Fiction isn’t (Just) Nonsense

We’ve all had those times after a conversation with someone. You know the ones I’m talking about. The “Oo, I should have said this” times. And of course, then, we replay the conversation in our heads but this time it goes in such a way that we’re a badass with all the right things to say.

The other thing about those moments is that they can stick with you for years down the road.

I was having a conversation in the break room with my boss years ago, we’ll call him Mike, and he’d heard about my (at the time) upcoming sabbatical. I never knew him all too personally, but my read on him was that he was a very left-brain sort of guy: math, numbers, engineering, logistics, factors, etc. He knew that I was trying to become a fiction writer and I think that he was just trying to find a way to relate, even if that meant communicating a lack of relation.

“I tried reading a bit of fiction before,” he laughed. “But once I was done, I was like, ‘What was the point of that?’ I just have all this useless information now.”

I’m loosely quoting him there, but the words I’m sure about are the ones of him referring to fiction as “useless information”. And again, I’m pretty sure he meant it kind-heartedly and jokingly, but whoa, bub, word choice. In the moment, I just laughed a bit awkwardly and agreed because I was twenty-five, not sure of what the heck I was doing (still not), and talking to the CEO of the company about a pursuit he just deigned “useless”.

Since then, I’ve found myself in odd moments here or there having that conversation again in my head and justifying the value of fiction to him. The first quote that came to mind to neatly and concisely encapsulate the sentiment I wish I’d had the presence of mind to communicate in the moment is one from Neil Gaiman:

“Fiction gives us empathy: it puts us inside the minds of other people and gives us the gifts of seeing the world through their eyes. Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over.”

The ability to relate a situation in your life to another you know of, whether real or fantastical as found in fiction, that skill of being able to draw patterns and associations between those circumstances and draw wisdom, advice, inspiration, or answers from them is valuable. Characters found in novels or movies are just constructs in our own minds, but the beautiful part is that by their nature we forget about that fact. Those characters, for all intents and purposes, are people with real experiences that we can choose to relate to and learn from – if you just freakin’ choose to.

Don’t believe me? While thinking up this little piece you’re reading right now, I jotted down two names that, in very real, substantial, earth-changing ways have historically demonstrated the value of storytelling.

Jesus and Disney.

One can be a devoted church-goer and readily tell you of the impact that a powerfully delivered sermon had on their life, or be decidedly atheist and still see Christianity’s undeniable impact on world history and society today. And if money is the measure by which you choose to estimate success, Disney Enterprises–a massive corporation built off the back of selling fictional stories–could buy the moon, half of Western Europe, every truffle to come out of the earth from now until the collapse of society, and still have plenty left over to continue bankrupting the state of Florida to spite DeSantis.

And all of this cutting, razor-sharp wit is what I would have said to Mike…if I’d freaking thought of it in the moment.

Eh. There’s always next time.


My One-Way Rivalry with Christopher Moore

Wow. Say that ten times fast.

Motivation can be difficult to find in the best of times, especially when you’re trying your damnedest to hone the Powah of the Pen. And part of what makes it difficult is that what we each find motivating is different for each of us, dang it. Some of us are really propelled forward by the support of family and friends, others are set ablaze by a really inspiring example someone we admire sets for us, and others don’t get a push by anything other than a negative, “I’ll show you” mindset.

Despite my best efforts, I’m a contrarian at heart, especially with my self-esteem. As such, no matter what motivational force is in front of me, part of my brain/heart/soul/whatever finds a way to blockade it.

Friends and family support what I’m trying to do? Ah, well, they’re friends and family, and so of course they say that. It isn’t real, it’s obligatory, so it doesn’t count.

Those same friends and family are understandably apathetic to my pursuits? Well, the real, objective kicker is that nobody is obligated to give a damn about what you’re striving for. They’re not. And so, sometimes, that means you can feel like you have to care extra hard about it to make up the difference, and that’s incredibly taxing over time. So in those weak, tired moments, the weight of it can really easily translate into, “Who even cares? And why should I anymore?” And that’s a difficult hole to dig yourself out of.

My problem with the last one about folks being negative or dismissive is actually its absence. I don’t know why on Earth anybody would, but I don’t have anybody in my life who’s actively rooting against my writing career.

