Forgetting to Remember

Sometimes I’m terrible with names. I mean, really, really bad. I try hard to remember a name, but this brain can only take in so much information before it overloads.

There was a time I had a customer and I couldn’t remember her name. Still can’t.

I work as a sales rep. for a screen-printing company. One day many years back, I had an older woman come in to order t-shirts for her husband’s business. The name of the business was his name, Ralph’s Excavating* so she wanted everything written under his name; the account name, the contact name–everything.

I did as she asked. They also wanted names on the shirts so I gathered those from her and placed the order.

Several months later, maybe even close to a year, she comes back in to place a reorder. She called me by my name but I never repeated hers because I didn’t know it! I figured I could look at the names list for their previous order and figure out who she was. When she left and I pulled the last order, I was lost! They weren’t their regular names, but nicknames! I had no clue who she was!

remember-1750119_960_720She came back in a few months after that to place a reorder and still didn’t introduce her name to me. I couldn’t ask now! I was three orders in. I should’ve known by now. How could I possibly ask her what her name was? So for a third time I wrote the order using only her husband’s name. When we called to let them know their order was done, we’d always have to ask for Ralph because I didn’t know her name and was too embarrassed to ask.

She treated me so nice too. I mean, she was like a grandma. Always asking about my family and how things were. Telling me about her grandkids and such. But I didn’t know her name! It was awful.

Then, a few years later, I had a younger guy come in for the account. He was her son and said “mom passed away a year ago and I’m taking over the ordering.” Not, “Hey my mom Jean” or “Hey my mom Barb.” Nothing. No name.

So here I am, years later without a clue as to her name.

Ever have that happen to you? Ever date someone and not know their name? Ever know someone a while and not know who they were? Share with the rest of us! I can’t be the only one, right?

*Names, when remembered, have been changed to protect the innocent.

 

Rough Writing

This post is one I originally posted on Facebook at the end of July and was one of my most viewed posts ever! It’s a deeply personal account of a tough moment in my writing “career.” I’ve posted about it before but this seemed to resonate with many writers and readers. Here ya go!


Last year, I learned a valuable lesson in regards to my writing.

I wanted to turn one of my four NaNoWriMo novels into a publishable book. I choose what I thought was the best one and revised it then hired an editor to look it over.

When I got the edits back, I was also given a brutally honest assessment of the work. It wasn’t something I wanted to hear, but man it was so helpful and so spot on. I cannot thank that editor enough for opening my eyes to the problems it had and how far from being ready it was.

Then, a few days later, I attended a writing conference where they were doing a blind reading of submitted stories with a panel of agents and small publishers. Anyone that wanted to could submit a three page sample of their story and they’d read it out loud for the entire conference to hear. Once it got to the point in the story where that agent or editor would’ve rejected the submission, they were to raise their hand. Once a majority of the panel rejected it, they’d stop and offer a critique of why they rejected it (or if it went the entire length, why they would’ve asked for more).

I submitted my three pages. So did about a hundred other writers. They only read five submissions but guess whose got read? Yeah, this guy right here! It was the same story I had my editor work on. Already feeling bummed about the comments received so far, when they started reading mine I was in shock but also curious.

boy-859364_960_720When they got to the second page, hands started flying up. I sipped my Diet Coke like nothing was going on but inside I was crushed. I wanted to crawl in a hole and die. Their feedback was brutal. Much like the editor I worked with, they didn’t hold back, however this was in front of a room of over a hundred writers! Fortunately the only person that knew who’s story they were critiquing was myself.

Those combined experiences with that draft made me question everything I was doing. Was I good enough? Do I have a clue about what I’m doing? Was I mistakenly claiming the title of “writer?” Should I give up?

My drive home from that conference was a dark, lonely drive. However, when I finally pulled in the driveway, I determined to use this for good.

I vowed to get better, to try harder, to continue progressing in my craft because I love it. I enjoy writing and it’s a part of me now. I chose to take their criticisms not as a personal attack, but as my alarm to improve my writing. I had skill, but it needed work.

It was a tough lesson to learn, but in the end the most valuable thing to happen to me.

The Year of Me

2016 was an interesting year. It began with the release of my first collection of dark fiction short stories (Almost) Average Anthology.

signing

At the Book House in St.Louis – my first book signing!

For those that have actually read my book, its been well received. The positive response has been humbling. I’ve met many new readers/fans and some that I’ve stayed pretty close with. My decision to create a paperback copy of what was at the time just “an experiment” in self-publishing made all the difference (thanks Dan!) I was able to do book signings and attend book fairs and conferences.

