“Is that you on the cover?” She eyed the hero on my book, inspecting Angst’s gray hair and bald spot before looking at me with a mischievous grin.
“Well, heh, no, not exactly.” I take a deep breath, preparing the explanation in my head. I’m distracted by the busy convention, and the words stumble out. “Angst may look like me, but he’s really not me. The artist and I didn’t communicate well…”
“I’ll take it.” She rifles through her purse and hands me a 20. “It’s so cute you wrote a book about yourself.”
“Thanks.” I struggle to hold back a sigh.
She smiles and walks away.
I call after her. “I hope you enjoy my Angst.”
She didn’t hear me, already lost to the crowd.
And people wonder why I have angst.

Young David and sister Amy

There was a time when I’d walk into a barber shop and everyone would hide their good shears. Young David had a lot of hair. It was dark, wiry thick, and grew fast enough that I’d need a cut every three weeks. I teased barbers that my hair would dull scissors, and that I liked to keep it efficiently short, because brushes wasted time.

Once, my Army veteran, drill sergeant, Green Beret father got upset because a cut I got in high school was too short. (I swear it was longer than a buzz cut… and weren’t parents supposed to get angry for long hair?) I retaliated by mocking him for his thinning grays and bald spot. But my father has always been wise. He merely nodded and smiled knowingly, because he knew, it was coming.

David and dad laughing
Blond David

The silver began sneaking in before I turned 30. I didn’t think much of it as the grays quickly took over, washing away color as if I had seen a ghost. Honesty, I didn’t care. Sure, I’ve dyed my hair for costumes, for friends, or to make people laugh. That was never really for me. If I could keep it short enough to brush with my fingers, I was happy. Brushes are a waste of time, right? And then, it happened.

I was in my office gaming, probably playing vanilla WoW. (World of Warcraft, circa 2004) My middle school daughter popped her head in to see how I was progressing and said, “I can see you bald spot.” She gave it a rub, like ushering a genie from a lamp. I sat upright so fast she jumped back. “My what?”

I ran up the stairs and into a bathroom. My wife, Angie, could sense my panic and rushed to follow.

“David, what’s wrong?”

“Do I have a bald spot?” I was facing away from the big mirror, looking over my shouder.

She covered her mouth, failing to hold back her laughter. “Honey, you’ve had that for quite a while.”

“SonOfA…”

Joanne and David wearing Spider-Man T-shirts
David's Bald Spot

Skip ahead to 2010. I published Angst with a homemade cover. It was everything you would expect from a color blind indie author with no taste. I wanted a real artist to tackle it, and found a young man on DeviantART.

His cover was coming along well enough until he got to Angst. In his rendition, my hero looked like Thor with long blond locks of hair. The artist’s English was as good as my Serbian, and “middle-aged hero” didn’t translate well. Out of desperation, Angie took a picture of the back of my head. The artist was frustrated, done with going back-and-forth, and superimposed the back of my head on Angst.

I spent five years telling the story at conventions before finally embracing it when Alessandro Brunelli became my cover artist. Enough readers enjoyed the story that Angst always has a bald spot on the covers. While I may not love my old-age-marker, I love Angst’s. Who, by the way, still isn’t me.

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