Josh Hilden's Blog

June 15, 2018

We all die alone.

Everyone, or at least everyone with a particular tilt to their way of thinking, reaches a point where they need to plant their feet. For some people, it’s about health. For some people, it’s about family. And for some people, it’s about their careers. For me, it’s about all three to one degree or another.

I’m forty-one, and I have a decision to make.
We all die alone.

No matter who might be in the room with you, in the end, we take that final step alone. None of us know what comes next and if someone says they KNOW, then they are deluding themselves at best and flat-out lying at worst. If someone sincerely believes they are moving on to an afterlife taught by their religion that’s fine and I hope they take comfort from that. But the cold hard truth is they do not know anything. Like I said, in the end, we are all alone.

I know I have a good I life, I know this in my brain where the logic switch is flipped, and I can look at things dispassionately and without the bias engendered by the real world. But I don’t live in that world. I live in the real world where I’m constantly seeing the good the bad and the ugly. I can see the people who don’t deserve it get all the breaks, and I can see the hardest working and most genuine people I’ve ever met be ground into a paste under the boot heels of the privileged and the heartless.
What’s my point in writing these maudlin paragraphs?

Several months ago, my hero, Kevin Smith, nearly died from a massive heart attack. Then a month (or so) later the woman who, for all intents and purposes, was my foster mother passed away while recovering from triple bypass surgery. While these two things are only tangentially related, Kevin survived and is now living a healthier lifestyle while mom has passed on into whatever comes next, to me they were both devastating. In the end, I think both have served to create a schism in my mind.

Now, before you start comparing the two pains and judging me as some sort of borderline personality semi-sociopath allow me to explain. I’ll be as brief as possible, but I do need to establish the foundations of my comparison. Maybe you’ll agree with my comparison and maybe you won’t, but this needs to be said for my mental wellbeing if nothing else.

Mom was one of the pillars of my teenage years. When things were chaotic and beyond my, or anyone else’s, control she provided a safe harbor. I knew when I was in her home things would work out okay. Now I fear that feeling will never come again and I’m not sure what to do.

My wife, Karen, and I went to her memorial the week after her passing, and it was an odd experience. I’ve been to too many funerals in my life for the concept to bother me. I get the need for them, the need for family and loved ones to say goodbye, but if I had a choice, I’d never attend another one. If not for the need to say goodbye (see I said I understand that) and the desire to be there for my brother and sisters I would’ve stayed home.

I’m glad I didn’t and to understand why, let’s back it up a few months. The love and warmth I experienced at the memorial was transcendent. Memories from my teenage years flooded my normally chaotic mind, and I again felt the love and support of a woman who owed me nothing. She didn’t make me, and in the end, she had no expectation I’d return her attention. She just loved me, and that was and is a glorious thing.

The first thing I do when I get up in the morning is to check the news.

Some people think it’s a weird habit in the world of the twenty-four-hour news cycle. Others just shake their heads when I reveal this and mutter something about fake news and mainstream media bullshit. I agree with these statements to a degree but I’m a news junkie, and I like to believe I am pretty good at separating the wheat from the chaff when it comes to the news. Either way the news I woke up that day shocked me and confirmed my belief about life.

We all die alone.

That day I read that writer/director Kevin Smith suffered a nearly fatal heart attack after a comedy performance being recorded for a Showtime special. Mr. Smith had one hundred percent blockage in an artery, and it was only by luck and the services of a top-notch medical staff that he survived.

I was, in a word, shocked.

I’ve said, again and again, I don’t have heroes anymore. I used to, and years ago I became friends with one of my childhood heroes. That friendship did not end well. Now I either respect a person or ignore them as best I can. Kevin Smith is the exception to that rule. If I have a hero these days, it’s Mr. Smith.

I was introduced to the works of Kevin Smith by my unnamed middle brother in the summer of 1995. He suggested I watch the movie CLERKS and so I rented it on VHS from the local Blockbuster Video.

Fuck, I’m old.

I watched the movie five times that weekend and made my roommates watch it at least twice. I was hooked, and from that day forward I was a fan of the man’ work. It might have stayed that way, me being a fan but that’s all, if not for the introduction of the DVD commentary track. Smith and his cohorts did some of the best commentaries around, and as time went on, I delved deeper and deeper into the man's life.

In 2007 Kevin started a podcast with his partner and friend Scott Mosier. Smodcast and its affiliated programs (Tell’Em Steve-Dave, Edumacation, and Hollywood-Babblon being just a few examples) became one of the pillars of my life and did more to shape my sense of humor than any other single thing or person. In 2012 the book Tough Shit a semi-autobiography was published, and that was the Kevin Smith project that changed my life forever.

I’m a writer, with a couple of dozen major projects under my belt I almost feel comfortable calling myself that, but without Kevin Smith, I doubt I’m even able to think those words let alone say/write them. It took the words of another Gen-X slacker to give me the permission to at least try and live the dream. In his book, he repeated one mantra.
“Don’t ask why ask why not.”

My entire life I wanted to be an author. I don’t men a writer I’ve done that ever since I could put pencil to paper and make the scribbles decipherable. What I wanted was to consistently produce a product and put it into the world. I didn’t care which genre or lack thereof I concentrated on I just wanted to get it out there.

Kevin Smith gave me the permission to do just that.

For the next five years, I produced, and I was happy. I released dozens of projects and eventually formed a publishing company with a partner. We eventually had nine writers under contract, and it seemed we were on the path to success in the indie world.

Then it all collapsed.

The end of 2016 was a hard time for the indie writing and publishing industry. Many of us shuttered our doors and walked away for a multitude of reasons. Dark days followed, and after January 2017 I turned off my word processing program and virtually ceased writing for a year.

Depression, soul-crushing suicidal depression, is a bitch.

