Terry Pratchett and the Splinter in Your Heart

First, a reminder: I’m having a Goodreads Giveaway for 2 signed copies of Song of Simon. You can enter here

I never read any Discworld. I never read Strata or The Unadulterated Cat. The only book I ever read of his was Good Omens, with Neil Gaiman. Despite this, I’m very moved by his death.

Books make a difference. They make people happy, and his work brought so much joy to people. He died too soon, of a horrible disease that took his mind before his body. Yet he is now immortal, for his work will live on. Isn’t that all a writer wants–to live beyond death? I know that it is for me.

I wonder if he’d appreciate the irony around his death. He was a proponent of assisted suicide, and that caused great controversy. People championed him, and others damned him. It’s a subject that he had the courage to fight for. In the end, he died before he had a chance.

According to Gaiman, none of us really knew him. He was not the comic personality that we assume from his writing. He was angry, even before his disease. To quote “Some people have encountered an affable man with a beard and a hat. They believe they have met Sir Terry Pratchett. They have not.”

He had a splinter digging into his heart, and it fueled his books. His mastery came from fury. Can you blame him?

I found this collection of quotes by him. Can you see the anger? Anger made him strong. It made him real. It made him a master. May we all keep that splinter in our hearts.

“And Death said: ‘AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.’”

“Terry took Death’s arm, and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.”

I hope that you find peace, Sir Terry.

Like my posts? Follow my website or “Like” my facebook fan page and/or follow me on Twitter. You can also purchase my debut novel, Song of Simon, at any online bookstore or a real one (they both exist). Song of Simon currently has a 4.7/5.0 rating on Amazon, so it’s pretty damn good. If you’re looking for something FREE, you can read my serial (soon to be an expanded series of novels) The Watchmage of Old New York. Though it ended in February 2014, it remains one of the most popular serials on JukePop OF ALL TIME!

Damn You, Professor Chaos!

I watched a little too much South Park last night, including the ones with Butters/Prof. Chaos. I have decided that he is my arch enemy. As one friend said, “I’ve never met anyone as clenched as you.”

I like his cape though.

I wasn’t always this way. I used to be very easy going, mellow, all loosey goosey hippy blah blah blah. Then my mother died. Then my girlfriend, Valerie died. Then something inside of me died. I need to have everything in its place.

I recently found out why during therapy: Both people died when I wasn’t there. I turned my back, and they were gone. My mother was on vacation when she died. Valerie had just moved to Binghamton to get her PhD is Writing. I went to visit her, and I found her on the floor. Two days later–two years as of tomorrow–she was dead. I still adore her, and I’m madly in love with her ghost.

The world is Chaos and conspires to destroy us, and all we can do is carve out a little piece of happiness while we can, before it’s taken away.

Maybe the Crab People should be my arch enemy. They don’t have capes.

See? No capes.

Like my posts? Follow my website or “Like” my facebook fan page and/or follow me on Twitter. You can also purchase my debut novel, Song of Simon, at any online bookstore or a real one (you’ll probably have to order it). Of course, you can always buy an autographed one from me, just send me a message. Song of Simon currently has a 4.7/5.0 rating on Amazon, so people seem to like it. If you’re looking for something FREE, you can read my serial (soon to be an expanded series of novels) The Watchmage of Old New York. Though it ended in February, it remains one of the most popular serials on JukePop OF ALL TIME!

The Past Comes Back

I don’t write many personal posts anymore, but something happened this week that shook me so bad, I’m still in “Crisis Mode.”

For a little over two months now, I’ve been dating someone. Things have been great, and I’ve final found someone that I have a connection with. It’s the first person that I’ve felt this way about since Valerie died.

Most of you don’t know: My girlfriend Valerie Z. Lewis passed away very suddenly on January 24th, 2013. In two weeks, it’ll be two years. She had recently moved to Binghamton, NY, to get her PhD in Writing (she was an incredible writer. You can find her novels and collected short stories on Amazon. The revenue goes to Mercy College’s Valerie Z. Lewis Award for Excellence in Creative Writing), and I was soon to follow.

