*TAP TAP* Is this microphone on?

A quick note to let you all know I’m still here and spinning webs as fast as my spinnerets will spew out the story threads. (editor’s note: ew.)

I’ve decided to focus my energy this year on two projects:

The Jake Omnibus which includes:

1) a completely revamped A Chick, A Dick and A Witch Walk Into a Barn

2) three new vignettes featuring Mama Effie, Radu and Bear Gunn

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!

3) the first chapter of the seventh story in the Jake saga. Currently untitled but it’s gonna be ONE HELL OF A RIDE! (editor’s note: exactly how much coffee have you had today?)

I am also working on a story, Crown of Feathers. It’s a lovely tale about a little boy who in an attempt to save his mother’s life turns her into an eldritch abomination. Family fun! (editor’s note: maybe look up the definition of family, Nik)

I’m especially looking forward to working on this project because my daughter, Brenna Gael, is going to be illustrating it and doing the layout. And she’s freaking brilliant.Crown of Feathers is not only going to be a good read but it’s going to be BEAUTIFUL. I don’t know how I’m going to finance it but, by the Hammer of Vulcan and the Fires of Brigid, IT WILL BE DONE!! (editor’s note: someone check Nik’s coffee consumption stat)

But, until I can unleash those two creatures onto the literary landscape, I want to give you all a little bit of something something to keep you coming back to the fountain for a quick drink of Nik. (Editor’s notes: I got nothing.)

SO, I’ve been doing an exercise every morning to grease my brain meats. For Christmas, I bought myself this coolio writing tip journal. On each page, there is a prompt and the challenge is to write a very quick story. I’m going to share one of these with you. Unedited. First draft virginal fresh.

Here. We. Go.

The prompt: SHE KEPT HER THREE FAVORITE THINGS LINED UP ON THE SHELF ABOVE HER BED – BUT, AS SHE LOOKED AT THEM NOW, SHE REALIZED ONE WAS MISSING.


“Damn.” She knocked three times on the bed frame. Her arthritic knuckles screamed at the mistreatment. “Oy! Down there. Give it back.”

Silence.

“I know you took it. Every time. Give it back!”

A skittering from beneath her bed frame answered.

“NOW. Don’t make me pull rank, creature.”

“Buh…but…” said a squeaking, rusty voice that sounded like coffin nails raking across a chalkboard. “It is sooo shiny.”

The old goddess sighed and rolled her eyes. “Of course, it is, fool! It is the last pure thing in this stank hole of a world. I keep it in that Globe to keep it that way. Give it back before you drop it!”

The bogie from beneath the bed sniffled.

“It is so shiny. And it is so dark here.”

The old goddess sighed. What best service for the Last Pure Thing than to give comfort in the dark?

“Fine. Keep it safe.”

The bed shook as the bogie shivered in happiness and curled up around its prize to sleep dreamless slumber.

“T’ank you.”

The old goddess pulled her comforter up to her chin. “S’Allright.”

The End.


I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll post more and keep shouting into the void.
-Nik

My Renewal and God Bless Us Everyone!

My favorite writing teacher back at Palomar College started off the first day of class by saying, “If you are in this to make money, let me break that illusion for you right here and now. The days of Stephen King payouts are over. If you think you’re going to make anything near a livable wage, well, good luck. But it’s probably not going to happen.”

That class started off with fifty very earnest students.

By the end of that semester, there were just five of us.

Five stubborn sons of bitches who couldn’t take the hint.

That was a long time ago. An ocean of decades separates that naive girl from me. Sometimes i wish I could go back in time and thank that teacher, David Cowper, for his harsh but real truth.

Check this out. This year, I made $28.00 from my Patreon (THANK YOU! I do appreciate all of you lovely beautiful people). I cleared nearly $24 from Amazon. And just last week, I received a royalty check for $7.08 for three stories. That figures out to be (insert calculator noises) $2.36 per story.

On the other side of the ledger, I have spent $675.00 on layouts and artwork. I have spent $100 on editing ( a freaking bargain!) and roughly $300 on swag, books and festival fees.

Yeah. Mr. Cowper was right: If you are in this for a buck, good fucking luck.

HOWEVER, I don’t want to end 2019 on a downer. I want to spread a quick piece of wisdom that injected needed oxygen on my dwindling fire.

A few weeks ago, my friend, M, and I were sitting in the Author’s Circle tent at the Dickens of a Christmas festival in Franklin, TN. The weather was terrible but there was at least a thousand people wandering around the stalls. In spite of that, I couldn’t hook a sale if I’d baited my books with cocaine. My spirits were sagging and M and I started talking about the lack of sales.

“Hey,” she said. “I didn’t come here thinking I’d sell a bunch. I mean, I’ve done okay* but I’m happy to just be here with my book. I have a job that gives me money. This is what I do for fun. I don’t need it to make money.”

