Let It Be

I have a yearly motto.

Well, I do now.

It started unofficially last year. I wrote a question on my quote board so I could see it and ask myself throughout the year: “What would someone who loved herself do?” And this became my sort-of-motto for the year. The idea was to ask myself this question in certain situations as a way to break me of constantly shoving myself down on my own priority list. It allowed me to be selfish in a healthy way.

This year I intentionally set a motto: Let It Be.

Yes, I know it’s also a Beatles song/album.

The point of this year’s motto is for me to learn not to obsess over and try to control things that don’t need to be obsessed over/controlled.

I have a tendency to fixate on the speed of things. I need everything to happen sooner than it does. And I obsess over the fact that things aren’t progressing at the speed that I wish them to progress. And I try to control that speed.

What I have discovered in doing this repeatedly over the years (because you know I do everything the hard way) is that it only succeeds in driving me crazy and sometimes forcing things to happen before they should happen, usually to unfortunate ends.

Because I am a hard-headed donkey of a person, it makes sense that I would come up with a motto for 2017 to remind me to…well…let it be.

Put in the work, put in the effort, do what needs to be done. Then let it be.

Let things happen when they’re supposed to happen.  Let it be.

If you have to force it (most of the time), then it’s not ready/time/whatever. Let. It. Be.

I am hoping that a year of this motto will drill it into my fool head that my time can be better spent doing something that’s actually productive rather than screwing myself into the ground trying to control something that’s not meant to be controlled. Maybe I might learn that it’s okay to not control everything. Maybe I might learn that it’s not really me giving up control, but in reality recognizing what I truly do control.

Not something exactly revolutionary to those not prone to being uptight (and man, can I be uptight about some things), but I think my blood pressure will thank me in the end.

Yeah, man. Let it be.

How to Support Your Local Writer

Rainbow paper**Though I’m speaking as a writer and talking specifically about writers and writing, these things can be applied to any artist, really.**

Writing can be a lonely gig. It’s a lot of time spent in your own head, trying to capture the things you see in your imagination and translate them into words that you then put on the page. There’s not a lot that other people can do to help you get your work done (aside from leaving you alone and letting you work, maybe picking up some of the chores or fetching dinner once in a while). But there are many ways that you can support your local writer.

Buy their work. This is the most obvious way, and yet, it still doesn’t happen as much as you think, for several reasons. Not having the cash is one. Or the work might not be to your taste. You have no idea how many times I get told that people would like to read my stuff, but they don’t dig horror (and that’s the majority of what I write). I don’t take it personally, but it still sort of bums me out. But even if the work isn’t to your specific taste, it might be to someone else’s. You can rec it to them (more on that later) or, if you’re feeling bold, buy it for them. Force it upon them. Maybe they’ll never read it, but you still gave your writer a little coin and tried to get their work out. That means a lot.

Read and REVIEW their work. If the work is to your liking, buying it is great. But reading and reviewing it is HUGE. Notice the emphasis on reviewing. Naturally, the writer’s fragile ego is boosted to hear directly from your mouth how much you love their stories, but leaving a review tells LOTS of people. And the more reviews, the better. Places like Amazon and Goodreads give priority to books that have more reviews and makes them easier for customers to find. By leaving a review, you give your writer a shot at getting noticed by someone else. And it doesn’t have to be a full-on book report either. A rating accompanied by a couple of sentences about what you liked (or didn’t like; I’m a writer that digs honesty) is adequate.

Give them money anyway. Okay, maybe this one is just me and just because I’m currently without a day job, but I actually started doing this earlier this year. It’s not easy for unknown writers and/or self-published writers like myself to make much money off of their work. It’s a competitive market out there and carving a niche takes time, effort, and low low prices. This year I decided to no longer make it difficult for people to give me money. In addition to my self-published body of work, I’ve got the Storytime Jukebox and Patreon. I’ve also set up a tip jar of sorts through Ko-Fi. If you like what you read here or just want to give me some monetary encouragement without the commitment of owning any of my words, you can buy me a coffee. Three bucks doesn’t sound like much, but just the act of being acknowledged in such a way is a real boost. If you’ve got the money to give, find a way to give it.