I went to visit her, and I found her on the floor. Two days later, she was dead. I died with her.

I’ve dated since then, but this is the first time that I’ve found someone. It took me two years to get over the fear of opening up to someone, only to see them die.

So when my current gf started shaking and seizing in my apt, when she couldn’t breathe and her left side fell limp, it was my worst nightmare coming true. I moved with alacrity I didn’t know I had, calling 911 with one hand while keeping her shaking body from injuring herself with the other. I wrapped her in one of my giant hoodies and held her, begging her to hold on, trying to keep her coherent with reassurance.

On the inside I was dying all over again.

They still don’t know what’s wrong. She’s slept most of this week, and still twitches. I’m terrified to leave her alone. If I wasn’t there, I don’t know if she would’ve lived.

Maybe I’m cursed. Dating me is poison. I’m already broken, and losing another will destroy me. I’m not strong enough anymore, if I ever was.

Joan Rivers Dies at 81

I’m sad to say that Joan Rivers–one of the greatest comics of all time–has passed away in New York City, the place of her birth 81 years ago. Her daughter, Melissa, confirmed it. Here is a partial quote:

“It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother, Joan Rivers,” Rivers said in a statement. “She passed peacefully at 1:17pm surrounded by family and close friends. My son and I would like to thank the doctors, nurses, and staff of Mount Sinai Hospital for the amazing care they provided for my mother.”

A young Joan Rivers

Rivers has been on life support for the past six days. She stopped breathing during a surgical procedure on Aug 26th.

Joan Rivers was a pioneer not just as a women, but for all comedians. Her time on The Tonight Show was classic comedy (check it out on Youtube). She won an Emmy for her talk show, and a Grammy for best comedy album.

Of course, most of us know her from her work for the E Network, and that’s a shame. She was much more than that.

My brother, the comedian Scott Sanders, admires her work very much, and turned me on to her older stuff. Scott says “Her self-depreciating humor was very inspiring to me.” I agree.

What more can I say? Rest in Peace, Joan.

What I learned From My Mother

Two years ago today, my mother suffered a massive blood clot to her brain and passed away. She and my father were on vacation in Palm Springs. It was very sudden, and although she wasn’t in the best of health, it was unexpected. From what I can tell, she was having a great time on vacation, and didn’t suffer when it happened. I take some comfort in that. We should all be so lucky to go that way.

I got the news just hours before one of my best friend’s wedding. Needless to say, it was a very tumultuous day. It was the beautiful wedding and the love between my friend and his wife that kept me from falling apart that day.

But this is not a post about me. This is about my mom.

What I Learned From My Mom

My mom was a very giving person. She believed in helping others, and she would sacrifice her own desires to help someone in need. That is what I learned. I learned that the greatest virtue is giving of yourself. A good person helps their fellows, they build a family, an extended family, and a community.

I also learned that it’s near impossible to change the world alone. I learned that what you can change is your world. You can focus the scale down to just your circle, and change their lives. You can teach those people to improve the lives around them, and pass that on, and they pass the same on. That’s how you better the world. It’s not the grand gestures. It’s the small ones.

I do my best to follow her example. I don’t always succeed, but who knows the kind of impact I’ve had. I’d like to think that I’ve made my small patch of earth a little better. It’s a lesson well learned. I hope that more people learn it.

Be Like Mom. Pass It On

So if you ever wondered while I sometimes get all preachy and hippie-dippie here, now you know. I write about heroism often, because as a writer, I deal in heroes and villains. From my Mom, I learned that heroism isn’t strength of arm, it’s the willingness to sacrifice for the greater good.

I try not to preach, but I honestly do think that people should try to focus less on the big picture, and more on the little one. Be a good example and you will make a difference. Do what you can, give what you can. Change your scale to change the world.

My mother was a good person, a good teacher, and a good role model. I hope that I do her justice. Rest in peace, I love you.

Rest in Peace, Pete Seeger

I’ve been thinking about this post for years.