This year I cautiously started over. With short stories and serialized fiction, I returned to the writing world. I was just stretching my legs and returning to the only work (it never feels like work but have to call it something) I’ve ever enjoyed when the double punch of almost losing my hero and actually losing my second mother hit me square in the fucking face. Like every other bad incident in my life, I wanted to shutter the doors, close the drapes, and hide. But I didn’t and not because I am strong or wise, let’s be honest boils and ghouls I’ll never write on that chalkboard. No, I pushed forward because for the very first time in my life I understood something I’d always suspected. I really understood that even if we’re surrounded with people, we all die alone.

Yes, after we are dead, the people who loved us will remember us. Our children and their children will go on giving us immortality I don’t think most truly appreciate. And to steal a phrase from a writer leaps and bounds than I will ever be, the night is dark and full of terrors, to which I infer the night we walk in we walk alone.

That’s it, that’s all I have to say. Live your life and be happy. If you don’t like your situation walk away if you're able and change it as much as possible if you can’t. But just to cover all the plagiarism and clichés allow me to add one more. Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
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Published on June 15, 2018 18:50 • 11 views

April 13, 2018

I don’t have the right to feel this hollow and distraught.

What constitutes a family?

Is it genetics?

Is it legality?

Or is it all the above?

I don’t know what does or doesn’t make a family I just know a family when I see it. I have a large extended family on my mother’s side and a moderately sized family on my father’s side. When I was younger, read before the age of twelve, I was somewhat close with most of my family on both sides, but as I was going through the traumatic growth we all go through as we are thrust through the grist mill of puberty I realized I was related to a lot of… well, let’s call them not so nice people.

I won’t say more on the subject because let’s face it, ain’t nobody got time for that.

When I was on the cusp of fourteen, I moved in with my father and spent the first year there trying to find my way in a setting where my previous failures were unknown, and I had a black canvas to work with. Looking back I believe I made good use of the opportunity. At the end of the first year, I’d become acquainted with, but not yet friends with one William Shaffer.

Bill was, and is, one of the unique and genuine people I’ve ever had the privilege to know. Even at the age of fourteen he was generous to a fault and would give a person his last dollar if it meant they’d have something for lunch that day.

Of course, my first introduction to Bill was less than enjoyable. We had freshman biology together, and I was a bookworm who spent every free second reading which lead to Bill’s daily question of, “Is that a good book?” It irritated the ever-living fuck out of me, and he knew it.

Which, of course, was why he thought it was funny.

That’s how I met the man I would come to consider my best friend and my brother. About nine years ago I wrote a poem about this, and I’d like to share it here if you’ll indulge me.

Is That A Good Book?

“Is that a good book?” He asked me the first time I met him

It was annoying because I was trying to read

“Is that a good book?” he asked me the second time I met him

It was even more annoying because I was still trying to read

“Is that a good book?” he asked me the third time I met him

I wanted to kick him in the shins because I was just getting to the good part

“No, it is not a good book!” I snapped at him the fourth time we met

He laughed and asked why not

For a month or more we danced this dance, the dance of the Good Book and the science class

It was The Rowland that bonded us

He of the open bathroom door and finger in the sauce

It was the game that made us friends

Rolled dice and the cheers from the worlds of fantasy that were so real to us then, and I believe may be even more real to us now

When I moved two towns over he would come and retrieve me every day till I owned my own steed

He who was the master of the Mighty Egg Plant with the old man’s head

At sixteen my life almost ended, not through acts from the gods but stupidity of my own

His friendship never wavered, and his laughter always buoyed me

At eighteen I was forced from my castle and exiled from my homeland

He braved the dangers of the journey many times, both to see me and to retrieve me

At twenty I became a father and laughed and said it would make me merry

Secretly I worried that he feared he would never have that joy

Over the years he always stood ready to draw swords at my back and defend our extended family from the darkness that always threatened drag us down

I believe he would have given his life for me and mine, and I would have done the same for him and his

We are men now, no longer the children we were

But still, he gladdens my heart with his words and his laughter

My friend…

My Brother…

Billy



Josh (1-5-2009)




Not long after I became school friends with Bill, I met his family. His mother (Chris) and his little sister (Kari) welcomed me into their home and at that moment my teenage years, and truly my entire life changed forever. I’m not sure how it happened, but by the middle of my sophomore year, I was sending more time in the Shaffer house than I was in my own. I was always welcome, and there was always place for me on the couch and at the kitchen table.

They’d become the family I never knew I needed.

For awhile Bill and I were co-workers and more often than not roommates. Then I moved two towns over, and it became harder for us to spend our evenings and weekends together. But Bill made the major effort to make sure we stayed in each other’s lives. Before I had my own car, he’d pick me up at the drop of a hat, and we’d be off on adventures involving movies, comic books, and the hunt for the elusive prized action figures.

At the end of senior year, I was forced by circumstances to make the move back to Dayton. I was certain I’d lose all the friends I’d made through high school. My worries never came to fruition. Bill made time to come and see me and to bring me back to Michigan on a regular basis. When back home I stayed at the Shaffer household, and it always felt like I’d never left. They were my family.

As the years passed I married and had children but the Shaffer clan was always there for me. There were ups and downs as with any family, but things always returned to normal. When Bill had personal problems, I did the best I could to be there for him despite my own issues and when I had my nervous breakdown, and my life fell apart he was there for me. The Shaffer family has always supported me in my endeavors and been there to catch me when I fell.

I need to put this forward. Bill has been a much better friend to me than I’ve ever been to him. He has forgiven me for transgressions most people might have cut ties over. I never intended to be a bad friend but until I admitted I had serious issues with depression and anxiety I didn’t have the tools to be a good friend. I’m not saying I didn’t realize I was a bad friend because I did. I just didn’t know how to correct it. But despite all that Bill supported m because he loves me. Because he’s my brother.

This morning I was awoken by a text message at five thirty. The message was from Bill’s wife Jessi, also one of my best friends, and it was heart-shattering. In the early hours of the morning, Bill’s mother passed away in her sleep. She’d been in a temporary rehab facility recovering from open heart surgery. Her death, I’m told, was quick and painless.

