The Thrill of Book Quests

This is the first post commissioned via my patreon, so I’d like to thank my good friend Paul Andolina for asking me to write on a subject I might not normally have written on but love to discuss: my quests to find books.

It’s a subject that shouldn’t be outside this blog. It’s after all a key form of how my autism expresses myself. But it’s something I think of as only interesting me. However even if that’s true, why shouldn’t I use my platform to discuss it? Besides, this segues nicely out of my last entry. I love driving. Where do I drive to? Why?

A book quest is a very specific event. A book quest is something I save for for at least a month but usually more. I plan them out, booking a full day per trip. Rarely are these trips within 50 miles. Occasionally I’ll count Hot Springs but that’s gotta be as close as I get. I’m not looking for the familiar. So yeah, it’s either Northwest Arkansas or Memphis for a hunt.

I never start one late in the day unless it’s an overnight like the one in June 2017. It’s 8 AM at the latest. My trip audio was ready the day before. I’m listening to a podcast to warm up, usually the newest 80s All Over. My energy drink should be at hand. To get to my first destination I want a straight shoot. I’ve definitely gassed up the night before.

So it’s a straight, unfiltered drive to clear my head. I’m in a zen state as I take this trip. I want to be as entertained on the way up as I am when I get there. Usually it’s a new energy drink in the can. I drive and I drive. But that was last entry. Let’s get to the quest.

There’s never really any order to where I shop. Usually it’s as I drive along. But there’s a hierarchy. The cream of the crop are of course comic shops and used bookstores. These are the places I expect to find rarities. I’m not looking for Stephen King or the latest trades at these stores. I can get those at home. I don’t care.

What specifically am I looking for at these stores? At used bookstores, I’m looking for old tie-ins. Boulevard Marvel is the top of the top right now. I’m just a few books shy of completing that collection. The Avengers Battle The Earth Wrecker is a dream, but not impossible as I did find the Captain America novel from that era. I’m also always seeking Bantam’s Batman: The Animated Series novels. And the real prize? Horror movie novelizations. They’re all but impossible to find so I grab them when I can.

At the comic shops, it’s always older trades. I’m decidedly disinterested in anything published post 2001 from Marvel unless it’s an Essential volume. Same for DC and their Showcase trades. I want the less glossy paper. I want the odd cover designs. I want stories the big 2 might not come back to soon though if the price is right I’ll take a story that’s gotten the treatment. I’ll also get newer minis bagged together if they’re cheaper. And always I’ll grab older minis bagged together.

My favorite stores? Well for used books, I love Snooper’s Barn in Fort Smith. That’s where I found the Captain America book. Like most in the state I love Dickson Street Book Store. I mean their selection is unbeatable to the point of having no real rivals in the region. Springfield MO has the incredible trifecta of Half Price Books of the Ozarks, Hooked on Books, and ABC Books. They’re all three stunners.

Comics? The great rarity due to limited hours is Time Machine in Fort Smith, which is only open a few days a month and has been shuttered for 6 months. Their selection stuns. I love Rock Bottom Books in Fayetteville beyond words but they’re so very tight in space. I’m in awe of Vintage Stock in Fayetteville and Rogers too.

What about thrift stores? They’re great. They’re also limited. But I hit every one on my trips that I see. I may be in for 5 minutes but they’re worth the five minutes.

Then there’s chain bookstores. Barnes and Noble I don’t usually hit unless I have a new book I need. They also have a weak graphic novel section. Books-A-Million though? I hit every one I see. For one thing they take on used books. They also have an incredible graphic novel selection at every store. Love them. No matter what though, they’re always the last stop.

I have to answer one question that’s inevitably going through people’s minds. Why not just go on eBay? I do use eBay quite a bit. I’ve really gotten the Marvel novels that way. But that’s not the point.

A quest is open. I’m looking for what I don’t know I’m looking for. I want that moment of shock when I find a tie-in I didn’t know existed. I want to find a comic strip book that’s new. I want to dig and search. It’s therapeutic for me. I get to get stimulated in a way I love.

I don’t do these like I used to. I would go freely when I was single and not a father. Now? It’s annual if even that. Lola is an inhibitor. You don’t want a three year old at a used bookstore, though she still goes to the ones here once every few weeks. And that’s fine. It makes them matter more.

The internet can try. But the quest is irreplaceable.

Thanks to Paul and Chris Janisko for supporting me.

Driving While Autistic

I covered drinking and how autistic people are divided but not unreasonably afraid of it. It’s not a topic you can pin down much like a lot of topics are. Driving though? Here’s how epic the gulf is. Some of us fear cars and will never touch the wheel. Then there’s AS diagnosed Gary Numan who gave us the new wave anthem Cars, probably the most autistic hit song ever. So yeah, it’s an epic divide.

With that in mind, I’m not going to talk about all sides, just discuss how I feel about driving. Because there’s no question where I fall. Crank the tune linked above because this is my love letter to the experience of getting behind the wheel.

I love to drive. That can’t be a shock since I loved to ride my bike. I love to travel. A car is just a form of travel. It’s incredibly soothing to just get behind the wheel and relax. It really becomes sensory destimulating.

And you’d think it wouldn’t be that way. You’re behind the wheel of at multi-ton death machine. Most of us know someone killed in or by one. Most of us have been in accidents. I’ve certainly done so.