I used to cover music for several magazines back in the day, especially in the New York area.  Part of the responsibility was to write obituaries, and I remember one day thinking that i’d have to write one for Pete.  I swatted the thought down, not being able to think that far into the future.  Then I wrote one for his brother Mike.  Then last year I wrote one for his wife Toshi.  I knew it was going to happen, and I knew that it would hurt me bad.

I met Pete several times.  I am a regular at his Clearwater Festival, the music festival that supports his environmental group, Clearwater.  As I child, I went on a field trip and sailed on the Clearwater.  I never forgot the rocking of the waves or the singing crew.  It’s one of my fondest memories.

There will be other obits out there that go into all his accomplishments, all the fantastic songs he wrote or popularized, the way he stood up to Joe McCarthy and embraced the Civil Rights Movement, his support of the New York music scene, his dedication to the environment.  Maybe they’ll talk about the movement to nominate him for a Nobel Prize. That’s all academic.

What they can’t tell you is how he made you feel. He made you want to sing.

I never did a full interview with him, but I talked to him many times.  He had a way about him, and when he spoke, you listened.  Not that he was the kind of voice that demanded attention.  It was the other way around.  He was humble and easy going, but possessed of a simple wisdom that made you want to listen for hours.  He made you want to sing.

He was tall.  Really tall. Until you’ve seen him in person, you don’t realize just how tall he was.  Even at 94, he was still this white-haired beanpole in a fisherman’s hat.  He gave off this air of mental and spiritual strength. He made you want to sing.

And so we sang.  He took the stage and led us, and we sang.  Great waves of people singing “Turn Turn Turn” or “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” while he played the long neck banjo or the 12 string.  People of every gender, color and class joining their voices into one.

Pete Seeger is gone, but songs last forever.  Sing for Pete’s sake.

Sing for Pete’s sake

A Delayed Eulogy for Valerie

One year ago today, my girlfriend Valerie passed away.  It was very sudden. Within three days she was gone.  I didn’t give a eulogy at her funeral, because I was too broken hearted to speak, so I’m going to do it now.

I’m going to try to keep the melodrama to myself.  I’ve written at length about how much I miss and love her.  But the truth is that she’s still a mystery to me.

We didn’t date for very long.  We started talking in early November of 2011 (just before I became homeless) but didn’t have a face-to-face date until early January.  A year is not a lifetime, but she was such a complex, deep, layered, interesting individual that even if we had a lifetime, she would continue to surprise me.

She had STRONG tattooed on one of her wrists, but it could have sat on her fist.  Her words were like cannon balls that burst through anything in their path.  She was not afraid of anyone, and if need be, she would kick your ass.  But she was not there for destruction, she was there to help.  She was the kind of person that could start a revolution, but for the right reasons.  She helped people. She gave till it hurt.  She shielded people with her strength until they took that strength upon themselves.

But she was also gentle and shy.  Being alone triggered panic attacks.  She didn’t believe in herself as much as she should’ve.  She was often passive.  I know that this wasn’t always the case, but this was the Val that I knew.  She was multifaceted, like a cut ruby.  She was large, she contained multitudes (I wish I had a Wilde quote to use there, but I’ll settle for Whitman).

She was the most brilliant writer that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  Her short stories are masterpieces.  She had nearly 25 stories published in magazines, many quite prestigious. Her poetry is sharp and unyielding, like the knife she carried in her bag.  Her novel is not just adorable and hilarious, but it is a wry view of the double standard between pursuit in straight romance novels and gay ones.

She was also a caring teacher who brought the best out of her students.  She never left a student behind. She was so beloved by her students and coworkers that Mercy College set up a scholarship in her name.

I don’t know what else to say.  She was the best person that I ever knew.  She saved me. My only regret is that I didn’t get to spend the rest of my life with her.  I’m glad that she got to spend the rest of her life with me.

Me and Val, with her sister Jean and brother in law Kenny.  Jan 2013. I think that this is the last picture of her before she died.

Me and Val, with her sister Jean and brother in law Kenny. Jan 2013. I think that this is the last picture of her before she died.

