Is Settling A Good Life Lesson?

The other day, I was driving with NHL. We were on our way to get some food for Thanksgiving and NHL was talking about one of his passions: video games. Ever since the Nintendo Switch was released, NHL has wanted one. This desire only intensified as he watched some videos on YouTube showing Super Mario Odyssey being played on the Switch. Now, I’ll admit, the game looks amazing. The worlds are open and varied and the game mechanic of taking over your enemies to solve puzzles is inspired. That said, though, the price is steep. The game system itself costs $300 and Super Mario Odyssey costs an additional $60.

The price isn’t deterring NHL. He’s pledged to save up until he has enough money to buy a Switch and Mario Odyssey. There’s only one problem with this: He doesn’t really have any income. He’ll get some money for birthdays or Chanukah, but that’s about it. It would take him years to save enough for a Switch. By then, there would likely be a new game system that he really wants.

As an alternative, I suggested buying a used copy of Super Mario Galaxy 2. He had recently taken it out of the library and played it a bit so he knew he loved it. In addition, it’s a Mario game so it could scratch that particular itch. No, it might not be as good as Odyssey on the Switch, but it might be good enough.

“That’s a horrible lesson to teach me!” NHL shrieked in horror.

“What?” I asked, confused.

“Settling,” he said.

Now, it’s true that you should always reach for your dreams. If you want to be a writer, go for it. If you want to act, go on auditions. If you want to start your own business, by all means pursue it. However, sometimes, you’ve got to realize when a desire is unrealistic. I would love to take a week off of work every month and fly to Disney World. The main problem, though, would be the cost. Well, that and the fact that I don’t have twelve weeks of vacation time a year. I simply couldn’t afford to fly down to Disney World every month. So what do I do? I settle. We can go to Disney World for a week every so many years. In the meantime, we can find other activities that are fun but cost less.

I told NHL that, sometimes, settling was not only an acceptable lesson, but a good one. It’s nice to have dreams and pursue them, but it’s also good sometimes to be a realist. There are times when you need to realize that what you desire is out of reach. When you come to find that out, you can either keep trying fruitlessly to grasp at it, mope about being unable to attain it, or set your sights slightly lower.

This “settling” doesn’t even have to be a permanent detour. It could be a temporary step that eventually leads to your dream. When I published my first novel, I didn’t quit my job to pursue a dream of having a best selling book. I could have quit and spent all my time writing. My second novel definitely would have been done faster. However, sales of my novel haven’t reached anywhere near enough to replace my full time job. Had I quit my job to write full time, we would’ve gone broke before my novels took off. You could say that I “settled” by not pursuing writing full time. That might be true, but I’m also keeping the stable income while working on my writing. If the writing takes off and I can live off of it exclusively, great. If not, I still have the pleasure of writing.

I’ve always thought of myself as an idealistic realist. I have ideals and want to pursue them, but I temper those ideals with the facts of the real world. This keeps me grounded and stops me from following my desires when it would cause ruin. NHL might have thought that “settling” was a bad lesson to teach, but I think it’s imparting a little real world into his idealism. Saving for the Switch is nice, but perhaps he could get more enjoyment – for less money – if he used his spending money elsewhere.

What do you think? Is settling a good life lesson or was I imparting a horrible piece of guidance upon my son?

One Year Novel-versary

One year ago today, I hit the publish button on my novel, Ghost Thief, sending it onto Amazon for the world to read. It was a wild ride getting my first book published. From completing the first draft, the nervousness of giving it to my beta readers, seeing the manuscript printed out for the first time, seeing the first draft copy, to finally getting a box of the books that were to go on sale.
I’ll admit that the book didn’t sell that many copies. Part of that was my fault. One of the big advantages of self publishing is that I don’t have an editor insisting on big changes to my story. The downside is that I don’t have a publishing company advertising my novel. This meant that I had to figure out how to get the word out about my novel – a task that I stumbled at doing.
Of course, one of the reasons that I dropped the ball on advertising my first book was that I began writing my second book. I began with what I assumed would be two short stories to bridge the gap between books one and two. As I wrote the second story, however, I realized I was writing the opening chapters to Book 2.

