Friday, September 30, 2011

The Partial

"The Flying Pig"
Created by Bob Murphy, El Cajon, San Diego, CA
Last month I sank to the lowest point I had been in years. I was seriously depressed and angry over being burned by someone I thought I could trust. I got taken for almost $3,000.00. That’s a lot of money for me, and I was furious. It just goes to show that you cannot trust anyone. I have been burned by family, friends and strangers I thought were in need. No more. Trust is something that needs to be earned before I let anyone into my inner circle.

Anyway, a series of events and angry outbursts caused me to lose all my friends. Some abandoned me, and I abandoned others. At the end of it there was nobody left. I was on my own, and was seriously thinking about hurting myself. I told my doctor about what was going on, and he recommended that I do a “partial.”

A partial is where you are partially admitted to a mental clinic. You do not stay overnight, but is five days a week from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, and entails intensive group sessions five times a day, two private sessions twice a week and meeting with your psychiatrist once a week. Participation is completely voluntary and you can stop whenever you want.

Normally these sessions go for six weeks, but my doctor suggested that I do four because of my job and my insurance might not cover the full six weeks. My first day there I managed to alienate everyone in my group by bragging about being a published author, having a great job with the state and generally talking too much, mostly about myself.

Complicating matters further, there was a young woman in my group who was a professional dancer, and having studied salsa for two years, I wrote a novella about my dance teacher who just happened to share her first name. There was no sex in the story at all, but in the last few pages the main character has a conversation about his dance teacher with his Madame, who happens to be a close friend.

Anyway, she was deeply offended by my story and took it up with her case manager. The powers that be decided that my behavior was inappropriate and made people uncomfortable, and I was transferred into another group with a bunch of retards. I felt so betrayed and angry I told my case worker I would stay just long enough to get the skills I needed to cope with my anger and depression, but there was no way in hell I was going to allow myself to be incarcerated in this program for the full four weeks. She was condescending and aggravating to say the least.

After three weeks, I had learned all that I needed to go back into regular therapy and demanded to be released. She had no choice but to process me out. She told me that part of the process was to tell three people that they affected me in a positive way and thank them. I told her that after my reputation was destroyed and I became an outcast I had no desire to have contact with anybody whatsoever, and that her request only demonstrated her total ineptitude on the whole affair, and then asked her if she knew about a Great American Novel that was published in 1951 that became the single most banned book in American history.

She had no idea what I was talking about, and then I asked her if she actually read my novella, and she told me she hadn’t because that would have been a privacy issue. Stupefied by her response, I asked her how she could judge me by something she had never seen. She said the decision had been handed down from this woman's case manager and the psychiatrist in charge of the program. I shook my head and told her that she was way too stupid to hold the job she has.

I signed all the forms necessary and left with a bitter taste in my mouth. Regardless, I learned what I needed and am doing much better now. To hell with all my old friends; I am making new ones, and I have a positive, outgoing attitude. I am nailing book events on a regular basis, and have nearly exhausted my immediate area and will have to start going regional. My publisher is very happy with my progress, and is going to continue investing in me. These are good things. Life is good.

Love to all!

James M. Weil

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Barnes & Noble on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia

There are friends in my life who refuse to acknowledge my accomplishment of publishing my debut novel, and even though I have told them to read the nine glowing reviews of Swiss Chocolate on Amazon, they won’t go there, claiming they don’t have the time. I don’t know the reasoning behind this; it may be because they are jealous of my success, and don’t want to validate me. On the other hand, perhaps they just don’t give a damn.

Nailing a book event front and center at Barnes & Noble on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia is a very big deal. They don’t usually do this for many new writers. A lot of my friends asked me how I managed to pull off such a coup. It was a combination of luck, timing and salesmanship. Temple University is my alma mater, where I earned my B.A. in Journalism. The Journalism Department had just posted a news item that I had published my debut novel, and Jeff Cronin, a staff member at the University, agreed to distribute flyers a week before the event, which I had custom made. All of this I showed to the CRM, and she agreed to book my event. I was floored.

Beyond that, my little sister agreed to show up with all her friends, and one of my old friends who I still keep in touch with will be bringing some of his. This may be the event that puts me over the top. They ordered thirty books, and the CRM told me they get a lot of foot traffic, which is why she is putting me right at the front door. I am a very aggressive salesman, and the first thing I do when a person comes near me is extend my hand and introduce myself and my book. I always ask for the sale, but asking for the sale is all about the inflection in your voice. You need to be positive and firm. If they say no, I always ask them to read the first couple of paragraphs, telling them if they like the beginning I will sign a copy for them right now and they will have a first edition. If they still say no, I hand them a flyer to read at their convenience. My flyer contains the back cover blurb and some of my best reviews. On several occasions people have come back to buy the book.

Wish me luck this Sunday. I am looking forward to selling lots of books.

Love to all!

James M. Weil

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Writing from the Heart

My boss, having read Swiss Chocolate and then my unpublished manuscript, El Aguila, urged me to keep writing. I simply looked at her and told her that my main priority right now must be my job, and that I simply cannot write on demand. I need to be in a full-fledged manic episode to do any serious writing, and that could put my job in jeopardy. After all, my third novel Esmeralda, weighing in at 275 pages, was written in just under three weeks. I was half out of my mind when I wrote it, but it has gone up for editorial review three times. My publisher said he would take it if I wrote out the graphic sex, but he was unwilling to give me a contract, which I took as an act of incredible bad faith. It will be published eventually.

Last night I had a discussion with my doctor about being a writer with bipolar disorder. He cut back my meds because I am overmedicated. I told him that I am missing that edge in my psyche that I need to produce. He told me that I should try writing under controlled circumstances as a discipline, without being in mania.

