I am James Neal. There’s a lot of descriptive words one can use to help you envision and try to capture who I am: author, father, husband, artist, computer technician, blogger, and even watcher of reaction videos.
The past three years have seen me trying hard to be most of these. Back in 2014, I released my first (and only thus far) novel: Of Blood and Blade. What followed was a whirlwind of learning how to set up, manage, and write a blog. I learned how to use social media, mistakenly believing Twitter would be the best place to find readers. I wrote a novelette and several short stories, three of which I believe were worth putting up for public consumption.
I started making friends in the industry, mostly beginners like myself. Then, a horrid mix of depression, work woes, and personal crap I won’t go into here created a perfect storm which saw me give up writing. Not give up on writing, but I just didn’t have anything in me to give to the page. I was putting all my energy into being an adult and still finding myself short.
Two years ago, I started feeling I could come back. I created Tempered Wordsmith, which you’re reading now. A lot of work and thought went into making sure not only that I had a plan, but that I wanted to do this. And I did.
Then I had to move. Fuck.
So, my family and I (my wife and three children mind you), packed everything we owned, left Missouri and returned to Texas. And the next two years were non-stop worries about how the rent would be payed, how to get another car when some pizza delivery guy decided to speed in the rain and ram into us, my son getting bullied in school, and the general chaos that is raising three children.
I only survived all this because I had family near me: my sister, mother, and aunt all live within an hour of me. Anytime I needed help, they were there. Anytime I needed to talk, they were there. Anytime I didn’t realize what I needed, they were there anyway.
But I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t drawing. I wasn’t really parenting. I tried to do all of these, and more. Instead, I was swimming in a black pool and didn’t know how to get out of the water. There were no stairs, there was no ladder. I just kept thrashing my arms and hoping I didn’t get too tired.
But you get tired. You get tired of feeling like you’re drowning. Of trying. Of failing to accomplish even the simplest of goals. Clean the house? Nope. Cook? Nope, daughter did it. Work? Nope, no license (that’s another story) and again, three kids- one of which was under two years of age. Can’t leave him alone.
Then, this dystopian existence shattered. It was so simple, yet I doubt the people involved (once more, my sister, and her husband). They made the decision to take me on as an employee. My sister watches over my youngest while I work, they pay me a livable wage, my hours are not crazy, and the work isn’t back-breaking.
I’ve been working for three weeks, and already, financially, we are out of the red. I just paid two bills yesterday with my own money. I haven’t even told my wife yet as of writing.
So what does this have to do with writing?
The easy answer is- because I’m not worried about everything, it feels like I have time to begin writing again. But that’s not entirely true. I’ve had time for three years. The long answer is, I don’t know. All I can say is there is a weight off my heart, chest, and soul, and thus I am both willing and able to look at, and write, words again. If I had to guess, I’d say there’s some amount of truth to the idea that I have enough pride in myself again to be willing to jump back into writing and handle all the different hats and not be destroyed if someone says “this isn’t good.”
I have enough pride in myself again to be willing to jump back into writing
Cool. So why rewrite Of Blood and Blade instead of the sequel?
A realization. I’ve tried on at least three different occasions to write a sequel to my first novel. Unfortunately, the book did not even slightly follow the timeline I have prepared for the trilogy, and every attempt feels forced. There is also a problem in Of Blood and Blade’s structure. It isn’t a great story. It has great parts, it does have a beginning, middle, and end, but ultimately it doesn’t tie together well, nor does it present themes and plotlines in a way I can be proud of now.
I believe a much better writer exists today
While I haven’t been able to write, I have continued to read. Learn. Think. I believe a much better writer exists today, who can write Of Blood and Blade in a way that will present an entertaining, logical, thematic story- everything the current version is not.
I am James Neal. I’ve written things. I’ve published things. I’ve lived things. Now, I’m starting over. Is there any better a place for a writer to start over than with the first story they finished…and making it worth reading while in a mental, emotional, and financial state conducive to caring about the end product?
Thank you for reading about my journey. I hope you’ll stay for a while.
James Neal is a computer tech by day, buttery bread by night. Okay, buttery bread is what he had for dinner, but you are what you eat, right?
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Want to read a great story by James Neal? Try his novelette, Paints the Invisible Eye, now only $.99!: