My Journey Through Academia: Out of the Dark … Into the Light

My Walkman, The Real Deal — yes AM and FM! — presented here with a couple of cassettes by my two favorite late-1980s Colorado Springs metal bands.

Yes, the title of this post is, in part, a reference to the Kreator EP I listened to over and over again on my Walkman in the fall of 1988. That gives you an indication of how old I am. I was retro before retro was cool. I had a Walkman that played cassettes; I still have a Walkman that plays cassettes. Who cares if the foam on the original headphones has disintegrated into black grains? I can get new headphones. I guess it’s not that retro or cool to listen to a Walkman using earbuds, but hey, whatever.

It’s been almost a year since I posted anything here. There are some good reasons for that.

First and foremost, I just spent the past eight months finishing work to earn my Bachelor’s degree. Those who’ve known me a long time understand this is a significant achievement. Never mind that it was unlikely I’d live to see the age of 30 — the likelihood of me earning a degree in anything other than hard luck was remote at best. I am now five days away from my 47th birthday, and I have finished all of the coursework required to earn a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences from Texas A&M Commerce. All told, my collegiate journey up to this point has lasted 12 years. The first seven years I spent earning an Associate of Arts. I took a year off, then began work on my Bachelor’s degree. Now, here I am. All done. I will graduate this May.

It’s kind of surreal, honestly. 

Maintaining a full time job (lately consuming about 50-60 hours a week), plus being a husband, father to four kids, servant to four cats, and playing author while keeping up with school work was challenging. Looking back on everything that has happened over the course of these 12 years, I have no idea how it all got done. We adopted two children, rescued five cats, wrote 16 books (novels and novellas), and about 20 short stories. We moved twice, and now we’ve undertaken a pretty big project I’ll keep close to my vest. Suffice to say, we have been busy. I have been buried.

So, yes, it feels very much like I’m coming out of the darkness and into the light. I suddenly have some free time. I have an unpublished novel I need to continue shopping around. I am almost finished writing another novel (I set it aside in November to concentrate on a final push to get these last classes done). I have a notebook full of notes for books and stories I want to write. I am surrounded by piles of books I want to read. My side project and labor of love, Realms of Night, sat neglected while all this went down. I have records to listen to, a guitar that has been gathering dust, and house maintenance projects galore.

On the subject of writing, it’s fair to say the condition of the independent press market is depressing. The demise of DarkFuse was a tough blow. SST Publications is great, and we’re fortunate to continue working with the fine folks at Elder Signs Press. But other than that, the two or three additional independent markets worth casting lots with seem closed to anyone outside their established lists. There are some mass market publishers releasing horror titles, but relatively speaking they are few and far between. It’s also a damned slow process submitting to them. Still, for some reason, I want to keep writing horror. I enjoy other genres and may give those a try at some point, but horror fiction is my true passion. I have time to focus on novels, and I will … soon.

Frankly, now that I can breathe a bit, I feel like my time is much better spent with the kids. Last week, I was chaperone for the fourth grade class field trip with our youngest son. Even with all the crazy kid stuff that goes with a bustling crowd of nine and 10-year-olds, it was awesome. Next year, he’ll be in fifth grade, then sixth grade … and before you know it, I won’t be invited to any more field trips.

These kids grow up fast. One day you turn around and blink with surprise because they seem to have grown three inches overnight. So yes, I will write, but I need a bit of a breather. I’ll slowly finish writing this latest book, but my primary focus is being a dad right now.

We do have new writing projects on the horizon. One has a verbal acceptance, contract pending. Maybe I can even get back to posting here as I aim to finish the galleries at Realms of Night, but priorities are important. Dad first, cat-slave second. All the rest falls into place.

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