Saturday, April 11, 2015

Down the Rabbit Hole - Books One And Two

I will be the first to admit that I have not kept up with this blog (or All The Rods either for that matter) as I initially intended to. It's not for lack of interest but mostly because my life has changed just that much in the blink of an eye. I've already covered how much things have changed but my creativity in the past ten months has gone through the roof. I believe that a lot of that has to do with change of lifestyle and stress level.

When I changed the outer, the inner had to change as well and I'm better for it. Due to the fact that I've moved geographically, the energy in my new dwelling has shifted my creativity level to one that I never could have fathomed. I enjoy better focus and clarity in my new digs and it doesn't hurt that the lady who owns the home I'm presently living in is also a novelist as well. In short, the energy is good where I am and it has allowed me to create beyond my dreams.

I finished 'Deja Vu' in September 2014 and took a lot of time off before starting something else. I had initially planned to go right into a prequel/sequel for that novel but it just did not work out. I had a good head of steam going in but I began to lose interest fast. I decided to veer away from it, imagining that at some point in the future I would come back to it but that wasn't to be...

'Down The Rabbit Hole - Book One'  was something that had been in mind for some time. It had begun as a figment of an idea that as I began to write, sort of played out in my mind and became its own story after a while. This novel was started on January 1, 2015 and I am still adding to it and editing it, fleshing it out as I like to say. At the same time, I am also in the midst of creating 'Down The Rabbit Hole - Book Two'. 

I have to admit that as much as I love to write, working on both of these novels has been both a trip down memory lane and a walk in the park as well. Both novels feature the music business very prominently in them and the playlists in my iTunes account are numerous. I have watched and listened to more live concerts on YouTube than ever before, seeking a lot of inspiration from each. I also would have to say that the lyrics in a good bit of the songs in my playlist have been re-imagined into both novels.

I am not a musician but music is such a big part of my life and always has been.  I sort of see both of these books as my way to pay tribute to the bands and the fans that have inspired me through the years.

The synopsis of  'Down The Rabbit Hole - Book One'  surrounds a young American woman who is living in London during the mid-1980s and the people she involves herself with including an unhappily married young musician who becomes obsessed with her. This first book chronicles their time together on and off from late 1984 to early 1999 and how both of their lives change. This novel seems to have a very tragic ending but in actuality, it is a rebirth.

'Down The Rabbit Hole - Book Two' picks up when the rebirth is a few years in and follows the  woman from 2004 to the present time. This novel shows how this woman, now in her early fifties, has changed her life and re-invented herself. She wears a lot of different hats, trying on various vocations and even doing several at once. She shows us all how you are truly never too old to begin again and that the power of forgiveness can set you free.

Plans for both novels include Kindle uploads with an eye towards physical softcover books at some point thereafter.

I would like to extend a huge thank you to my dear friend Joy Hawkins for agreeing to let me use her awesome photo! I had been looking for something a bit out of the ordinary as the cover image and the first time I laid eyes on this photo, I said "That's it! Perfect!" It's up to you all to first figure out what this is and where it was taken. I know that this cover might turn a few heads, that's the hope at least.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Only Constant Is Change

Wow! It has been a long time since I've been here, hasn't it? Took a vacation day from my job due to having something important to take care of. I was finished with that early and then headed to my old workplace to see everyone there (most of whom I had not laid eyes on since Dec 2008!!).

Today was a mixed bags of emotions. Myself ,like so many Americans of the past few years, filed for a Chap 7 bankruptcy. Today was the day that the legal part caught up with all of the other changes in my life. I had emotionally severed ties with everything that no longer served me and I had even moved my home late June 2014. I had been prepping for the day of my court date for months now and then within less than 10 minutes, the long wait was over and I was free.

I thought that by divorcing myself from the past, I had already moved on but today just felt different. It was the final nail in the coffin of my past. Part of me feels like "Now what?" yet another part of me is yearning to really start over and do it big.

Since I no longer own anything except a few personal items, my art and computer stuff, I have a level of freedom I have never really enjoyed yet in my adult life. I know I am going to enjoy the ride immensely. I've spent the first part of my life fulfilling everyone else's obligations for me and now it is MY time. It is long overdue.

With the Chap 7, I now feel more in control of my life. I feel like I can control my spending and cashflow better now than ever before. In the past, in particular within the past 7 years I had felt as if my money ran me and not the other way around. Or should I say, my lack of money which always led to some ill-chosen financial decisions.

A few things led to my downfall and now that I am on the other side of things, I can speak honestly about them. One, I had a great job many years ago. I was almost to 20 years in when I was blown out of there in Dec 2008 along with 79 others. I think that if I had made better choices (such as keeping my mouth shut and going along to get along) I probably might have survived the cuts that seemed to come after mine. Maybe.

From there, I landed at a local mortgage company with some great people, a good many of whom I still talk to. I also still maintain friendships with the folks from the company I worked at where I was let go in Dec 2008. I had imagined I would be able to retire from the mortgage company but alas that too was not to be as the owner of the company had gotten into trouble and had to stop writing mortgages in the state of FL and a lot of good people (myself included) were let go in Oct 2013. Sucked. I had not seen that coming after having gone through it five years earlier.