So I began writing Book 2 in earnest. In the past 10 months, I’ve written over 78,000 words for Book 2, making it much longer than my first book. At that pace, it’s about one printed novel page written per day. I estimate that Book 2 will be about 90,000 words when it’s done. Then again, these stories have a history of laughing at my estimates. They finish when they want to finish, not when I think they’ll be done.

So when will Book 2 be published, you might ask. Well, if everything goes as planned, I could be looking at a May/June publication date. Of course, my previous statement about the story taking its time applies here as well. I could have a burst of writing and editing that cuts the time down, or I could wind up taking more time to get the story just right for publication.

No matter what happens with my second (and third and fourth books – yes, I have ideas for those already), Ghost Thief will always hold a special place in my heart as my first published novel.

Happy anniversary, Ghost Thief!

To celebrate, I recommend downloading the first three chapters for free and, if they intrigue you, buying the book in paperback or Kindle.

Celebrating My Birthday With A 42 Hour Ghost Thief Sale

42. Fans of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy know this as the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. Well, as of tomorrow, it’s also the answer to “Hold Old Is Jason?” Yes, tomorrow is my birthday. I’m leaving 41 behind and adding yet another year to my age. Still, 41 was a pretty good year. After all, that’s when I finally published my first novel – Ghost Thief. For those who might have forgotten, this is a science fiction tale of a thief who gains mysterious abilities and the adventures he has. Here’s a longer description:

Murray Gastev is anything but ordinary. He’s a thief for hire and a good one at that. He completes his latest job but ends up with far more than just the cash he expected to receive. He finds he now has the ability to pass through walls and float. There are just two small problems: He can’t breathe while he ‘ghosts’ and he can’t control where he floats to. With the help of some new friends, Murray might learn to control his powers and may even pull off his biggest heist yet. If he doesn’t end up being sliced to ribbons first.

Usually, when you release a novel, you make a big push to spread the word. Unfortunately, this being my first novel and me being horrible at self-promotion, sales have been stagnant. Well, there’s another reason also. You see, Ghost Thief is going to be a trilogy that also leaves room for short stories within the same universe. I started writing two of those short stories and suddenly realized that this was actually the beginnings of Book 2. That beginning expanded and has blossomed into over 56,000 words. My first book was only eight thousand words longer and this one isn’t even close to finished yet. (Though part of me hopes to hit 100,000 words, I’m thinking it will more realistically end at around 80,000 words.)

Given my upcoming birthday, I wanted to do something special. I decided to cut the price of the Kindle version of my book to 42 cents to celebrate my 42nd birthday. Unfortunately, it turns out you can’t do this. When you set a sale price, it needs to be in $x.99 increments. (Meaning $0.99, $1.99, etc.) So I’ve done the next best thing. Instead of my book being 42 cents for one day, it’ll be $0.99 (the lowest I could make it) for 42 hours. Yes, you have nearly two whole days to grab my book for just under a dollar. This starts at midnight tonight Eastern Time and extends to 6pm Eastern Time on August 4th. After that, the price will rise to $1.99 (still a 60% saving) until 3am on August 9th. (There’s no special significance to that day/time. That was just the longest I could make the sale run for.)

So set a reminder to go to Amazon.com tomorrow and pick up a Kindle copy of my book. The sequel is coming along nicely and – with luck – will be out later this year or early next year. Finally, if you’re not sure if the book is for you, you can download the first three chapters completely free. If you do buy my book and read it, let me know what you think. You can message me on Twitter, Facebook, or via my contact form.

Happy reading, everyone!

