Last month, I sent out a newsletter for the first time in a long time. (Are you getting my newsletter? Would you like to receive it? You can click on the “Newsletter” tab up top or you can click right here to sign up. I send it out once a month and try not to bother you too much.) Here, in it’s entirety, is the letter I sent out to subscribers and readers:
Where Have I Been?
It’s been six months since I’ve sent one of these out. I think I still remember how to do it.
But where have I been?
In order to explain that, I need to go back about ten years. So, bear with me. It’ll take a few minutes to explain.
When I published my first book, Killer Swell, in 2005, I was inundated with emails and phone calls from people telling me they’d read the book and they really enjoyed it. My publisher even got a few big time authors to take a look at it prior to publication and they were kind enough to say nice things about it. I remember being relieved that the majority of the people who read the book seemed to like it and I was still a bit dumbfounded by the fact that people were finally reading this book that I’d spent so long writing. I’m not sure that there’s another feeling like having someone come up to you, whom you’ve never met, and have them tell you they read your book and they liked it. It’s a crazy, surreal feeling.
But the one person that read the book who surprised me the most was my dad.
He didn’t read fiction. He was a newspaper guy, a magazine guy, an evening news guy. Make believe didn’t hold much appeal for him and I’m not sure exactly of how many novels he’d read in his life, but I’m pretty confident you could count the total number on one hand.
But he did read Killer Swell and he liked it. I thought he might be bluffing about reading it, so I quizzed him on details and it turned out he wasn’t bluffing. He actually had read it.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. My dad wasn’t crazy into the details of sports like I am, but I can’t recall him ever missing a single basketball or baseball or football game I played in as a kid. He wasn’t a huge movie person, but he took me to see Raiders of the Lost Ark and we saw Chariots of Fire four times in the theater and we couldn’t drive out of the parking lot after seeing Airplane because he was laughing too hard to pull out of the parking space. And he certainly didn’t really understand my fascination with books, but spent plenty of hours sitting in chairs in bookstores while I perused the shelves. So while our interests might’ve been different, he managed to find a way to bridge the gap, even if it bored the crap out of him.
As my career started to grow, I think he (along with my mom) was more excited about it than I was. They wanted to know when the signings were going to happen. They flew to San Diego to be at a signing on my first real book tour. They pushed the book to their friends. In the last ten years, he and my mom have basically served as my sales and marketing team.
That doesn’t mean he read everything I wrote. He tried the Deuce books and he just didn’t get them. Too far removed from reality, probably. The lunacy and humor I put into those books just didn’t resonate with him. And that was fine because it saved me from having to explain that even though the father character in the book was based on him, it wasn’t exactly like him, because I might’ve taken some creative liberty and stretched the boundaries of some of my father’s idiosyncrasies. Mockery is the sincerest form of flattery or something like that.
Over the last few years, while he wasn’t reading the newer books I was writing, he was curious about my career. How do ebooks work? How do you make money? How do you make enough money to pay your bills? Should we clear out the guest bedroom in case you need to move in due to extreme poverty? Within five minutes of walking into his home, he would invariably ask some form of “What are you working on?”
In November of 2013, when things were really starting to take off for me from a writing standpoint, when my life finally was sorting itself out after a period of some really crappy years, his got a bit more complicated. He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer.
It’s an understatement to say that he didn’t take the diagnosis well. He was pissed off. He wasn’t supposed to get cancer. Cancer was something other people had. He just had some back pain and the doctors must’ve been confused.
But they weren’t and he had to deal with the reality that his new reality was different than what he’d planned.
The original prognosis was good. If all things went well, maybe ten years. Maybe a little less. Never good to hear that you’ve been assigned an expiration date, but a decade felt somewhat fair for a guy who’d just crossed seventy years of age. Yeah, there’d be radiation and chemo and a lot of other crap and he wouldn’t feel great all the time, but if it bought him that extra decade, then fine.
There were lots of ups and downs in 2014. Some weeks were good and some were not. If you’ve experienced cancer firsthand, this isn’t news. It is a roller coaster than never stops at the station to let you off. The longest ride you’ve ever been on, the one that provides exactly no thrills. But I think we all were hanging on to that initial prognosis. I’ve had other family members and friends who’ve experienced cancer and come out on the winning end. So I think we all were holding onto the notion that he still had a fair amount of time and hey, sometimes cancer just goes the hell away.
But when we hit January of this year, it was pretty clear that his time was going to be significantly limited. I won’t share all of the ugly details – mainly because he’d probably be mortified that I’d share them with anyone – but, again, if you’ve been around terminal cancer, you know how it goes. Once you start sliding downward, it becomes hard to stop. And the slide started in earnest in February, continued through March and on April 28, 2015, one day after his 73rd birthday, my dad passed away.
It’s very strange now that he’s gone. No phone calls. No texts filled with tons of typos. No more yelling at the guy in the next lane who got too close to his beloved Lexus. There is a void there and it’s almost like he’s gone on some long trip to Europe or something. Which is crazy because the last thing my dad ever would’ve done is travel to Europe.
So my 2015 hasn’t gone as planned. I got Foul Play out at the beginning of the year, but the other projects have been slow going because we’ve been occupied by other things and, quite honestly, I haven’t felt much like writing. The wheels are turning again, though, I promise. But I’m a little reluctant to throw out release dates until I get a bit closer to finishing the next Joe, the next Noah and the next Daisy. They are coming, but I hope you’ll excuse their late arrival. Sometimes, life gets in the way and takes a swing at you when you aren’t expecting it.
Thank you to those of you that knew what was going on and reached out with kind words. I am a private person and share very little about what goes on behind the curtain, but I do appreciate your good thoughts. Thank you to those of you that have asked where the books are. Your continued interest is why I continue to write the books and I genuinely appreciate your investment in my writing. I also sincerely appreciate your patience. I’m getting back to it.
Because I know that somewhere, my dad is asking “So what are you working on?
So that’s where I’ve been. But a new book is on the way. I’ll post the cover in just a few days. You can sign up for the newsletter or check back here if you want to take a look.