Miles To Go Before I Sleep

I turned 37 (in a row!? nsfw)  on the 13th, but I feel like 50.  Medical bills are adding up, and my body is subtracting.  It doesn’t seem to matter how much weight I lose (70 pounds since February), my body still rebels against me.

I know that I shouldn’t kvetch, but I’m a Jew and that’s my birthright.

To summarize: my ins is refusing to cover 2 meds that they used to, without which I will die.  My endocrine system is fucked. I have a toothache, and I can’t find a dentist that takes my ins.  I injured my knee swimming in November and was misdiagnosed.  Now I have to go in for an MRI to search for ligament damage.  I’m severely bipolar, with anxiety and panic attacks that induce vomiting. I have asthma. I have sleep apnea, but the cpap machine causes panic attacks (having to rip off the mask to throw up is not pleasant. I have the beginnings of Barret’s esophagus (which will eventually cause esophageal cancer, one of the most lethal cancers).  My left foot sometimes goes numb, and I have a B12 deficiency.

Many of these things I’ve lived with all my life, and I have come to terms with.  I was diagnosed with Bipolar syndrome by age 14.  They put me on Lithium, which I think damaged my endocrine system.  I always had asthma.  Everything else is a brand new fucking experience.

This is why I throw myself into my writing.  This is why I aim for a book a year.  I want to leave something behind when I die, something that people can enjoy, that will live on beyond me.  But one book isn’t enough.  Ten might not be enough.  I will never be satisfied with what I’ve done, and I feel like I have a short while to do it.

Valerie died when she was 35.  She was a brilliant writer, with who knows how many great stories still left inside of her.  She was working on her 3rd novel when she died, and it will remain unfinished.  I keep putting off publishing her anthology because I am selfish and driven.  I keep saying “when I finish this chapter, or this book, or whatever.”  One day I am going to die and I hope that it’s not before I get her shit together.  Her work means more to me than my own, so why do I keep putting it off?

No matter how much I may want to, I am not ready to join her yet.  I have miles to go before I sleep.

 

Happy Anniversary Valerie

Today is the anniversary of the day Valerie and I met. We went to a little Italian place in Ossining called Capri and to Starbucks afterwards. It was the best date that I ever had. We had been talking for a couple of months already through Okcupid, so I pretty much knew that I would like her. I did not expect to be blown away. By the end of the night, I was thoroughly enamored.

I decided not to visit her grave today, as the anniversary of her death is the 24th.

It’s a rare thing in life when you love someone so wholly, completely, and unconditionally. When I first started dating Val, I loved her and thought she was perfect. With time, I realized that she wasn’t perfect, that she was human, with flaws and quirks like the rest of us. She didn’t need a pedestal for me to put her on. I loved her even more for those quirks and flaws. I loved her for who she was, not who I might want her to be. I didn’t want her to be anything more than herself.

How often do people say “I love you, but”? I love you, but I wish you didn’t pick your nose. I love you, but I wish you’d find a better job. I love you, but I wish this or that. I didn’t “love her, but,” I “loved her, because.”

I miss her every day, and every day I will.

A New Interview

Hey there.
I haven’t been very active lately. November is a hard month for me. Once the sun disappears, I get depressed. I’ve always been that way.

In addition, Valerie’s birthday was the 17th. I visited her grave with her mom. It was hard, so very hard. I left some carnations on the grave, and her mom left a carvel ice cream cake. They were her favorite, and a birthday tradition.

I wanted to post something about Valerie earlier, but even writing this small amount makes me cry. I honestly don’t know if it will ever get easier.

But that’s why I’ve been absent from the blog.

I do have some good news. There’s a new review for Song of Simon and interview of me at All Things Book-Review. I know that those of you that follow my blog know quite a bit about my life. This is a little more insight. I hope that you enjoy it. I can’t tell if I give good interviews or not. I try not to use the standard platitudes that most people do, but balancing that without sounding like a douchebag is hard.

Later,
Craig
craig with bandana cropped