Spread the word. Whether you buy their work or not, whether it’s your genre or not, let other people know that it exists! That your writer exists! I’ll say it again in bold and all-caps: SPREAD THE WORD! This is the most valuable yet inexpensive way to show support to your writer. Share their Facebook posts, retweet their tweets, link to their blog/website/author page, recommend them to friends and family and co-workers and strangers, surreptitiously add their work to people’s wishlists. Don’t keep your writer or their work a secret. Word of mouth is how fanbases get built. The bigger your writer’s fanbase, the more support they have.

The more support your writer has, the happier your writer will be.

And when the writer is happy, the work is a little less lonely.

Murderville: The Last Joke–Episode 3

The Mistresses and The Frenchman

Pam sat alone at the bar in the Green Light, doing the books there on this Wednesday afternoon like she usually did because Wednesdays were dead (she and Rusher the bartender were the only ones in the place) and the office felt too isolated.  The bar had the typical warm ambiance of a dive.  There were TVs mounted on the wall at each end of the bar as well as in the corners across the room.  The bar top and tables only looked as clean as the generations of glass rings staining the wood would allow, which most people didn’t notice because the peanut shells and bits of pretzel salt from the ever present bowls were a nice distraction.  There was a jukebox to one side of the room, an updated digital kind that the boss had recently splurged on.

The door of the bar opening startled Pam and she watched the woman who came in stroll to the bar and sit down at the opposite end of it.  Rusher the bartender, who looked like he’d come out of the womb with a martini shaker in one hand and the knowledge of a perfect draft pour in his head, moved down the bar to serve her at a pace that matched his last name.  She was a traditionally attractive woman with long dark hair and a figure with just the right amount of curve to it.  Her low cut blouse accentuated her breasts in a way that made Pam envious.  Sure, she was well-endowed herself, but even in a bra her breasts lacked the perkiness required to pull off that look.  The woman made Pam think of Carolyn Harmon accusing Pam of being one of her husband’s mistresses.  If Pam had to pick out what she thought his ideal mistress would be, it would be the woman sitting down at the end of the bar.

The woman ordered a vodka tonic and then turned away from the bar to watch the door.

Rusher served her and then moseyed at his usual pace back down the bar to where Pam sat so he could lean against it and resume their conversation.

“Don’t think I’ve ever seen you move so fast to serve someone,” Pam said with a smirk.

The friendly jab didn’t faze Rusher.

“Don’t think I’ve seen a prettier woman in here on a Wednesday afternoon.”

“I like how you say that like I can’t rec to the boss that you should take a pay cut for the greater good of the business.”

Rusher laughed.  “Jealousy isn’t a good look on you, Pam.”

“Who said I was jealous?”

“If you’re not jealous, then why are you squinting at her like that?”

Pam checked the configuration of her face.

“I’m not squinting.”

“You’re looking hard at her.”

“That’s because she’s the prettiest woman I’ve ever seen in this dive on a Wednesday afternoon.”

Rusher laughed again.

“And I’m wondering who she’s waiting for.”

“How do you know she’s waiting for someone?”

“She’s watching the door.”

Rusher lightly slapped Pam’s arm with his bar towel.  Pam was happy it was dry for a change.

“Curiosity will get you in the end, Bendixen,” he said.

“So I’ve been told.  But being curious at a distance is pretty safe.”

“Uh huh.”

The front door opened, spilling a shaft of almost too-bright daylight into the bar, cutting the cool dimness with all the harshness of a semi-sharp knife.  A blob of shadows morphed into two women, who blinked almost in unison as the door closed behind them, their eyes struggling to adjust as they looked around.  One was tall, blonde, and, like Pam, overly voluptuous.  She wore a brightly colored dress that matched her equally bright lipstick.  She was pretty in a youthful sort of way, the kind of pretty that would linger as she aged before one day giving it up in a rush.  The other was an athletic black woman dressed like she was either coming from or going to the gym, yoga pants and a t-shirt, her natural hair in a poof held away from her face with a headband.  She was a strikingly good looking woman.  One look at her told Pam that if the woman wore a little black dress, a touch of mascara, and the slightest hint of lipstick, there wouldn’t be a man in her presence not in love.

The black woman caught sight of the woman at the bar first and elbowed her companion.  The two made their way over to her.

