It's hard being a fan. I'm not talking casual. I mean someone who spends every waking minute thinking about something, getting into debates on forums about it on the bus, toggling between news sites on the subject on your lunch break, and coming home to get back to the real deal soon as chores are done. Obsessiveness is exhausting. You expend so much energy on something that you often forget what made you fall in love in the first place. You spend so much time maintaining the commitment that you lose the romance. Every now and then, though, something comes along that makes it all worth it.
I'm an art jock. I love getting into arguments about movies. I spend hours over-analyzing every scene of my favorite shows. I probably listen to three to five hours of music a day. If my favorite player makes a misstep, I take it as a betrayal. If my favorite band releases a shit song, that hurts. I love you; I put my faith in you. How could you do me like that? Well, this past month, I saw something so great that it brought literal tears to my eyes. It was something so beautifully-orchestrated that I was just in awe of what I was witnessing. I was so grateful to be alive to experience this cinematic experience. The particular scene in question was an emotional scene, for sure, but what made me wet was how incredible the writing was. My eyes were saying, “Thank you.” It felt like a baptism. Every disappointing season of television, every stupid book better left on the shelf, every lazy chorus was washed away. The only thing that mattered in this moment was this moment and how cathartic it was.
Sometimes, as a writer, you get a little too comfortable. You think you've got a grip on this storytelling thing. These overpaid celebrity scribes don't have a thing on you. You can predict the end of every Marvel movie one phase before it happens. You might not be a genius but you feel on par with the rest of 'em. Then, you get knocked on your butt. What a fool you were. KO'd without a fighting chance. That's what I live for. I don't do drugs but I imagine that's what they feel like. It's inspiration, a poster on your wall to admire before you lift. If someone could create something so magnificent, then what the fuck have you been doing? You've gotta step it up, now. The goal is to make your audience feel the goosebumps your inspirations have given you. No matter how good you get; you can always do better.
There's no greater point to this article. I just wanted to marvel about how lucky I am to have had that reminder about why I love writing in the first place. For every bad date you have with some weak-ass novella, every time your debate about which Mad Max is the best (Road Warrior, duh) gets a little too heated, every twenty dollar bill you wish you'd have just thrown in the trash rather than donating your attention to some Hollywood turd, keep in mind that true love is out there.
We're at a crossroads at Long Shot Books. That much is obvious. In many ways it's very exciting. In others, it's scary as heck. There have been some plans in the making for a long while and other changes that were thrust upon us. Such is life, especially as a small business owner (if I dare even call myself that).
To start, let's back this up. When we began Long Shot Books, we did so at a point in my life where I was pretty secure in all regards. I would have never asked Maureen to be a part of something if I wasn't confident I had the attention and energy to dedicate to it. Then, without getting into too many details, my life fell apart. A large amount of money was stolen from me, causing me to realize that a large portion of my life had been blacked-out due to repressed memories from my childhood. I was planning on getting married. (According to the narrative I had constructed in my head at that time, I'd probably be a father, now.) There were also a lot of life or death scares with someone I know that is at an age where mortality shouldn't even be questioned. I was being gas-lit so hard that I was convinced that conversations I heard were basically in my head or contorted so badly by paranoia that they might as well have been. (It took hard evidence for me to convince myself I wasn't crazy and that I was just being lied to.) I was sleeping one to two hours a day because I was having nightmares so violent I couldn't sleep (violent things being inflicted upon me, not the other way around). Instead of saving up for a wedding ring, I was saving up for a trip to the psych ward. The only things keeping me going were my family, my obligation to finish Conditional Love, and making LSB a reality. There were days I could hardly eat a sandwich because my appetite was nonexistent. I was crying nearly every waking hour. Full-on sobbing at work, opening the fridge and collapsing to the ground. If I didn't have a head-ache from crying so much, it was from slamming my head against the concrete wall in the basement, or from falling down on the kitchen floor because I was self-medicating with alcohol. I went from about two years' sober to getting black-out drunk about five nights a week.
The only time I don't remember drinking was at work. Soon as I got home, I was opening a can of whatever. I was waking up with all kinds of bruises. I was hardly even human at this point. Really, I was just an animal in suffering. There was one time where the stress became so much that I just collapsed on the ground and couldn't stand up and was disoriented for an hour or so. I only vaguely remember a lot of this stuff. During this time, there were a lot of people helping and supporting me. My parents, my roommate, and most importantly (for this article), Maureen. She let me stay at her house when it was no longer a good idea for me to be at my own. She came and picked me up when I had my syncopal incident described above. She helped me escape from all that by taking a vacation as her roommate, free of charge. We'd plan things for the company and make the most of our circumstances. Even though we had already registered the title, I think that's when Long Shot Books became a reality for us.
At this time, I signed up for dating apps. It is oddly embarrassing, even though I'm pretty sure it's common these days for single people my age. I liked OKCupid because I liked getting really wasted and filling out the questions. This was probably two or three months before the first LSB interview or the first article, iirc. Apparently, some of my answers got me into hot water recently. I only know some of the things in question because nobody had come to me and quite frankly, I don't fully remember that phase of my life. It's like an impressionist painting when I look back on it rather than realist or something that sounds as clever as I'm wanting it to. I was more political back then, (shortly after my mental breakdown, I stepped back from politics completely-I still follow things and try to stay informed but I see myself as a student of the world rather than a teacher at this point) and also enjoyed playing the role of devil's advocate. (As explained in the video, I presented my thoughts at the time, still think they're at least somewhat reasonable, and would gladly hear those points rebutted. Neither of those things are issues I'm voting on or making any decisions about beyond timewaster online quizes. Like I said, I don't really speak on politics at all anymore but I'm glad to listen.) I believe the things were taken out of context and I explained that in my Youtube video on the subject. I also don't expect anyone to have that amount of context when browsing OKCupid quiz answers, either, so I get that.
