New Desk

Desk_0582

Note before you start reading: You can click the photos to view them full-sized. I just thought you might want to know that before you scroll down.

My old desk was falling apart. The front lip was barely holding on, the surface was scratched and stained. I didn’t care about the stains, but the mars on the surface were more accurately described as “gouges” than “scratches.”

Desk_0583Add to that, the hutch was half hanging on because an ill-advised attempt to move the entire desk away from the wall. One of the mount points of the hutch gave way in that effort, so the desk had become more than a little hazardous.

Desk_0584All-in-all, it was time to replace the desk. It had served my wife as a desk since around 1999, and I took it over sometime around 2009. We got our money’s worth out of it, and then some.

Desk_0585I was sad to see it replaced because it was a great surface. It allowed me to spread out and have many piles of (highly organized) paper within easy reach. It was also very deep from the wall. Most desks are about two feet in depth. This one was almost three feet deep. Very nice, indeed.

Desk_0586My wife and I started shopping online to find a replacement. We exhausted all of the obvious choices, and many of the not-so-obvious web sites. I found some that I liked, but that our pocketbook would not. With a tear in my eye, I’d close those browser tabs and continue my search.

Desk_0587At one point, my wife started listing off sites faster than I could open new tabs, let alone search them. I finally told her to grab her iPad and help me out. I continued my search while she snagged her device, and then we continued scouring the Internet for a new desk side-by-side.

Desk_0588Then she landed on quill.com and a wonderful desk for a fantastic price. I’d seen similar desks for $800 to $1200. When I saw the desk, I didn’t think there was a chance we’d be able to afford it. Then I saw the price of $300 with a free hutch.

Holy cow!

Desk_0590We ordered the desk ASAP (in case it was an soon-to-be-corrected error), and waited for a ship date. Well, I was called last Friday with an arrival date of Monday. When I got home, I started cleaning things up and boxing up desk contents. With the help of my son, we started tearing down the desk.

Desk_0591I think I finally finished getting the tear-down complete Sunday afternoon. Then there was the obligatory “vacuum under where all of the furniture used to be” process, and things were ready for construction instead of destruction.

Desk_0592Monday after work arrived, and I had a friend come over to help me out with the desk. The construction took forever. If you get one of these, plan on a good 8-9 hours of effort. Of course, the word “effort” falls short of the intense workout you get from moving around 300 pounds of wood and metal, even when the whole thing breaks down into pieces.

We got the job done, though!

Desk_0593The next day, I set about cleaning up the mess before migrating my stuff back into my office. Everything fits nicely, though my monitor barely squeezes under the hutch, and the bottom lip of the hutch blocks my view of the top edge of the monitor. I have to hunch down to see the top 1/4 inch or so. Not a big deal in my book.

Desk_0596With the desk together, the office put back in order, and me sitting here typing this, I’m very happy with my new office arrangement.

Desk_0597Many thanks to my wonderful wife for letting me get a new desk, signing for it when it arrived, and helping out with the construction for as long as she could stay away. I’m sorry we kept waking you throughout the late hours with the banging and thumping, but it’s hard to put these things together in silence.


Obligatory 2014 Recap

new-years-day-2015Wow. What a year. Ups. Downs. Even some sideways curves thrown in. I’m not going to go through every, gritty little detail and bore you to death. Here are some highlights of the year for me!

