Inspiration In The Unlikeliest Of Places

First of all, I’d like to apologize for my seven month sabbatical from posting here.  Things have been really hectic in both good and bad ways. In the bad category was B’s grandmother (Mimi) passing away due to ALS (more on that later) and her father needing open heart surgery. In the good category, my oldest (NHL) had a fantastic first year in high school. He’s really making us proud with how amazing he’s doing. JSL is doing wonderfully also, having graduated from elementary school. He’s also turning into quite the writer. He even bought a Chromebook with saved birthday/Chanukah money to better write his stories.

Now onto the topic at hand:

When writing stories, inspiration is both the most important component and the hardest to obtain. You can spend months unable to think of anything to write. Then, out of nowhere, you can get ideas for a dozen stories.

I’ll often read through Reddit’s Writing Prompts subreddit. There, people will post ideas for stories and other people will write short stories based on those ideas. I’ll admit that I don’t often write stories there, but the story prompts are great. One day I’d love to do a series of short stories based on Reddit Writing Prompts. Unfortunately (or fortunately), my writing schedule is booked.

Awhile back, I wrote a short story based on a Reddit Writing Prompt: Ding Dong Demon Ditch. In it, a demon needs to deal with the fact that he was summoned and the kids who summoned him ditched him. I liked the story, but felt like there was a bigger tale to tell there. Still, I was working on the sequel to Ghost Thief.

Around this time, I was getting ringing in my ears. I found out that this is due to hearing loss and I might need a hearing aid. It turned out that I didn’t get one. A hearing aid would have cost me over $1,000 and wasn’t guaranteed to stop the ringing. The audiologist explained that the hearing aid would play white noise to help my brain filter out the ringing. I countered that my phone had a free app for that and I could buy a $30 Bluetooth headset to use instead of a $1,000+ hearing aid.

So I did just that and it did help. The ringing would annoy me until I plugged my headphone in my ear. Then I’d get the sweet relief of white noise stopping the ringing.

That’s when it hit me. What if there was some kind of noise that made people happy? Not just normal happy either, but insanely, drop everything and listen to this 24/7 happy. From that humble white noise beginnings, a story began to take shape in my mind.

At first, it was a technology based story. I had the basic idea but no real plot or characters. Then, I had another breakthrough. I realized I could use characters from my Demon story in this. From there, not only did a story quickly form, but an idea for a full series of stories.

These aren’t going to be novels like Ghost Thief, though. I figured that potential Ghost Thief readers might want to see other writing I did to decide whether they want to put down money on my book. Therefore, these are going to be novellas. I’m going to release them in weekly chapter installments. When the entire story has been released, I’ll post a full version to more easily read the whole way through. I’m juggling the Ghost Thief sequel and this tale, so I don’t know when it will be released. It shouldn’t be too long, though. Keep an eye out for my short story series: Demon Investigations.

Falling Apart At Forty-Two

They say that when it rains, it pours. Recently, my body has been “pouring” when it comes to medical issues. (I’m going to tell these stories one at a time, but all of these were overlapping with each other chronologically.)

Back /Arm Pain

It all started when my mother had back surgery in the beginning of October. She’s fine, but during her recovery she wasn’t going to be able to bend, twist, or lift anything. My father, meanwhile, has medical issues of his own which limited him helping my mother out. I took a trip to my parents’ house to help out. I vacuumed, cleaned the bathrooms, cooked them dinner, and more. After vacuuming, I noticed my arm was hurting. I wrote this off as having just worked too hard cleaning their house. I was sure that the pain would go away in a few days.
A week later and the pain was still there. A month later and it remained. As the two month mark approached, this became to be more of an issue. Putting my coat on resulted in severe pain and the weather was getting colder. What’s more, little actions (such as using my computer mouse) didn’t hurt my arm themselves, but a day’s worth left my exhaust arm aching and exhausted. I saw a doctor and eventually got a diagnosis: bursitis. He gave me a shot of cortisone. This helped pretty quickly, but was only a short term solution. Long term, he prescribed physical therapy to help me overcome this issue.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was making dinner when it felt like my back locked up. The pain was unbearable. I actually collapsed to the ground and was in tears because the pain was so bad. Even breathing hurt. We had an important school meeting to go to that night. I gritted my teeth and attended despite the pain.