But when you plot those compared to how often I’ve driven, they’re less than a statistical blip. I’ve driven countless times out of state and not been in an accident. Of my three biggest accidents, two were within 5 miles of my house and one was 75 miles away. So let’s get accidents out of the way. They happen but they’re not how I view driving.

Driving to me is the act of getting out on the interstate. I prefer high speed drives to in town driving, the irritating stop/start motion. Nah, at its purest driving is getting out, flying down the interstate. You’d think hitting 70 MPH is stressful. It’s not. Everyone else is going that fast. You’re a salmon in the stream. You just go.

I listen to music in town but on a long drive, I like an audiobook or a radio drama. Podcasts are great too. Talking is what I like though. Mental images forming as I go with the flow. I’m focused as I drive. When I overthink, I’m a worse driver. Occupy my mind and I drive on instinct.

And once I hit that groove, it’s the best meditation. In February, I crossed the state driving in silence. I just thought. I let my mind rebuild and heal. I was better for the experience. And it happened behind the wheel.

That’s how I view driving. The chance to be released. My car gives me freedom I need. Yeah, I love to drive.

A Flickering Life is growing! Support me here!

On Alcohol and Autism

I drink alcohol. That’s not any kind of confession. It’s something I’m open about. I like to drink. How can I not? Have you drank cider? Cider is incredible, pure, sweet, tart. Then there’s the power of a good dark beer or a nice bold cocktail. Alcohol tastes incredible and I feel no shame in being a fan.

That’s not what this entry is about though. This is about the effect of alcohol, not the taste. Alcohol’s effect is well known. It’s been incredibly destructive. It does such damage. And I’m going to theorize that has a lot to do with why I’m not the most common among my autistic peers in drinking.

Why is it that so many autistic people disdain alcohol? I’m not saying this is universal.  In fact I just saw a beer recommendation from a friend. But it seems to be fairly common that we hate how being inebriated feels.

Inebriation is an odd feeling. Kendrick Lamar compared getting deeply drunk to swimming in a pool. He’s not wrong. Drinking is to disconnect from your senses. Nothing registers as intensely. Not shockingly it’s a bit unsettling when you’re used to all your senses being turned up to 11.

Is that a good or bad thing? For me it’s honestly nice having the volume down a bit. I like the experience of everything being a bit calmer and less intense. There’s also the not unpleasant stimulation of blood rushing to the skin as alcohol lowers the body’s temperature. A buzz feels nice. But that can be intense for us. Loss of stimuli feels odd. The buzz is a weird feeling. I get that.

Then there’s the mental element. Alcohol reduces our inhibitions. And that’s kinda scary for us. We thrive on control. We’re not exactly graceful sober. A lot is lost. Oh and the risk of blacking out, which is terrible and needs no further explanation.

So considering such risks, I get it. It’s divisive and it should be.

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Farewell to Screenwriting

I’m not writing what I’m writing lightly but recently I officially let go of screenwriting. After two sites in three months either closed or became unavailable to me, I’m walking on. I don’t have the money for a subscription to a site and it’s not worth it to me to make a further investment. I’m done.

Normally that wouldn’t merit a note, but it kind of does because in doing so, I’m acknowledging a truth I’ve wrestled with for at least 10 years but really 15. Screenwriting isn’t fun for me anymore. I get no joy out of it the way I used to. And I’m ready to admit I’m almost doing it out of habit more than out of love.

When did it stop being fun? I can point to the first sign. In college, I had an idea for a screenplay about two people getting stuck in the mountains during a snowstorm. It was a really good, fun idea but I stalled out on it twice. I’d write these really good setups then crash against the rocks the second they were marooned. I still like the idea but I’m not the guy to write it.

I got a couple of scripts written after that. Most are lost. But the two that survive, AETERNA and Fiesta Square are labored, agonized pieces written over a year a piece. They’re not fun pieces. They’re somber, even angry pieces and that wasn’t my intention.

After that, there is a silence. A long, dreadful silence. I tried. God my computer is littered with stubs. But none worked.

And then there’s Unworthy. I still love it. But what was it? A lot of clearing out how I wish my high school days had been. That I wish I’d tackled my insecurities then. And opening up to the bitterness I felt about a lot of my life.

The last time I really think I loved writing was when I wrote The Wingwoman. I was in the throes of a nervous breakdown and writing it let me indirectly deal with those feelings. It was therapy. And it’s crap. I’m sorry but it is.

So I come to my final piece. On This Day was an experiment to try and write a conventional comedy. It’s not bad but it’s not good. It’s too short. It’s therapy again. And after the first act it wasn’t fun.

Those three words say it all. Writing fiction hasn’t been fun for me for a very long time. I wish it was but it’s not. It used to be but now? It’s frustrating and that’s for a very good reason. I have no aptitude for fiction. I love fiction but the skill ain’t there. I have to make my peace with that. If it’s not fun for me and I’m no good at it, then why go on?

Then there’s the issue of how to do so. I like cloud writing software so I can write in peace at the library. First Scripped died and ate my screenplays. Then Writer Duet started charging to write new pieces. Then Amazon Storywriter announced they’d close. I could format myself but it’s agony.

So I’m done. And that’s ok. I’m still writing. Memoir, blogs, etc. But I’ll never be a produced screenwriter and that’s ok. I’m at peace.