I had a flashbulb moment.

And it was then that I realized I had lost my own perspective about the Craft. I was so concerned about the Profits and Loss that I forgot that this was supposed to be fun, goddammit!

I have a day job. THAT pays me money so I can buy food to feed my body. THIS….the writing, creating, doing all the weird, wacky, stupid, useless, fun storytelling…THIS feeds my soul .

I am taking that renewal of purpose into 2020. I’m going to have fun and I’m taking you guys with me.

Buckle up. It’s going to be a spine breaker.

*M published a book, God Bless Us Everyone! It’s an anthology written from the POV of the other characters in the Christmas Carol. I was so happy to get her into our group at the last minute. M came dressed as Charles Dickens and she had this huge, beautiful stage prop of a leather bound Christmas Carol book. She sold quite a few but what was delightful was listening to her talk about her book with such pride and wonder. It never came off as an elevator pitch or a shtick. Just love for something she had created. I learned a lot of from that day.

https://www.amazon.com/God-Bless-Us-Everyone-Christmas/dp/1689022485/ref=sr_1_6?crid=WACOPEWO7TR&keywords=god+bless+us+everyone&qid=1577828113&sprefix=God+bless+us+%2Caps%2C207&sr=8-6

The One About the Secret to Success

A week into my new job, my boss took me out to lunch.

She looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I’m going to be straight with you. I’m not going to be watching to see if you come in late or how long you take for lunch. You’re an adult and I’m not your mother. This job is 90% just showing up. Just show up and do the work. If you can do that, you’ll be fine.”

“Okay.”

“And don’t go crazy like the last one did.”

Sixteen years have gone by since that lunch and while I still don’t know what drove the last one crazy, those words still resonate within me.

90% of the job is just showing up.

And that includes the Writing Biz.

I hate to be the one to pop the bubble but here is the truth, cold and hard:

  • There is no magic pen.
  • There is no magic candle.
  • There is no magic liquor that will make the words come faster.
  • There magic spray that entices the Muse to come and visit.
  • There is no magical Spotify playlist that will guarantee a bestseller.

The only magic is the Work. Sitting your ass down in a chair and Do the Work.

Sometimes you will hit a vein and the rush will take you deep into the night, hours dissolving, and you’ll forget to eat. Some days, the Work is like trying to carve cold marble with a limp dick. Some of your stories will hit. Sometimes, your story won’t get the recognition it deserves.

In the end, it’s all about Showing Up to do the Work.

And, hopefully, not going crazy.

The one about the kid and the cannibal trolls

First off, let’s get one thing straight.

I don’t write books for kids. It’s not like I have anything against kids. Frankly, I think they’d like my books although I suspect parents and other adults in a supervisory position might disapprove.

And I tried once to write a children’s story. It’s about a boy who tries to save his mother from Death by stealing the Crown of Feathers* from under her pillow. Unfortunately, it turns her into an undead thing and he has to consult three witches to help sort it all out.

While writing it, I consulting with my daughter who is far more mature than me.

“So….do you think it would be okay if I let the Zombie Mom eat the boy’s dog?”

“No.”

“Okay. How about if she eats the Grandmother?”

“NO!”

So, even when I try to write something for kids**, it all turns out weird.

Which gets me to the point of today’s post.

I was at the annual Dickens of a Christmas festival in Franklin, TN selling books with the Middle Tennessee Author’s Circle*** when this little girl, maybe 9 or 10 years old, comes into the tent and says she likes spooky stories.

Fingers point towards me.

She gravitates instantly to my book, The Problem at Gruff Springs, a Weird Western story.

Her mother tries to push her towards another book. It has a unicorn on the cover. “Look, honey, fairy tales!”

The girl rolls her eyes and picks up my book so I go into my Spiel.

“That story is about Alan Pinkerton who is sent to look for stolen Confederate gold and finds that there are some horrible things in the mountains. Mainly cannibalistic trolls.”

The girl’s eyes widen. “Cannibal trolls! This is the one for me!”

The girl’s mother looked at me with even wider eyes.

“There is no sex or cursing however there is violence and, well, cannibal trolls.”

“This one. I want this one!”

And the mom paid and the kid went home with my book.****

.

*It’s an Appalachian folk tale. Look it up.

**Even though I think kids like weird and morbid stuff.

*** Truth be told, I was TRYING to sell books. Mainly what I did was stand there, feeling like a freak on display. “Oh, look. So, that’s a Writer, in the wild? How odd.”

****And I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to remember if there were any curse words. I did remember there is a scene with the troll queens pendulous breasts swaying about. Jesus. I’m going to hell.