My first book signing at The Book House in St. Louis will always stick with me (thanks so much Ken!) Then my first book fair with the St.Louis Indie Book Fair was a great experience. I met the organizer Mark Pannebecker and fellow author John W. Smith. Mark also organized the book fair side to Con-Tamination which I attended and met authors Ray Wenck and Vince Churchill.

Meeting these authors has opened even more doors for me. In April I’ll be at Wizard World in St.Louis because of Ray and in September I’ll be at PennedCon in St.Louis because of John. These authors have been invaluable to me and I look forward to growing as a writer with them.

readingvacation

Reading my story “Vacation” at the St.Louis Indie Book Fair.

In 2016 I also started the year as a writer for Sum’n Unique Magazine. The founder and head guy in charge F. Kenneth Taylor has a vision for his magazine that I completely understand and support. Through him I was able to have my first book signing, first interviews, and more. From my time with S.U.M. I also met fellow writers Lakesha Mathis and Kevin Daniel. All this amazing talent! I wish I could’ve stayed with them but I needed to focus more on my fiction writing and had to step down about mid-year. If you’ve not heard of S.U.M. or their writers, I encourage you to check them out.

In the Spring of 2016 I was also surprised to have one of my stories from (Almost) Average Anthology published on the No Extra Words Podcast. Hearing my words spoken by someone else was an amazing experience.

Of course every year has it’s downside too. For me it came around June when I thought all was going well. In a sense it was going well (and still is) but I hit a bump in my writing. Everyone has critics. Everyone has more to learn in their craft. I was so caught up in thinking I knew what I was doing that when I encountered my first real criticism, it snuffed out my flame of creativity. The critiques I heard were valid and right. They were meant to help me create true works of fiction. I’ll forever be grateful for the lesson, but at the time it made me rethink a lot of what I was doing. In the end it was by far the best thing that could’ve happened to me.

Then in October I released my second collection of dark fiction short stories Moments of Darkness. This collection can be seen as (Almost) Average Anthology vol. 2. So far it’s not taken off as well as the first one but I’m hopeful it will soon. If not, that’s ok too. As I continue to write and new readers discover my work, they’ll have a back catalogue to peruse.

I started 2016 as an unpublished writer and I leave the year as the author of two collections of short stories. I’ll take that! I took my dream and made it happen. I’ve created new connections over the year that have helped me along the way. Not a bad year if I do say so myself! Thanks for sticking with me through all of this. Here’s to an even greater 2017!

Peeling Back the Layers

Since June, I’ve battled myself trying to figure out what the hell I’m doing. I’ve contemplated giving up this writing path I’ve chosen because honestly, who’s reading? Who cares? Am I any good? Am I another screaming mouth in a cacophony of unintelligible noise?

It’s been frustrating. All writers fall into this pit at times–I think. It’s not a fun place to be.

I’ve tried “faking it till I make it,” manufacturing enthusiasm for my work. I’ve started writing challenges, mostly for myself, to push me forward. It’s been a half-assed effort on my part. I want to succeed more than anything. I think about what I should be doing all the time. Then when I have the time after work or on the weekend what do I do? Not enough.

It’s like my give-a-damn has left, taken a vacation or something. I’ve been seeking it, hoping to corral it again, make it behave, make it submit to my will. Instead, it’s on the run like a fugitive leaving me taunting notes and thumbing its non-existent nose at me. I swear if I catch it, it will pay dearly for its behavior.

I’ve been struggling with who I am as a writer. Am I a genre writer? What the hell does that mean anyway? What qualifies me as a writer? Do I have the right skills? Am I a fraud? At a recent event I had an older guy (one who drank a bit too much) ask me “What qualifies you as an author?” I’ll be honest, his question stopped me in my tracks.

Just because I put words on a screen or paid to have them printed on paper with a colorful cover, did that make me an author? Anyone can do that. Is it because I revised and edited and revised my work again? Who declared me “Jason J. Nugent – Author” other than myself? Do I need someone else to say it for it to be real? If so then I’m judging my entire writing career on the approval of someone else.

But what I write, I do for myself. The stories I create, the worlds I visit, the characters I interact with–I do that for me because I love it. I do it because I enjoy escaping to my worlds, my people, and my imagination. I suppose if I want to be successful I have to keep the reader in mind, and I do, but ultimately what fuels me is creation. My ability to craft stories I’ll enjoy leads me to eventually share them with others and build that same level of enthusiasm.

So why tell you this? Why whine about it to you my dear reader? Cause I can. Cause maybe out of the few that care, you’ll understand and not judge me too harshly. And mostly because I need to vent. I don’t normally share these kinds of internal thoughts and figured “what can I lose?”

