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.
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.
I released a lot of stories this year.
Pretty proud of them I learned that my brand is Cheap, Quick and Weird.
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.
A film I wrote, ANGEL BAR, won Best of Genre at the 48 Hour Film Project awards.
Look at these beautiful people!
Brian and I got matching tattoos.
We’re THAT couple.
I got a haircut.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
But the email never came. What I did get was a fuckton of spam phonecalls.
And the job?
Yeah. Suddenly, that job wasn’t on the website.
But the spam? That shit kept on coming.
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?
Damien Echols came to town to push his new book, High Magick.
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?
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!
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.
“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.”
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.