Click on the link and check out my latest collaboration with Rosalie Sandoz.
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.
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!!
Maybe….later. My brain just can’t take anymore crap today.
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.
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!
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.
“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.
Well, this month has been particularly fucktacular.
Let me recount the ways this month has kicked my ass. And in some ways quite literally.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- Then, Tales to Terrify rejected my submission. It’s a good story, too. It would make GOOD RADIO.
- 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.
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?
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.
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.”
“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.
The old goddess pulled her comforter up to her chin. “S’Allright.”
I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll post more and keep shouting into the void.
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.
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.”
“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.