Pam watched as they sat down next to the woman already at the bar and Rusher hurried down the bar much in the same way he’d done before to take their orders.  The athletic woman got a screwdriver; the blonde ordered a Cosmo.

Rusher set their drinks in front of them and then shuffled back down the bar.

The three women sat together, but didn’t speak, a thread of tension stretching between them.  This wasn’t three girlfriends meeting in a dive bar on a whim to begin a fun little girls’ afternoon.  This was some kind of meeting with an uncomfortable agenda that no one really wanted to approach.

“Hey,” Rusher said, jerking Pam out of her thoughts.  She looked over at him.  He smirked at her, like he caught her daydreaming.  “I need a break.  Can you cover for me?”

“Yeah, sure,” Pam said, forcing the fog of speculation out of her brain.  She gathered up her work.  “I can’t believe that you’d dare take a break with three pretty women sitting at your bar.”

Rusher laughed.

“They’re nursers.  I’ll have plenty of time to observe and serve.”

“Right.  Let me just put this in the office.”

Pam walked out of the bar and hurried to the office, ditching her paperwork on the desk, stopping long enough to lock the office door before hurrying back to the bar.  She was afraid she might miss some development in the live action soap opera happening.  Pam forced herself to slow down just before hitting the bar area, strolling casually back behind the bar.

“Okay, you’re good,” Pam told Rusher.

“Thanks, Pam,” Rusher said and he produced a pack of cigarettes from under the bar.  “I’ll be back in fifteen or twenty.”

“Okay,” Pam said and Rusher disappeared down the hallway, no doubt to go out the backdoor to smoke since the boss frowned on employees smoking out front.  Pam didn’t know how it could possibly ruin the look of a dive bar, but apparently it did.

The three women still sat the bar, nursing their drinks, not looking at each other, not speaking.  The tension, though, had changed somewhat, like it was about to break.  Someone was going to say something and they were going to say it soon and for whatever reason, Pam wanted to hear it.  Bookkeeping for a bar was surprisingly boring.  This looked like it could be interesting.

Pam moved down to the middle of the bar, looking like she was trying to get a better view of the TV mounted on the wall at the end of the bar where the three women were sitting, but really it was so she could catch any snippets of conversation that might come floating her way.

She didn’t have to wait long.  It seemed that Rusher’s absence uncorked whatever was shaking up in the bottle they all held.

“So, now what do we do?” the blonde asked.

###

Wanna read more? Check out the Murderville page to find out how.

March Writing Projects

green flowerConsidering the loss of my only day job, my plans for March haven’t really changed that much. Probably because I didn’t have any real solid plans to begin with.

Last month, I finished my latest round of revisions on (Vampires) Made in America, wrote the first drafts of two short stories, “Grandma’s Funeral” and “A Girl’s Best Friend”, and formatted Murderville: The Last Joke into an eBook novella. I also ended up writing the first draft of a short story called “Suicide Paris Green” (I told you I’d do something with that eventually) and published The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys as a stand alone novella eBook. And finally, I began writing the first draft of a story called Come to the Rocks, a story I thought would be about 4,000 words, but is now over 10,000 and headed straight for novella territory.

February was surprisingly productive.

This month I plan to finish writing the first draft of Come to the Rocks and start the first draft of another story that I really don’t know if it will be a short story or a novella. I love those kinds of surprises.

I’m also going to work on the Storytime Jukebox, try to make it a little more user friendly. I’d like it to be more popular, for obvious reasons, but I realize in order for that to happen, it has to be better.

Of course, anything I can do to boost my writing career will be happening this month in earnest. The ball, as they say, will start rolling.

The next episode of The Last Joke comes out on the 7th. Don’t miss out! Read teasers for episodes one and two and then become a patron.

(Sort of) New Release! The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys

The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a new release. You can find this novella in Ghostly. However, Ghostly isn’t selling well and I really like this story and I want it read. By releasing it as a stand alone, I’m hoping to a) get more people to read it and b) convince more people to purchase Ghostly and give all of those stories a read.

You can get this eBook on Smashwords,  Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks.

Writing Without a Day Job: The Adventure Begins

coinsChild learnin’ has come to an end for me.

