Photographs and Memories

Earlier this week I visited my father.  He is moving to Las Vegas next month, and needs a lot of help packing.  I mean, a lot of help.  There is a ton of junk.

Much of the stuff is my mother’s and that’s the hardest to get rid of.  My mom loved doing crafts, and there is a lot of her old knitting, needlepoint, and jewelry materials.  My mom’s belongings must be the hardest for my dad to get rid of.

The hardest for me are the old photographs.

This generation will never deal with this.  Their photographs are online.  They don’t take up physical space.  You don’t have to decide what lives and what dies.  I found so many pictures that made me misty.  Pics of my mom, picks of a much younger me with friends that I don’t get to see anymore, pics of me and my brother before the world got its hooks into us.

I found a picture of me and Valerie and it broke my heart.  Of course I brought it home with me, because I obviously like to torture myself.

Shoeboxes and albums of memories.  Pictures in frame.  I can’t bear to part with them.  It’s like abandoning memories. It’s turning your back on your life.

Maybe I’m just a hoarder in the making.  Maybe I’m a sentimental fool. 

Maybe, but I don’t care.  I won’t leave them behind.

The Collected Works of Valerie Z. Lewis

For the past few weeks I have been working hard on Valerie’s anthology.  It finally went live on Kindle last week.

This is the most important thing that I have ever done.  I’ve never stressed about my own work the way that I have about hers.  I guess because it’s permanent.  I can always edit my own stuff, but Val is gone.  Her stories are in my hands now, and the responsibility of that is overwhelming.  It has to be perfect.  I won’t settle for anything less than perfect.

That’s not true.  I’m sure that there are some problems with it that I haven’t seen.  Knowing that they are out there kills me.

Valerie was a much more talented writer than me.  She was a professor at Mercy College. When she died, she was entering a PhD program for Writing.  I’d estimate that there are only a thousand of so Doctors’ of Writing out there.  Literature, there are plenty.  Specifically Writing, a scant few.

But telling people that she was a great writer isn’t enough.  I feared that her stories would fall into obscurity. She deserved a better fate.

Right now the anthology is available for $1.99 on Amazon.  Mercy College set up a merit award in her name, and all of the proceeds are going to it.  Her stories deserve to be read.  For two dollars, you’re getting something that will change you.  She changed me.

Valerie on fire escape from below

New Story: If You Leave Me

Hey there dear readers.  I have a story, “If You Leave Me,” in the anthology Twisted Love. If you don’t want to invest the money in buying Song of Simon, or the time in reading “The Watchmage of Old New York,” I’d recommend starting here.  It’s completely FREE, and it’s a pretty good story.  As one fellow author said, “It’s the only zombie story that gets you right in the feels.”

This was a very difficult story to write.  I started it not long after my girlfriend Valerie died.  I began having nightmares that she was still alive and trying to dig her way out of the grave.  I combined it with my own fear that I would someday move on and find someone else to love (a fear that I still have, but that’s a completely different issue).  Writing this helped make the nightmares go away (mostly).

The other stories and poems in the anthology are very good too.  You should download it.

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.

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.

Nine Months

It was nine months ago today that Valerie died.

I haven’t written anything about her in a while, though she is always on my mind. For a while, I was marking the days, then the months on Facebook. I realize that it is a pretty drama-based thing to do, so I am refraining from it this month. But I need to acknowledge it in some way, acknowledge the pain I am in and how much I love and miss her. Even as I write this, tears roll down my face and soak my shirt. I can’t stop.

Today has been a wash. I did manage to go to the gym today and get in a good 50 minute swim. It helps. I find that when I swim, I’m so focused on it that I don’t have room to think of anything else. Besides, pool water hides tears.

But once I got home, I just crawled into bed. I’ve been in the fetal position, clutching a stuffed animal that I got her when she was accepted into the Binghamton doctoral program. It was a furry dinosaur, and it actually freaked her out some. Sometimes things would just get into her head like that.

She was such a special person, and I miss her so much.

Watchmage Returns!!!!

After my last story arc of Watchmage, I decided to take a break to work on the novelized version. Demand was high enough for a new Watchmage story that I came back. And so today is…

WATCHMAGE WEEK!!

Yesterday I released the first chapter of the new story arc, “The Wild Hunt.” I will release another chapter tomorrow and on Thursday. After that, I’ll go back to the old routine, a new chapter every Monday.

This new story is very personal to me, and much darker than the first two. I wrote this in the first few months after Valerie died, and it’s fairly obvious. It was painful to write, but everything was painful then. To be honest (and aren’t I always) things are still very painful.

I have other motivations as well. During my absence, Watchmage fell behind on votes. I didn’t realize it, but the end of this month is the Jukepop bi-annual prize. Whoever is in first place wins 500 Dollars!!