And herein lays my problem: I can’t write unless it comes from somewhere deep inside me. Paul Gauguin once said that art is either plagiarism or revolution. Truer words were never spoken, which is why my work defies any real category. My publisher told me that he has published a lot of fantasy and science fiction, but so much of it, although well written, were just the same old stories told from a different angle. Isn’t this true of what we see on television and at the movies these days?

He went on to tell me that Swiss Chocolate was truly unique, and in a year or two it would make the bestsellers list. In fact, he was counting on it. Although flattered, I have a long ways to go before that happens. I am, however, nailing a lot of book events. In fact, the Barnes & Noble at the Palisades Center Mall in West Nyack, NY asked me back for another event in November! Now, that’s unusual.

My doctor was also concerned that if I started writing, it would trigger a manic episode, so I am in a real catch 22 situation. One thing is for certain, I have really been neglecting my blog, and I need to be making posts every day. I will make an effort to keep up with my blog posts. And maybe this weekend I will try my hand at a short story and see if I flip out!

Love to all!

James M. Weil

Friday, September 9, 2011

September 11, 2001

My career as an independent consultant specializing in Microsoft Visual FoxPro (VFP) was at its height during 2001. Things were going gangbusters, and I had more work than I could handle. I had clients all over the country, as well as Europe, and often made trips to Germany, England, France and Italy, to name just a few places I did business in.

That September DevCon 12, the biggest developer conference of the year for VFP, was being held in San Diego on the week of the 10th. I lived in San Diego back in the 80’s for ten years and had many old friends there, so I decided to leave Saturday morning and hook up with a few of them.

Of course, my wife wanted to come, but it wasn’t practical because the kids were so young, and I would be attending seminars all day for the entire week. When I got in, I gave my oldest friend a call, Ken Zeigler, and we met up at the hotel for a swim. Ken and I had some crazy times together when we were young and full of vigor. I remember a motorcycle trip we took to Baja California, where we got robbed by the Federales, and had to walk our bikes for miles in the blistering sun after we ran out of gas until we found a town with a bank. We had a lot of really wild times together, much of them involving women, booze and bonfires on the beach.

Ken is now married with two teenagers. We went to the Old Town CafĂ© and enjoyed a traditional Mexican dinner. It makes my mouth water just thinking about the food there. Mexican food in San Diego is like no other; it has a flare and a particular spiciness you will find in no other city. Ken’s wife was a little suspicious of me, considering how far back my friendship with Ken went and the times we shared, but I assured her those days were long gone, and I was a family man, just as he was.

Seeing Ken again was really wonderful, but the conference was my main priority. There was a lot to be learned, and some new features in the next version of VFP would be unveiled in the Keynote speech. There was electricity in the air Monday morning when the conference started. People were buzzing with excitement, and I carefully looked over the seminars, planning my week to get the most out of the direction I wanted to go in as a VFP developer. There were so many great sessions I couldn’t quite decide, but the one thing I was sure of was that I wanted to be moving toward an n-tier application model, where the user interface was presented with barely any business logic, with the exception of some input validation, and the business layer would be in objects separate from both the interface and the data, but would be the go-between the two.

The concept was not new, but had never been really effectively employed in VFP. Now, because of some new features in the operating system and VFP, the concept could be used with relative ease. That night after a full day of cramming my brain with knowledge I talked with several VFP developers I had gotten to know on the Universal Thread, a message board devoted to VFP developers from around the world.

It was late, and I was tired, so I decided to turn in early. The next morning I was out of bed earlier than normal because of jet lag, and I turned on the television. Almost every channel showed one of the Twin Towers in New York burning after a jet had slammed into it. I watched in disbelief, and wondered how in god’s name could something so awful happen?

And then, low over the horizon, I saw another plane approach. At first I thought I was watching a reenactment until I saw the plane slam into the other tower. And then it hit me full force: America was under attack!

I threw on some clothes and went down to the lobby. Dozens of television sets had been setup in the lobby and people were glued to them. We all stared in disbelief as the towers burned. A few minutes later another jet slammed into the Pentagon, and then another crashed in Pennsylvania.

Finally, New York’s boldest and proudest architectural achievements, the Twin Towers, collapsed into an enormous dust cloud, taking with them thousands of lives. I could not stop crying.

It took several minutes to get through to my wife. She was in tears as well. “When are you coming home?” she asked.

“I don’t know. They shut down all American airspace, so I have no idea. Try not to watch the TV all the time. It only makes it worse.”

“I can’t help it. How can anybody be so evil? Who would do something like this?” she asked.

"I don’t know, Gloria. All I can tell you is that America will never be the same again. Things will be different from now on. I will call you when I have more information about getting a flight home.”

The DevCon conference promoters decided that the week’s events should go on as planned, and I went to my seminars, but my heart wasn’t into it. Finally, I rented a car and drove around San Diego, looking at old haunts. My most poignant memory was when I drove up to Point Loma, not far from where I lived in Ocean Beach, to the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery and walked through the rows of fallen military heroes. I was both heartbroken and scared. I knew the ramifications of what was to come.

American airspace would be closed for at least two weeks, and there would be no flights out of San Diego. If I wanted to get a flight, I would have to go to L.A. Because I could not afford to pay for an extra week at the hotel, Ken let me stay at his house until I found a flight.

At last limited American airspace opened up and I found a flight to New York. It left rather late at night. There were maybe three people on the plane. Nobody said a word the entire way home. Being on a plane so soon after a terrorist attack of that type and magnitude left me at a loss for words, but I was thankful when my flight landed safely at Kennedy Airport, and I got home to my wife and kids. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of the magnitude the Twin Towers had on the Manhattan skyline, and how much I loved those towers. But mostly I think of all those who lost their lives and the effect it had on their loved ones on that fateful day, September 11, 2001.

Love to all!

James M. Weil