Sky Pothole

A few weeks ago, as I was flying from Ohio to California via Las Vegas, I snapped the following picture over southwestern Nebraska.

I’m usually pretty good at cloud identification from the ground, but I honestly have no idea why this phenomenon occurred. I took the picture while sitting on a flight at an extremely early hour of the morning, with a row all to myself. You’d be surprised how few people take flights to Las Vegas at 530 in the morning.

By visiting Las Vegas en route to California — in addition to hitting Atlanta on the trip back — I’ve managed to hit one of my 30 for 30 goals just a couple of months late. I’ve now been to over half of the states of the United States.

As I look over everywhere I’ve been, nearly all of the states I’ve visited have been for work reasons. Whether it’s travelling for a job I was working for or moving for a new job, I’ve been to around 20 states on this map for the first time because of work. I recognize I’m very fortunate for this to be the case. Being able to see a good portion of the country I live in has calmed my desire for travel to non-US locations, even though I’d still love to go places.

It’s rare anymore to have a relatively quiet flight. On said flight to Las Vegas, I had two entire rows to myself. I spent the first half of the flight working on my current story project, while the second half of the flight was devoted to re-playing Pokemon Gold.

The last time I had a flight this empty, it was my first flight ever, heading from New Jersey to Spain for my study abroad program. That flight set a lot of false expectations for me around how empty planes are supposed to be. But, nearly twelve years later, I finally got a similarly empty plane. Having that time to yourself leaves you lots of time to think. Regardless of whether that time is devoted to writing or to thinking about exactly how sky potholes form, it’s a wonderful change of pace.

Wanted For Immediate Employerment: Somewhere That Fuels Passion

I hate when people say that school — be that high school, college, or some other form of education — doesn’t prepare you for the real world. Categorically, the statement is false. Education teaches us many skills even beyond those we learn in the classroom, such as critical thinking, interpersonal communication, honesty, and compassion1At the very least, if you’re taking school even a little seriously, you get some of this out of school..

That said, there is some validity to the statement. There are a handful of things that schools don’t do a particularly good job of preparing students for the non-school world on. As a rule of thumb, these items are money-driven items that American society puts low value on, yet are critical to being a successful adult. In my estimation, that list includes, but is not limited to, the following items.

  • Money management/balancing a checkbook
  • Interviewing
  • Job searching
  • Not being a jerk to people on the internet
  • Developing relationships with people you don’t see in person (think telecommuters or companies that have many interconnected offices globally)

I want to use today’s post to talk about the third item on that list. Hunting for a job is a surprisingly stressful part of adult life. With the explosion of technology over the last decade and a half, the way employees look for a job, as well as the way companies search for potential employees, has changed drastically.

The way I got my first job was pretty much the same way my dad and my grandfather got their first jobs. I walked into the pizza shop down the road from my house, asked if they were hiring, filled out an application, interviewed, and got hired. With no experience and minimal in terms of marketable skills, I managed to land my first job at the age of 14 the same way people I knew had done so in the 1970s and 1950s. I had a similarly easy experience looking for my next two jobs. I got a job in my college dorm at age 18 and a job as a cook in a restaurant at age 20 via the exact same method.

To be clear, all three of those situations came before the era of Indeed, ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, and other job boards dominating the job hunting market. But I was still proud of getting them. I really didn’t care what I was doing at the time. I was happy to be able to have money to pay bills. I wasn’t about to let myself end up in a situation where I couldn’t support myself2Or others in my life in the future, which was, stunningly, a thought on my mind at age 14..

It’s been about 16 years since I got my first job. The job searching experience has grossly changed since then. While you could (I’m certain) still walk into some businesses and try to get a job the same way I did when I was 14, the more practical and prudent thing to do is to review online job boards or company websites to look for jobs. This isn’t necessarily a bad change. A major advantage to the job board culture is the ability for job seekers to be exposed to companies and jobs they would never have otherwise heard of without that technology.