It’s been difficult but those that have stayed with me over the years and even recent converts–THANK YOU! Writing is lonely but it’s awesome when you jump on board with me. I hope you’ll stay and find something valuable in what I do. If so, let me know!

Dwelling In Fear

Fear is a primal attribute of humans. Without it we’d all be dead or worse. We fear the divine, we fear nature, we fear other humans. It’s normal. Show me a person who fears nothing and I’ll show you a fraud.

beachy-head-1030825_960_720Fear drives us as humans. It forces us to act or react to different stimuli. Think about it. If we feared nothing how easier would it be to die doing something stupid? It’s ok to have a healthy amount of trepidation when it comes to dangerous situations. Standing on a cliff looking towards the ground below would be exhilarating and create a sense of fear because one small step for man, one giant splat on the ground. If approached without fear, it’s more likely that person will do something stupid and become one with the ground.

Fear motivates us to action. It drives us forward. It forces us to face difficult situations and create ways to escape or conquer it. Fear isn’t the enemy. Fear isn’t weakness. It’s the catalyst to doing something greater.

Consider losing one’s job and the fear of going broke looming over you. At that moment, motivated out of fear, you will do anything to generate an income because being broke sucks. Creative types might give in to their passions and write that book or create that sculpture they’ve always wanted to do in order to sell and generate an income while doing something they’re crazy excited about. Others might seek employment in a field they’ve always wanted to be in but were afraid to leave their current job to try. Lacking money and fearing what could happen leads that person to new and greater things.

Some fear is irrational or based on irrational thoughts and that can get debilitating. I worked for eight years in fast food and I developed an irrational fear of natural gas. The grills and fryers ran on natural gas and I swear I could always smell a faint odor of it in the kitchen. I developed a fear that one day we’d blow up from a gas build-up. Of course we never did but that didn’t stop my mind from considering the possibility. To this day I hate lighting pilot lights and wince when I have to. The only appliance in my home that runs on gas is my hot water heater and I don’t have to light that pilot light often at all.

clownSome people fear spiders or snakes or clowns. Spiders and snakes are understandable. They can be dangerous creatures and it’s best to avoid some of them. Clowns…well I’m not sure what to say about that. Maybe we’ve had too many creepy ones in stories and movies to make them feel comfortable anymore. They don’t bother me but I know many people afraid of them.

As a writer who dwells with fears and incorporates a fair amount if it in my writing, does that mean I have no fears? Not at all. Other than my irrational gas fear, I’m freaked out by haunted houses. They scare the crap out of me. I’m always worried that a crazed person uses it as cover for their murderous intentions and I don’t want to be their victim. It’s irrational but true.

Now to write about these things, I’m all about that. I enjoy exploring fears of all kinds and how people react to them. I enjoy forcing my characters to experience something terrible and watch as they react to the situation. Maybe it’s cathartic for me. Maybe it’s knowing the experience isn’t real and no one will actually be hurt.

Whatever my motivation, in the end I only hope to offer a compelling story the reader will enjoy. If you get scared, that’s a bonus.

So what are your fears? What scares you and makes you turn on the light? Let’s see how many odd fears we can discover!

The Art of Change

Change is inevitable. It can be intentional. More often it’s forced on us from external sources. How we cope with that change can help determine the outcome of the situation.

Changes in our lives happen daily. Life is nothing but a series of events that change us and those around us. All news stories we listen to or watch on tv or read about deal with change. It could be a crime or event or action taken by someone but it’s about change. Sometimes we’re caught in a routine where change feels difficult or impossible but change is unavoidable. It will occur.

Intentionally changing your circumstances is a difficult move to make. We get comfortable where we’re at. Complacency sets in and to move from the known which is convenient to an unknown full of endless possibilities requires energy and determination. That’s not easy. Dreamers like musicians, writers, and other artists have a challenging time with this. I know, I’m in that group.

OldwayI enjoy writing and when I get the opportunity to put words together for a story or essay and it comes out right – pure bliss! But taking that to the next level where I share it with others through my blog or book is not easy. And once I do, then what? How do I pursue this dream to its fullest? I want to make a change in how I pursue this goal of writing and sharing my work, of creating novels and story collections. I dream about being able to share my work with people I don’t know yet. How do I intentionally make that change from sales rep. with a dream to writer with a career? That’s the change I consider daily. There are so many steps I could take to get from point A to point B. I want to take those steps. It’s not like the path has never been taken. I have to force myself to accept and take that willful direction.

Change is often forced on us. Decisions out of our control dictate our response or at the very least force us to adapt to them. Policy makers, life situations (loss of job, death in the family, etc) and other events out of our control bring unwanted change in our lives.