I’m not sure I deserve to feel the heartache I feel.

Everyone called her Chief, but I always called her Mom. Not because I thought I was special but because I didn’t think I deserved to call her Chief. She was one of my favorite people in the world, and I loved her like she was my own mother but, in the end, I didn’t believe I was good enough. It didn’t matter that she treated me like one of her own and called me one of her other children.

I’m bereft and heartbroken. I wish I’d been able to see her one more time before the end. I feel like I’ve lost something important. All these things are weighing on me but what’s really bothering me is that I’m not there with my family. I’m not there with my brother (Bill) and my sisters (Kari and Jessi) to help them through this. This is going to be a hard couple of weeks, maybe months, for everyone but I know a few things.

I love mom.

I miss mom.

I’m worried about my family.



- Josh (4-13-2018)
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Published on April 13, 2018 12:25 • 6 views

March 27, 2018

I bet some of you thought I was dead or that I’d just decided to stop spewing my every thought onto the interwebs like a dog that ate too much watermelon. And for that matter, I’m sure there are a few of you nut-nuts who hoped I finally went crazy and was now traveling across the country burning down closed Blockbuster Video’s and Border’s Books. Alas as fun as that sounds, and let’s be honest boils and ghouls that really does sound fun, I have not been doing any such thing.
What have I been doing for the last six months?

Josh has been working a “real” job.

Let’s back up a little for some explanation.
When I was forced to close down my publishing company (Gorillas With Scissors Press) at the beginning of I was devastated. That’s not even hyperbole, I contemplated suicide on more than one occasion but I never even tried to act on it. Why? Because I have the best friends and family in the world. My wife, my kids, and my close friends kept me centered and helped me whether one of the worst personal storms in my life.

There were other factors to my depression, factors concerning my middle son and his wife. I’m not diving back into all of that. One of the last essays I wrote in 2017 delved deep into my failures as a father and the near implosion of my family. If you’re curious, go to the archive and check it out. But I warn you. It’s a really depressing read, so I recommend a stiff drink or a solid dab before you crack that seal and walk in.

Okay, in May of 2017 I took a job as the Dayton area floor tech supervisor for a mid-sized contract cleaning company. The job was hard, the job was dirty, and the job required me to ride herd on a group of mouth-breathing assholes. I would’ve been very happy there except for one small item. It was the single most unprofessional company I’ve ever worked for. I won’t go into the issues but suffice it to say after six months I would’ve been very happy to burn the main building down. I wish I could name the company because people need to be warned never to hire them but I signed a nondisclosure agreement, and I don’t feel like being sued. They are notoriously litigious. So I quit the job, but I did it the right way. First I found another job. Then I gave two weeks notice. Then I worked every day of those two weeks. I did it the right way even though I’d come to loathe the sight of the place. I did it, it’s over, and never have to go back.

Moving on.

As many of you may or may not know, I’ve worked in the field of housekeeping/maintenance for my entire adult working life and some of my nonadult life too. Since 2004 I’ve worked in medical settings almost exclusively dealing with elder care. At first, I took jobs working with the elderly because they tended to both pay better and be more peaceful settings then I stayed because I liked the people I worked with. After the experience with the contract cleaning company, I knew I wanted to go back to where I fit in. I was going to look for a simple cleaning position, something I was comfortable with and overqualified for.

That’s not what happened.

At the end of October, I was offered the position of Head of Housekeeping at an assisted living facility close to my home. In the past, I’d toyed with the idea of going for a supervisors position in my field, but I always felt uncomfortable. Now I felt like I was ready. Even though there'd be a pay cut, I took the job and for the last six months, that’s what I’ve been doing.

In the process, I’ve realized two things about myself. The first thing is I like having a say in whats happening. The second, and most important, the thing I realized is that I really love working with the elderly. I feel like I’m doing something the actually matters helping to take care of them. Yeah, the job is hard, and there are days I just want to say, “fuck it” and walk away. But the good days far outnumber the bad ones. The only truly horrible thing is also the best thing. You are working in these peoples home, you get to know them, and in some ways, you become part of their family. Then they die and it feels like a piece of your heart was gouged out. I’ve been through it a few times, and it never gets easier.

“But Josh,” you're asking, “This is all very interesting but what about your writing?”

Fair question and I think I finally have an answer. In the last fourteen months, I’ve made a few stutter-stop attempts to get back into the game, but I’ve always retreated back into my safe shell. No more, I’ve been practice writing, i.e., short little vignettes nobody will ever see but might be incorporated into larger works later, and also posting some Flash Stories to WattPad. Also, I’ve been reviving my social media and looking into some serious business changes. The first, and most significant of those being getting a new editor. I wish I could continue with my longtime editor and friend Jennifer Tovar (I love you Jenn!) but she has retired from the editing game, and even though I’m sure she’d come back for me I know she’s happier doing her own thing now. Next, I need to find a good cover creator, not a hard job with all the pre-made cover creators out there but it’s still something I need to do. At some point, I want to do a website redesign and hire a personal assistant (PA). And finally, I need to get out there ad whore the fuck out of my work. Ultimately I’m going to get an agent I can work with and get some of my insanity traditionally published. But I’m still Indie as fuck until the day I die so no worries. I write what I WANT to write.

So whats next in the writing queue?

For the next couple of months, I think I’ll be concentrating on short stories. After I have all the rust knocked off the machine and the gears oiled I have half a dozen unfinished manuscripts sitting in my WIP file (works in progress for you nonwriter types) begging for me to return. I have several series I need to get back on (The Preserve, Summer Camp of the Dead, Frankenstein King of the Dead, and The Shores of the Dead) that all need some love and attention.

Alright, that’s it for this one kids, but I would like to point out one thing. Nowhere in this essay was there a mention of religion and politics. That’s not because I’ve decided not to rant and rave about those subjects even though I’m sure some of you were hoping that was the case. No, it’s because this is a happy essay. Lately, things have been coming up Millhouse for me, and I didn’t want to jinx it by venting my frustrations here.