The one about 6th grade and Afternoon Delight

I don’t particularly like listening to DJ led radio stations. They tend to be snarky 20-30 year olds trying desperately to seem relevant. On this morning, it was cold, so I stayed in my heated car while waiting for the bus. On the radio were some ZooCrewHeyWeAreHavingTheFunNow bunch of bozos talking about dirty songs that never actually say anything dirty. They focused mainly on songs from the 70’s; for some reason, the songs of that decade were a bit more subtle than today’s “I lick balls” lyrics*”.

I tuned out most of what they were saying until the song, “Afternoon Delight” was mentioned.

And the memory floodgates opened.

The year was 1977. I was 11 years old, enjoying my last year of being a kid before puberty jumped on my back and rode me like its bitch**.

My teacher that year was Mrs. Tarkington. I loved that woman. She seemed to innately understand hyperactive, wildly imaginative, fantasy prone Little Nik and channeled those energies into creative venues that kept me out of detention***.

I’ve always been what some people call “obsessive”; I prefer to call it “hyperfocused”. When I have an interest in something, it’s dive bomb into the deep end, baby! Back then, I think my interests were UFOS, Bigfoot, and the TV show, Man from Atlantis, where Patrick Duffy spent 95% of his time wet and in swimming trunks*.

Mrs. Tarkington let me run with my specialized learning programs. I created a club called The Monster Hunters and we submitted a cryptozoology exhibit to the science fair and she allowed me to put on a play called Hunting Bigfoot. Trent Ridley wore a parka and we hunted him by tracking him down thru his footprints cut out of construction paper. The play ended with me and two other kids dissecting Trent/Bigfoot and throwing construction paper organs over a bedsheet.

The woman, to put it bluntly, was a freaking saint.

How does this all relate to some softcore pop porn?

Sigh.

So, it is late in the school year and Mrs. Tarkington let us have a party. We all brought snacks and our own personal 45s* to play on the record player*.  It was the usual fare. Bay City Rollers screaming about Saturday Night. Barry Mainly droning on about Mandy.

And then there was “Afternoon Delight”. ****

After a few verses into the song, she had the weirdest look on her face.

She pulled the needle off the vinyl and said, “What do you all think this song is about?”

I had no idea. For me, the appeal of the song was its fun, swinging, easy to dance to rhythm.

I raised my hand and said, “Maybe something you like to do in the afternoon?”

A very tight grin crossed her face. I recognize that look now;she was holding in a laugh with every muscle of her face. “Oh. You think so?”

“You know,” I continued with all innocence. “Like eating ice cream?”

That’s all she could stand. She was laughing so hard, she could barely put the needle back on the record.

I remained completely unphased and completely convinced that the song was about eating a contraband bowl of ice cream before dinner.

Hand to God.

*Google it.

**That was the year they made the boys go outside and stand by a fence while the school nurse told us what to do if we started our periods. We were to raise our hands, go to the office and ask for a “pad”. I swear, I thought the “pad” was to write on. Which made me even more anxious because I didn’t know what they wanted me to write! Was I going to be punished?  No fricking clue.

*** And off medication. I would’ve never made it out of childhood now.

**** For those of you unfamiliar with this 70’s classic, here are the lyrics.

Gonna find my baby, gonna hold her tight

Gonna grab some afternoon delight

My motto’s always been “when it’s right, it’s right”

Why wait until the middle of a cold, dark night?

When everything’s a little clearer in the light of day

And we know the night is always gonna be here any way

[Pre-Chorus]

Thinkin’ of you’s workin’ up my appetite

Looking forward to a little afternoon delight

Rubbin’ sticks and stones together, make the sparks ignite

And the thought of lovin’ you is getting so exciting

[Chorus]

Sky rockets in flight

Afternoon delight

Afternoon delight

Afternoon delight

[Verse 2]

Started out this morning feeling so polite

I always thought a fish could not be caught who didn’t bite

But you’ve got some bait a waitin’ and I think I might

Like having a little afternoon delight

[Chorus]

Sky rockets in flight

Afternoon delight

Afternoon delight

Afternoon delight

[Bridge]

Please be waiting for me baby when I come around

We could make a lot of lovin’ ‘fore the sun goin’ down

[Chorus]

Thinkin’ of you’s workin’ up a’ appetite

Lookin’ forward to a little afternoon delight

Rubbin’ sticks and stones together make the sparks ignite

And the thought of lovin’ you is getting so exciting

[Outro]

Sky rockets in flight

Afternoon delight

Afternoon delight

Afternoon delight

The one where Grammar saved the day.

November 24, 2019

Yesterday, I spent my Saturday doing all the Responsible Adult things. Laundry. Housework (a bit more deep cleaning than usual with Thanksgiving looming next week). Groceries. Paying Bills. ALL THE THINGS!

By the end of the day, I told myself that I would spend Sunday doing Creative Things. My mind flew in all sort of directions about all the THINGS I would get done. I went to bed feeling hopeful and excited.