There are, however, a couple of major problems with the job board culture. For whatever reason, most companies don’t put salary or salary ranges on job postings online. I can’t imagine what the companies are trying to avoid by doing that3Wage discrimination lawsuits. It’s wage discrimination lawsuits.. This has slowed down my own personal job search drastically, as many companies write their job descriptions for people that have more experience than what they’re actually looking for. Which is fine. You’re not going to get the perfect candidate more often than not, so aim high so that you still get the things you need if you fall short. But it’s incredibly disheartening as a job seeker to get into the interviewing process only to find out that a job requiring 3-5 of job-field experience only pays entry level salary4For non-US readers, in the US, it is often considered unprofessional to ask about salary for a job prior to the offer letter stage. I learned this the hard way a couple of years ago when a company told me they wouldn’t be continuing the interview process because I asked about salary during the HR screening..

The second, and arguably more important thing, missing from most job board postings is why the job matters. I realize that having a passion for what you do isn’t a draw to a job for some people. As an interviewer, I’ve had people tell me that they’re looking for a job for a paycheck and nothing more. And that’s fine. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I also recognize that people have their own motivations and needs. What’s important to the person sitting across the table from me in an interview, regardless of which side of the interview I’m on, is not necessarily the same thing that’s important to me.

That very fact also makes job searching incredibly difficult. As a job seeker, you can’t just go to a job posting and figure out if most positions are going to make you feel good about what you do purely from reading the job description. Granted, some positions make it completely obvious whether or not you’re doing the right thing at the job you’re applying for. But in most situations, it’ll require more research to determine if the company you’re considering applying to is ethical, responsible, charitable, or whatever you’re looking for in an employer. You should be researching companies you’re considering working for anyway. It’s the responsible thing to do as a job seeker. But to not see those factors in a job posting makes the job seeker’s path much harder5Nevermind the fact that job postings are still a bit of marketing from a company. They want to put their best foot forward to attract the best talent possible. If this means not mentioning your company’s flaws, that’s not misleading, that’s responsible marketing. Remember rule #2 of this blog: Everything is marketing..

So how do you, as a job seeker, find a job that fulfills your passion? I really wish I had a good answer to give, especially after making you read 1000 words already before getting to that question6Let’s be real though. If you’re still reading at this point, you like long-form reads. I don’t do non-long-form pieces, at least not generally.. I’m going through my own job search now — and have been for a few months now — and I’ve yet to find a job that screams ‘You will care about this’ to me. Of course, by the time this posts, that could change7I tend to write my posts 3-6 weeks in advance, as I only (usually) have one post go up a week. So I’m writing this in mid-October.. But as of when I’m writing it, not so much.

I want to care about what I do. I want to feel like what I do has a positive impact on people — be it those I work with directly or those that my company works with directly. I want the company I work for to be transparent and honest about its directives and actions, as well as its purpose. That’s not to say previous or current companies I’ve worked for have or haven’t done this. That said, I do know what I want in the future. And it’s hard to find. Especially since there’s no job board for employees seeking work with purpose.

30 For 30: A Review

It’s my 30th birthday soon. As in late part of next week soon. Normally that would mean I take the time to write up a birthday post, rant about something, blah blah blah blah blah, and there we are. As you’ll see on Sunday, I’ve got something better planned for my birthday’s actual week.

That said, I’ve been saving a post idea I wanted to do for about a year now for this very moment. Back in 2012, on my old, long dead blog, I wrote a post called 30 Before 30. I had just had my 25th birthday a few weeks prior and I was planning for the future. I wanted to make a list of things that I could go before I turned 30 and get to as many of them (ideally all of them) as I possibly could. Though the blog post itself is long gone, I saved the actual list for purposes of reviewing it later. That later is now.

The list itself is below. I’ve bolded the ones I’ve completed, italicized the ones that were partially completed, and left the others in normal text. I’ll meet you down at the bottom of the list to talk about them.

  1. Shave with a straight razor
  2. Get back into reasonable running shape
  3. Attend a musical in person and enjoy it (difficulty: the show cannot be Sunset Boulevard or Avenue Q)
  4. Bike 26 miles in one day
  5. Develop collegiate-style curricula for a business environment
  6. Visit at least one new country
  7. Attend a NHL playoff game
  8. Learn to write some sort of computer code (specific language to be determined)
  9. Donate my unneeded clothing to charity (I have more of this at my grandparents’ house than I realized)
  10. Own a car that is less than nine years old at the time that I purchase it
  11. Learn to wake up without hitting the snooze button
  12. Finish writing at least two new novel/novella length stories (not sure if this will include my current project or not)1This one is bolded if we’re saying novellas, would be italics if it’s solely novels, but bolded if we’re counting both. This is confusing.
  13. Remember enough of my Spanish knowledge for it to be useful OR become semi-competent in another language
  14. Build my own desktop computer OR server
  15. Learn to tolerate a TV show I hate
  16. Finish the three books on my bookshelf I’ve never touched: The Iliad, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The Picture of Dorian Gray
  17. Eliminate my student loan debt
  18. Get married
  19. Visit seven new states in the USA (which would bring me to 50% of the USA visited)2So close…
  20. Try one of the bourbons on Gayot’s 10 Best Bourbons list
  21. Re-watch both Jericho and Animaniacs from their first episode to their conclusion
  22. Go to a Raw/Smackdown show live…a taping/TV airing would be best, but not necessary
  23. Devise a master plan and execute it
  24. Drive a car that is classified as a sports car
  25. Learn to actually use my vacation days at work (so that I don’t lose some/all of them like I have every year since I started working)
  26. Guest write for 30 blogs
  27. Move in with my wife/fiancée/girlfriend/whatever she happens to be at that time
  28. Acquire a blender
  29. Reenact the escape scene from Shawshank during a rainstorm, minus the shitty pipe
  30. Have a birthday celebration that is more than just doing nothing…but I still get ice cream cake

Still there? Why?

All things considered, I’m pretty happy with the fact that I was able to finish half of the items on the list, as well as partially complete another six of them. Considering the fact that I forgot this list existed for the better part of two years, I did alright. That said, I certain could have done better. Let’s look at the failures first.

  • Shave with a straight razor
  • Get back into reasonable running shape
  • Bike 26 miles in one day
  • Attend a NHL playoff game
  • Learn to write some sort of computer code (specific language to be determined)
  • Learn to wake up without hitting the snooze button
  • Build my own desktop computer OR server
  • Go to a Raw/Smackdown show live…a taping/TV airing would be best, but not necessary
  • Drive a car that is classified as a sports car

Of the nine items I made no progress towards, four of them3Shaving with a straight razor, writing computer code, building my own computer, and driving a car that is classified as a sports car. are items that I look back on now and wonder why they were even on the list. I mean, sure, those things would be neat. But I didn’t need to do them before 30. Frankly, all of them except the sports car sound awful now. Missing the running goal is arguably the most disappointing on the list, though I’m certain my wife would argue it’s the snooze button one. Now that my commute is even longer, I’m certain that she might end me if I don’t learn to at least be better about that one.

As for the six items I made partial progress on, most of them were items I didn’t necessarily even mean to do. See my footnotes (you can click on them now!) for more information on how close or not close I got to each…with the exception of the first one. We’ll get to that one in a moment.

  • Remember enough of my Spanish knowledge for it to be useful OR become semi-competent in another language
  • Finish the three books on my bookshelf I’ve never touched: The Iliad, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The Picture of Dorian Gray4I finished The Iliad (hated it) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (it was alright). Still haven’t picked up Dorian Gray.
  • Visit seven new states in the USA (which would bring me to 50% of the USA visited)5With a work trip to California earlier this year, my count is at 24. So unless I randomly get to the next closest state I haven’t been to (Maryland) by next week…not happening.
  • Re-watch both Jericho and Animaniacs from their first episode to their conclusion6Finished Animaniacs, never restarted Jericho.
  • Learn to actually use my vacation days at work (so that I don’t lose some/all of them like I have every year since I started working)7I’ve gotten better about using personal days, but since vacation can roll over, I bank those.
  • Guest write for 30 blogs8I think my end count here is 17. Not 100% positive, as a few of the sites I’ve written for have died off. It’s somewhere between 15-20.

As for the Spanish knowledge, of all of the items on my 30 before 30 list, this is probably the one that seemed like the longest shot to me. I hadn’t spoken Spanish to anyone since college and really hadn’t heard anyone speak it around me in a similar amount of time. Furthermore, while the company I work for has a large amount of Spanish speaking customers, those calls were all handled out of another office, so I never heard it. That said, over the last year or so, we’ve had five or six Spanish speakers start at my work, nearly all of whom sit directly outside my office. While I can’t speak Spanish back to them, I follow along well enough that I can walk out and answer their questions when I hear one that I know the answer to. So…unintentional win?

As for the ones I completed, here they are with a little more explanation of how/when they happened. Or just more explanation in general.

  • Attend a musical in person and enjoy it (difficulty: the show cannot be Sunset Boulevard or Avenue Q) – Book of Mormon was amazing.
  • Develop collegiate-style curricula for a business environment – I’ve done this three times now to varying levels of success. It’s much easier when doing this for internal employees though.
  • Visit at least one new country – Canada in 2015
  • Donate my unneeded clothing to charity (I have more of this at my grandparents’ house than I realized) – I’ve done this a few times now, as I really don’t need a ton of stuff.
  • Own a car that is less than nine years old at the time that I purchase it – Got my first true new car in mid-2013.
  • Finish writing at least two new novel/novella length stories (not sure if this will include my current project or not) – I completed NaNoWriMo in 2015 and published An Epilogue to Innocence in 2015. I’ve also completed 8 novella length stories in that time, four of which were posted on this blog.
  • Learn to tolerate a TV show I hate – A good portion of shows my wife watches fall into this category. I’m much less hating toward TV than I once was.
  • Eliminate my student loan debt – Done in 2014.
  • Get married – Did so in mid-2015.
  • Try one of the bourbons on Gayot’s 10 Best Bourbons list – I had Jim Beam Single Barrel at a speakeasy on my honeymoon.
  • Devise a master plan and execute it – Hooray purposing.
  • Move in with my wife/fiancée/girlfriend/whatever she happens to be at that time – Also done. My wife would be very confused otherwise.
  • Acquire a blender – Literally the first item I checked off this list. Done in January 2013.
  • Reenact the escape scene from Shawshank during a rainstorm, minus the shitty pipe – Spinning around in rainstorms is fun
  • Have a birthday celebration that is more than just doing nothing…but I still get ice cream cake – The wife and I went to dinner for a few of my birthdays. That counts in my book.

All in all, this list was an interesting experience. Even though I didn’t finish the list, I got to do a lot of things I otherwise wouldn’t have done, or at least wouldn’t have done in the same timeline. If you have a milestone birthday coming up in the next few years, why not try it for yourself?

A Plane Ride to the West Coast

A few weeks ago, I had an interesting flight. I’ll talk about what it taught me at the end of this post, however, I think I need to share the events of the flight first for what I learned to make sense.

Note: The events in this story are real. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. And also because I don’t remember everyone’s name.

12:10ish pm, Chicago, Illinois: I’ve boarded a flight from Chicago to Sacramento. This is my second flight of the day. I’ve been up since around 6:00 am and am going to work for around 3-4 hours once I land in California. I board my flight, which is on a large plane with a 3×3 configuration. If you’re not sure what this is, scroll down to the next time stamp for a representation created in Excel. I take my seat on the next to last row of the plane. I’m in the aisle seat on the left side. The plane is scheduled to take off around 12:20 pm or so.

12:17ish pm: I was one of the last people on the plane, it seems. A family of a mom, her two preschool aged children, and a lap baby, have taken their seats behind me since our last update. An older man is sitting in the window seat of my row, though there’s an empty seat between us. The plane has filled up quickly, leaving only four empty seats that I can see on the plane. One is to my left, one is the seat in front of that. The other two are the middle seats on in the same two rows on the right side of the plane. Our seating layout looks like this. Ignore the names below for the most part…they’ll make sense shortly.