Never fear, those essays will be back.


- Josh (3-27-2018)
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Published on March 27, 2018 11:42 • 6 views

November 6, 2017

*Part 1 of this essay was written almost exactly one year ago after a particularly bad episode in our family. I posted the essay on my personal blog and left it up for less than 12 hours, I also never shared it on social media so unless someone was subscribed directly to my blog they never read it.



Why did I do this?



The pain of what we were going through, and would continue to go through to this day, was too raw. In the wake of failing to share this essay (it is available in my 2016 essay collection but no one reads those, and I only publish them to make the record permanent in case I get cowardly and try to scrub myself from the internet) I shut down. I stopped writing, I quit my day job, and I shut down my company.



Do I blame not getting all of this out into the light for my failures last year?



The answer is complex and simple at the same time. The short answer is no, I made those decisions, and I have to live with them. I’m a grown ass man, and I know what I’m doing. The long answer is no… with a but. When I wrote the original essay I had a chance to clean out the bad feelings and try to get a handle on the situation, I didn’t and to quote one wiser than I;



“That is why you failed.”



So now, after another horrible 12 months for myself and those, I love I stop being afraid to speak my mind once more. Today I tell it all warts and all (with real names removed). I don’t ask for pity, I don’t ask for agreement, and I don’t ask for your allegiance. All I ask is that I am allowed to speak.



Part One:

The Road So Far

10/21/2016



I turned 40 years old this year, and I’ve been forced to ask one question.

Who am I?

In order of importance, I am a husband of 20 years, I am a father of 6, and I am a writer.

All other things, son, grandson, and brother, come afterward.

In the last year, I’ve seriously considered checking out and seeing what the next world offers.

What am I babbling about?

In the last year, 13 months, all of this has been rocked to the foundations and left me close to broken. Does that sound a little extreme and perhaps hyperbolic to you? I wouldn’t blame you if I were looking at my life from the outside I’d be feeling the same way. But bare with me I need to give you the backstory of the last year and then I think you’ll understand why I’ve been near suicide levels of depression for the first time in almost a decade.

Last September life was really good. I’d been working as a full-time writer/publisher since December. My youngest son graduated high school and was working full time. My middle daughter was working full time even though she showed no intention of moving out. My youngest child started kindergarten. My wife didn’t love her job, but she was content. And the rest of my children and their spouses/partners seemed to be living good lives.

Boy howdy was I wrong as wrong could be.

One day early in September, I woke to several messages from people on facebook and a voicemail from a family friend who didn’t want me or my wife to hear the news on TV or social media. The news we received that day was my middle son, and his wife were raided in the house we were letting them live in rent-free by the local state and federal authorities for the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine.
Yeah, that was a kick in the balls.

Okay, a little more backstory to frame the situation. I’ll try and keep it brief.

When I met my middle son for the first time, he was a sweet, funny, but a very angry and broken seven-year-old little boy. I’m not going to dive deep into his reasons for being that way but suffice it to say his Bio-Father was far from good, and he has had little to nothing positive to do with any of my older kids lives in the last 21 years. As the years went on things got worse. He was willful, defiant, duplicitous, and sometimes mean. He stole, lied, drank, abused drugs, and fomented chaos for his enjoyment. There were dozens of arrests and police run-ins with thousands spent on bail. Even after he married nothing got better, and by the spring of 2013, I was ready to leave him to his fate.

Then my mother in law got sick.

Over the next year, my son and his wife stepped up. They moved in with my mother in law and became her live-in 24/7 caretakers for almost a year until she died. I can say that I have never been so proud of my son as I was at that time. In those months I saw the man he could become. I almost wish I’d never seen that side of him because it makes everything that came after exponentially worse.

Long story short he burned it all down. Drugs, theft, lies, destruction of my mother-in-law’s house which we’d let them keep living in after she passed. The authorities raided the house, they were arrested, and the property my wife grew up in and inherited was seized.

But that boils and ghouls was only the beginning of the nightmare.

Eventually, my daughter-in-law was released, and she came to stay with us followed by my son when she and my wife bailed him out. They were and are meth junkies. There’s no other way to put it. All they care about is drugs, and they will say and do anything to get them. In the last year, there have been several more incarcerations for my son for possession and assaulting his wife which is something I never thought he’d do. She’s been in rehab several times, but always she goes back to the drugs. Every time they put my son in rehab, he made sure to get himself kicked out, or he just ran away.

Then there was the fighting. Yelling, screaming, throwing matches between the two of them that can shake the foundations of our home. The fights happen so regularly you can set a watch by them, and when amplified by the meth they are enough to scare the neighbors. When my son does meth, he reacts to par with schizophrenia. He is convinced there are people watching the house. He KNOWS his wife is suddenly a prostitute sleeping with every guy she sees. He sees secret messages in trash and junk mail, and he’s convinced there are secret apps on all our phones allowing his wife to cheat and that we’re helping her.

The worst was last spring.

The day after he punched his wife in the eye, she refused to press charges, as usual; he had the worst freak out ever. He tore our home apart looking for evidence; he destroyed cell phones, and he became violent charging around the house with a fake gun convinced the police were coming and he was going to go down in a hail of bullets. Ironically, in the end, I called 911 on my son, and they took him away. He did 90 days in county jail and came back. Since then it’s just been more of the same. More drugs, more fights, and more lies.

I’ve never felt like a bigger failure as a parent.

Not because I called the cops, I hate I had to do that, but it was the right thing to do. No, I feel like a failure because of my then six now seven-year-old daughter lives with this. If it weren’t for the fear, my wife has that without a place to live, he’d be dead within the week, I’d have tossed him the first time he came home high.

