Release: The Frozen North (Tales of Two Worlds 1)

It’s time to build some more bridges to the Otherworld. This set of 6 stories is called Tales of Two Worlds, and it focuses on the “in-between” times following last year’s Point of Origin and Future in Sight.

First up is “The Frozen North”, and here’s a blurb for you:

The other world touches ours in many places, and Damian Enfield believes he can find one of them. The problem? It lies deep in the Canadian wilderness, miles away from any modern civilization, locked in ice for the winter months. Even after he locates the most promising site, time is short, and his team must contend with not only the elements, but other forces beyond their control, for some foes may pose as friends.

As always, my Otherworld stories are available on my Patreon for a mere 3 dollars per month. And you get all of them: 23, as of this writing. That’s too good a deal to pass up.

Make sure to check back in March, when you’ll get the second installment of this series, “Alone With Myself”. Until then, remember to keep reading!

On loss of love

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted in such quick succession without announcing a new book or short story, but I feel it’s warranted. Bear with me, because this is personal, the same as the other day.

Ending a relationship is, in a sense, little different from losing a loved one. In both cases, there’s a hole left in your heart, one that can never truly be filled again. It’s one more person you won’t get a chance to see, to talk to, to listen to. One more person you can’t share with. Your feelings, your experiences, your doubts and fears and hopes and dreams, they all have to remain unsaid, at least as far as that person is concerned.

To go through both sorts of loss in such a short span might be too much for one man to take. Especially if that man is me.

For the first time in my life, I could admit to a woman that I loved her. For the first time in many years, I felt happy, at peace, like the dark clouds that had shadowed my life for so long were lifting, letting the sun shine down upon me once again. And then the moment ended.

Oh, it lasted for a few glorious months, but the signs of strain started to show back in October. A mere two days after my birthday, in fact. From then until the week of Christmas, I feel we drifted apart, but I just wasn’t ready to state what was becoming increasingly obvious. And then I did, in the first letter (okay, it was an email, but you get the idea) I’d sent in a very long time. In it, I laid it all bare, or I tried to.

I…was in love. I think I still am. Over the last three weeks or so, we started talking again, but the strain was still there. “Confusion” was the word she used, and I was indeed confused. I knew what I wanted, and I thought I had a chance to get it, if only I tried hard enough, if only things worked out in just the right way.

For me, they never do.

I don’t believe in fate, or destiny, or karma in the cosmic sense. With everything I’ve suffered throughout my life, I just can’t. All that pain, trauma, loneliness, and despair, if there were any justice in this world, should have been balanced out by something decent by now, something more than a few months of joy. As for the idea that all this was preordained, well, I don’t fancy the idea of being cast in a tragedy of unrequited love and a crippling depression that drives me to ever increasing lengths to find “the one” I’m meant to find. Save that for the stories.

I love Avantasia’s The Scarecrow. It’s one of my favorite albums of all time. And I can’t help but feel sympathy for the main character of this metal opera. He’s been broken by the world; so have I. He wants nothing more than to find happiness; so do I. The opening line of the title track is such an apt description of me that it almost brings me to tears just to type it here: “I’m just a loser in a game of love.” That line rings so true it’s scary.

This time, I thought I had won something. And I guess you could say I did, in the sense that I won a reprieve, a temporary respite from the heartache. But now it’s back, because she’s gone.

I don’t blame her. I only blame myself. I couldn’t improve myself to the point I needed to reach in the time allotted to me. I couldn’t overcome all the obstacles in my path. Maybe that’s the wrong way to look at it. My mother, for one, believes that I shouldn’t shoulder all the burden or blame. But…I can’t see any other logical explanation. True, things like love, romance, passion, and desire aren’t logical. They aren’t rational. But the man I am can only look at them through such a lens, and here I am lost.

I’m proud of a lot of moments in what I’m calling my second ever relationship. Thanks to her, I grew as a person, as a man, and even as a writer. I had someone to offer the emotional support I needed, and that improved my disposition greatly. I won’t say she cured my depression, but she certainly alleviated it to the point where I could feel something other than angst or emptiness. For that, I can only thank her, because her affection and attention may have even saved my life. (That may be an exaggeration. At my age, though, and in the mental state I’ve occupied for the past few years, I never know what, if anything, will finally tip me over the edge.)