Ah, okay.

There was one.


A few years ago when I was preparing to try and make writing more of a serious pursuit, I went to a friend’s birthday party, and there was a lady there who was in a similar boat. She was a housewife without kids, and was seeking it as a way to occupy her time. Very much to her credit, she went to a few seminars, did a bit of public speaking at an event in the City, and through that linked up with an editor for The Bold Italic, a magazine out here that covers life n’ stuff in the San Francisco Bay Area. When my fiancee Amanda mentioned my plans, she replied, “Oh, I wouldn’t if I was him.” The implication being rather clear: “You don’t have what it takes, honey. Don’t quit your day job.”

And from there, when things got tough, there would be dark moments of doubt, before any sort of measurable success had occurred, and those words would ring in my head, burn in my chest, and weigh heavy, sure.

But a year later, we were back at this friend’s next birthday party, and there was this lady again. We get to talking, and she mentions that she remembers me as “that writer guy,” and asks “How did that work out?” (Politely spoken, in tone, but I did note the use of past tense.) This is when my friend, and wife to Birthday Boy himself, answers for me, saying that I’d been published–twice.

No matter how things should go from here, the look in her expression is something I will happily take with me to my grave.

Thank you, Claire. And I will forever be a fan of yours for that awesome, awesome defense of my honor. You rock.

She then motioned me to continue and explain that I had, to that point, been published twice, had a couple of podcast appearances, and had more work on the way. The sweetness would redouble when I reciprocated the question and found, as she told it, that she was no longer with the Italic because her editor had moved and stopped answering her emails, and the podcast she had founded couldn’t get off the ground because her co-producer sucked, etc etc. (And I know this reads as bitter, but it truly doesn’t extend beyond that given conversation. I genuinely hope she’s doing well at whatever she’s pursuing–now. And in fact I’m grateful.)


Anyway, the next time I needed to rage-channel my creativity against someone, I chose a famous guy.

Over my thankfully busy month of March, one of the things I got to do was take part in Flame Tree’s Author Q&A. In part of it, I got to talk about one of my favorite novels: Lamb, by Christopher Moore. I got to meet him a long time ago, and I have a signed copy of Lamb on my bookcase at this very moment. It’s one of those possessions that I’d make sure to save in the case of a housefire, if that carries my meaning.

But Lamb was one of two signatures I got from him the evening I met him, and the second one was the more formative of the two.

Now, I want to say here that when I met him I was eighteen or nineteen, and it was the first time I’d met someone whose name I had already known for famous reasons. I was nervous, excited, and I’m sure that I fan-boy’d pretty hard and that it was probably kind of awkward. I own that. So when I gave him my copy of his book Fool to sign, a story about King Lear’s jester, Pocket, he addressed it: “To Evan, Who Tries Really Hard! And fails -Christopher Moore”

Well’p. I had to try pretty hard to keep a happy face after reading it, I can tell ya that.

I also want to put that I’m sure- nay, positive that he wrote it in a kind-hearted way. And when you’re on a book tour like he was doing, and you have a hyperactive teenager in front of you, not every joke or fun jab is going to land the way you want it to. Wit is going to run dry every now and then. And in those cases it’s not your fault when that thing you mean as a playful inside joke stays with that kid for eleven-plus years, in those dark moments during the late nights at his desk, when passion evades him, words escape him, and the obsidian claws of doubt and weariness pry into his mind, and when his muse refuses to show itself so he forges a new one from your haphazardly scribbled words…


So I took up a sharpie and made a little addition:

It may read a little corny, and that’s fair, but as the old adage goes: “Fall seven times, rise eight.”

I’ve never really been bullish or tenacious, but I sure am willing to be persistent.

It’s about the Long Haul, bay-bee!

I’m not finding a link to it to put here, but when I was first getting started, Amanda found a book for me called “How Did I Get Published?” and it was a collection of blurbs and testimonials from successful authors on how they got their start. Chris had an entry and, to put it in brief here, he said that by the age of 30 he’d published precisely one short story in a magazine, and that he’d never seen a copy of that magazine; then he’d go on to publish his first novel in his early-thirties.

In a move that’s either pitiable or a little creepy (though I choose to see it as motivating), I decided I would race Chris’s schedule, putting me in a one-sided rivalry with the man without his knowledge.