When I was a junior in high school, my parents made the bold decision to move our family from Cleveland, OH to rural Southern Illinois. It was a situation out of my control. I went from the city I loved to farmlands I hated. I was a punk rock/heavy metal listening skateboarder that found myself living not in a concrete jungle but in the midst of cornfields and soybean fields. That was a change I didn’t handle well at first. It was forced on me and instead of seeing the opportunity for growth all I could do was focus on the negative and fell into a depression.

I’ve lived well over half my life in Illinois moving from the farmlands to a small town and I enjoy life here very much. I have a family and friends I would never have known if it weren’t for this change in my life. I understand now why the change had to occur but at the time like most people forced to deal with such an upheaval, I responded with negativity and anger.

Looking back at it, if I were to deal with the situation in a more positive way I could’ve enjoyed my time and the transition so much more. I could have grown instead of turning inward in a childish attempt to ignore the situation.

Change in our lives is inescapable. We like to think we’re cozy where we’re at. But how likely are you going to stay comfy in your current situation? Taking steps to confront and accept that possibility I think are key to creating a positive outcome. Planning for change rather than reacting to change is a much stronger stance. Working towards a goal and calculating the way towards it is a worthwhile pursuit.


Saturday May 7th I’ll be at the Indie Book Fair in St. Louis selling my book and doing a reading from it. Come on out and meet me and close to 40 other local and regional authors. Should be a great time!

No More Ragrets

What if the world ended today? What is the news was flooded with reports of impending global destruction or some other cataclysmic event? Would you run around screaming and crying? Would you get violent and act on all your base instincts? Would you seek out your loved ones and hold them close? As you sat waiting for the inevitable end and the time ticked away, what would your mind focus on?

My mind wanders to thoughts like these a lot. Call it “mid-life” or “scared-of-what-these-presidential-candidates-have-in-store-for-us” syndrome, but either way, I find myself questioning my life choices and direction.

meteorite-1060886_960_720I’ve found balance, to a degree, by focusing more on writing. It’s an avenue where I can express my thoughts (like on this blog) or create new worlds full of danger and heroes through my fiction. Expressing myself through words and sharing that with others has given me a greater sense of “being” in a way unlike anything else I’ve been doing. I’ve met so many new and wonderful people through the power of words. I feel confident in what I’ve done so far. Maybe my words might live on in some form that a future generation, if anything survives a possible global annihilation, can discover it and be entertained by it. If nothing else maybe they’ll get a good laugh.

That’s one of my constant fears: leaving nothing of consequence behind.

I look at my son as my parting shot to the world. When he’s an adult and out on his own, my hope is that my wife and I raised him to be a productive member of society and he brings something positive to the world. We’re doing our best and maybe one day he’ll cure a disease or create a new product that truly benefits humanity. Or maybe he’ll be the next great artist or novelist. He could possibly be a great family man that in turn raises a child (or children) to become something special to the world. (Though I can wait to be a grandpa. I’m not in any hurry for that!) It took me awhile to realize it, but he is “something of consequence” I’m leaving behind. My legacy, fair or not, lives on in him. What my wife and I do in raising him and the values we instill in him will affect future generations and by doing so, I am leaving something after I’m gone.

I’ve worried a lot in the past year or so (is it a coincidence it happened when I turned 40?) that I’m toiling in this world with nothing to show for it. I don’t want to be a cog in the machine. I don’t want to be one of millions that trudges on through life and before I know it, I’ve wasted it on fruitless pursuits. I don’t want to get to the end and look back on a series of regrets for not doing this or not helping with that. I’m trying to avoid that kind of end to my life. I’m trying to leave something lasting after I’m gone.

When those meteors rain down on us or flames sweep the globe, I want to know I’ve done something special. What about you?


 

Before you go, I want to update you on a few things. I’ve got a brand new author website up and running. Go check it out at jasonjnugent.com. While there, sign up for my monthly newsletter and receive a code for a FREE copy of my debut fiction collection to download from Smashwords.

I’ve got my first book signing event coming on April 9th at the Book House in St. Louis. I will be with fellow S.U.M. writer Lakesha Mathis. If you’re in the area, please stop by. I love to meet new people and share my work with them.

On May 7th I will be at the St. Louis Indie Book Fair at the St. Louis Library. I’ll have books to sell and will have a chance to do a reading. Come on out and meet me and over 50 other writers at what should be a great event.

And finally, if you’ve not picked up a copy of my debut collection (Almost) Average Anthology, it’s available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iBooks for only .99! You can click on the large book cover on this page to buy it from Amazon. Please consider getting a copy of my original fiction and when you do, an honest review is very much appreciated.

Thanks!