I don't like excusing any controversial thing I say or do with mental illness or intoxication. (On a side note: I do find it ironic that mental illness is great to post “relatable” memes about when it comes to lying in bed, eating pizza or something but when the harsh reality of it shows its ugly head, all of a sudden, it's out the window.) I mean, I easily could but I do want to remain accountable for my actions. I've addressed this before as well. My issue was that rather than coming to me and saying “Hey, man. That's fucked up that you said that,” or, “I thought you were better than this,” or even, “I don't understand how you could even think something like this, can we talk about it?” they screenshotted it and sent it to other people, hoping to boycott not only my but Maureen's company. (I don't blame anyone for taking issue with what I said or any other thing I say or do. I get that and can respect it. I take issue with someone taking this as an opportunity to act maliciously and approach a difference in [what was at least for me] rhetorical political opinion with malice rather than any attempt for understanding or compassion.) She gets cryptic messages saying, “Only a few people know but if this gets out, it's going to be a very bad look for your company” and shit like that. When she says to talk to me about it, they refuse, until, of course, I go public with the information with my video (which I recorded this time, only half-drunk [but also half-sober!] and half-asleep).
The reason I bring this up, because I said my video was the end of this, and as of right now, it basically is, is because I believe every misfortune is an opportunity for growth. I do feel wronged. I feel that my privacy was invaded, my mental health exploited, and I feel hurt that people would rather lash out at me (or worse, my friend) than have an adult conversation about political opinions I drunkenly espouted, possibly even chuckling at the fact that I said something brash and nasty. I also feel more motivation than ever to be a good person and to do more good with our company. I always say that the life I was given ended in 2018 and by 2019, the life I made for myself had begun. I think that I was reborn in many ways and am a much better person. I hope to say the same thing in 2020, looking back on all this and a compilation of other embarrassments from now until then. I'm sure that those upset with me feel as though they're raging against some injustice the same way that I do. Although I disapprove of their means of doing so, I can appreciate that at least some of these people believe they are participating in morality. I forgive them for that and hope for the same from them someday. I know some people upset with me are great writers and I wish them the best in that. The foundation of Long Shot Books has always been one of new beginnings, forgiveness, and most importantly, not judging one another. We're passionate about opening double-blind contests. We don't care who you are or what you've done. All we want is what you're doing right now, in this moment. I can't speak for the person I was in 2018 but I can say that right now, in this moment, I am confident Maureen and I are doing our absolute best and hope that everyone else in the game can say the same. If this latest controversy hasn't driven you off, I'm sure some later one I inspire will. I have a habit of that. I can also assure you that any mistakes I might make are honest in nature and I'm genuinely trying with each step in the wrong direction to make the right move. If you don't believe me, well, I don't blame you. I have trust issues, myself. I have trust issues with myself, sometimes. I'll just have to prove the both of us wrong with my actions.
We want to create an open community for everyone. Poets, fiction writers, nonfiction, journalists. We don't even want to consider gender, orientation, religion, politics, or economic stature. Those things mean nothing to us. We're much more concerned with how you treat other people than your background or what you call yourself. The only thing we expect is to see that you're doing your best and helping others do their best. We're all on our own hero's journey but we can choose to be an obstacle on others' paths or to help them. We don't want cliques. We don't want beef or petty feuds. Truly, in the most elementary school guidance counselor way, we just want everyone to get along and help each other reach their best potential. The only thing we don't tolerate is bullying or discrimination or anything icky like that.
We're even thinking about branching out even further, beyond the written word. I used to be a filmmaker. (Maureen helped work on the second feature film I worked on and has written scripts of her own.) We want to work with bands and visual artists of all kinds. We'd love to do a show that has stand-up comedy, readings, music, and an art gallery. We want people to make connections with each other that they never might have otherwise. The absolute coolest thing would be hearing a filmmaker say, “Hey, this writer I met through you guys wrote my latest script and I hired the band who played at the same show (s)he read at to do the score. That stand-up comedian we saw at your show is going to be the lead.” We're striving for an open-border community for artists, a group of people saying, “I don't know where you come from or who you've been in the past, but right now, we're here, so let's help each other make this most of this moment.” Of course, our primary focus will be on the written word, but we may not continue limiting ourselves to only that.
I'm a demanding artist. I ask a lot of my readers. Irl, I'm a demanding person to be around. I really challenge people, probably not always in the healthiest way. Long Shot has always been my retribution. It's my way of being a decent literary citizen. It's my way of giving back to the indie community. I can't speak on specifics right now, but I think there are many exciting plans for our future and I'm both as excited and grateful to be apart of this company as I've ever been. I wouldn't have started it with anyone other than Maureen Crowley and I couldn't be happier with the little we've accomplished so far. She's perfect but I make a hundred thousand stupid mistakes every single day and I understand if those scare you off. With that said, I'm looking forward to our future and I'me hoping to see you in it.