From there, I wandered around and did some temp jobs. You know, the kind where they're like "Sign up with us, we'll put you in this company and then you will be hired in 3 months." Um no, not quite. To me, the temp agency wanted to fill seats in the company that they placed me at. That was it. To get 'hired' there, you had to apply like a person coming in off the street. Having given up 7 months of your time to work for them was not something that put you into contention, sorry to say! Couple that with working with people on power trips that worked hard to run what used to be a good company straight into the ground, it was time to fly and I did.

I now work at a medical supply company and it's good enough for me for now. They took a chance on me when I had no experience in the job I ended up doing for them. I appreciate that immensely. I get paid time off now and paid holidays. Best of all, it's permanent, I can do as much OT as I like (which I do plenty of!) and they have a bonus incentive program (which I also like.) The people are great. Life is good, end of story.

Part of the first reason for my downfall is that as the jobs changed, the income dwindled. I am now making $5 less than I was 7 years ago. I'm not the only one either. This is widespread. The problem with this is that while my income went down, the cost of living went through the roof for me and something had to give.

Which leads me to the second part of my downfall, reason #2 if you will. I once lived in a condo which I was buying/paying a mortgage on. I had bought the whole "Lifescript-American Dream Scenario" that is forcefed to every American. That would be the one that says to be successful, you not only should own your own home but it is preferable because it proves to the world at large that you are a responsible person etc etc. I would love to know who comes up with this stuff because I'd like to set them straight.

I know a lot of 'responsible' people who had had to give up their homes largely due to the economic downturn among other things. Maybe in 1983, this was the rationale but in 2015, it doesn't work like that anymore. If you are reading this and own a home, great. Good for you. If you're not sweating it and can make it work, all the power to you. I'm not picking on you folks at all, but I was sold a bill of goods that homeownership was the right thing for me and it has more than proven to be a disaster for me.

When I was flush with cash, I used to listen to the Dave Ramsey Show. He used to say often on his show that if you spent more than half of your take-home pay on your house (like a mortgage),you had no business in a house. I didn't like to hear that, because that was me, all the way. The truth hurts. The thing was, I was spending more than  half my income on housing!!!!  (More like 75% of it!!) Yeah, true facts here.

Because I lived in a condo, I also had what is called a "Homeowner Fee", "Condo Fee", "Maintenance Fee". Whatever you want to call it. This is money that you pay out to a property management company via a bank. This money pays for landscape, property improvements, insurance (master property & flood) and a variety of other things. My condo fee was almost as much as my mortgage by the time I moved out. That is insane! The 'house' I live in now, is CHEAPER to live in monthly than that condo was! Like I said, something had to give.

So here my income was sinking like a stone and my cost of living went through the roof. All told to live where I was it hit about $950 mo (this included mortgage and condo fee). This did not include utilities. That is insanity! I felt like a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. To live there and afford my other expenses was about $2200 a mo. I did not even make that sort of money, not even close!!! Not even with OT!!

I had to come to a decision and luckily, I was able to find a place to live that didn't kill me financially. I tried and failed to sell my condo. That was a nightmare. The realtor took it on knowing it needed a lot of upgrades and work. I did not have the $$ to put into it and listed it as a fixer-upper. Yet, the realtor would piss and moan after every showing and make little "suggestions" for improvements which of course would cost ME money that I didn't have.

On a side note, one reason why I got into so much financial trouble is that every time something broke, out came the credit card. Or I had to finance the repair or new item somehow. Which piled onto the debt. It had become a never-ending cycle of me working my ass off and never enjoying my life because I had this albatross around my neck.

So, I filed for Chap 7 in Sept 2014 and had my meeting at the courthouse today. I am done! No more of this!

Anyway, anyone that has read this blog in the past knows that I normally steer clear of the heavy stuff like this and try to keep things positive. But I have to be real every now and then and this is one of those times.

Things I have learned in this process is that when  it comes to big life decisions, it is always best to follow your heart. If it feels wrong, don't do it! Don't let well-meaning people give you the old "You should" speech! Run away from that!!!!

When I bought my place, I was advised by people who I trusted but as time went on, it turned into a trainwreck and I'm happy to have this in the rearview mirror now. Not everyone is wired for that lifestyle of immense responsibility like that. I was 21 when I moved in there and never really got to be carefree and fun-loving because I had a "mortgage". It was like being in a bad marriage to be honest.

As for buying another home? No. I will rent before that happens. So what, if I am paying someone else's mortgage???! So? And? Right now, I am set where I am unless something changes. I would look into a Tiny house thing possibly. That trend seems to have taken hold now. Or even a trailer at some point, or an RV or a boat. Who knows?

But one more thought on home-ownership, is that if you are going to do it, by all means make sure you can afford it. If you're single like me, make sure you are good with money and that you can save. Make sure that beyond the shadow of a doubt that you really want to be a homeowner and then set about making that happen. Do not let anyone try to talk you into it. You have to feel that it is right for you, something which I wish I had done. Same as if you are married. If this is what you really want, nothing will stand in your way but married or single, you have to realize how much of a responsibility this is and understand that going in. It's not easy at all. And for me, it was not fun. But like I said, some people love it and make it work and that's great.

Sorry about the downer but I see all of this as a new beginning. One door slams shut and another opens wide!