I feel a little silly about this confession. I’m not ungrateful for the life I’ve had. It’s been unusual in that it’s been both full and solitary.
My youth was spent in news, particularly sportswriting. My friends were out meeting girls on weekends. I spent Friday and Saturday nights meeting deadlines. Then came stand-up comedy, also fun but a deeply isolated life.
All of that is fine. It’s the life I chose for myself.
Besides, I did have a lot of friends in comedy. That was a dichotomy if ever there was one. I was a better writer than a comic. I was accepted more by fellow comedians than reporters.
It doesn’t take much thought to understand why I’m no longer in news. It’s all economics. The print industry was more profitable than online. The print industry pretty much doesn’t exist now. As for comedy, the next person to explain that business model will be the first.
I went into health care because I had money saved and didn’t want to be homeless when I got old. The first well-paying job I had was in a miserable place called Redding, Calif. I left my friends and family, lived a year up there. And made exactly zero friends.
Oh, I had gotten off to a great start. I had my patients and coworkers laughing. Not that I was efficient in the more complex exams, mind you, but being able to put patients in a good mood for an MRI exam is surely helpful.
Only the boss hated my guts. He was a truly miserable old louse, a divorced doctor with a stone-bald head, pot belly and an understanding that some personally painful developments would not get better. Redding — the next largest city is Sacramento, a two-hour drive away — has no singles scene. The people there were either minors, happily married or elderly. Young adults had to leave “North State” for college. The pickings were slim for middle-aged divorcees.
So if he couldn’t be happy, no other male employee could be, either. One of his favorite things to do was to yell, “My name is on the bottom of the paycheck and yours is up top. Do you know what that means? That means you do what I say.”
Once, I actually replied with an impression of Kane from “The Dark Knight Returns”: “And this give you power over me?” I asked in a discombobulated voice, because I was at a point where I didn’t care if I got fired. I could find another job if necessary.
After five months of solitude, I knew I couldn’t return to Hollywood. It wasn’t pride. It was financial. I was on good footing. LA is breathtaking in how expensive it is. So the one thing I recalled was taking great pleasure in creating.
So I bought a notebook at Target and started writing.
With regards to “At the Hour of Our Death,” I am not the protagonist. I empathized with Micah Connacht. I can recognize people who are dedicated, altruistic and lonesome.
I plotted the book heavily, developed the city of San Siddinus and its residents, their agendas. I also read a lot of philosophy. I enjoy reading metaphysics and ethics. If I get into the minds of the world’s greatest thinkers, I figure I can come up with a point or two of my own to make. Themes are important to me. If I don’t have something compelling to write, I won’t undertake a project as big as a novel.
After months of plotting, I cranked out the first draft in less than a month.
Understand, I realize that draft was not ready for marketing.
What I was ready for was to get the hell out of Redding. It’s far easier to feel optimistic in Orlando, Fla., even with what happened at Pulse Nightclub recently. Florida is surprisingly conducive to creativity, the horrible music of Jimmy Buffet notwithstanding.
The book “At the Hour of Our Death,” therefore, is important to me on a number of levels. The most important one is that you enjoy it. I didn’t write this book with the idea of becoming fabulously wealthy. I wrote it with the idea that I wanted to reach out to people again. That’s the key to not feeling isolated.
I think it’s well-plotted, compelling and affordable. If you like it, feel free to review it for Goodreads or on Apple iBooks. I’d look forward to hearing from you.
As for my old employer, I don’t particularly care who is the name above his on the paycheck. Nobody needs to hear from him, anyway.