The Day Amber Benson & The Dread Pirate Roberts Saved My Life

Could I just have one good f*cking day?!?! Answer: "As you wish."

Could I just have one good f*cking day?!?! Answer: “As you wish.”

Phoenix ComiCon 2015 begins in about 48 hours. I’m looking forward to it in a very special way this year because this time last year . . . I wasn’t.

2014 recap: Got to meet some great authors; met about a hundred up-and-coming writers, for whom I wish the best of luck and joy in their writing; met Cary Elwes who was preternaturally kind and wonderful; then was utterly charmed and stunned by author and actor Amber Benson for not only not roundhouse kicking my face when I jumped in front of her and asked her to come to my last panel of the day…but that she showed up and absolutely made my weekend. Her arriving at my class really took my breath away. You know what it’s like when you meet your Rock Star – whether he or she is an artist, actor, writer, poet, musician, or Fortune 500 CEO? Whoever your Rock Star is, you know that feeling? Yeah. It was like that.

And I wasn’t going to go. I came *that* close to skipping the whole thing.

No one knows, until just now, that that was my plan. Not my wife, not my ComiCon friends, not the Con organizers who are as dear to me as any family. No one. I didn’t announce it. I just quietly debated the merits of even bothering to show up. Because for all the awesome that is Phoenix ComiCon, sadness and self-loathing are . . . well, if we’re gonna be geeky, let’s just say the Dark Side is “Quicker. More seductive.” 

The reason I debated those merits is, I’ll never be good enough. I never have been, never will be, let’s end the entire charade.

You ever felt that way?

Let me make one thing clear, here: I am 100% aware of the sheer volume of blessings I have. No question. We can start with my wife and son and work our way along. I know them all. I do actually “count my blessings.” Frequently. Toby and Joy take up Spot #1. I have published novels that are on bookstore shelves; we’ll call that #3, because my friends take up Spot #2.

But still I wonder. Still I fear. Still I think it’s all a trick. 

Let’s put it this way: If anyone ever said to Toby the things I say into the mirror — and that’s not always metaphorical, by the way — I’d be Cobra-Kai-sweepin’-the-leg all over that person’s face. No one talks to my wife or my kid like that. No one.

I, on the other hand, am totally allowed to say those things to me. Some are things people have said and just stayed in there for, oh, thirty years. Some are brand-new that I came up with myself. And being a writer, trust me, some of them are pretty heinous. (My wife and my doctor get all upset with me when they hear the sorts of things I say to myself. Geez, calm down, right? I mean, they’re just words! . . . Right?)

So that’s just the tip of what was happening right before Con 2014. It’s the tip of what happens a lot in this office where I work. 

Thing is . . . I look back at last year’s Con and think of all the total coolness I would have missed out on if I’d given up. The wonderful people I wouldn’t have met.

No matter how much easier it is to give in, I can’t let it happen. You can’t let it happen. There is just too much cool shit we could miss out on if we let our Dark Sides get the better of us.

So this time last year, I could barely pick myself up off the floor. But I did. I got up, and goddammit, I went to Phoenix ComiCon to be with my tribe. And what do you know — heroes showed up, and reminded me by their smiles and their handshakes and their hugs that this place is worth sticking around for. Even when it sucks.

Artists you admire come watch your dialogue class, or dread pirates show great kindness. These things can change the entire course of a day, week, or longer. Much longer, sometimes. Like, the entire year between Cons, for example.

So thank you, Amber, and Cary, and Faith, and Brandy, and my exquisite and unrelentingly faithful bride. Thank you to every person who’s ever said a kind word about me or my work. Thank you. It matters. I hope I return the favor somehow.

I hope to see you at Phoenix ComiCon 2015. I’m really looking forward to it, no kidding. And if you or someone you know has been or is in one of those awful places I described, hang in there. Heroes abound. Keep your eyes open. We can do this.

We can. We have to. Because I don’t want any of us to miss Phoenix ComiCon 2016.

So say we all.

* * *

One of Amber’s newest novels can be found here.

Cary Elwes’s backstage look at The Princess Bride can be found here.

On August 18, my sixth novel launches. The plot is a thriller, but the theme is about darkness. About that hole of fear and panic and uselessness some of us find ourselves in sometimes. It’s fitting that it’s coming out now, because it’s about a character trying not to let the fear win. It’s about making the harder choice to not give up. I’ve written novels inspired by events in my life, yes — nothing like this. Never so naked.

Shackled can be found here. These are not affiliate links.

(P.S. Be sure to leave reviews on Amazon for any author you enjoy. It is incredibly helpful. Thanks!)

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