to be exact), our lives pretty much came to a standstill when I went down to the basement to work after Carly went to sleep. It seemed like just another ordinary day, one where I played a video game on the computer at my desk for a few hours, then spent time with her until she went to bed, then would go back downstairs to work on whatever book or story I had going at the time.

The instant I came off the bottom step and my foot hit the carpet, I knew immediately that something was horribly wrong. The carpet rippled, waved, then sloshed. Yep, you guessed it, the basement was somehow flooding. As a homeowner, I can feel your heart dropping into your shoes after reading this. I guess the only positive thing I could say about this is that at least the house didn’t catch on fire. But a flood… a flooded basement is just… Wow.

The panic, the fear, the absolute chaos of worry and a thousand other emotions hit me all at once as I walked through the basement. I’d hoped it was just a little water, like the toilet or shower in the basement bathroom was suffering a slow-ish leak. But the magnitude of what was happening kept piling on more and more as I walked throughout the 1700 or so square feet of carpeted basement. Every. Single Room. Was. Flooded.

Anyone who has ever been through this, you probably know how the next few months went. Fighting our insurance company (who fought hard but in the end, lost, and had to pay for the restoration), living in half of a house that you, your wife, your brother, and six cats had previously enjoyed ALL of, the hard work of ripping out all of the water-damaged baseboards, carpets, padding, furniture, drywall… Then comes the worry about the potential for mold (which, by the way, the house had when we bought it as the previous owners had flooded the basement and never bothered to take care of it, letting it go into foreclosure, but that’s another story for another day). The interruption of our normal, daily lives was like a bomb had gone off in our psyche.

Once we were sure the insurance company would pay (about a month later, when we made it clear our policy damn well DID cover the damage), we were hopeful things would slowly get back to normal.

But then one morning I woke up, and I don’t mean to be too graphic here, but I kind of have to be, I stood in front of the toilet and began pissing blood.

I’ve never given much thought to my own mortality before, other than a few moments here and there after I turned 30, then again at 40. But standing there, at age 44, with a flooded basement and our lives turned upside down, I became so frightened, so sure that bloody urine meant that I was going to die, that I might have only a short time left on this earth, that I literally collapsed on the bathroom floor. The terror of believing your life is going to be over soon… There aren’t really any words or phrases to describe it. Compound that with the fact that I didn’t have health insurance, then add some googling to see that bloody urine was likely a sign of prostate cancer, bladder cancer, cancer cancer cancer. That’s all I could see and I got sick to my stomach once again.

Just as that cleared up (don’t worry, it wasn’t terminal, just FUCKING FRIGHTENING), and our basement was sloooooowly being returned to a livable state (there’s a whole long story in here about how the flooring company fucked us over at the last moment and delayed everything for another few weeks, but again, that’s for another time), some 20 year old dumbass kid hit Carly on her way to work and totaled her car. She was fine, no harm done to her, but the Honda was completely wrecked. The shitty thing about this, beyond losing a car that we both loved maybe a little too much for such a mundane thing as being “just a car,” is that my car was useless to her–mine is a standard transmission, and she had never learned how to drive a stick shift. And the fact that my Saturn is a piece of shit (but a reliable piece of shit) former courier car that has seen far better times but smells like you’d expect a college boy’s dorm after a week of partying… that didn’t help. Neither did our financial situation, as even with the insurance company paying to repair the damage, we were bleeding money on all the things our policy didn’t cover.This was sometime around January.

Then I got sick again, which started the cycle all over again.

But, as you can guess from reading this, things eventually turned positive. We bought her a very nice used Acura SUV, replaced all of the carpets downstairs with laminate hardwood flooring, and even finally wired up the basement with Cat-5 cabling so it no longer looked like a filthy nerd’s paradise ;).