Published one short story by the time he was 30? Through a blend of persistence, good fortune, and I’m sure I had to lie to somebody somewhere, I have ten, with more on the way.

Published his first novel in his early-thirties? I have a novella that I’m currently shopping around, but a full-fledged novel is also on its way, and Chris’s signature up there is what pushes me to finish that manuscript before my birthday in August.

And when it’s done and ready, this will definitely be part of the heroic origin story that I’ll be shoveling onto whatever literary agent gets saddled with me to shove my book at publishers.

In fact, one of the shiniest gold stars on my life’s story would be to one day meet him again, thank him for signing my book the way he did, and to give him a signed copy of a novel I’d penned.

Ah, to dream.

One day.

News and Blog To-Do’s

Well’p, it’s about that time once in a while where I crawl out from under my rock and fulfill the promise to myself to write on here again. That means it also comes with my usual disclaimer that it isn’t that I don’t love this little slice of internet that I get to call mine – I think I’m just lazy. Also I’m a bit of a firm believer that one should most be heard when they have something to say, and I…just kinda haven’t, lately.

But, I am alive, and that’s kind of cool.

In the meantime, I also swear to myself every time that I’ll get more punctual about announcing this sort of thing when something cool happens, but since I haven’t learned my lesson yet: News dump!

It’s been a busy month of fiction publications, writers’ meetings, and fun newspaper shenanigans, and about a week and a half ago I got to check an item off my Bucket List that I didn’t wholly realize was a Bucket List item until I did it – I did a book signing!

The short version is that a little bit ago we made a regular visit to a local game store Goblin Bros, and I noticed that they stocked an anthology series I was about to have work appear in. My fiancee had more wherewithal than I can ever lay claim to and actually mentioned it to the fine folks working there, wherein they were gracious enough to invite me to do a signing for a few copies.

I felt like royalty for an afternoon. (Who am I kidding? Almost two weeks later and I’m still riding that high.) And special thanks need to go out to Amanda and my good friend Dylan for being my emotional support people and keeping me in line while I made my squiggles.

The folks at Flame Tree Publishing were super cool to work and cooperate with, and same goes for the editing team at Crow & Quill for my other work that they helped join the literary world (I might just keep trying to do this stuff thanks to Tiffany’s kind and uplifting words). My story with FTP is a (dang fancy) reprint of my first-ever story “The Sixth-Gun Conspiracy Letters”, and C&Q’s anthology ‘Rituals and Grimoires’ now has my story “Speaking to Shades”, which is one that I’m really proud of, so I’m glad it’s found such a worthy home. (Ye can find it here https://thecrowshoppe.com/…/rituals-grimoires-gothic… if ye was interested.)

I know I started this post with the ritual “It’s been, like, six weeks (again), but here I am”, but I’ve also been considering doing a bit of a remodel on this whole thing. When I started it, I think it’s pretty well evident that not a whole lot of design philosophy went into the aesthetic. I just kind of slapped it together and was like, “I’ll make it yellow. Yellow’s a happy color.”

And I’m right about that.

But it only takes maybe a gram of honesty with myself to see that it’s lacking – earnest, simple, and modest, but lacking nonetheless. So in the next couple wee- okay, no. There will be an eventual remodel of sorts so this can be a halfway respectable slice of internet. A proper About Page, Contact Me, a list of Published Works, a Gallery or some junk – I don’t know, but more of what good, respectable, upstanding websites of internet society have.

I’m also going to take it back to its roots juuuust a little bit. The whole mission statement of this blog was in its namesake: The Light of Day, ie “that thing most of my work will never see.” I definitely have fun just ranting on here and thinking out into the void over just sharing scrap notes, but I think I’m going to piece out an old half-a-novel I had in the works from some years ago. Like the beloved work of the great Patrick Rothfuss and the monumental George R.R. Martin before him, the aforementioned project is hella unfinished. And it’s definitely without any plans to carry it forward into full literary life, but this is as peaceful a resting place / chance at second life I can think of to offer it with how blessedly busy I find myself these days.

Anyhoozle, Christ Almighty, that’s WAY more than enough of me talking about myself, so please continue your lives in just as awesome a manner as before I interrupted it.

You da bes’.