I was 11, when I saw my first UFO

I just finished watching the documentary, Curse of the Man Who Sees UFOS and all I can say is, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

I was around 11 when I first started seeing UFOS.

We had just moved into a shitty shoebox of a house, 800 square feet, no air conditioning, wall heaters that were likely to burn the house down than keep us warm. That winter, we slept in our clothes, wrapped inside sleeping bag, under bedcovers. We kept a plastic cup on by the tub to scoop up cockroaches as they floated up from beneath the bathmat when we took baths. I remember killing a rat the size of a small cat in the kitchen. Our neighbors were a religious family. The oldest brother and sister used to sneak inside the tent my sister and I had in the backyard and make out in it. Further down the road, there were addicts and sex workers. Fights and gunshots were common.

And that was just the chaos outside.

Inside, my family was starting down a very dark road. Mom and Dad started using pot and drinking heavily. They were bankrupt, I later learned. Working 40 hours a week but making barely enough to cover costs of living. There were lots of Hamburger Helper dinners and mayonnaise sandwiches for lunch. Poverty is like cancer, make no doubts about that. It’ll destroy everything.

And then there was me, on the brink of puberty. In the midst of a biological chaos of my own. I started my period, got breasts, all while my parents were smoking pot and fucking in the front room and I tried my best to keep my little sister from watching it.

I was a very lonely kid. Anxious, nervous, constant stomachaches.

And that’s when I started seeing the lights in the skies.

I stole money (that’s another story for another time) and used the stash of quarters to buy UFO magazines from Tradewinds, a convenience store/fish and bait shop down the road. I loved those pulpy pieces of trash. I didn’t just read them. I devoured them. They were my Bible. Back then, I still had a child’s belief that books were sacred. If it were printed, that made it true.

And, God, did I need it to be true.

The Space Brothers. That’s what I called them. They were just lights in the skies. Just lights. I never saw metallic ships or anything like that. Just lights. I remember watching them zig zag across the night sky like Junebugs on a string. I remember once, telling everyone to start acting crazy to see what it would do. The light actually stopped, as if confused to our antics and when I pointed and shouted, “LOOK!” it zoomed away.

Oh, yeah. It wasn’t just me. My sister and my cousin who stayed with us sometimes also saw them. Or at least, they said they did. I don’t know if they remember it the same way. More than likely, they saw them because I saw them.

Then, they bled over to other parts of my life. I started seeing the lights other places.

The school district I was zoned for sucked so we lied and used a family member’s address so I could keep attending school where I had been going before the move. That also meant I had to have a babysitter and catch a bus to go to school.

Every morning, as I would climb onto the bus, I’d look over my left shoulder and look up into the sky. There was a light. It made me feel important, protected, not alone.

As time went on, I would still see the Space Brothers. Usually when I was somewhere and felt out of my element, like on a date that wasn’t going well or out with people that I didn’t really connect with, I could look up and there they’d be. A light in the sky. My own cosmic posse.

I don’t remember when I stopped seeing them. Perhaps, when I stopped needing them. Or, more likely, these invisible compadres took on other forms, other obsessions that tried to fill the lonely hole inside of me.

I don’t know.

But, what I do know is that, for the grace of God, I am not a middle aged, beer bellied, cackling, white haired man, on a documentary, screaming at the sky, looking for friends.



Writer Slut Shaming

I was at dinner with some friends last weekend in Alabama. We were all decompressing from our first day of busting our butts selling books at the Huntsville Comic con.

Bobby Nash told a story about how he was approached by a woman who went on and on about a book she had just read. She wanted to know what his influences were, what did he mean by certain passages. He had to confess to the woman that he didn’t remember the story. “I’d written that ten years ago!”

James Neathery, a leather worker and cosplayer, was aghast. “What do you mean? You don’t remember your stories?”

So, I thought I’d do this public service announcement.

*Deep breath*

Hello. My name is Nikki and when I’m done with a story, I am DONE WITH IT. After it is finally out there, published, cemented to paper, bound between covers, I rarely think another thing about it.

I go on to the next story.

I’m kind of a slut like that.

And I’m not ashamed.


2018 Obligatory recap

2018….2018….where did the time go? What did I do this year?

Chrissakes, I can barely remember what I did yesterday.

I really did get a planner. It’s a really fancy one. Leather cover and all kinds of really, really intimidating pages.

passion plannerintimidating

And I was really, really good at keeping at it until February when I got depressed and then got a dog.

OH YEAH! I got a dog. Freya, my support dog. She’s my black dog to fight the Black Dog.

freya

I released a lot of stories this year.

poster

Pretty proud of them I learned that my brand is Cheap, Quick and Weird.

hsirt pic
Shirts are coming soon!

I had a booth at the Southern Festival of Books which is something I can now check off my Bucket List.

sfob

A film I wrote, ANGEL BAR, won Best of Genre at the 48 Hour Film Project awards.

angel bar
Look at these beautiful people!

Brian and I got matching tattoos.

meandbriantatt
We’re THAT couple.

I got a haircut.

new hair cut
And I’m letting it gray naturally. #cronepower

The only real stain on 2018 was that I lost my friend, Richard Emerson. He was always in my corner and believed in my writing aspirations. I miss you, Richard. I hope you’re whole, happy and in peace wherever you are.

OI2003359208_Emersonpic
You dapper old boy!

And now onto 2019. I have so many things I want to work on. So many stories I want to tell and, hopefully, if the stars align, there will be a VERY MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT before the new year ends.

Happy New Year, y’all. Be kind and be brave.

I need to rent an urchin.

Today, I was at Barnes and Noble perusing the magazines when a wide eyed little girl straight out of central casting, blonde pigtails and maryjanes, , came up to me.