Now it’s one year later, and life is no longer bright and hopeful. Life has become a one day at a time slog not to end up crazy or dead. They contribute nothing to the household that even begins to approach what they take. We support two grown ass adults who eat our food, they use our resources and have destroyed the stored contents of out basement through their addiction and selfishness. We are broke, we’ve lost my wife’s childhood home, my business would be dead and gone if not for the herculean efforts of my friend and partner Jennifer Tovar (I love you, Jenn). I’ve had to work a series of menial and low paying secondary jobs to help keep the lights on and food on the table. My wife and my health have suffered, and every night when I go to be, I think some version of, “If tomorrow is bad I can just never wake up again” and it makes me feel a little better.

Please understand I am not blaming my wife for any of this. She is in an impossible position and doing the best she can to keep our child alive. This is real life, not a movie or a TV show where a little “Tough Love” fixes everything. I am the child of a narco addict mother and an alcoholic father, and I’ve seen it all from the other side of the counter. I watched my grandmother, who raised me, try and keep two of her children alive through their addictions. They are still alive, but the degree to which they are better is debatable at best.

So why am I writing this airing my dirty laundry?

In 2012 I started blogging (fuck I hate that word)/essaying about my life. It was a therapy exercise my doctor told me I needed to do if I was going ever to manage my depression and bipolar disorder. I burned bridges, I angered family, I lost friends, but in the end, I save my family and my life. This is just an extension of that project which never really ended.

And that’s it. That’s my life as it stands on October 21, 2016. I am miserable and have no clue what comes next. Wish I did. I’m not hunting for sympathy or throwing myself a pity party. I am simply explaining why I may have been less than myself over the last year. I am just trying to get the bad stuff once more out before the pressure builds, and the Overlooks boiler blows.

I’m just trying to survive.





Part 2:

End of the Line

11/5/2017



I thought things couldn’t get worse. I was so very wrong.

In the spring of 2017, after two years of his insanity and her co-dependent bullshit, my daughter-in-law left my son for good. With a few hiccups they’ve been done for over half a year and as far as I can tell she’s made great strides in getting her life back together. I wish her well and hope that in the end, she finds some happiness and stability.

My son, on the other hand, has spiraled.

With his wife gone he’s turned his paranoia and anger toward the rest of the family. We’re all out to get him, were spying on him, I, in particular, am an enemy because I’ve turned everyone against him and it’s my fault everyone is angry with him and why he’s not allowed in the house. And why is he actually not allowed in the house and his siblings have had it with him?

Is it the money he’s scammed from everyone?

Is it his bullying “gangsta” persona?

Is it the violence to his wife?

Is it the wild screaming paranoid accusations?

Is it the lies?

Is it the crime?

Yes, it’s all of this, but the capper was about six weeks ago when he came at my wife's car with a brick, smashed in the window, and tried to force his way into the car because she wouldn’t listen to his rambling bullshit and give him twenty-five dollars. After that most of us were done except his mother (I understand that even if I don’t agree with it and I will continue to support her) and his middle sister.

Once he’d angered, used, and exhausted ALL of his “friends” my son turned to his little sister, who’d just got her own place, for help. My daughter has a huge heart to counter her potty mouth and bad attitude (both inherited from me), so of course, she said yes.

I tried to warn her, but much like her father my daughter had to learn on her own.

A weekend turned into a week which turned into a month which turned into him changing his mailing address to her house. After a particularly loud meth induced fight where her neighbors called the police he informed them, he lived there, and that she’d have to evict him. To make matters worse, she’s not allowed to have a roommate, so when she starts the eviction procedures her landlord will find out, and she’ll most likely be evicted herself. Then we reached Saturday my daughters 21st birthday.

Last night is the reason I'm writing this.

I guess it’d been going on for a few days, my son taking meth and getting crazier. In his meth-induced psychosis, he decided my daughter was working for a vast city-wide conspiracy out to kill him and that she was poisoning all the food and water in the house and had not drunk a drop in almost two days. He was wild. He was wrecking her house as he’d done to ours so many times I’d lost count and did it all while brandishing a claw hammer.

Enough is enough.

My wife extricated my daughter from the house and did her best to calm him down. Eventually after half a case of bottled water and my youngest son sitting all night with him (I tried to talk him out of it, but he was determined) my middle son passed out and had been sleeping ever since.

Where do we go now?

The police have been called so many times it’s almost funny. They can’t do anything unless they catch him in the commission of a crime. We can’t get restraining orders without the documentation that he’s a threat. He's made no direct threats to any of us and when the police show he snaps into his trained convict persona all “yes sir” and “no sir” until they leave.

That’s it. There's no happy ending to this. There's not even an ending. This is our life, and I think it will be until he gets real help, goes to prison, or dies.





- Josh
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Published on November 06, 2017 11:34 • 23 views

October 17, 2017

(I’ve told this story in bits and pieces over the years but I feel right now is a good time just to get it out there in one glob. Fair warning this essay includes nongraphic child molestation/rape. Also, this is not intended to overshadow or step on the stories of my female friends who have felt empowered to share their experiences, if anything I am writing this to honor them. Their strength and bravery is inspiring and needs to be recognized.)

During the summer of 1983, the summer I turned 7, I was molested and raped by my neighbor.

I remember the lighting more than anything else. His living room had a dark oily yellow tinge to it the first time it happened. It was sometime before eleven because the movie of the week, some cheesy Vietnam war piece of shit, was playing in the background. My mother had asked the neighbor to watch my brother and me while his wife took her to the emergency room for a migraine headache. My little brother was fast asleep on the couch, and it was just me and… let's call him Joe.

The details of what happened next are muddy and come back to me in spurts and fits. I remember the smell of beer on his breath; I clearly remember the cans of PBR in the room. I remember him convincing me to take my clothes off by telling me a “Real Man” would do it and then he took off his shirt to prove his point. I remember the rough surface of his hands; I remember the way it felt to be violated, and I remember the fear… fuck me I remember the fear so clearly, it still hurts. When it was over, he acted like nothing of import had happened. I remember sitting in silence watching the TV until my mom came back and took me home.

Why didn’t I tell my mother the first time it happened?