  • The year started out with a bang as the government decided it wanted back taxes on my grandfather’s estate. I damn near blew a gasket as my dad had promised this wouldn’t happen again. The stress of this all damn near drove me to stroke-level blood pressure for a couple of months. In the end, we had to sell my grandparent’s house (the house I spent ages 12-19 living in) to pay the taxes and get some cash out of the deal.
  • While this ordeal was going on, I received the good news that Phobias: A Collection of True Stories had been released with one of my stories in it. It’s a non-fiction piece, but it’s a gripping tale of how my arm was mostly amputated in a car wreck, and what’s gone on with me (physically, mentally, and emotionally) since that dark night in 1988.
  • Then came April with the annual Pikes Peak Writers Conference. Yet another great conference was had by all, and I was extremely grateful to be able to meet and hang out with old friends and new friends alike. The highlights of my 2014 PPWC were meeting Chuck Wendig, Jim C. Hines, and Michelle Johnson. Michelle asked for my full manuscript while at conference, but ended up passing on it later in the year. More on that later.
  • The rest of the year passed as I cranked out short stories, submitted them to a variety of markets, and let the rejection slips pile up in my inbox. Such is the life of a writer. You keep at it. Write more. Become better. Submit stuff. Accept rejection. Rejoice in acceptance.
  • July found me at a new Day Job. I’m still doing software engineering duties, but simply for a different employer now.
  • August rolled around and another anthology I’m in was officially released. The road was long and arduous for this particular anthology, but it got pulled off and I’m quite happy to have a story in Carnival of the Damned.
  • September found me in Paris for ten days (including travel time) for work. It was nice to go back again (I went as part of a tour group when I was a teen), but able to go alone, do what I wanted, when I wanted, and all that good stuff. However, I did get sick right before the weekend. Horribly sick. I bounced back quick enough, though. I was still able to see some of the sights I wanted to visit, but not nearly as many. That’s ok. I guess I’ll save up some things to see for next time I make it there.
  • Then in October a few things hit nearly at the same time.
  • Early in the month a flash fiction piece I’d written called “Broken Violence” was featured on HorrorAddicts.net.
  • Then later in the month, MileHiCon rolled around. This is a near-local (just up in Denver) convention that’s very well-priced (less than 50 bucks) and is always a hoot to attend. Again, I got to meet up with old friends and make some new ones while I was at it. The convention was all-around great (again) even if the fire alarms went off a few times on Saturday night and forced us to move the midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show to another room.
  • When November rolled around, I received a very nice and thoughtful rejection letter from Michelle regarding Warmaiden. At this point, I’d been shopping the book around for an agent/editor for over five years. I decided it was time to move on from Laurin’s stories and write something fresh and new. The struggle to publish my first novel (and its sequels) was just becoming too much of a burden, and I needed to step away. It all, I trunked around 320,000 words from the trilogy. I still have them around, but they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
  • December rolled around, and I was writing more short stories, and decided to take a break from them to crank on a novel. I took two “short” (they’re short-to-novelette length tales) stories about the same character, merged them, added more material, amped up the grit and blood, and created (what I think is) a pretty decent urban fantasy tale. It’s a bit on the short side (about 44,000 words), so I’m going to run it past the critique group and get their input on places to improve/expand the story.
  • If you look to the right sidebar of my site, you’ll see that I came up one story short on my goal, and 10 submissions short of that particular goal. I’m okay with that. I now have one more publication from those submissions (Broken Violence), and eleven more stories to shop around once they get some polish on them.

I gotta say…. Except for the shitty start to the year, I’ve had a pretty good one so far.

Here’s to hoping 2014 was nice to you, and may 2015 bring you as much success as you can fit in your hot little hands!

PS: Resolution for 2015 will be posted tomorrow. I’m still mulling around a few ideas, and I’m not sure which one to jump on just yet.


Without Damage

FunctionalNerdsLogoI’m about a month behind in my podcast listening, so some of you may have already listened to the podcast I’m going to talk about tonight. If not, do yourself a favor and checkout episode 206 of The Functional Nerds. (Check them all out, actually. They’re really good!) In this episode, Patrick Hester and John Anealio brought Sarah Chorn to the podcast as their guest.

During the course of the interview, they talked about how many books Sarah reads in a year, her excellent book review site (see link above), and her regular column on SF Signal called Special Needs in Strange Worlds.

What I want to talk about is a phrase that John Anealio dropped in the middle of the conversation. I’m going to give you the phrase, and then the context. The phrase itself may seem heartless truth, but read on before sending hate mail to John. The phrase is:

No one gets out of this life without a little damage.

The context in this statement is that they were talking about John’s son, who is in the autistic spectrum, Sarah’s health problems, and the curve balls life throws at us. John spoke the phrase, not in the vein of “Dammit! Why the fuck does this happen to me?” but in from the angle of compassion. He knows the truth of life handing you things you may not want or in a way you may not prefer, and he thinks that community (any supportive community) is what bonds us together as people, not just human beings.