It is now August, and I’m finally back in this chair, writing not just to you, but writing stories again. Somehow, I released Transfer back in May, but only because it had been finished back when the basement flooded the previous September, and all it needed was a couple of good, hard edits to clean it up. I powered through, I’m not sure how, but then collapsed back into a terrible state of depression, one that I’d been wallowing in since the flood. I tried, I really, really tried, to write once everything started getting better, which means from about March or April of this year. But other than fixing Transfer up and getting it published, my brain simply wouldn’t cooperate. I couldn’t concentrate on anything other than “what if my basement floods again?” or “what if I actually do have a terminal illness and pissing blood was just the first stage?” or “what if some other asshole plows into Carly on her way to or from work and this time she’s seriously injured?” or a million other things that my rat-brain tried to convince me would happen.

And, you know, all this time, since November 2016, there was the knowledge that somehow the citizens of this country elected Donald Trump as our president. You can imagine the blow to both of us over that, since we’re very vocal supporters of LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, civil rights for minorities, supporters of both refugees and immigrants, and so on and so forth.

By the way, if this last paragraph angers you, well, I guess the only thing I can say is “too fucking bad.” I won’t apologize for supporting all of those things, for being liberal, or possibly even a socialist. I’m a human being and the pain that many of my friends and family have suffered since the election isn’t imaginary for us, for them, and for everyone else that has been affected by it. So, again, “too fucking bad” if my anger towards our president and those who support him upsets your snowflake sensibilities.

Anyway, like I said, everything is finally back to normal. My brain is clear and roaring to get back into the thick of things. In fact, I’ve already finished another book, a collection of short stories and novellas that will be called “The Minotaur.” Trevor Smith is finishing up the cover for it, but here’s a taste of what it will look like:

“The Minotaur” rough cover by Trevor Smith

Yep, that’s a 12 year old kid battling the devil for his soul over a game of pinball. And yeah, I know it sounds weird, but it’s sort of my tribute to Stephen King. Plus there will be a bunch of other stories, some sci-fi, some not, who knows, you’ll just have to read it so you can send me angry emails telling me what a horrible author I am!

Right now, I’m finishing up a romance-time travel story which is, according to the few who get to read early versions, as mind-bendy as “Transfer” is. I’m also working on finishing up “Skydark,” which is a post-nuclear war adventure tale, then I’m going to try and finish up the other 8-10 books that are 50-90% done but got delayed by all the shit that has happened in the last year.

Okay, thanks for taking the time to read this, and thank you to everyone who kept me going during this last year+ of chaos, terror, and depression. I’m back in the driver’s seat, and I sincerely hope you’ll be right there with me in the passenger seat so we can enjoy these crazy, weird, sometimes dark and ugly, sometimes funny and charming stories together!

Travis Hill, August 17, 2018

The History of Books: Part 1-ish

So I got into a discussion with a friend the other day about a bad review on one of my books. He wanted to know why I hadn’t armed myself like Rambo and chased the person down and I guess blow him up with an explosive-tipped arrow (I mean, these arrows can blow up Russian attack helicopters, so I’m pretty sure I can blow up a reviewer pretty easily, assuming I can even draw a bow without folding in on myself like an accordion in a Bugs Bunny cartoon).

I just shrugged and said I didn’t take it personally. I realized a long time ago that no matter how great something or someone is, there’s always got to be one (or as usual, more than one) person who has to go and take a shit all over it. That’s human nature. I mean, I bet if Jesus showed up, there’d be a mob posting troll comments all over his YouTube sermons.

That phrase, by the way, ‘taking a crap all over <insert whatever someone was taking a crap all over>,’ is actually from around 400,000 years ago.

In the ancient days, a caveman looked at another caveman’s drawing about a mammoth being hunted, and smeared excrement in the shape of a penis on it. This was Og’s first bad review, and he was incensed enough to hunt down the offending reviewer, and crush the reviewer’s head with a heavy stone.

Rokk, the first caveman lawyer, successfully defended Og, earning him the world’s first acquittal. He then went on to draw cave paintings of how he successfully defended Og. Of course, there were plenty of other cave persons who thought Rokk was the lowest form of caveman scum, even for caveman lawyers, and they smeared many pounds of excrement all over Rokk’s masterful drawing of his lawyerly prowess.