This was not entirely unexpected (no need to go into details), though the timing was sooner than I anticipated.

What matters is that I am without a day job of some kind for the first time in six years.  I view this as both a blessing and a challenge. The challenge, obviously, is to pay my bills while also finding a new day job to help supplement my income, especially since I still haven’t replaced the floorset side hustle yet.

The blessing, though, comes in the form of opportunity. When I lost my floorset job, I chose to see it as a push from the Universe to really focus and promote my writing career. I’ve taken tentative steps in doing that. It’s still not something I’m entirely comfortable with. Without any day job, I have the opportunity to really push myself, to make writing my sole focus day job, at least for a little while.

I already had some projects in the works that were in this spirit. They’re going to have priority in the next couple of weeks, that’s for sure. Selling my books, getting patrons for Murderville, making the Storytime Jukebox better, all of that is going to be key. It’s the side of the business that I admit to not working hard enough on because I don’t want to be annoying. I don’t want to be a walking commercial, a constant promotion that ends up being tuned out. But considering how very little I do of it right now, I think a moderate increase wouldn’t be too over the top.

Also, I can no longer use the excuse of not having the time/energy to promote myself. Got plenty of it in the immediate future! No reason not to use some of that free time/free energy to cultivate and utilize some new promotional skills.

The point is that as optimistic as I am, it is highly unlikely that I will be able to survive without a steady day job of some kind. Most writers can’t. However, while I am looking for that new day job, I can take the time to elevate my writing career to a new level. That’s something long overdue.

So, here’s to the next adventure.

Endings are new beginnings and all that.

Am I Numb or Zen?

peaceIf there’s anything funny about my dealings with depression (and there’s little really ha-ha funny about it), then it’s how paranoid it makes me when I’m feeling okay.

I wrote about how my holiday blues in 2015 started too early and ended up deepening into a nice depression that hung around until April like an in-law in a not-funny sitcom. Because of that experience, I was paranoid about that happening again this past holiday season.

We’re talking extremely vigilant.

How am I feeling? Am I sad? Do I hate everything? Am I operating on the frequency of do-not-want more often than not? Do I want to run away? Do I want to give up? Do I want throat punch people for a legitimate reason or just because?

This sort of interrogation happened on a nearly daily basis starting at the end of October. I thought that not dressing up and passing out candy to trick-or-treaters might be a sign that the holiday blues were settling in early once again. But upon reflection, I realized that I was just burned out and not feeling the spirit and therefore, I didn’t feel like forcing myself to do something my heart wasn’t in.

Okay. That’s cool. Very reasonable.

As the holiday season progressed, I kept waiting for the blues to hit, to come rumbling through, maybe dragging a semi-trailer of depression behind it.

Only I kept asking the questions and I kept responding that I was okay. No, really. I’m okay.

This okayness, in turn, jacked up the paranoia regarding my mental state.

Was I really okay? Or was everything in the world at the moment such shit that it fit my mood and it only felt okay? The latter might have been true to an extent. I didn’t even get a real dose of the holiday blues this past season.

So, here I am, a couple of months into the new year and I’m still feeling okay. Things that should be throwing me into a rage, the little things that I’ve become so used to pissing me off, aren’t having that effect on me. I feel okay. I am maintaining my okayness.

Maybe it’s the shift in thinking that occurred at some point late last year. Maybe it’s my 2017 motto, “Let it be”. Maybe it’s the nightly meditation I’ve been doing since late December, which includes chanting certain mantras designed to calm me and keep me optimistic.

Maybe I’m fucking zen.

Or maybe, as my paranoia has repeatedly suggested, I’m numb.

Maybe I’m existing in some sort of dulled stated that has rendered me non-reactionary to certain stimuli in my daily life. Maybe my depression, which I’m so used to operating in a certain way, has now taken on a new dimension, a dimension of numbness that resembles okayness and therefore tricks me into thinking I’m okay when I’m really depressed.

Boy, that mental health paranoia is a real dick sometimes.

But those mantras I’ve been chanting at night before I go to bed have influenced me to think positively about this. Instead of caving to the ravings of my paranoia (which has a long track record of being wrong), I’ve chosen to view this period of mental calm as something to be embraced. It’s almost like I’ve achieved a kind of clarity here. I’m not numb; I’m just not at the mercy of my emotions and my hellscape brain. For now.