The physical therapist identified my arm/back issues as being at least partly due to poor posture. Decades of being hunched over a computer screen were coming back to haunt me. The physical therapist gave me some exercises to do to help. With luck, I still will be able to correct my back and arm issues before they cause more permanent damage.

Nose Implant

I’ve had breathing problems all my life. A few years ago, I had surgery to correct my deviated septum. This helped immeasurably, but lately I was having more trouble breathing. My ENT noted that the walls of my nose were collapsing in as I breathed. She advised me to get a Latera implant. This goes in the wall of the nose and props the nostril open. I had the procedure done at the end of October. A couple weeks later, I felt something odd on my nose. One of the implants was coming out. I had emergency surgery the next day to remove it. Then, a couple of days ago, I had another surgical procedure to put it back in. So far, this one is staying in place. My breathing is better now even if my nose is still sore from time to time.

Ear Ringing

A few weeks after my visit to my parents, I noticed an annoying ringing sound coming from the lights. As I moved from room to room, I realized that the ringing wasn’t coming from any light source. In fact, I could turn off all lights and still hear it. Some days, the ringing was barely there, but others it would drive me crazy. What seemed to make it worse was that I only heard it in my right ear. Nothing I did could make it go away. It was always there.
During one of my ENT visits for my nose, I asked about my ear. My doctor prescribed a hearing test. I dreaded that test for one reason: I was convinced that the ringing would disappear that day and they’d say that it was nothing. Thankfully, the ringing was actually pretty bad that day. The test showed hearing loss in my right ear.
Next, my ENT had me get a lyme disease test as well as an MRI to rule out lyme disease and issues with my brain. The good news is that those aren’t issues. The bad news is that the only treatment for my tinnitus is a hearing aid – which I go for next week. Yes, I might be a 42 year old with a hearing aid. Then again, when compared with the prospect of constant ringing in one of my ears, I’ll take the hearing aid.


This one was supposed to be a routine eye exam. I get them every year to tweak my glasses. I had noticed that the computer screen was looking fuzzier lately. (This caused me to lean in to read it better. See: Bad Posture and my arm/back pain.)
The appointment went normally enough at first. The doctor did tell me that I needed bifocals. I’ve been told that this was coming, though, so it wasn’t a huge surprise. No, the surprise came next when the doctor told me I might have glaucoma. Not full-fledged, lose your eyesight glaucoma, but the very early stages of it. I’m in the process of getting my eyes examined by an ophthalmologist now to figure out whether or not this is glaucoma and, if it is, how to treat it. My job relies on my eye sight. It would be very hard to program if I can’t see a computer screen!
With all of these medical issues closing out 2017, I’m certainly hoping that 2018 will be a quieter year – both medically and “ringing-wise”. I’m only in my early fourties. I certainly shouldn’t be falling apart just yet. As it stands now, I’m just one diagnosis away from grabbing a cane, sitting on my porch, and yelling at kids to get off my lawn!

Short Story: Ding Dong Demon Ditch

Before I get to the story, a little introductions and credit where credit is due. There’s a forum on Reddit where people post prompts to get people writing. This subreddit is aptly named Writing Prompts. Yesterday morning, I saw the following prompt by “actually_crazy_irl” and it got my creative juices bubbling:

Summoning a supernatural entity and then running before it manifests becomes the new teenager craze. All the cool kids are ding-dong ditching demons.

A story started forming in my head of a freelancer demon summoned by some kids who ditched him. That day, I had to have an MRI. As I laid in the very enclosed tomb… I mean, tube, unable to move, with loud noises surrounding me, I was perfectly calm. Partly because I found the noises interesting and keeping my eyes closed kept me from being claustrophobic. However, part of my calmness was that I was able to mentally escape from that tight space and soar with the demon as he hunted down those who wronged him. So thank you, actually_crazy_irl, for helping me keep my sanity.

And now, here’s my new short story, “Ding Dong Demon Ditch”:

» Read more

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.

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