John hit the nail on the head. No one is perfect. No life is perfect. Between the time you’re born until the time you’re put in a grave, life deals you damage. There may be breathing room here and there where life takes it easy on you. Cherish those moments. Be thankful (this is a Thanksgiving Day post, after all) for the times in which the fellow with the baseball bat stops to admire his handiwork on your life. Those are the moments in which you thrive.

This is not to say that life is a downer. It’s most certainly not. This act of breathing and acting and reacting and moving and doing and creating and all that is wonderful. It’s to be cherished. It’s to be hold close and admired along with the community you choose to surround yourself with.

Just remember that those people around you (and those you push back out at a distance) are damaged as well. All of us have been hurt and pushed down in the dirt at some point. Some of us recover, but bear scars. Some limp along (usually emotionally) for the rest of their days. Keep that in mind when dealing with especially bothersome people. They are not without damage. Give them some compassion, and you might be amazed at what the outcome brings.

For all of you that struggle with your particular flavor (or flavors) of damage: You Are Not Alone. We’re all there in some way. There are people and places that truly want to help and see you succeed in your endeavors.

Be human. Be damaged. Be beautiful because of it, not instead of it.


A Post In Which I’m Interviewed

Hey all. Long time no post. Sorry for the radio silence here, but life’s been… well… life.

I wanted to drop by here real quick and let everyone know that I’m still alive and well. I’m well enough to do interviews, too!

I have proof of that statement over at K.J. Scrim’s web site. If you have a moment or twelve to learn a little more about me, check out my answers to K.J.’s fantastic questions. I really had a good time answering everything.

Thanks for the interview, K.J.!

PS: Here’s a sample:

KJ ~~ If you took a two-week vacation in any book or story, where would you go and who would you be?
J.T. ~~ Most of the places I read about in fiction are horrific places! Marauding orcs, horrible demons, power-hungry fae, and constant warfare tend to be the fare of what I read. I don’t want to visit any of those places at all. If I had to pick a place, it would be… (hit the link above to see the full answer and more!)


Updated Podcast List

I do this from time-to-time. Last time was about a year and a half ago. You can see my past podcast listings here and here. Here’s my current list of what I listen to and why:

  • Adventures in SciFi Publishing
    • This is a great podcast packed full of interviews with the occasional recording of a live panel. The conversations are always engaging and well done.
  • Angry Robot Books
    • This seems to have podfaded as of late, but when there is an episode, the quick interview and Angry Robot news are very insightful.
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies
    • Great fiction! This is usually along the fantasy vein of things, but they’ll run the rare other genre as well.
  • Clarkesworld Magazine
    • This is a speculative fiction magazine that tends toward the softer sci-fi, but they’ll run a good hard sci-fi story as well.
  • Escape Pod
    • The all-around best science fiction podcast out there. It’s also one of (if not THE) oldest, still active, science fiction podcasts out there. It was this one that got me into listening to podcasts, and I haven’t looked back.
  • Fear the Boot
    • A roundtable discussion about various role playing topics (and a bit more) happens on this podcast. There’s a “usual cast” of folks, but they usually bring in someone new or rare to the table as well. The wide variety of opinions and ideas coming out of the speakers make this a great one.
  • The Functional Nerds
    • This is Patrick’s and John’s podcast where they will sometimes (very rarely these days) talk between themselves about various topics of the day, news in genre fiction, technology and the like. For most shows, they have an author, musician (rare), or other creative type on the podcast to interview and have a casual conversation with.
  • The Geek Side of Life
    • This is a rare hit on my RSS feeds, but I leave it in there because the episodes are usually interesting to me in some geekly manner.
  • Hide and Create
    • This is a four-way roundtable discussion about writing. The “claim to fame” for this podcast is that they have an indie author, a traditionally published author, an editor, and a a tie-in writer on the podcast. This gives four very interesting points of view when it comes to writing, publishing, craft, business, and execution.
  • I Should Be Writing
    • Ahh… Mur… What to say about her? She’s GREAT! When I’m feeling down in the dumps about my writing, I’ll listen to Mur’s voice tell me that she’s feeling the same way despite her amazing success as a podcaster and author. The advice she gives (especially during the feedback shows) is invaluable.
  • Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff
    • Kenneth Hite and Robin D. Laws get together and pump out a four-segment show each week. These segments are a broad range of topics, but they’ll always be of interest to any writer, gamer, history buff, or conspiracy theorist out there. I happen to be all four, so this podcast is right up my alley.
  • Lightspeed Magazine
    • These are some great short stories (usually science fiction, but not always), put out by the Lightspeed crew.
  • NPC Cast
    • NPC Cast is a role playing podcast in which Del, Chris, and Aaron sit around talk (almost always in a positive manner) about various aspects of face-to-face gaming. It doesn’t matter if it’s board games, role playing, or cards. They’ll cover it.
  • Odyssey SF/F Writing Workshop Podcasts
    • These are rare to hit the RSS feed, but they’re well worth the wait. These are usually 15, 30, or 60 minutes in length and are excerpts from the Odyssey Writing Workshops. If you need a quick in-and-out bit of information from a master on that topic, check these out!
  • PodCastle
    • PodCastle is the #1 place to go for wonderful fantasy short stories. They’ll sometimes run a “giant” episode of longer works, but they are always great to listen to.
  • Pseudopod
    • If I need the chill of a spectral finger running down my spine, I’ll turn up some Pseudopod. The horror they present ranges across the spectrum of the genre. You never know what flavor of fright you’ll be getting from week-to-week.
  • RoleplayDNA
    • This is another rarity in the RSS feeds, but the roundtable discussions on role playing cover a great deal of topics, and helps keep me up-to-date on the local news in the role playing community. These guys are based out of Broomfield, CO, and that’s about 2 hours away from my house. They tend to cover news in the Boulder/Broomfield/Denver area, but if an event is large enough, I’ll make the drive to check things out.
  • The Roundtable Podcast
    • Dave is back! He took a long hiatus from podcasting while tending to his ailing mother, but has returned to the airways of the Internet with his rockin’ good podcast. On The Roundtable Podcast, he does interviews with authors, then takes those authors and critiques a story idea by an up-and-coming writer. The intros he gives the authors are legendary!
  • SF Signal
    • Patrick Hester does a great job in interviewing people, running “online panels,” and herding the monkeys into a semblance of hilarious order while covering topics in the speculative fiction fields. He and his guests cover huge tracts of land (see what I did there?) in great detail. The podcast is always insightful, usually entertaining, and well worth your time.
  • The Shared Desk
    • Tee and Pip do a great job of talking about the nitty-gritty of the life of a professional author. They should know. They’ve been doing it for a while now.
  • Slate’s Stranger Than Fiction (This is a link to the latest episode.)
    • I thought this one had podfaded, but as I was about to drop it from my list, another episode came out. These podcasts are usually centered around the “what if” of life and how it’s coming true.
  • Speculate!
    • This is a good podcast in which Greg and Brad review a book, tear down (not in a malicious way, but in a constructive way) the book, and then interview the author of the book. Between their triptychs, they’ll do interviews as well. Always great stuff for any writer or reader out there.
  • Writing Excuses
    • This is one of my top podcasts! In this one, Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard get together (with a rare guest as well) and talk about some aspect of writing for 15 minutes. They cover craft, business, life, health, art, ideas, critiques, etc.. You name some aspect of the writing life, and they’ll cover it.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that I linked to each one of the podcast’s website. You can also find all of these in iTunes (which is how I slurp them off the Internet, shove them onto my iPod, and inject them into my ears.) I’m sure other audio marketplaces (Stitcher comes to mind) probably carries some of these as well.


Book Review: Divinity by Michelle L. Johnson

Divinity CoverI met Michelle at the 2014 Pikes Peak Writers Conference and, as writers will do, we got to talking about what we write. When she told me about her book, I knew I had to have it. As soon as she let me know that the pre-order for Divinity was available, I slapped down my credit card on the virtual counter top at Barnes and Noble’s Web Site, and through some miracle they shipped it to me almost a month early! I don’t know how that happened. I don’t ask questions of divine intervention. I just smile and nod and continue on with life.

Anyway… This means that I have the pleasure of being one of the first people to read her novel (outside the normal circles of critique groups, agents, editors, ARCs, beta readers, etc.) Since I’m one of the first outside her inner circle to get the book, I get to be one of the first to review it.

I rarely write book reviews, so bear with me if this is a little sparse or shoddy. I’m doing my best not to give away spoilers that aren’t already given away in the back-cover blurb, so that’s why I’ll be intentionally vague about certain parts.

