3 Years Later…

Well, I can hardly believe it’s been three years since I self-published my first novel, “Watching the World Fall”. The spring of 2010 seems like a long time ago. But, in a way, the time also seems to have flown. Family life (kids), work, travel, the small house projects which inexplicably balloon into albatross-worthy missions…it all makes it fly.

But, definitely, one of the reasons the time seems to have roared by is my own doing – my own deadline.

Not long after the book was released, I went to talk at my mother’s book group in Maryland. I think that was in July, when I already knew what my next two books were going to be. At the talk, attended by a few dozen of my parents’ pleasant, easy-going contemporaries, someone asked if I was working on the next book and when it would be out. I responded, accurately, that I was working on the next two and that I was shooting for a three-year deadline.

So, here it is three years later, and…

“The Churning”.

The book’s nearly done, which is super-exciting. I plan to have it out in about a month, which makes it timely for a lot of reasons. It will be out before the U.S. Men’s Soccer team cements its place in World Cup qualifying (not essential to the book, but it certainly would be a bonus). It could be an ice-breaker for the new school year. I’ll have something to show for being off from work this spring and summer.

Maybe best of all, I’ll have another story to be proud of – even if some of the material is disturbing, troubling and offensive (a key character in the book has become the only psycho I’ve ever really worked on). And it’s reassuring to know that I could stick to my own deadline of three years. I didn’t feel foolish when I made the claim – I really do want to write these novels faster and more efficiently than my first. Still, when I was working full-time a year ago and the spare minutes were coming after 9:30 PM (with my early-morning hours spoken for), I had my doubts. “Finishing” and “following-through” are two issues which seem to plague writers more than any creative subset I can think of.

Thankfully, I have a super-supportive and patient wife who knows I don’t just hack out artistic gibberish at the laptop all day. This is a passion and a pursuit – and it needs to be finished so I can return to the workforce. Paychecks are good.

Nearly there, and right on time.

For once, this writing thing has gone according to plan.


An older post, which recent Christmas wrapping (easier because I’m no perfectionist) called to mind. With evidence…

poorly-wrapped presents

Justin’s awesome wrapping work

poorly-wrapped presents

With a recent birthday, I had another opportunity to flaunt my exceptional gift-wrapping skills. They could be the stuff of legend. Who says a box needs only six sides, four corners and twelve strips of tape? Come on, where’s your sense of aesthetic?
This particular job called for two Lego boxes, one on top of the other, not the same size. Why? I’ll get to that.
My gift-wrapping doesn’t start out comical (think Homer Simpson cramming his last-minute, fraudulent tax return into an envelope that becomes a taped, crumpled football of sorts). No, it just happens. I am drawn to create…well, it’s not art. It’s mishap, embodied. It’s not just the zig-zag cutting job and miscellaneous rips. No, way beyond that. It’s proof that certain people (men like me) simply shouldn’t be wrapping things.
I was the one with the time, so I was the one to tackle these presents.
I half-expect my wife to be hauled in front of some kind of Senate Judiciary Committee any day, now.
Bald Politician in Suit: “Ma’am, you are expected to answer our questions regarding your husband’s, uh, present-wrapping behavior. Now, it seems that this, uh, wrapping – if you can call it that – this, uh, this is so atrocious that it is tantamount to, uh, some kind of treason. Wouldn’t you agree, Bob?”
Bob: “Yes, I believe I would.”
Luanne: “Sir, I – my husband has no -”
Bald Politician in Suit: “Now, let’s be honest, Ms. Schocket. The goats in the newly-liberated Afghan Republic could do a better job than this. And they have hooves, might I remind you. Did they, Ma’am, by any chance, actually perform this particular gift-wrapping procedure? Did you give them some tape and a table? Remember, you are under oath.”
Luanne: “Yes, Sir, I know.”

Maybe next time, I should just stick it in a brown paper bag and surround it with twine.
My wife laughs at my work, but at least she isn’t crying anymore. She’s finally come to accept that there are certain tasks Justin should not do. Ever.
However, I’d be quick to remind her – and the Senate – that this particular job was for our son, who’s a kid. He doesn’t care. When we go to parties and I see the table of professionally-wrapped boxes (yes, some people actually have ‘gift-wrapping rooms’) I have to grin and shake my head.
The kids don’t care. That present could be covered in day-old banana peals, it doesn’t matter. Junior’s going through it so fast that he or she hardly notices there’s some kind of outer layer meant to look good against the other outer layers.
I also did a bang-up job on my daughter’s ‘safety’ gift – the item she would get if she pitched a fit about it not being her birthday (which is around the holidays). My daughter, who’s five, hasn’t yet accepted the open invitation from the Suck-It-Up Club. Still, I admit, the idea of acquiring and preparing that safety gift grates on my nerves (as in, When the H— did that idea become an acceptable trend in placating little ones???). Fortunately, we didn’t have to give it to her, so we’re up one present for her birthday or another child’s celebration in the interim.
One thing I’ve learned about parenting is that it’s a series of constant adjustments. Always moving and shifting and acquiescing to make things a little easier, short-term or long-term.
At least, that’s the modern-day game-plan. I don’t think people of my parents’ generation were into adjustment and acquiescence all that much, just as I’m sure my father’s never been called upon to wrap a gift. Yup, pretty sure of that. I don’t think even my mother’s sense of humor is that tolerant. He didn’t wrap.
I do…and look what happens.
And all is well. The kid was happy. The two stacked Lego boxes? He didn’t even notice they were wrapped, and our cat has had a new pile where she can chase phantom shadows in the night. All is well.
Now, if you’ll excuse me: I have another set of gifts to butcher.