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Importance of stories, Uncategorized

I thought February was bad…

I just looked over last month’s post and, man, OH MAN.

Simpler days, amirite?

I’m currently on “encouraged” isolation. Meaning, the Powers that Be have asked us to work from home if we have the ability to do so. I have my work laptop so I can do some things but a big chunk of my Day Job is still very much addicted to the Paper Teat. Documents need to be printed and signed. Old School. It’s frustrating. So, 20th century. I am working out what days I will go break quarantine to go into the office and push contracts through the bureaucratic colon.

And speaking of colons. People suddenly, insanely, obsessed with their buttholes. Fighting over toilet paper. Who knew that would be the straw that broke our collective backs? The lack of a buttwipes.

*DEEP BREATH*

That’s not important. And that’s not why I’m here, typing out words on this worn out keyboard. I want to talk about something very dear to me. Something that maybe holds a key to help a lot of people endure these next few weeks of isolation.

So, here it goes.

A friend of mine recently posted on social media that he was trying to find a reason to keep writing. The pandemic had really forced the issue, in his mind, on the uselessness of fiction. And I was like….HOLD THE FUCKING PHONE.

The uselessness of Fiction? What the everloving gobstopper are you talking about?

No, don’t. Just shut up. Let me talk. If there is one thing I know to be absolutely TRUE with the big ol’ Capital T is that STORY is important. Especially in times like these were people are scared and feeling hopeless. Our entire species is built on story. That makes Storytellers like me and mine crucial, sweetie.

Here’s a slice of truth: Humans working from a place of fear are dangerous animals, my friends. Open up a history book. Just flip it open and you will find hundreds of examples of how badly Humans react to fear. No matter how educated or civilized a person is during times of plenty, the Angry Monkey is just waiting to leap, howling, scratching, tearing, its teeth rending others into shreds to get to that last roll of TOILET PAPER!

Seriously. What the hell people?

And that time is now. People are dying. Lungs are rotting away. People are scared and they need something to shine some light into the darkness.

And here is where I want to climb on my rock and shout out to my people. To my tribe. To the Story Tellers out there.

*ahem*

“THE WORLD NEEDS YOU! THEY NEED STORIES. THEY NEED HEROES. THEY NEED DIRECTION. THEY NEED LAUGHTER. THEY NEED TO SEE THAT THE DRAGON CAN BE SLAIN! THAT PEOPLE CAN BE GOOD, KIND, AND COMPASSIONATE AND, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WE CAN WIN!”

So, get out there. Write those stories. Show the future that we are good, kind, compassionate, clever, fantastic, and most of all, HUMAN.

Get to work.

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TL;dr February, amirite?

Well, this month has been particularly fucktacular.

Let me recount the ways this month has kicked my ass. And in some ways quite literally.

Pay attention.

  • I hurt my ACL. I take full responsibility for this. Inside my head I still think I’m a vibrant 30 something and not a rickety 50 something. I pushed myself too hard at Pilates one Saturday and took two very strenuous classes back to back. And then took another class on Sunday. By Tuesday, I had a weird, soft, hurtful lump behind my left knee. I showed it to my trainer, Kayce, and her eyes went wide. “That’s your ACL, honey. Let me look at that.” She tested my leg in a few ways and sighed, “Well, it’s not torn. What did you do?” I told her how I took Cardio Sculpt and a Suspend class back to back. “Are you a special kind of stupid? I’m a champion gymnast and I wouldn’t take those classes back to back!” So, yeah. I had to take a week off from Pilates.
  • On Sunday, I fell down some stairs. One second I was standing there at the top of the stairs that lead down to the garage, holding an armful of recycling, and then next thing I’m BOOOM BOOOM BOOOM BOOM BOOOOM, my feet up in the air and my ass banging down the stairs until I landed on the concrete garage floor. The door slammed shut behind me so no one in my family heard me. I sat there, stunned, angry and scared. If I had hit my head and died, my last words would have been unprintable. I slowly crawled up the stairs and found my husband. “Hey, I fell down the stairs. Look at my back, would you?” He, of course, asked me all sorts of questions as to how/why/what happened.
Why does that fucking matter?
  • I got a UTI. A fucking urinary tract infection. I haven’t been feeling quite 100% lately, I’ll admit. I was putting it down to just winter doldrums and sinus issues. And then I woke up and my morning piss was frothy. Well, that can’t be good. And then the burning started. Like, my vagina felt inflamed and every step was like rubbing the tinder together. At first, I figured, hey, maybe it’s just my soap or my new fabric softener. And then I got a fever. Shit. So, I ordered a UTI test off of Amazon (YEP! AMAZON!). I got it the next day and took it as soon as I got off work. SHIT. When it tested positive, I scooted over to the Little clinic at Krogers (because my doctor couldn’t see me for a week and I SURE AS FUCK was not letting my crotch goobers wait late long). I got there 45 minutes before closing, paid my copay, pissed into a plastic cup and waited. Yep. A UTI. “Wow. I’ve never had one befrore. This is my first one,” I told the Nurse Practitioner. She sighed and said, “Really? Welcome to be a woman. Take these pills for seven days, drink lots of water and ignore that crap about cranberry juice. It’s bull.”
Wow. Bedside manner is extra, I guess.
  • To add to the torment, a few days later, I got a hemorrhoid. ONE. HEMORRHOID. Just one. This little, painful, eruption on the right side of my asshole.
Seriously? SERIOUSLY?
  • Then, Tales to Terrify rejected my submission. It’s a good story, too. It would make GOOD RADIO.
Well, fuck.
  • To wind up these first 10 days of February, I’m fully drowning in a midlife depression. I’m questioning every life path I’ve ever walked down and want to burn the whole damn place down. I’ve gained five pounds and fully undone all the progress from Pilates. All of it. I’m back to being the fat fuck I was before I started in July.
fuck

Yeah.

Everyone I know is succeeding and prospering. Getting new jobs, new relationships, new opportunities to go higher and higher. I’m happy for them but, goddamn, when is it my turn? Maybe it will never be. Will I be okay with that?

Will I?

So I give myself a little pep talk. “I can can wallow in this bile OR take a higher road. So what if none of my stories ever make any money and I never find ‘success’. So what? That shouldn’t matter. Not in the end, anyway.” I have to focus on that. The Higher Perspective of creating what I want, enjoy the passion that comes from that and stop poisoning it with any sort of external validation.

Once I get over this need for recognition, I’ll be good.

Soon, I’ll get back to Pilates, lose this extra weight and get back on track.

And I’ll be even better once my gooch boogers clear up.

Seriously.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Y’all I think I figured it out.

I was eating lunch when a news article I read suddenly popped into my head.

CANNIBALISM COULD SOLVE WORLD HUNGER”

And, I started thinking about it and, ya know…it would but how do we as a culture de-stigmatize the idea of eating people for food?

“Well,” I answered myself. “What if we had a very select people and isolated them, kept them well fed, healthy and completely ignorant that they are not so much a country but a herd. And when they are ready to be culled, we just take a few.

“Think about it. We could push diets on certain selections of the population in order to make them taste a certain way. Some meats could be leaner, some fatter. Some more seasoned and some less so. We could even have some conform to an idea that they won’t take certain medications so that they could be our “free range” or “organic” crop.”

And then it hit me. Oh, shit. What if it is already being done? And it’s AMERICA that is the cannibal food herd?

Think about it. All the diet crazes. We have some parts of society who are absolutely fitness crazy and others who are slobs to the point of being stupid. Some who are healthy, vaccinated and full of preservatives and a bunch of those who are unvaccinated.

“But how would they know when we are ready to be culled?”

That’s where Fit Bits come into play. And what about those “biometric” exams we have to take to keep our insurance. Our phones taking count of each footstep and calorie you’ve burned. All of it just another way to keep track of the herd

It all makes sense.

Excuse me but I’m going to unplug before the Farmers find out I’ve figured it out.

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So, I joined the pack…

I joined up with Patreon. I’ve got some pretty cool tiers and my first goal is to get enough revenue to make Dinosaur Cubicle Fun Time into a book. Just in time for Christmas Office Parties!

Oh, how I keep myself sane at the dayjob.

If you’d like to help me out, I’d appreciate it it.

https://www.patreon.com/nikkinelsonhicks

I’ve some cool tiers with fun prizes. Check it out.

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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.



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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.


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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

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Magical Life versus Real Life

Damien Echols came to town to push his new book, High Magick.

highmagick

For anyone not familiar with Damien Echols, here is the backstory in a quick pinch: in 1994, he was sentenced to death for the satanic ritual murder of three 8 year old boys. The evidence used to convict him was his reading habits (Stephen King), the weird obsession of Jerry Driver, the local juvenile officer who was convinced that Echols was the kingpin of a Satanic cult, and the confession (multiple ones since he kept changing his story) of a teenage gas huffer who had the IQ of a child.

He and two other young men who were also convicted but given life sentences were finally allowed to leave prison in 2011 if they all agreed to an Alford plea which said that although they still professed innocence, the State had evidence that could convict so…..yay? Basically, it was a way the state of Arkansas could say, “My bad.” without really shouldering any blame.

All in all, it was a travesty and the more I read about it, I end up gnashing my teeth and wanting to renounce humanity to the dumpster.

Seriously. How fucking stupid?

Worst of all, the murderer(s) of those little boys went scott free. Even if the motherfucker popped up today and said, “Hey! I did it! Yep, it was me!”, Arkansas couldn’t touch him or her because of the Alford plea deal.

It just ….oooooh….my head spins.

Anyway, back to what I wanted to talk about.

So, Damien Echols came to town to push his book, High Magick, A Guide to the Spiritual Practices That Saved My Life on Death Row. He is a professed ritualistic magician and, I can tell you after listening to him speak, he is utterly void of bullshit. Whether or not you believe in Magick, he does. Wholeheartedly. And, most importantly, he truly believes it can help you as much as it helped him.

I’m not a newcomer to the idea of Magick. I’ve done a few Sabbats and spellworkings. I don’t think I’m bragging when  say that I can throw a mean Tarot spread.

But I have to admit, my head spun when Echols claimed that he spends 7-8 hours a day meditating and doing Magick.

7-8 HOURS. A day?

tennant

Riddle me this, Batman: Who cleans your toilets? Who buys your groceries, sweeps the floor, walks the dog, work a day shift and come home to make dinner?

I don’t want to sound like Martha giving Jesus a hard time about not helping out with the housework but, damn!

martha
Seriously, J.C., a little help here???

How do you take care of the nuts and bolts of earthly existence when you spent 1/3 of it converting with the Machine Elves that run the Universe?

Do magicians have a staff?

Because, I can tell you all this right now, THIS witch does her own damn shit.

Or maybe I should get those freaking elves to lend a hand.

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Am I afraid?

Today, I was asked a very odd question.

“Are you ever afraid about writing horror stories since you live in the Bible Belt? Are you afraid of what people might think about you?”

I answered, “Hmmm, no. Although I have been called out as a witch many, many times, I’m not afraid. What I am amazed by is how many of these very same people will come to me privately and ask me to hex people. They never want me to heal or bless. I think that says more about them than me.”

 

giphy

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Bad Butterfly

At my last physical, my doctor called me his most boring patient because, other than hypertension and cholesterol, I was healthy for a 53 year old.

A week later, I get a chirpy little message from someone in the doctor’s office, “Hey, your blood tests say you have hypothyroidism. You need to come in and see about treatment. Okay, bye!”

Well, hell.

So, a little backstory: 8 years ago, I was really, really sick. My heart was beating like a hummingbird. I couldn’t sleep. My bones felt like they were vibrating inside my skin. I just felt crazy. After a week or two of testing, turns out I had hashitoxicosis. In a nutshell, my body was attacking my thyroid and it was fighting back. In doing so, it was shooting out T-3 and T-4 hormones like a Gatling gun and causing me to become hyperthyroid.

I was put on beta blockers and a few months and blood tests later, I was deemed Thyroid Healthy.

But I wasn’t. Not really. The damage had been done.

The trauma from that past sickness had taken its toll and now it wasn’t playing the game anymore. Give it props; it had chugged along on three cylinders for 8 years before throwing up the white flag.

And looking back, it makes a lot of sense. The depression, crushing fatigue and weight gain that I’d been blaming on menopause or faulty brain wiring was really caused by a fucked up thyroid.

20180916_182857
Artist rendition of Bad Butterfly bogarting all the good stuff. Bitch.

What does that mean for me?

A lifetime of synthetic hormones to replace the ones my Bad Butterfly refuses to give up.

So, I’m going to use this space not only as a soapbox to shill out my books but also as a place to plot my journey dealing with this new turn in my life.

Maybe I can shed some light into someone else’s life.

To be continued.

 

 

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Big post coming but until then, here’s this one.

The last few days have been exhausting. Traveling, shooting a film, heat, bug bites, fear, stress….all the fun stuff.

I’ll write it all up soon. Trust me.

