See the guy in the picture? He happens to be me at my first reading in 2011 (I digress, not my ‘first’ one, but my first since being published). Sure, it was a Sunday morning at a con and there weren’t many people, but it felt…scary as Hell.
I wasn’t afraid of speaking before an audience, but I was scared to death of failing. This was my first shot at it and I believed, falsely, the entire future of my writing career hung in the balance. By the time I was finished, I was more afraid to sit outside of the room and fail to sell copies of the one singular book I had copies of.
And I did fail to sell one copy.
It made the long drive home ripe for reflection. Was this how it would always be? Does anyone give a crap about a new guy with one anthology to his name? If I continue, will I fail to amount to anything?
Fear of failure can be a bitch.
If we don’t overcome our fear of failure… we can never achieve anything.
What if we became so paralyzed by the specter of failure that we never try to do new things? What would happen if not wanting to fail kept us from our dreams? Would existence be worth it?
I was scared of failure. I looked at myself in the mirror and my reflection appeared horrified at the prospect of failure. However, I decided to keep trying. There are always moments when I open a rejection and I feel like I failed. In life, we have to take it as it comes at us and roll with the punches. For every failure, there are many more victories.
The fear of failing is an issue I struggle with. When I began working on Death Inc., most of Milo Anderson’s character is me. His struggle with his new job at Death Inc. and the feelings he has about impressing his boss is my own struggle to succeed and fail.
Since we don’t talk as often as I’d like, I want to make it up to you. I’ve been talking a lot about Death Inc. and I want to give you a taste of what the book will be like. So, here is the first bit from chapter 2. It isn’t totally cleaned up and is in draft form, but I wanted to give you guys something to read since I haven’t had anything new out in a few months.
So, let me introduce you to… Milo Anderson.
Edna Hathaway looked up from the puzzle of a covered bridge during autumn she was working on and saw a dark shadow standing in the corner of her small kitchen. Even in the night, and with her old and tired eyesight, she could make out every wrinkle and texture of the flowing black robes. Two small red dots glowed within the hood and Edna sighed. She glanced to the right at a picture hanging on the wall showing a jolly round man proudly holding a large small-mouth bass up in the air. She remembered the day out on the lake when he caught it and a smile spread across her face.
Edna missed George and she knew she was going to see him soon. Relief flooded through her and she quickly came to grips with dying. In the end, it’s all she wanted at this stage in her life.
“Finally come for a dance with an old single lady?” Edna quipped and placed an edge piece on her puzzle.
A breeze blew in from the open window and the curtains bellowed around the figure in the shadows. It took a step out from the darkened corner and the floor board creaked under its foot.
“I thought you’d float,” Edna stated and surveyed the puzzle piece in her hand.
“No…?” the figure muttered.
“I’d also thought you’d be scary or something. I wonder, when you came for my George that day, where you scary?”
The figure cleared its throat and stepped into the light. A long flowing black robe framed its body and he leaned on a tall scythe. The hood concealed its face, but two small red beads glowed in the black.
“My, my…maybe you are scary underneath all that fabric and your large hood,” Edna whispered and put another puzzle piece in its place.
The figure stepped closer and held out a gloved hand. The hand motioned to Edna and she slowly rose from her chair. Her joints groaned and the last puzzle piece she held slipped from her fingers and scattered on the table. Standing, she reached for the robed figure moving toward her. In her heart, she felt peace wash over her and deep down she could smell the faint scent of George’s cigars.
The figure took another step to her and stumbled.
The long cloak wrapped around its boot and when it stepped, its leg caught and the robed figure fell forward. Edna backed away and stifled a laugh as the Reaper fell to the floor before her. The robe wrapped around him and his arms flailed around frantically trying to get free. Finally, Edna broke out into laughter.
“Shit,” a voice uttered under the cloak.
“You’re not exactly as I expected you.”
“Sorry, it’s my first day,” the voice answered.
The Reaper scrambled to his feet and leaned over to pick up his scythe. Using his free hand, he brushed the dust from his robes and cleared his throat.
“I am here to take you on the last part of your journey in the mortal realm,” the Reaper said.
“I don’t believe you,” Edna spat.
“No, I assure you I am the Reaper and I’m here to take your soul to the Great Beyond.”
“First day? I thought the Reaper had been taking souls for all eternity.”
“Well, yes and no.”
“Yes and no?” Edna questioned.
“Look it’s a long story and I really have to have your soul crossed over before my shift is up,” the Reaper pleaded with the old woman.
Edna stared at the Reaper before her in disbelief.
“What if I refuse to go?” she questioned defiantly.
“Pretty please with sugar on top?” the Reaper pleaded again.
“No,” Edna said bluntly and sat back down. She took her eyes off the robed spirit before her and picked up a handful of puzzle pieces. Like nothing had happened, she began studying them and laying them in groups according to color.
“Damn,” the Reaper said. In his head, he could hear the office becoming frustrated with him. Fredrick, his trainer, would be highly upset with him if he botched his first reaping.
“If you’re still here, the least you could do is go fetch an old woman some coffee.”
“If you can’t do your job then at least help an old lady out,” she curtly said.
“But…I’m the Reaper!” he frustratingly replied.
Edna sighed and stood up again. With each movement, he saw the pain in her face and the longing in her soul. The colors of her aura swirled around her and he took pity on her. Summoning what little power he’d acquired, he reached out into the Veil of Souls for George. Guides on the other side helped send the spirit to him.
A bright light slowly began to burn in the middle of Edna’s kitchen. The pulsating light faded and a man’s misty form stood before her. Edna reached out and her fingertips passed through the form’s cheeks and little smoky tendrils followed her fingers. A tear ran down her cheek and she sniffed.
“Oh, George,” she whispered and looked into her dead husband’s eyes. The same warmth and loving gaze he gave her throughout their marriage remained.
“I love you, Edna,” George’s spirit said.
Looking back at the Reaper, Edna nodded. “I’m ready.”
The Reaper held out his hand and when Edna touched his fingertips, her heart beat for the final time and her lifeless body fell to the floor. Backing away, the Reaper watched her soul flee her body and embrace her husband again. Pulling back his scythe he gently ripped a portal in the fabric of reality and let the reunited couple enter the Veil of Souls.
Once the portal sealed up, he took one last look at the cooling body on the floor and felt a pang of guilt. He knew it was his job now, but he never thought about how much it affected him.
“MILO!” a voice boomed from high above.
In a blinding flash, Milo the Reaper vanished and the house remained silent until the visiting nurse arrived a few hours later. Once she would arrive, she’d find Edna dead on the floor with one last smile forever etched on her face.
Well, I must go now. I hope you enjoyed the peek and pick up the full book when it arrives later this year.
You fine people have a nice day and I’ll see you later,