“Excuse me,” she said, her lower lip quivering ever so slightly. “Do you like to, um…do you like to read books to your kids?”

She then held up a very slim book. Her blue eyes peeked over the top. “My daddy wrote this. Would you like to buy it?”

I looked around for cameras. “What?”

“He’s right over there. With my grandpa. Come with me. I’ll show you!”

She took my hand and pulled me towards two men sitting behind a sad card table. You know the kind. A tower of books and a writer looking completely out of place.

I looked at the man and shook my head. “You sly dog. Using your kid as bait to sell your books.”

He laughed. “Hey, it was her idea.”

The little girl laughed and dropped the urchin facade. “I told him it would work!” and then she skipped away to find more customers.

Respect, kid. You got skills.

And I really need to get an urchin.

 

 

A brief word.

Yesterday, I was waiting for the bus to take me home. It had been a long, boring day in the Cube. I had scribbled a few words about a story idea but nothing more. The sky was cloudy and my mood wasn’t much brighter.

Just then, a tall man, wide as a refrigerator, passed by me, stopped, turned to face me and pointed a

finger at me. He said, “You! I like your books.”

I mumbled a shocked thanks as he walked away.

My mood lifted. Sometimes, it just takes a brief word to change a day.

How to kill trolls.

So, let’s get down to the heart of the matter.

I’ve been blocked lately. I need to get back to work. I want to get back to work.

When I crack open a new journal, click my pen and declare, “Okay! Let’s write a story!”, I  feel deep inside me a great exhalation, as if this inner, bored muse is saying, “Yes! Finally!”and is so grateful that I’m finally getting back on track.

And that’s good, right?

But then there is another, thicker voice that lazily counters, “Ugh….. but why? Which story is worth the effort? Sure, you’ve got ideas. Kudos but, face it, you know it’s not going to go anywhere. Have you checked your Amazon numbers lately? When was the last time you received a royalty check? All that time invested in something and for what? What’s the term? Diminished returns. That’s it. Think about it. All the time and energy you put into it and what do you get back? Isn’t it more fun to pour a drink, kick back and watch Netflix? Hey, there are lots of shows you need to catch up on. OH! and your DVR. All that stuff you’ve been socking away to watch later. And podcasts. Have you checked your podcasts lately? Anything new? Or all those library books you still have checked out. Maybe you should read them. You really should do more reading. And researching it. Have you done enough research lately? You need to see what is hot on the market. What is selling. You should write that. But, first you need to do research. Not that it really matters. Face it. . Past your prime. You don’t connect to the people anymore. What do you know? What can you actually say? You had potential but wasted it chasing invisible ink dreams. You’re too old. Seriously, have you looked at yourself lately? You should go to the gym. That’s a good idea. Go to the gym. Doesn’t exercise revive brain stuff? Or is that alcohol. Yeah. Have a drink. All writers drink. It’ll loosen you up so you can do more research or read or something. But, first a snack. And a drink.”

wine
All the drinks

You get the picture.

So, how to fight the shadow troll inside my head that echoes every vile doubt that I’ve ever heard from others or, worst of all, conjured up myself?

Remember that first voice? The one that sighed, happily, FINALLY!

I focus on her.

And I remember the flush of excitement when the words are rushing through me.

When the story takes on its own life and I feel like a passenger, a scribe, clacking on my keyboard, just a witness to it all.

And then that finishing stroke. When the story is done and I know it’s done. That ending crescendo that leaves a lingering note of music on the page.

I remember the times someone had told me that my story brightened up their day, gave them a life or just took them on an adventure.

Because when I take my ego out of the equation (and it is my ego that is focused on the bottom line rather than the finishing one), magick can flow through when I left myself open and be a conduit for story.

That’s when I know I’m ok. I’m not a waste. I’m doing EXACTLY what I’m supposed to be doing and if the story sinks to the bottom, never makes a goddamn dime, and is only read by a handful of people, that’s is ok.

Perhaps they were the only ones meant to read it in the first place.

 

Hope is a bitch

There’s been a lot of changes in my life recently.

Not so much changes in my life but in the lives around me. Coworkers I’ve been sharing the misery  at the day job  for the past 15 years retiring, friends moving away, and all the usual stuff that makes one start thinking about where they are and if they want to still be in that place during the next solar cycle.

So I decided to do something and look around for a new gig. I wanted something more in tune with me and what I wanted for my future.

And I thought I had found it. It was small publishing house in Nashville. NOT RELIGIOUS, which is a miracle (no pun intended) and they had posted a job that I would be perfect for so I joined up on this online job site, filled out a freaking resume and sent it off into the cyber ether.

I’m not going to lie. It felt a buzz of excitement I hadn’t felt in ages. I started fantasizing about getting the job and how great it would feel to be doing something I love and making new, interesting friends and how my world would just blossom and everything would just start coming up Nik.

mtm
Calm down, Mary. It’s just a hat.

The next day, I waited for an email. It was the caffeine that kept my hopes up. I kept replaying the fantasy, over and over again. Getting a new cool job. Quitting this shitshow. Oh, man, I was gonna love quitting.

quit
buh-bye

But the email never came. What I did get was a fuckton of spam phonecalls.

Yeah.

And the job?

Yeah. Suddenly, that job wasn’t on the website.

But the spam? That shit kept on coming.

Yeah.

So, I got got. Just another victim of Hope laid out by the Internet.

Meh. C’est la guerre.

My day job is soul sucking, lonely and has absolutely no future but, what the fuck. It pays the bills.

There’s always the Great American Novel dream, right?

psycho
Right.