Until then, here’s how today went:

  1. Got roughly 4 hours of sleep
  2. Woke up coughing and not feeling so good
  3. Go to dayjob.
  4. Come home from dayjob because I think I’m coming down with the Mongolian Death Flu.
  5. Take a shit, stand up, wipe, toss paper in toilet and see a small frog with huge battle weary eyes looking up at me.
  6. “What the fuck, my dude?” I imagine Toilet Frog to croak out.
  7. Not wanting to flush, I reach into the toiler (eww) and the frog hyperspeed leaps out, Jet Li bounces all over the place and then disappears.

 

TL;DR summary

Somewhere in my house there is a frog with PTSD looking for revenge.

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I was a weird kid

Recently a friend on Facebook posted a challenge: Name something dumb you believed as a kid.

Oh, gurl. Let’s start with Kindergarten.

  • I was asked to play an Indian in the Thanksgiving Day play. I freaked out because I thought that feathers grew out of Indian’s heads and, ergo, I would have to grow feathers out of my head. I became so hysterical about the idea of growing feathers out of my head that  my mother had to take me out of Kindergarten. Yeah. I was a Kindergarten drop out. Something my mother never let me forget.

 

  • I also thought that when a person died on television, they used terminally ill patients so they could have a shot at stardom or people on death row as part of their sentence.

 

  • I was told that if you sang at the dinner table, Satan would drag you down to Hell. This idea plagued me. I worried what would happen if I accidentally started humming a tune at the table? Did that count? I could envision the linoleum of the kitchen floor bubbling from the heat as the hellfire cracked through, opening a hole so that Satan could drag me down to Hell. Someone also told me that if you heard someone calling your name three times, and if you answered it, Satan would drag you down to Hell.

Satan turned out not to be the great threat I imagined he’d be.

 

  • I believed that bats turned into people. I had seen it in an old black and white movie and that made it real as far as I cared. I was 7 and tried to check out a book from the school library about bats to further research the phenomenon. The librarian said the book was too hard for me and challenged me to read it. I did and that got me slapped in gifted classes and my road to Nerdom was solidified.

 

  •  When I was 9,  a babysitter told me that according to Ancient Tennessee Law, if you found a horse in the field and it had no saddle, you could take it home. Well, we happened to live in a stone cottage that was surrounded by fields. And, I knew where there was a horse. My cousin, Mandy and I went out today, put a rope around the horse’s neck and took it home.  My mom and aunt came home from a beer run to find a horse in the garage. I remember her screaming, “THEY HANG HORSE THIEVES, NIKKI!”

She made me take the horse back, Ancient Tennessee Laws not withstanding.

 

  • My grandmother, a backwoods country woman so don’t judge her too harshly, once told me that if you took a sponge, you could “wash the color off a black person and they’d be snowy white underneath” because it was the ‘mark of Cain’. As a kid, that idea fascinated me. I desperately wanted to sneak into a funeral home and test it. Ya know. For science.

 

  • As I got older, I was a diehard believer in all things weird. UFOs. Aliens. Loch Ness Monster. Ghosts. Bigfoot.

Ah, Bigfoot.

When I was in elementary school, I started up a Monster Hunters Club. We entered   a Cryptozoology exhibit in the yearly science fair. We won an Honorable Mention. My teacher, Mrs. Tarkington, even allowed the club to perform a play where Trent Ridley put on a furry parka, we hunted him down and then autopsied him, throwing guts and bones into the classroom.

Mrs. Tarkington retired after that year.

us

 

 

 

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What we do in the quarantine

Hello there!

So, my day job is trying to kill me. It’s rather hard for a bureaucracy that desperately wants to keep tethered to the 20th century to face facts that, bro, that shit don’t play no more.

Still, I make do. Instead of something as elegant as Adobe sign where one can electronically sign a contract, I have to download, print, scan the document to the person, who then signs it, scans the signature page back to me and then I scan the entire document to another person who needs to sign and, on and on.

I really hope I can get reimbursed for all the paper and ink my pathetic little $60 Canon printer is chugging through.

BUT there is good news.

One, I’m healthy. My family is healthy. We’re doing okay although the cats don’t seem all that happy that we’re here ALL THE DAMN TIME.

Plans for world domination are on hold

And, secondly, over the weekend, I collaborated with a friend, Rosalie Sandoz, to do an audio version of my story, The Five Stages of Sleep. We hope to eventually make it into an animated short.

I’d love to share it with you all but WordPress won’t allow me to post it as an MP3 EVEN THOUGH ALL THE MANUALS SAY THAT IT WILL!!

What the fuck, man?

Maybe….later. My brain just can’t take anymore crap today.

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*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

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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

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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.