12:20ish pm: Two young women run onto the plane. The first girl is wearing a cowboy had with a bridal veil hanging off of the back of it. The word “bride” (yes, in all lower case, but with no quotes) is bedazzled on the front of the cowboy hat. This girl, who will be referred to as Bride from this point forward, takes a seat between me and Sleepy Guy 4. The second girl takes the seat immediate in front of Bride, directly between Sleepy Guys 1 and 2. Our second girl will be referred to as Sister. She’s not the bride’s sister though.

12:21ish pm: Bride begins telling me that she and her bridal party are flying home from her bachelorette party. She asks me if I’m willing to switch seats so that her bridal party could sit together. My response was something to the effect of “I’d prefer not to, but I can…where are they?”. In retrospect, I regret not just immediately saying yes. That said, before I could continue on, two more women come running onto the plane. Sister flags them down and they make their way back to us.

12:22ish pm: The lead woman running down the aisle cuts me off from saying anything else. She’s very animated with her gesticulations and very loud. We’ll refer to her as Loud Girl, partly because the changing the names I mentioned at the beginning of this post, but also because she didn’t mention her name until the end of the flight. Loud Girl shout talks at me “Hi. That’s the bride and I’m her maid of honor. I need to be with her.”. Having seen Bridesmaids, I chuckle a bit and ask where I’m moving to. Loud Girl points to the seat between Quarter Smoker and Sleepy Guy 3. I take my new seat, while Loud Girl takes my old seat and yells after me that she’ll send me $40 via Venmo for switching seats.The other woman who ran down the aisle, Ukraine, is seated behind me, leaving our configuration as such.

12:27 pm: Loud Girl hands me her phone and tells me to put my info into it so she can send me the money via Venmo. I had it back to her and say it’s okay. Loud Girl then hands me a McDonald’s cheeseburger — no pickles, add lettuce. I accept, despite my love for pickles because it’s free food. At this point, I start taking notes about my flight and times things happen, as I’m amused.

12:35 pm: Out flight has taken off and been in the air about five minutes, though the fasten seatbelts sign is still on. An elderly man begins walking back to the bathroom in spite of the light. One of the flight attendants tells him to sit down. The man is standing even with my row at this point, meaning he’s directly in front of Loud Girl and Bride. They motion for him to sit in the aisle, which he does to my surprise. The flight attendant is not amused. As the elderly man gets up with the assistance of Loud Girl and Quarter Smoker, I notice that Sister has already fallen asleep. She’s missed all the fun, but I think she’s got the right idea.

1:05 pm: I’m trying to sleep, particularly since Sleepy Guy 3 and Quarter Smoker are already asleep. That said, I’m failing because Loud Girl, Bride, and Ukraine are talking to everyone around them. Loudly. I have my headphones in but can hear them pretty well. I hear Loud Girl tell Ukraine to get my attention, but nothing happens. I lean up from my tray table and rest my head on my head rest, staring off into the plane in front of me as my music plays.

1:09 pm: A half-full bag of McDonald’s French Fries is slowly lowered in front of my face by Ukraine. I laugh at the sight of floating fries, but decline because I had eaten right before I got on the plane. Not to mention the fact that I still have the aforementioned cheeseburger. A back and forth conversation between me and Loud Girl ensues where I’m offered the following items as a thank you for changing seats with her.

  • Three chicken nuggets
  • The bag of fries again
  • A second cheeseburger, this one with no lettuce
  • Whatever beer I want from the flight attendant’s cart when it comes around
  • The chicken nuggets again
  • The $40 again

At this point, I tell Loud Girl that if she really wants to do something for me, she should buy my book, as I’d love to stop flying back and forth across the country for work. She hands me her phone and has me type the title of the book and my name into the notepad. Loud Girl insists that all four members of the bridal party are going to buy it, reading the book title and my name out loud a few times to Bride and Ukraine can hear it. I smile and go back to half resting, half playing Fire Emblem: Awakening.