First off the official description as given from the B&N web site:

When Julia climbs into a flaming car to save a trapped child, she’s left wondering why either of them survived. Then she learns that her father is the Archangel Gabriel, and that she is half human, half Archangel.

With guidance from Michael, the most powerful Archangel, Julia sets out to discover her own history and explore her angelic powers. But her journey is cut short when an evil force, invisible to human and angel alike, tears her world apart.

Now Julia must fight through her despair, harness her newfound gifts, and risk her very soul to stop the A’nwel and protect the family she never knew she had.

What she doesn’t know is that Archangels have secrets too.

My review and thoughts:

Michelle does just enough world building and scene setting to let me get to know Julia before ramping things up with a car crash that Julia dives head first into. She’s saving a child from a burning car despite all mortal danger she’s presented with. I immediately know what kind of person Julia is and that I’d love being friends with her. Her selfless actions (and love for coffee) tied me to her right away. When strange things happen during the rescue of the child, Julia reacts as any person would and this made the “strange things” that much more believable.

After the rescue in the flaming car crash, things escalate pretty quickly from there. There are some authors that slam down the accelerator and never give the reader a chance to come up for air. Those books have their place, but it’s a rare one of those that finds a place on my shelf. Michelle doesn’t roar through the book at a breakneck speed. She masterfully has highs and lows in the book that kept me guessing at what was to come next. I smiled when I got things right. When my guesses were off the mark, I was very pleasantly surprised at the turn of events. Some were shocking. Many were emotional (yes, I cried in Jimmy John’s while reading this book…. several times.) All of them were wonderfully done.

Michelle carried me through Julia’s story and showed me how Julia changed from the first day of events through the last moments of the book. The closing scene of the book, well, no spoilers, so don’t worry. That closing scene left me worried, concerned, and deeply wanting more of Julia’s story. I’ve been assured there is a sequel in the works, which makes me incredibly happy. I hear some people saying, “But I want a complete story, not a ‘continued next week….’ kind of series.” Don’t worry. You get a fully story. There are incredibly character, plot, and theme arcs within these covers that carry through to a satisfying conclusion. That closing epilogue is the cherry on top, though.

Now for one downside that I found with the book. There are scenes from the archangels’ points of view. I did not expect this at all. The first few jarred me out of Julia’s story, but when I realized there were two story lines traveling side-by-side, those scene transitions became much easier. Michelle does this fairly early in the book, so it’s not like you have 200 pages of Julia and then we pop into the heads of the angels. That would be incredibly jarring. In this case, it was a mere mental stumble on my part, but once I got into the rhythm and groove of moving between Julia and the archangels, the read went much smoother. I want to say that it took me about three back-and-forth switches for me to realize the purpose of the breaks and how things were going.

This leads me to my favorite part of the book: the angels. Even though the stakes of the book are incredibly high (for angel and mortal alike), the angels still have a wry sense of humor about them. These brief moments of levity were some of the “breather moments” I mentioned above. In addition to their sense of humor you quickly learn that the angels are not of a like mind, nor are they perfectly allied with one another against “evil” or the dastardly deeds of Lucifer and his minions. Just the concept of angels being individuals rather than a perfectly molded extension of God brings whole new levels of thought to my mind.

Well done, Michelle.

I can’t wait to pre-order the sequel!


The Cat’s in the Cradle

Cat's in the Cradle

Cat’s in the Cradle

On Tuesday, when I got home from the Day Job, my son approached me within seconds of my backpack hitting the floor.

He asked, “Daddy? Can we play football?”

I told him that I wanted a few minutes to veg out and just chill before doing anything. I’m often tired from the long day at work and the almost hour commute to get home from work.

He understood that I was tired, and wandered off to play with some toys.

By the time I had changed clothes, sufficiently relaxed, ate some dinner, and just puttered around the house, it was dark outside. Too late to play football.

I apologized to my son for missing out on the football. He understood.

What I didn’t understand is that he wanted to spend some quality time with me. It wasn’t about the playing. It wasn’t about the football. It was about me. He wanted time with me.

I didn’t get it.

Then I saw this comic on Real Life this morning, and I got it.

Damn. I screwed up.

The cat’s in the cradle. It won’t stay there for long.