I honestly have no idea. If I had told her, she would've either kicked his ass herself or found someone else to do it. Even at her least stable, my mother has always been a protective mamma bear, and I’ve never hesitated to tell her something, except this. I think it was a combination of shame and confusion coupled with my already burgeoning knowledge that I wasn’t “normal” sexually. I’d kissed my first boy several weeks before the assault, and I was still more than a little confused about my feelings on the action. But that doesn’t matter because the next time it happened, the first time I was full on raped, the threats came.

“You’ve been bad, and no one will believe you didn’t want it.”
“They’ll take you away from your home and send you to live in a foster home.”
“I’ll hurt your little brother if you tell.”

For almost three months I lived in a whirlwind of fear, shame, and dread… then it was over. I have no idea why he stopped. Maybe because we went back to school, maybe my mother or another neighbor was suspicious, fuck maybe he just got tired of me I’ll never know. All I know is that I’ve never been so relieved as I was when I realized it was over.

So here I am thirty-four years later, a husband, father, and sometimes I feel like it just happened yesterday. Sometimes the low dim lights of a room hit me, and it’s all I can do to fight off the panic.

How do I deal with it?

Tell the truth and shame the devil a lot of times I don’t. There are many days where I’m barely functioning, but the first step was talking about it. Until 2012 I’d only told a handful of people but after a complete nervous breakdown I opened up to my Doctor, and she said I had to talk. So that’s what I did, I spoke, I blogged, and refused to be quiet about. Not because I wanted the attention, for fuck's sake why would I want attention for this, but because I needed to vent the pressure before I ruptured.

I’m forty-one years old, I’m a husband, I’m a father, I’m queer, I’m mostly happy, and I’m a survivor who will be talking about this for the rest of my days.

That’s nothing to be ashamed of.
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Published on October 17, 2017 12:05 • 9 views • Tags: child-molestation, me-too, rape

May 18, 2017

This is hard to write, but I think it's a long time coming. I'm taking a sabbatical from the writing world effective immediately.

What does this mean exactly?

As of right now, my ongoing series (Shores of the Dead, Frankenstein, Summer Camp of the Dead, Bunny Bunni & Bobby, Rifts Threads, and The Preserve) are all on indefinite hold. There are a few works in the editorial pipeline at the moment which will be released this year, but as of now, all writing has been suspended indefinitely. I apologize to all the fans of these works, and I promise I will eventually get back to them. I love the worlds I’ve created, and I don’t want them to die.

Now for a brief and I’m afraid less than satisfactory explanation.

The last two years have been hard on me between the failure of my company and personal issues that do not need to be aired in public I am shot. I have no more energy or passion to give to my work. Everything I’ve tried to write over the last two years, with the exception of the few things I’ve published, have been subpar and embarrassing. I’ve never claimed I was a great writer, but I’ve always loved the work I’ve done… until now.

Simply put family, medical, and professional issues have culminated and forced me into this decision.

I just want to take a final moment to thank all of my readers, peers, and supporters. You’ve all been amazing over the last five years, and I hope to return to this world as soon as possible.


- Josh
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Published on May 18, 2017 10:45 • 79 views

January 25, 2017

January 17, 2017

I admit it, I’m afraid and I’m not ashamed.

In three days, we will have a new president of the United States, and for the first time since I was 12, I fear for the future of the world as a whole and of our nation in particular. I spent my formative years at the end of the cold war, and I’ve gone on and on about how the movies Def Con 4, Threads, and The Day After traumatized me as a child. I spent my childhood convinced that living as close to Detroit as I did, I wouldn’t wake up one day because the big one had been dropped and everything I knew would have been reduced to component elements and scattered half way around the world.

Then the wall fell.

I was in eighth grade living in Dayton, Ohio with my grandparents when the rumblings in Eastern Europe caught my attention. I’d watched in the year leading up fascinated as Gorbachev implemented glasnost throughout the Soviet Union and relinquished more and more of Moscow's control back to the Warsaw Pact nations. I was hopeful that maybe the threat of nuclear terror I’d lived my entire life was easing back, but I never expected what happened on November 9, 1989.

I remember exactly what was happening when I happened. I was sitting in my grandma’s kitchen working on one of my horrible comic books.

Oh yeah, quick note, when I was a preteen, we did not have the word tween back then, I wrote and drew my own universe of comic books. To be honest, I can’t draw to save my life, and all of my characters looked like the bastard children of the Pillsbury Doughboy and Gloop or Gleep from the Herculoids. Regardless, I loved making those stupid comics, and I might give a rundown of what I remember about them one of these days, sadly they never survived the multiple moves I made in my youth.

So back in 1989 I was drawing comics and the news was on in the background, CNN to be specific. This was not an unusual as I’ve always been a news and politics junkie. After Star Trek and Cartoons, young Josh would always choose the news over regular TV. Whatever I was working on was set aside and forgotten after the news from Berlin began filling the airwaves. I watched the crowds and celebrants as they stood astride that gargantuan monstrosity that was the Berlin wall. It was one the headiest experiences of my life. Now it’s all about to be, in a sense, undone.

President Trump is about to usher in the most corrupt and compromised administration since the end of the Civil War. I hope to the lights in the sky I’m wrong, but I’m pretty much convinced this assessment is spot on. From the corporations and banks running the country to his friendship toward traditional adversaries and disdain for many of our allies and the tensions ratcheting up across the globe I’m scared for the first time in my adult life.

I worry.

I worry we are being set up to be isolated from the rest of the world behind. Not an Iron Curtain backed by a Soviet Sword but a Great Wall backed by ignorance and fear.
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Published on January 25, 2017 11:59 • 72 views

January 24, 2017

Posted on 1-1-2017

It is with a heavy heart that we are forced to announce the suspension of active business for Gorillas With Scissors Press. The last two years have been hard on the indie publishing community and we at the Monkey House have been hit as hard as any other. Over the last fifteen months, we’ve consistently lost money at an increasing rate, and the costs have become untenable. As of January 13th, 2017 GWSP will be closed as a publisher, we wish our wonderful authors the best in their future endeavors and thank them for their understanding in these difficult times.