So I have now loved and lost, as the saying goes. Right now, I can’t say that’s better than having never loved at all. The wound is still too fresh, too raw. In time, it will heal, I know. Tonight, I want nothing more than to send her a text or voice message or even a video full of apologies and pleas. Tomorrow, I may feel differently. But I’ll never forget. How can I? How can anyone forget their first love, even if it doesn’t come until the age of 36?

A long time ago, I calculated that I had, at most, three chances at finding a lasting relationship in my lifetime. I thought this based on a few factors. One, I don’t consider myself physically attractive; I’d rate myself a 3 or 4, and you can’t chalk all of that up to insecurity. Two, I’m a self-described geek, which I, thanks to years of bullying in school, would call another mark against me. Three, I’m not rich, and (barring an almost miraculous occurrence) I never will be. At my age, the pool of potential partners is already low. Who I am only drains it further. Add in the fact that I’m not interested in casual hookups, I don’t want to be a friend “with benefits”, and I would never (due to personal preference) enter into a sexual relationship with someone who isn’t biologically female, and there are only so many possibilities.

Well, I feel I’ve racked up two strikes thus far. Maybe the third time’s a charm. Maybe I’ll get a do-over on this one. Or maybe fate really is a thing, and I’m destined to be alone forever. I can’t say for sure. All I can do is keep working, keep trying to make myself the best I can be, and hope I’m good enough.

No hard feelings, because it’s not her fault. No, I must instead thank her, if only because so many songs now make so much sense. I’ll close with an appropriate lyric from one of them, Shinedown’s “Call Me”:

Call me a sinner, call me a saint
Tell me it’s over, I’ll still love you the same
Call me your favorite, call me the worst
Tell me it’s over, I don’t want you to hurt
It’s all that I can say
So I’ll be on my way

On love and loss

My uncle passed away earlier this week, a mere two days after his 68th birthday. Some knew him as a musical prodigy, a legend in the behind-the-scenes world of Nashville country. Others knew him as the guitarist sitting there after church, telling stories for hours. Or the friendly and helpful truck driver with the perfect safety record. Or something more notorious, which I’m not yet ready to discuss.

To me, however, he was just Uncle Eddy.

I knew him in a way few others did. I was his nephew, but he often treated me like his own son, as well as his friend and confidant. We lived in the same house (rather, mobile home) for three years. After that, I still saw him often, though my visits necessarily grew less frequent. As his health worsened, I would only see him about once a month, and that was for two reasons. First, a lack of transportation meant that I didn’t always have a way to get to him. Even if I wanted to see him, to talk to him in person, I didn’t have that opportunity as often as I would have liked.

The second (and more important, in my opinion) reason is that, well, I just couldn’t stand to see him that way. It was frustrating, because I share his generous spirit, his empathy for all. To see my uncle lying in a bed, unable to stand, to walk, and eventually to eat or speak, broke my heart. Combining with that were my repeated attempts to cajole him into action, recuperation, or even just to finish what was on his plate.

All of those inevitably failed. He grew sicker, frailer, weaker, and…that took its toll on me, too. As I watched my uncle’s physical health decline, my mental health followed the same trajectory. How could it not? I gave advice; it was ignored. With my preexisting lack of self-esteem, I could only see it in one light: I failed him. And I won’t deny that I lashed out a few times. I did because I love my family, and I want only the best for all of them. But I sometimes feel as though they don’t understand that I’m only trying to help, which just makes me angry. You spend decades telling me that I’m the smartest person you’ve ever known, yet you won’t listen when I explain what’s wrong and give you a way to fix it? More than anything, I think that contributed to my deepening depression.

But it really wasn’t my uncle’s fault. I recognize that now. At many points during his decline, he was not in his right mind. At other times, those who cared for him, whether family and friends or professionals, interfered. Understanding that, making myself realize that I did the best I could, is part of the healing process.

That process has only just begun, and I can’t say how long it will take, where it will end. I cope by writing, so I’ll be doing that for a couple of weeks, at least. And maybe what comes out of it won’t be the best story I’ve ever created, but it will help. It will help me get over this loss that strikes so close to my heart. It will give me an outlet for my grief, so I won’t take it out on those I love. Because they don’t need any further pain. They’ve been through enough already.

Thank you for reading. Before I go, I want to share a couple of links with you.

As always, you can also support me (and, by extension, my family) by joining my Patreon or purchasing my books on Amazon. Again, I thank you.