If I want my son to grow up to be a good man, I have to show him how to do it. I can’t just instruct or tell or educate. There has to be a demonstration of a quality life with the loved ones around you.

I have no plans for tonight after work, so I’m going to spend some quality time with my son tonight. It’s not about the playing. It’s not about the football. It’s about my son. It’s about the man he’ll grow up to be someday. Someday soon. These years with him are flying by. I’ve got to learn to treasure them more.


Carnival of the Damned is Released

Carnival of the Damned

Carnival of the Damned

I can feel the utter fright creeping into your veins as I type this. An anthology full of creepy clowns, strange carnivals, dark circuses, and sideshow freaks has hit the virtual shelves of Amazon.

That’s right, folks. Carnival of the Damned is out! I have a brief description of the my story on my short stories page.

I’d love to chat more about how great this book is, but I can’t just yet. I’ve only seen my story. I can tell you that I’m itching with anticipation to get my hands on the book. I share a table of contents with some great names, and I know I’ll be blown away by their horrific imaginings.


Resolution Update

If you remember way back in January, I posted that I wanted to get twelve short stories written this year. I also wanted to submit each of them to three different markets each.

Well… I’m a little behind as you can see on the sidebar.

At this point, I should be halfway through story number eight. Instead, I’m about halfway through story number seven. That puts me a full month behind in where I wanted to be. However, this is not an insurmountable problem. I just need to buckle down and work on the words.

As far as the submissions go, I should be somewhere in the area of twenty-two submissions out the door. I’m at seven. This puts me at a third of where I should be. Again, it’s not insurmountable. I have the markets I want to submit to. I just need to get on the ball and throw the stories out the door. Of the six stories I’ve finished, I’m going to say that four (maybe five) are ready to be sent out.

I guess I need to put those five dollars per month that I’m giving to Duotrope to use. I haven’t used that site in months, but they still get their drop of blood from my wallet. Time to change that.

I guess it’s time for me to get back to the writing and submitting.

Wish me luck!


Robin Williams… And More

I’m not sure what to say here that’s coherent or will make sense, but I gotta get this out of me.

Robin Williams passed away today of an apparent suicide.

I’ve lost more than my fair share of close friends to suicide. It’s one of the most painful ways to lose someone you love. Probably the most painful. I hate the word. I hate the act. I hate what it does to friends and families. I…

Let me rewind a bit before I get carried away on that train of thought.

I’m 13 years old and living with my grandparents full time. My grandmother is in the hospital with her second heart attack, and I’m horribly frightened to my very core that I’m going to lose the woman that’s taken me into her home without hesitation or question. I’m scared like I’m 3, not 13, that she’s going to leave me behind. I’m old enough to know that everyone dies. I’m young enough to think that I have forever with those around me. These two conflicting thoughts rage in my mind, and I’m not sure what to do with myself.

My step mom is staying with me in the house while my grandfather cares for my ailing grandmother. We’re flipping channels, and get to HBO (I think it was HBO) that’s showing the intro for Robin Williams’s An Evening at the Met performance. Despite the adult material and cussing in the show, my step mom lets me watch the whole thing. We laughed together until we cried. For those scant few hours, my tears were of joy, my shaking was from guffaws, and my soul was soothed from the worries about my grandmother.

That’s the night I fell in love with Robin Williams. I looked up to him like that crazy uncle that everyone loves and he loves everyone back with such ferocious passion that no matter what he does, you support him in everything.

When Robin went to repeated rehab trips, I prayed for him. I truly wanted him to get better. I wanted him to overcome the demons that drove him to drug and alcohol abuse in a healthy manner. I suppose it was a selfish desire because I wanted more of him in my life. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every movie he’s been in. I’ve seen most of his stand-up comedy. I loved it when Whoopie and Billy and Robin would riff and act-up between sets on all eight Comic Relief shows.

When I fought my own, personal darkness in my early 20s, I remember heading to a Hastings to find something to rent to watch. I didn’t know what I wanted. I meandered through the aisles of tapes looking for something to rent. Something caught my eye, and I pulled it out. It was a Robin Williams act I’d seen before. Then I realized they had a full section of Robin’s stand up.

I rented every tape that afternoon. The cute girl behind the counter looked at me weird, but I didn’t care. I was going to have some “me time” with Robin.