1-13-2017

My friends, we gather here not to mourn the death of the Monkey House but to celebrate its life. Back when I opened Gorillas With Scissors Press (GWSP) I wasn’t trying to become a publisher of other writers work, all I wanted to do was have a masthead under which to publish my own work. I was just looking for a name that would catch the reader's eye.

I never considered that other authors would be interested in having their works also published under the GWSP banner. But once the decision was made to publish the works of other authors I wrote the following company description and posted it on the website and in the new Facebook Group.

“In 2007 when my youngest son was seven years old a dog mauled him. While we were at the hospital waiting for the plastic surgeon to work his magic, my wife told him not to be afraid. He told her, in his morphine-induced calmness, that he wasn’t afraid of anything except gorillas and scissors. I asked him, ‘What about gorillas with scissors?’ and he replied deadpan, ‘Them too.’ I swore at that moment if I ever founded my own publishing company that would be the name. So that’s how we got our name, from a stoned, seven-year-old boy who’d been savaged by a dog.

Only in America… and maybe Canada.

Five years later, and after a long and frustrating process of trying to go the traditional publishing route, I decided to found my own publishing company. For two and a half years I worked a regular job and took the baby steps needed to grow the Monkey House. Along the way, I encountered Mrs. Jennifer Tovar, who changed the game forever. She started out as my editor and eventually became my equal partner. At the end of 2014, we merged our separate operations into one and made GWSP our only occupation.

So what are we?

At Gorillas With Scissors Press, we believe the creators should guide their own visions and thus, should reap the rewards. We are an indie publishing house with our products spanning the gamut. No genre is off limits in the Monkey House—from Horror, Romance, Erotica, Thrillers, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and everything in between, GWSP has it!

We are the home for the indie writer looking for a safe place to create and not have to worry about having their creations stolen out from under them or being exploited by unscrupulous publishers. We are a cooperative group dedicated to nurturing writers and preparing them for long and productive careers. We believe in the New Model of publishing where the traditional gatekeepers are set aside, and creators have the freedom to create.”

We tried to live up to those ideals, and despite the shuttering of most of our operations, I like to believe for a short time we were successful. I’m proud of the products we put out as a company and will always feel a tremendous amount of gratitude toward the men and women who took a chance and entrusted their babies to us.

Those authors are in no particular order.

Al Halsey
Aubrey Duvall
CT Phillips
D’Lacy Stone
Dawn Authier
Denise A. Agnew
Jess Blake
Kenneth Brown
Kiri Thompson
Lisa Bush
Michelle Magee
Michelle Murray
Nicole Clark

You are all amazing, and I will miss working with you.

On a personal note, I want to thank my business partner and good right arm Jennifer Tovar. None of this could have happened without you, and in the end, I may have conceived GWSP, but it was as much your baby as mine. I love ya, Jenn, you’re the best.

What’s next for me?

I’m still a full-time writer with a to-write list a mile high. I’m not going anywhere and in a way neither is GWSP. Although we won’t be publishing other authors, we still will be publishing my work under the Monkey banner. Jennifer will still be editing for me and make my better covers, and the facebook group/mailing list will remain open. It remains to be seen if any more Halloween anthologies will be produced, but we have decided to keep the four books available year round.

That’s it for now but on a last pause thank you. Thank you for all the support and kind words you’ve sent our way in the last four and half years. The Monkey House was more than a publishing company it was a family.


- Josh
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Published on January 24, 2017 15:59 • 38 views
Right now life kind of sucks, and I don’t just mean because the elderly Oompa-Loompa is about to be the president of the United States either. No, for old Josh the end of 2015 and all of 2016 have been a really bad time. But I’m guessing if you’ve been following any of my ramblings over the last 15 months you’re already aware of this.

So for all of you Johnny-come-lately’s, and fashionably-late-Tammy’s, I’ll give you a brief run down without sounding too much like a whiny bitch although I make no promises. Also, I will not be addressing family issues in this essay there are too many things too close to the surface for me to touch at this point without setting off an unintentional, or let's be honest a very intentional, eruption. Suffice it to say there are enough things going on in my personal life to fill several essays and a handful of pamphlets and leave it at that.

As for my work, well as of January 13th, 2017 we’ve closed Gorillas With Scissors Press, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that’s been a kick in the nuts. I’m still a full-time writer and nothing will change that, but I am no longer a publisher, and that hurts. But in the broad view of my career this a hiccup and if it were the only thing going on it would be sad, but I can handle it. That said, add my family stress and my depression/bipolar disorder to the mix, and you can see how the blows and stresses seem to stack higher than I can see or contemplate.

Okay now onto the real issues… deep breath, and start!

I decided in December of 2016 that if things were not significantly better by that same time in January, I’d kill myself. This isn’t said to startle the reader or to elicit some sort of sympathetic response in order to get me emotionally jerked off. I am saying this because it’s the truth and when the truth is hard and scary that’s when it needs to be said out loud the most, not hidden away to fester like that carton of General Tsao’s chicken that’s been the refrigerator for the last six weeks. You know the one I mean, that carton that seems to move on its own and you’re fairly certain has developed a rough form of sentience.

You know it’s plotting your death so it can become you right?

Anyway back to my own thoughts of death and chicken.

Why did I want to die? Well I didn’t, I very much wanted to live. I’m an atheist I don’t believe there's a heaven or a hell waiting for me when this is all over. So why would I want to end the only reality I am sure of?

Because I was tired.

That’s the part of crippling depression they never really prepare you for. It’s the thing I can never explain no matter how hard I try to the people I love the most in this world. I was so tired I never wanted to wake back up. I wanted to close my eyes and drift away into the cool darkness of oblivion and then maybe I could rest. Rest—that’s the joke of this. No matter how much I slept, and sometimes that was up to fourteen hours at a time, I was never rested. I yearned for four good hours of sleep a night and was lucky to manage two of them. Nightmares and restlessness dominated my sleeping hours while exhaustion was my ever present companion while awake. Days and nights blend together, and I am convinced I’ve lost whole days I’m not even aware of in the morass.