However insultingly disgusting that was, Rokk’s ego was saved by the many more supporters he had who would smear honey or blood on the cave paintings, while others would draw little cave paintings of praise below Rokk’s masterpiece.

Those little drawings of praise were the first set of known reviews on Amazon.com. The little drawings of trolls or ice cream cones below the little drawings of praise below the cave drawings were also the first comments on the first reviews at Amazon.com.

Yes, I know it was before electricity and computers were invented. Who’s story is this? Mine or yours? That’s what I thought. Now shut the hell up and learn about some book history stuff!

*****

 A long time ago, this guy wrote a book. It was a pretty damn good book, but it was getting all messed up because everyone wanted to read it, and it was the only book. Producing a book back in this time was pretty expensive. The author had to write it all out by hand. (I hear young authors crying out in disbelief, but it is true, I swear. I even wrote by hand once, and not just to be “retro cool” either… it sucked but it was either that or lug around a 72 pound typewriter, which only got it stolen from you, and then you got your ass beat by big kids who called you names like “Eternal Virgin” and “Sissy Bitch.”)

And paper wasn’t like today. The author couldn’t just go down to Ye Old Wal-Mart Emporium and stock up on 200 count, college-ruled, spiral-bound notebooks for $.28/ea (Price Drop!). There were no name-brand pens and pencils and fuzzy troll eraser buddies and Scooby-Doo lunch boxes. You spent a small fortune for paper, or maybe papyrus if you are imagining this author living waaaaay back. Ink was messy, you had to dip something called a ‘quill’ into it, then once you wrote about two words, you dabbled sand onto the page to soak up the extra ink and help it dry.

If you are like me, your question is, “How the fuck did anyone ever write a second book?” Continue reading

Ability – Part III (Update)

Key kids, so I finally decided to publish Part III of “Ability.” I’ve been kinda holding it back because I had serious doubts about how readers would feel about it. It’s definitely where the story begins to take a much darker tone in preparation for the next book, which will be called “Progeny.”

After almost six weeks of waffling, my wife beat me about the neck and head with a blunt object to let me know I should publish it. Readers want to know how the first book ends, and as I was reminded by her, my major rule is to not worry about what readers will think and just write the stories I want to write.

This isn’t supposed to mean that I don’t give a damn at all what readers think. I most certainly do, but in terms of when I’m writing a story, I most certainly don’t. I always write stories that I want to read that no one else is writing. My stories are darker, grittier, harsher than the majority of self-published authors (and a majority of traditionally-published authors as well).

For some reason, I’ve spent the last six weeks worrying too much about the reaction from some readers. Part of this stems from the fact that Ability is a story I’m charging readers to read, and part of it stems from the fact that I’m only a few more days away from publishing my ‘debut’ novel (my first full-length novel, and one I will charge money for). The novel, “Alive, or Just Breathing” is a Young Adult / New Adult fiction novel, and it is pretty damn dark. I think having two books of this nature at once have messed with my psyche a little.

On a brighter note, I’ve finished one time-travel story, 60,000 words (about the length of the full “Ability” story). I’m 50,000 words into a second time-travel story, which should end up at about 100,000 words or so. I plan on combing them into a single book, giving readers two books for the price of one. The finished story is a supposed to be a bit of a light-hearted romp through time as an agent chases an ‘evil’ scientist. The Work In Progress is a bit light-hearted as well, but it has a much darker theme (notice a pattern here???). I had to stop writing last night after 3k words as I kind of depressed myself and freaked myself out a bit haha.

Anyway, that’s the update. Stay tuned for “Ability – Part III” and soon after the full “Ability” omnibus edition (in paperback!). Any day now, “Alive, or Just Breathing” will be available to read as well. I’m planning on publishing anywhere from 6-10 books in 2014, and a number of short stories and novellas. Things are picking up!

Travis