NHL, Middle School Graduate

NHLMiddleSchoolThree years ago, we were very nervous. Our son was about to graduate from elementary school and move to middle school. Elementary school had been one fight after another. We moved schools after our son was attacked and the principal tried sweeping it under the rug. We fought with the new school’s principal to get a 504 plan and got yelled at by him because we went above his head when he was dragged his feet. We were denied an IEP because our son’s intelligence meant that they didn’t think he was suffering academically (despite him suffering socially and emotionally – both qualifiers for IEPs). We fought to get his aide changed when the one he was assigned thought yelling at our son repeatedly was acceptable.

Even when things did seem to go NHL’s way, it never lasted. Good aides and teachers had to leave. Quiet moments were punctuated by new crises. We could never enjoy the good times because we knew that something bad was just around the corner.

Needless to say, we were afraid going into middle school. How would NHL handle the increased workload? How would he deal with changing classrooms multiple times a day? How would he deal with the different teachers and students? So much could go wrong that we braced ourselves for a disaster of epic proportions.

Then, the most amazing thing happened: Nothing.

Well, nothing bad at least. NHL’s aide, JG, met him at orientation and they quickly hit it off. JG went above and beyond, even taking it upon himself to learn about autism so he would understand NHL better. He was there by NHL’s side every day, but wasn’t overbearing. He knew when to pull NHL back and when to let him be himself. He slowly, carefully guided NHL all the while walking that all-too-thin line of friend, mentor, and teacher.

Speaking of teachers, NHL’s were incredible also. They saw the potential in him and worked to bring it out. They struck up a strong rapport with him and gained his trust – something that wasn’t easy to do. After years of struggle in elementary school, NHL’s love of learning was like a candle that was about to flicker out. All of his middle school teachers have turned that flickering candle into a raging bonfire. He loves school again so much that when he had the flu one year, he was upset that he couldn’t go to school for a week. That was the worst part of the flu to him. Not the aches and the fever, but missing out on learning more.

The multiple classes actually worked in NHL’s favor. As with many people on the autism spectrum, NHL loves his schedules. He doesn’t deal well if they aren’t strictly adhered to (at least, not without prior warning). In elementary school, though, the teacher’s schedule might say that math ends at 1pm, but since the same teacher teaches all subjects, she might go long. NHL did not like that at all. In the middle school, though, the bell rings when the class is over. The teacher might be able to shout out a homework assignment as the kids leave, but he/she can’t decide that the kids all need to stay for ten more minutes. The schedule is strictly enforced and NHL thrived with that.

He also thrived with the subject matter. In elementary school, they would often go over the same material over and over to make sure that all of the kids understood it. This left NHL bored. He understood it the first time and couldn’t understand why he wasn’t being allowed to learn more. In middle school, though, the pace was picked up which suited NHL just fine. His mind was a sponge that was finally being given the water it so desperately wanted to absorb. He also was placed in honors classes in the seventh and eighth grades which helped surround him with more students who were intent on learning and not messing around.

When it comes to the students, he found people who were willing to accept him quirks and all. I had the pleasure of going on four field trips with him during his middle school career and each time I loved seeing him interact with his peers. NHL is like me in so many ways that I feared he’d be like me socially. I was bullied and reacted by withdrawing within myself. The less I showed the outside world, the less ammunition I thought I’d give my bullies. I desperately wanted to socialize, but always felt embarrassed by my every action.

NHL, on the other hand, feels no such embarrassment. Yes, this can lead to times when he does things that are inappropriate, but it also means that he doesn’t hold back when forging friendships. I liked that the students seemed to forgive NHL his excesses and still wanted to interact with him. To give one example, during a recent trip to Montreal with his class, I was in charge of NHL and three other students at the Jean-Talon Market. There was so much to see and eat, that the kids wanted to see everything. Unfortunately, part of the stop involved completing a scavenger hunt. NHL can’t help himself when it comes to scavenger hunts. He feels compelled to speed through whatever area he’s in until he’s completed it. NHL’s classmates were getting visibly upset with his constant verbal tugs to move onto the next thing so he could fill in the next line. The one girl in the group, who’s been friendly with NHL for years, threatened to judo chop him if he didn’t stop. And yet, later that day when we went shopping in the underground market, she voluntarily joined NHL and I with another of his friends on our shopping adventure. She knew how to express her frustration with NHL without completely severing herself from him.