1:24 pm: Flight attendants are readying the beverage service. The lead flight attendant asks Book Man if he’s the dad of any of the girls/young women on the flight. He says no. It’s worth pointing out I keep referring to these women as girls interchangeably with women, as they’re in their early 20s, and at two months from 30, I’m old as fuck. Anyway, after Book Man says he’s not their dad, Loud Girl says they like Book Man a lot, but they love me because I was so nice to them. The flight attendant then asks me if I know them, I also say no. The flight attendant makes a comment to Ukraine about how Book Man is trying to read, then heads up front. Bride begins laughing at Ukraine for causing a commotion (even though it wasn’t just her), while Ukraine and Loud Girl begin debating whether they were told to STFU or STFO.

1:52 pm: After a relatively long quiet spell, Bridge and Loud Girl are now singing. It’s quiet and I can’t make out exactly what they’re singing, but you can tell they’re singing poorly. I think it was intentional, but I’m not sure. I come up in discussion between Ukraine and Loud Girl, both of whom are now referring to me as 32E, even though Loud Girl learned my name as part of the writing my book in her phone moment.

1:54 pm: In the process of trying to clean off my tray table so I can have space for something to drink, I accidentally drop my 3DS on my balls. It hurt.

2:05 pm: Drinks and snacks finally arrive. Loud Girl now tries to buy me a cocktail as a thank you, marking the first time a woman has ever offered to buy me a drink. I said no. I already have a shitty enough stomach on planes. I can’t imagine alcohol would help that. It’s at this point that I notice the flight attendant pushing the snack cart is named Steveo.

2:19 pm: All of the bridal party save for Ukraine has fallen asleep. Sister has been asleep this whole time, but Loud Girl and Bride are now sleeping too. Ukraine is chatting with Newlywed Man and Lady, as well as Loud Laugher about the bridal party’s adventures. Apparently Sister is Loud Girl’s sister and apparently they’re all kind of, sort of college friends. It was hard to follow. We then take an abrupt right turn into Ukraine talking about how her family immigrated from the Ukraine to the US before she was born, but that she wished they would have picked somewhere other than Sacramento because she likes seasons. The man in the back corner of the plane says “I literally have no clue what you’re talking about, but could you please do it quietly?” and is never heard from again.

2:35ish-2:42 pm: A very dark period occurs. I stand up to go to the bathroom and my phone falls out of my pocket. Between me and Sleepy Guy 3, we find my phone, but it takes quite a while. Sleepy Guy 3 goes back to sleep, as does Quarter Smoker after I return from the bathroom.

4:15 pm: A two-hour period of relative silence ends as the captain makes an announcement that we’ll be making our descent into Sacramento soon. Loud Girl is back awake and invites everyone in the back three rows out to a bar. Mind you, this is our seat layout.

Please take note of the small humans sitting directly behind her.

4:18 pm: The entire bridal party, including Sister, is now awake and discussing what their Halloween costumes are going to be. Bride, Loud Girl, and Sister are arguing over which Game of Thrones characters each of them gets to be as part of their group costume. Ukraine wants to be a wine bottle.

4:31 pm: The no smoking sign gets turned off for about 30 seconds. This is clearly an accident, but a couple of people notice. One of those who noticed is Quarter Smoker, who sighs heavily and says “Dammit. I could have smoked a quarter of a cigarette in that time.”.

4:40 pm: We land. The bridal party just broke out in a 916 chant. Loud Girl shouts out an invite specifically to me (well, to 32E, which is my seat number) to come to the bar with them. Bride asks me where I’m from, leading to the following conversation.

Bride: Where are you from?
Me: Cleveland.
Bride: Isn’t that where Drew Carey is from?
Me: Yes, but we don’t talk about that.
Sister: Understandable. Didn’t he kill Bob Barker?

4:46 pm: We begin deboarding the plane. Loud Girl formally introduces herself to me and thanks me for switching seats with her. She says she’ll buy my book and say the others in the bridal party will do the same. Ukraine says she’ll buy it first thing when she gets off the plane. Bride yells at Ukraine and tells Ukraine that she can’t even read. They argue about this throughout deplaning and are still arguing as I walk away from them in the airport.