I got home, and binge watched every minute of it. I think I finally came up for air two days later. During that time, I cried more. You see, some of these were from later in his career when he didn’t have to fling endless jokes. He could put his own humorous spin on the tragedies of life. He delved into some deep, hidden areas of his psyche that many people didn’t know where there. His vulnerability and honesty and comedy about it all made me cry tears of sympathy, tears of joy, and just tears for no damn good reason.

From that darkness in his life came laughter. It was hard to see the pitch black because of the bright lights Robin put on everything. Maybe if we’d looked a little closer, we could have seen what was coming. Maybe not.

My favorite show on TV last season was The Crazy Ones because of the pain-inducing laughter that I suffered through while I had an inflamed intercostal nerve. It drove lightning-like pain through my torso to breathe deeply, move quickly, or shake my body. The Crazy Ones led to all of the above, and I didn’t care about the agony because I was laughing along with one of my favorite people in the world.

Now he’s gone. I never had aspirations of meeting Robin or becoming a friend of his or anything like that. It was just nice to know that it could happen. Now it can’t. Ever.

Even the most brilliant comedians or the most upbeat people or the happiest souls in the world have pain and sadness and internal agony and demons plaguing them.

I know. I’ve been there. I still go there (unwillingly) from time-to-time.

It’s a hard thing to do, but if you think you’re in (or heading for) one of those times of life when even the brightest light can’t shine, reach out for help. It doesn’t have to be professional help (though I advocate that as well). For starters, it can be a friend, sibling, parent, grandparent, cousin, or anyone close in your life. If you’re a person of faith, find a counselor that shares a similar faith and talk to them. Talk to someone. Talk to many someones. Check in with psychiatrist or psychologist and see if they think you need professional counseling or medication to help with a chemical imbalance.

Having a medical condition that affects that way your brain works is not shameful. Would you be ashamed of having a ruptured appendix or a gallbladder full of stones? No. I don’t think so. Those are serious medical conditions that you don’t ask for or bring upon yourself. The same thing goes for clinical depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, and a host of other mental illnesses.

They are medical conditions, just like that popped appendix.

They can be treated, just like that inflamed gallbladder.

They happen to the best of people. Having a mental illness doesn’t make you less of a person. Having the strength to find help, accepting it, and putting that assistance to good use makes you a better person.

Please don’t suffer in silence or alone.

How am I to know all of this about mental illness? I don’t claim professional training. I don’t have any specialized knowledge or skills in this area.

These are all things I’ve learned by living it. There’s something most of you don’t know about me: I’m bipolar. I go through bouts of severe depression followed quickly by sessions of increased anger and inability to sleep or think straight.

It took me until almost two weeks of no sleep drove me to the doctor. I sat in his office shaking from fear. If I’d had a cold: antibiotics. I knew something was wrong with my brain chemistry, but I didn’t know what. I didn’t know if there was a “magic pill” that would make me better. I didn’t know if I’d end up in a padded room. I didn’t know if the doctor would just shrug and tell me to drink some warm milk before bed time.

I didn’t know. That scared me more than anything.

He talked with me at great length and ran me through some self-assessments. After spending almost two hours with him, he declared me bipolar.

I cried. Not out of fear or anger or frustration. I cried because someone finally had figured out what was wrong with me all those years ago. I started seeing a psychiatrist for the chemical imbalances in my brain. After trying one medicine, I asked for something different because of some side effects that were messing with my life. We swapped to another medication, and it’s been a miracle drug for me. I’m not going to give the name here because I don’t want to endorse my miracle drug. You see. It’s worked wonders for me but your mileage may vary.

I want you, if you need to, find a mental health professional and seek their guidance, not mine. Well, I guess I’m guiding you, but I’m pointing you to someone that can help you more than I can. Assume I’m a sign post that’s pointing the way out of the forest of scary thoughts.

This post has gone on long enough and I’m emotionally exhausted from the news about Robin Williams. I’ll wrap things up here.

I just want you to know that you’re not alone and there are always positive options out there. Please think about that.

Good night, and rest in peace, Mr. Williams. You’ll be missed.

PS: I still have An Evening at the Met on VHS. It’s late now, and I need to get to bed. I think I’ll watch the tape tomorrow night and remember the good times with Robin.