I am behind, but it is still within my reach with enough votes. I need help from my fans and friends though. Please vote for the new chapters. If you’ve voted, thank you. You can also share the link on facebook, twitter, or word o’ mouth. You can also leave reviews at the bottom of the serial’s page. Thank you so much.

The next post will be about Song of Simon, as we’re getting close to release date. Stay cool, friends.

Song of Simon News, CPAP Madness, and a Tribute to Valerie…

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Hey everyone. I just got an email from the artist that is doing the cover for “Song of Simon.” She sent me the final draft, and I like it a lot. It’s a different interpretation from how I pictured Simon–the boy looks more Latino than Irish–but there is a haunted look in his eyes that perfectly describes who Simon is. I am not too concerned with details. Details are less important than Truth. Also, I wouldn’t want to interfere with another artist’s interpretation. Seeing other people interpret your work is part of the fun (See my post on Fan Fiction).

On Wednesday I finally got a CPAP Machine to help with my Sleep Apnea. The doctor said to try it a little at a time to get used to it, so I used it for an hour during the day yesterday. I used it for an hour this morning, and I was almost able to fall asleep. Maybe tonight I can go all the way and actually get to sleep. It makes me sad that I can’t wear my glasses with it on though. I need the full mask, and it just wasn’t made for glasses. Oh well, don’t need glasses to sleep.

Next Wednesday, Mercy College is giving out a small award in Valerie’s name. I think that the award goes to either the top student in the writing department, or the winning story in a contest. Either way, I am happy about it. Even if years in the future, people no longer know who she was, she will still be helping her students. I remember when I was a senior, I was runner up for a similar contest. I only won a gift certificate, but it gave me the confidence I needed. Maybe my writing wasn’t as terrible as I thought. The encouragement is more valuable than the prize.

Odd Weekend

It was an odd weekend.

I’ve been in a depressive cycle for the past few weeks, and the weekends have been the worst. I’ve felt very lonely. I used to spend my weekends with Valerie, and now that she is gone, I don’t know what to do with myself.

On Saturday, me and Val’s mom cleaned out her apartment.

Most of the things were already packed away, but Val’s mom’s wanted me to have some of her stuff. She is moving, and the books are too much to store or move cross country with. So i took some of her things: a few books that have meaning to me, some dvds, and the rest of her toys. I took a small cabinet too because I need something to rest my CPAP machine on, and it is just too pretty to go into storage. I have a big box of books too, which I am going to offer to friends or to the library. My books are already in storage, I don’t know why I took more, except that I loved the reader.

I am kinda excited about how the complete runs of “Buffy:TVS” and “Angel.” I feel a little guilty for being excited about it though.

I thought that it would be much harder than it was. I thought that I would be overcome with grief. The truth is, I carry my grief around with me and no specific time or place will make it better or worse. It was actually very nice to see Val’s family again, and I had a great time.

Saturday night I went down to Chelsea to see my brother perform at the Metropolitan Room. He’s an aspriring stand up comic, and even though he’s only done a couple of shows, his act is pretty damn good. Writing must be a familial talent.

Speaking of, I did almost no writing last week. Every five chapters or so, I take a week off to edit the previous five chapters. It’s hard to get back into it though. I only wrote about 700 words yesterday, and I am struggling today.

Injustice: Gods Among Us

I just got back from GameStop (Stop Game! Stop!) and picked up Injustice. I’m a sucker for comic games, and fighting games are always fun when you have people over (which I never do, but want to. It’s a lonely life). I haven’t opened it yet, but from what I can gather, the story line is this:

The Joker blows up Metropolis and tricks Superman into killing Lois Lane (an obvious trope, and kinda infuriating). Superman goes full on fascist (as we all know that he was capable of…that any of us are capable of) and basically creates The Justice Lords. Batman leads a rebellion against it, which is kinda ironic since he is one of the biggest fascists in the DC Universe (more on this when some comic geek flames me for besmirching Batman).

It’s an interesting premise (though again, the “Women in Refrigerators” trope bothers me). It made me think about something: Has there ever been a crossover where Superman had to stop the Joker, and Batman had to stop Lex Luthor? I don’t think that Supes can stand up to the sheer madness of the Joker (and this video game agrees with me). I also don’t think that Batman can compete with Lex. Lex can very easily discern Batman’s identity with his money and tech (there must be a paper trail a mile long). From there, it would be easy to crush Wayne Tech and take away all of Batman’s toys. Batman without money is still potent, but not against Luthor and his inventions and connections.

I’m sure that this has been done before, but probably with the two heroes switching out. If anything, it shows how the hero and the villian in a comic are a matched pair, an opposite number.

On a side note, I bought the game with the gift card that Valerie gave me for my birthday. Fitting that the last gift that she gave me was something called “Injustice.”