I don’t know if they bought the book. I’ve had a handful of book purchases in the last 30 days, but I don’t get anywhere near that granular of data. That would be creepy. But that’s not why I told the story. I didn’t expect them to buy the book. I only brought it up because Loud Girl was insistent on doing something — anything — to thank me for switching seats with her. The interaction served as a reminder that kindness and compassion can be truly appreciated for what it is. Hell, that appreciation can come even when it’s not fully deserved.

I wasn’t overjoyed to be giving up my aisle seat, regardless of the reason. I should have just said yes I would give up my seat without all the additional commentary. I didn’t. And yet I was still treated with kindness in return. We don’t always deserve the kindness we’re given. We must, however, work to repay that kindness to others in some way.

One Year of Being a Published Author

June 27th, 2016 was a monumental day for me. It was the day that my first book, An Epilogue to Innocence, went on sale. It was available at that time via direct purchase on Kindle, as well as available for pre-order via CreateSpace and Amazon[1]. I’ve shared quite a bit about the publishing process, as well as the twist and turns things took both before publishing and after. If you care about reading those stories, click on the links in the previous sentence. What I’d rather do today is to have a bit of reflection on my book, on being an author, and on what I could have done well/did do well in the process.

When a fellow author found out I was going the self-publishing route, they gave me a bit of advice regarding sales. They told me not to expect to turn a profit, rather I should expect to lose money — potentially a significant amount — if I took my book to market. While their statement was technically wrong, the spirit of needing to temper my expectations for my book’s sales was correct. My book broke even last December, as sales related to a charity drive I did were just enough to edge into profit territory.

That said, even with a handful of sales this year, the amount of money I’ve pocketed is minimal. I went from first draft to published product with minimal financial cost on my end. I’ve run zero advertising campaigns anywhere that I had to pay for. Every review that’s been written for my book either falls into the category of pre-release readers who wrote reviews or people who have submitted their own reviews out of their own kindness. My costs were the cost to have the book edited, the cost to get a ISBN from CreateSpace, and the cost to have a handful of copies shipped to me that I in turn mailed out to people I had promised copies of the book to. With all that said, I think the amount of money I’ve personally made off the book is enough to buy a Chipotle burrito for my wife and I. No guac or drinks though[2].

Speaking of that charity drive, it was definitely both the most rewarding and most disappointing part of my first year as a published author. On one hand, I got to donate a bit of money to a cause I care a lot about — the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. On the other hand, the amount of money raised through the charity drive fell short of one-quarter of my mental goal for the drive itself. Limited advertising was definitely a reason for that, however I also think that other deserving causes got far more attention than suicide prevention in the wake of the 2016 US election. Had I hitched my wagon to a different cause, I think it would have done better. But suicide prevention is a cause I care a lot about, so I have no regrets about choosing the AFSP for the donation.

As for my book itself, shortly after I published, I saw a video from someone (I think John Green?) talking about how the most stressful part of being an author is seeing people misinterpret work you’ve written, and since it’s already published, you can’t change it. That idea, combined with the fact that I re-read my book so many times as part of the publishing process and wished I had changed some things, made me go back and think about each of the short stories in the book.