And then the day came.

Yay?

I stared blankly at my List Of Things To Do and felt my guts tighten.

I started it with some baking. Blueberry bread. Hey, it’s still creating.

I fiddled with my printer which for some reason no longer wants to do its ONE DAMN JOB.

After giving up, I pushed the traitorous printer aside and sat down at my desk.

After taking a deep breath, I decided to do something easy. Let’s get those wheels turning by doing some journaling. It’s spreading ink on the page. That counts, right?

I love journaling. It’s a way to talk out problems and finding answers. Sometimes, it is like your subconscious can find a way to talk back to you. There is something magical about it.

I started writing about my latest battle with Imposter Syndrome. How I haven’t written anything since October 1.  And the panic I’m feeling because in a week, I’m supposed to talk to a writers’ group about my adventures of being a writer. HA! Who am I to tell anyone about BEING a writer?

And that’s when my subconscious chimed up, “Ah, there’s the problem, isn’t it, Love? That adverb. BEING. That’s a passive a To Be verb. And WRITER? That’s a noun. Nouns are active so snip that down to WRITE. Not Writer; nouns aren’t active. They just sit there. You need to clip that and just use the active verb. WRITE. Just write something. Anything. Don’t worry about it being good or if anyone will like it. Just grab that Silver Flame and mold it into something NEW. ACTIVE. Get moving.

And that’s what I did.

Here it is.

I don’t know if any of this is good or is just another post about me whining, but I did it. At least it is a start.

The one where I start rambling and finally pull my head out of my ass.

My last story was finished on October 1, 2019. It’s called Brother Marvel’s Old Time Revival.

*Shameless plug*

And, until today, when I sat down at this cold keyboard, I haven’t written anything since.

It’s not because I don’t have ideas. I have a whiteboard looming over me with a list of projects. Looking up at it, I can hear it whispering, “For chrissakes, just write one sentence, a paragraph, anything! Get those wheels rolling!”

Here’s the rub: There is a part of me that desperately wants to stop. To never write another word, sink into mediocrity and just stay still.

Perhaps it is because I am too content.

I have a job that pays my bills with a very small spillover that allows me to buy books and pay for my Pilates addiction. Thank the Muses I don’t have to live on my royalty checks. The last I received from Kindle wouldn’t pay me a cup of coffee.

I made the rounds at a few book fairs this year and was grateful to make my table money back. However, if you really wanted to be anal about it, if you consider the overhead involved in putting on those shows, I am drowning in the red.

At this moment, my writing career is a classic case of diminished returns.

If there is no monetary incentives, why keep at it? Or, considering the lack of writing I’ve done lately, why do I even worry about jumping back on that horse?

Why am I even wasting my time bitching about it?

Because in the end, it doesn’t matter how much money you made or how many times you were published. In the end, IT DOES NOT MATTER.

What does matter is answering this question truthfully:

ARE YOU HAVING FUN?

If you answered, no then STOP. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Just STOP, get off the horse, dust yourself off and find something else.

Now I don’t have some rose colored perception about the writing life. I don’t expect it to be a mile a minute, raucous adventure zone cavalcade of fun fun times. It’s hard. Soul sucking, frustrating and depressingly hard work with sometimes little to no rewards (see the royalty statement paragraph above). Your work will more than likely never be read, be forgotten or, God forbid, your work will stay unfinished and molder in gut like a tumor.

So, if you’re not having fun. If even on your best days when the story is flowing like lava from your fingertips and the Word Genie is throwing a rave inside your head and you aren’t having fun, then stop.

Stop and find something else. Because, dammit, there’s no reason to clamp your knees around this bucking horse if you can do anything else.

And that’s it, isn’t it? Can you do anything else?

If I were to quit right now, go to school, and become something professional, profitable and respectable, the entire time I would be thinking “How could I turn this into a story?”

It’s how my brain works. I think in metaphor. I search for stories. I look for connections in unlikely things. I think sideways. Like Janus, I see both sides of the door.

I guess, maybe, I’m a little nuts. Perhaps, too organized a thinker to be diagnosed as schizophrenic but, in a way, I think all creatives are a little cuckoo for coco puffs.

Maybe that’s why I’ll keep on writing.

Not for money. Not for some kind of fickle fame. I’ll do it because it’s what I am, what I do and how I keep sane.

So, with that in mind, let me give my apologies. In a few years when my corpse is laid out on the cooling board in the morgue, I apologize to the poor soul who somehow ends up with my boxes of unfinished manuscripts, unpublished dreams, indecipherable journals and files named ‘future story fodder’.

I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it. It’s just how I was made.

But, until that, hopefully, far away day, you’ll need to excuse me. I’ve got some new stories to tell.