So why am I still alive this time?

There is one answer to that question: medication.

The medication is straightforward and easy to explain. I have a wonderful doctor who never gives up and who managed to get me the medication I needed even though my oh so wonderful insurance refused to pay for it. Anyone who thinks medication is not one of the key answers to depression can go fuck themselves. It doesn’t matter how much my friends and family support me or how hard I work to stay positive and see the good things in life. If my brain is telling me all is lost, then the depression will win in the end without outside help. I would have died years ago without the intervention of doctor approved medication and that is a fact like it or lump it.
So here I am at the beginning of 2017.

I am shaken and damaged but to quote a great man, “I still function.”


- Josh
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Published on January 24, 2017 11:14 • 25 views

December 10, 2016

“She took my eggs.”
- The Dark Overlord

I was first introduced to Howard the Duck via the marvel comic series of the same name. To this day I still love the cigar smoking, foul mouthed, girl chasing waterfowl. Howard was just an everyday schlub in a world of heroes and villains who just happened to be a sentient duck from another world. Howard was funny. Howard was brave. Howard was a believable character despite his physical appearance. When I heard a Howard The Duck Movie was coming out I was thrilled—finally I would be able to see a real comic book movie.

The results were mixed to say the best, but in a really good way.

Our adventure begins with Howard happily living on his alternate Earth known as Duckworld. I have no idea why they call it Duckworld, wouldn’t they just call it Earth? We don’t call Earth Humanworld or Monkeyworld, or some such other bullshit do we? Although to be fair Duckworld has two moons so maybe it's not an alternate Earth maybe it’s just an Alien world where they speak English, and everything is like Earth but with ducks.

My head already hurts.

Howard is lounging in his recliner, and I shit you not reading a Playduck magazine when some force grabs him and drags him from his apartment building and into space. This scene has the single biggest what the fuck moment in the entire movie. As Howard is being pulled through his apartment he passes through one of his neighbor's bathrooms. The bathing neighbor is a female who sports a prominent set of bare duck boobs. Boobs on a duck complete with nipples and all. I’m not saying young Josh paused that scene over and over when he finally rented the VHS version of the movie, but I’m not, NOT, saying it either.

Eventually, our hero crashes in Cleveland, because of course he does, and meets Beverly (played by the lovely Lea Thompson) who’s in the middle of an attempted rape. Using his skills in Quack-Fu Howard beats the shit out of the rapists saving Beverly who’s very grateful. Learning Howard has nowhere to go Beverly invites him back to her apartment for the night.

PAUSE!

Howard is a three and a half maybe four foot tall talking anthropomorphic duck. I don’t care if he saved her or not, if I was Beverly I’d have run screaming or maced the little freak. I mean ducks have corkscrew penises and are known, rapists… look that shit up I’m not kidding.

UNPAUSE

The following day, Beverly takes Howard to Phil. Old Phil (played by Tim Robbins) is a scientist who Beverly hopes can help Howard return to his world. After Phil is revealed to be only a janitor, Howard gives up and rejects Beverly's aid like a pissy, little bitch.

Author's opinion: I HATE Phil. I just needed to say that, he’s the worst thing in the entire movie.

Howard briefly works as a janitor at a massage parlor/brothel which he soon quits and rejoins Beverly who takes him back.

I wouldn’t have taken the little bastard back after the way he acted, but I’m a certified asshole.

Howard learns Beverly and her friends play in a band called Cherry Bomb. At the club where Cherry Bomb is performing, Howard comes across their manager and confronts him when he insults the band. A fight breaks out, in which Howard kicks serious human ass. The fight is pretty damn funny, I recommend the movie on this scene alone.

After the fight, Howard goes back to Beverly's apartment where she convinces him to be the band's new manager. Afterward, the two start flirting, and it looks like we’re about to have a little interspecies throwdown when Phil returns, seriously fuck you Phil, with real scientists. The Scientists reveal that a laser spectroscope they were inventing was aimed at Howard's planet and transported him to Earth when it was activated. They theorize that Howard can be sent back to his world through a reversal of this same process.

Upon their arrival at the laboratory, the laser spectroscope malfunctions when it is activated, raising the possibility of something else being transported to Earth. At this point, Dr. Walter Jenning is possessed by a life form from a distant region of space. When they visit a diner, the creature introduces itself as a "Dark Overlord of the Universe" and demonstrates its developing mental powers by destroying table utensils and condiments. A fight ensues when a group of truckers in the diner begins to insult Howard. Howard is captured and is almost killed by the diner chef, but the Dark Overlord destroys the diner and escapes with Beverly.

Howard locates Phil, who is arrested for his presence at the laboratory with no security clearance. After they escape, they discover an ultralight aircraft, which they use to search for the Dark Overlord and Beverly. At the laboratory, the Dark Overlord ties Beverly down to a metal bed and plans to transfer another one of his kind into her body with the dimension machine. Howard and Phil arrive and apparently destroy the Dark Overlord with an experimental "neutron disintegrator." However, the creature has only been forced out of Jenning's body. The Dark Overlord reveals its true form at this point. Howard fires the neutron disintegrator at the hideous beast, obliterating it. He then destroys the laser spectroscope, preventing more Dark Overlords from arriving on Earth, but also ruining Howard's only chance of returning to his planet.

Howard then becomes Beverly's manager, hires Phil as an employee on her tour, and plays guitar with Beverly on stage. Hopefully, they eventually got to fuck with Phil out of the picture.

I love this movie. Yeah, it’s stupid. Yeah, it strays wildly from the source material. And yeah Phil is an idiot. But the Howard costume is awesome. The movie is funny. And the Parts with the Dark Overlord are downright creepy. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend it.
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Published on December 10, 2016 06:57 • 43 views