  • Ljepota Oni Izlučivati – This story ended up being one of the few in the book that I didn’t have any strong opinion changes about even after a year after the book went to market. If I had the opportunity to do it over again, I wouldn’t have led off the book with this story, however it definitely would have stayed. A year on, no one has found the hidden storyline within this story, so I feel like it was written really well for what it was meant to be.
  • Phosphor and Fear – This was the original story that was supposed to start the book, however I was convinced not to lead the book with it when someone told me that no one’s going to want to keep reading the book if I lead off with depression art. Unnecessary mental illness jokes aside, I think this story would have benefited from being a bit longer, particularly after the story’s time skip. The fact that I’d go back and change this one to make it longer has impacted some of the work I’ve done over the last year, particularly the first two chapters of the AI Project series that I posted this spring.
  • A Delayed First Date – Meh. It was a good premise. I took a risk trying to write from a point-of-view I didn’t understand. Even with research and interviews to try to write it better, this story hasn’t aged well to me. I mean, it’s fine. It’s not boring. I still love the concept. But I don’t like this specific story as much as I used to.
  • Soma – It was my favorite story before I decided to compile the book into a published entity. It’s still one of my favorites I’ve written a year on from publishing the book (though not my favorite anymore). I really need to keep focusing on adding heavy amounts of emotion to my writing. When it works, it really works. This is one of the stories in the book that I’ve received almost unanimous positive feedback about. Nothing I’d change here.
  • Elk Ridge – I’m so confused by this story and the reader reaction to it. Both me and my editor thought this was the weakest story in the book, even after adding quite a bit of length to it. Yet most people who have given feedback thought it was one of the better stories in the book. The ending is what seems to be divisive. I personally hate the ending and would re-write it if I had the chance. The whole ghostly spirit being released from a demolished building angle is kind of cliche and the longer it’s been since I published[3], the less I like it. Readers liked it though. I have no idea what people want.
  • The Strongest Feelings Are On the Inside – The reaction to this story was by far the most surprising of any story that went into the book. I received ZERO negative feedback on this story prior to publishing. Considering it was one of the few stories that had been on the blog prior to going in the book, this was doubly confusing. People were split down the middle as to what they thought was the biggest issue with this story — either it was too long compared to the rest of the book’s stories[4] or they were upset that the story’s main villain was bisexual. Remember what I said about stuff getting taken out of context? In context, it’s a story about a woman who loves someone of her same sex who doesn’t love her back and she doesn’t feel totally comfortable with it because of her religious background. She then tries to repress it with a deeper dive into cult-like religious practices to try to “fix” herself. Then, when her love dies, she has a mental break, using her warped religious views to exact revenge on those who hurt her beloved, going so far as to kidnap a lookalike and treat that lookalike as if she were the departed woman. Then the villain chooses to die once she finally has closure through that surrogate. That wasn’t the takeaway by some readers though. It’s a learning experience on a lot of levels.
  • Awkward? – The other story in the book that I didn’t particularly like but people loved. It was the closest thing to a light-hearted story in the book, and it was only included to serve as a change of pace following the previous story. Most people thought it was funny. I found it corny. If I did it all over again, this and A Delayed First Date would be cut in favor of making other stories longer.
  • Use As Directed – Along with Awkward First Date, this is the story I did the most research for prior to writing it. I’m really happy with how it turned out. Feedback was largely good, it had a neutral ending that I liked, and apparently I did a decent job at representing a perspective of someone with a mental illness fairly and objectively. This story makes me happy.
  • Laments of a Disillusioned Twenty Something – Oh my fucking god I was so whiny in this story. I’d re-write this story to be something more like what happens in one of the two storylines of Janus if I had it to do again.
  • Tia – This has become my favorite story in the book over time, however as one reviewer said, they really wished it was longer. I agree. It’s a very powerful story, but I could have done so much more with it. Definitely my biggest disappointment story-wise for that reason.

As for me and how being a published author has impacted me…it really hasn’t. As I mentioned, there hasn’t been a financial impact of any kind. It’s not like my social media life has taken off[5]. Even though I still a see a copy or two of my book purchased every now and again, the book sits largely dormant now. I definitely haven’t been able to make a career change to be a full-time author…not that I’d be able to if currently proposed healthcare plans pass anyway.

I’m still writing though. I’m working on a couple of different projects as a writer, as well as trying to get some work together as a copy editor. If anything my real job prevents me from writing as much as I want or need to due to mental fatigue. That said, it’s largely been a positive experience, in spite of my gripes. I’ve learned you can’t please everyone, even if you have the best intentions. I’ve learned that I can produce quality work. And I’ve learned above all else that I love writing — even if my family still doesn’t know I’m a published author, even a year on.