I could go on and on about how wonderful middle school was for NHL. Were there bumps? Sure. Still, they were so few and far between that we actually found ourselves relaxing. We didn’t react to every small speedbump as if it meant that everything was going to grind to a halt. We began to (*gasp*) trust that his teachers and aide could address it – which they did. They thought of us as all being part of a team whose job it was to make NHL excel and they worked WITH us to make that happen instead of working against us because they thought they knew better. And guess what? When we all worked together, we succeeded in making NHL succeed.

Finally, I’ve talked about everyone but NHL. Middle school would still have been a disaster had it not been for NHL. All the support mechanisms in the world won’t help someone if they don’t apply themselves. After his first marking period was over, NHL received the honor roll, but the middle of the three levels. He immediately declared that he was getting the highest level the next marking period. I tried to caution him that we just wanted him to do his best and he didn’t need to worry about grades as much. I didn’t want him to be disappointed. Silly me. Like Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield, NHL kept setting goals for himself and knocking them down. One marking period, his science grade went DOWN because he “only” got a 97 on the final exam.

NHL applied himself again and again, learning everything his teachers taught him and making it look easy. He struck up friendships and pushed himself more and more. Every time we thought “there’s no way NHL will be able to deal with this”, he not only dealt with it, but aced it. Sure, there were times when he held back his meltdowns until he came home. Times when his happy-go-lucky attitude switched to angry, at-the-end-of-his-rope teen the minute he entered B’s car. Still, we were happy to take that bullet because it meant that NHL was coping better in school itself. (We also worked with his teachers to find the sources of these delayed meltdowns and fix them in the future. Yay, team!)

So now NHL is off to high school. He’s leaving behind the familiar and facing the unknown again. We are nervous only because middle school has set such a high bar. Still, we know what NHL is capable of. He has such great potential inside of him and is am amazing young man. I can’t wait* to see him grow into an exceptional high school kid.

Congratulations, NHL!

* Well, maybe I can wait a little. Stop growing up so quickly NHL. That goes for you too, JSL.

Building a Lego Fidget Spinner

IMG_20170524_194646783The fidget spinner craze is definitely burning hot right now. Everyone seems to want to be spinning some plastic between their fingers. Recently, NHL bought one for himself on a school trip to Montreal. JSL was a bit jealous and wanted one for himself, but no one seemed to have any in stock. What to do? Easy. Build our own!

After a bit of Googling, I found a blog post with instructions on building our own fidget spinner from Legos. One problem: Despite having a giant bin of Legos, we didn’t have most of the parts we needed.

So we improvised. We rooted through the bin for wheels and other pieces that would work. After a few minutes, both JSL and I had a working fidget spinner. JSL then went on to build two more.

At this point, I decided that I needed to share. I made a video and posted it on Instagram showing off my creation.

I made a #Lego fidget spinner.

A post shared by Techy Dad (@techydad) on

After I did this, JSL did his own video, narrating his creations. He was so happy when he heard that people were liking his video. (He thinks he’s famous because he had about a dozen likes. I’m not correcting him. Let him be happy with that.)

JSL presents the three fidget spinners that he made out of #Lego.

A post shared by Techy Dad (@techydad) on

I’ve since disassembled and reassembled my Lego fidget spinner so I can document the process. I leave it here, not as hard and fast instructions, but as a guide. The fun part about making a Lego fidget spinner is making it your own. Sure, it might not spin as fast or as much as the real thing, but half of the fun is building and customizing it.

IMG_20170525_213201505IMG_20170525_213218227IMG_20170525_213227049IMG_20170525_213237122IMG_20170525_213248702IMG_20170525_213257644IMG_20170525_213320383IMG_20170525_213330338IMG_20170525_213338075IMG_20170525_213354015IMG_20170525_213404247IMG_20170525_213413257IMG_20170525_213436266

1 2 3 299