Circa 1963, already with
the sarcastic grin.
I’m retired from the workforce, as I carry many disabilities. I was diagnosed HIV positive in 1992 and have been classified as full-blown AIDS since 2005, when I almost died of pneumocystis pneumonia. I’ve also battled anal cancer and Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and kicked their asses. Now I’m fighting COPD and hypertension. That which does not kill me makes me stronger, and I’ve rung the Grim Reaper’s doorbell more times than a Jehovah’s Witness.
With my siblings and my mother. Chicago, October 2015.
L-R: Bill, Gerald, John, Mom, Martha, Mary, Matt.
Dad passed away in 1986.
I come from a large Catholic family. There are six of us in all, starting with my brother Bill and ending with me. That’s about a ten year age range. Most of my siblings grew up to be Republicans, and the so-called “Election” of 2016 has created a major wedge between us. Fortunately, I live over a thousand miles from them in a deep blue state. I’m also closer to Canada… just in case.
I am the youngest of my siblings, and if we all live to be over a hundred they’ll refer to me as “the baby.” As of this writing, I am the only one under sixty. Growing up was rough for me. In addition to being walked all over by my siblings because I was the youngest, I was also relentlessly taunted in school because the other kids thought it funny that my last name is Butts.
One of my life-long ambitions, since I first learned to read and write, was to be a writer. I wrote my first short story, The Flying Rabbit, when I was five. Fortunately, any remaining copies my mother might embarrass me with someday were probably destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. During high school I practiced my storytelling skills with Hardy Boys type detective stories using kids from my school as my characters. After discovering science fiction fandom at my first convention (or “con”) I took up writing fan fiction, mostly based on my favorite television series, Space: 1999. (I’m still semi-active in fandom, and a little notorious for an argument I got into in 2000 with Star Trek’s Grace Lee Whitney, a homophobic b*tch who called me “an abomination.”)
It took me half a century to realize my dream of being a published author. My first novel, Grunch Road, was published in 2011. It’s based on a ghost story from old New Orleans, but it ended up being more about my protagonist, a high school newspaper reporter I liked so much that I wrote a four-book series where he goes to college, all against the historical backdrop of Louisiana in the 1970s (including the same hurricane that also figures into Forrest Gump).
All of my books are self-published, but that doesn’t stunt my dreams. One recent best-seller started out as a self-published novel: The Martian by Andy Weir. I’m not in it for the money anyway. I just like to tell a story.