I am okay.

I am zen.

Because Nothing Says I Love You Like I Have To

**I’m specifically focusing on het couples in this post because it is in the dynamic of those couples that I’ve really noticed this particular socialization of Valentine’s Day**

heart raysAs a career single person, it’s easy to dismiss anything bad I might have to say about Valentine’s Day. I mean I obviously must be bitter that I’m spending this day of love alooooone, no one to buy me roses or candy or take me to a restaurant that required a reservation six months in advance.

Well, allow me to assure you that I am pleased with my own Valentine’s Day celebration, so this post is not in anyway reactionary to having coupledom shoved down my throat in a pretty pink heart-shaped box.

Rather, it’s the culmination of years of observation of this rose petal bedecked holiday.

After working in the jewelry department at Wal-Mart for three years, I’d come to consider Valentine’s Day as a jewelry extortion holiday. Watching boyfriends and husbands come in and look at the contents of the cases, hopelessly lost, praying for a divine sign that would point out the right gift that would prevent their girlfriend or wife (or girlfriend and wife) from being mad at them. Truly, the romance gymnastics these guys would put themselves through for the women in their lives, knowing they were being judged and scored and compared was really gross to witness.

It was enough to make me swear off the holiday in the event of ever becoming coupled (I also really like watching Vincent Price movies, so I can’t imagine that suddenly going out the window just because I acquire a partner; more likely I’d be like, “Here, sit next to me, hold my hand, and we’ll watch Vincent murder his wife together.”).

In the last week or so, though, the flip side of that extortion coin showed itself.

It’s a trope we see everywhere, in movies and on sitcoms and even in the mundane day-to-day. Guys forget Valentine’s Day, have to scramble for something last minute, have to be FORCED to do anything romantic, get shit from their buddies for attempting any sort of sentimentality, have to be nagged by the women they supposedly love to show them a token of that supposed love.

Let’s face it.

The bulk of Valentine’s Day profits are made off the idea that men are only allowed to show their love one day out of the year. Two, if you want to count anniversaries, but Valentine’s Day, thanks to a constant bombardment of social peer pressure, is the big one.

Think about the constant reinforcement men get from society. It’s sissy bullshit to show your wife or girlfriend that you care about them outside the acceptable boundaries of a specific day. If you’re a REAL MAN, then you only show your love when you’re FORCED to, either by nagging or by Hallmark. And even then, you do it in the most uncreative, cliched, FORCED way possible so nobody suspects that you actually want to do this, even if you maybe, kinda, really do.

And women accept that as normal. They don’t even question the absurdity of it because they’ve been told their whole lives that this is how a REAL MAN is supposed to act.

As someone who’s been consciously uncoupled for the past ten plus years, for whom Valentine’s Day is largely a spectator sport, I find it really fucking weird.

Like, in what way is any of this enjoyable? It looks like the most painful dance since the Achy Breaky.

But it’s a popular dance, one people are ridiculed and pitied for not doing, a dance that people long to have a partner for just so they can do it.

Thankfully, at my advanced age and expert-level singleness, I’m pretty fine with being a wallflower here.

I’d rather dance with someone more in sync with an offbeat rhythm all year long.

Murderville: The Last Joke–Episode 2

Eavesdropping at a Funeral

Thursday, three days after finding Winchester Harmon dead on their front stoop, Pam and Drew arrived home from their respective jobs at the same time, an unusual occurrence.  Bear honked as he drove away, Drew shambling up the front walk to meet Pam on the stoop.  He gave her a tired kiss and she pulled the mail from the mailbox before unlocking the door, the two of them going in the house.

“What do you want for dinner?” Pam asked as she sifted through the mail in her hand.  She dumped her bag on the nearest chair she passed.

Drew collapsed on the couch.

“I don’t care,” he said.  “I’m not sure I have enough energy to chew it.  I hate sheetrock.  Hate it.”

“I know, baby,” Pam said automatically, but not without sincerity.  She stopped suddenly in the kitchen doorway and Drew heard her mutter, “Oh shit.”

Drew’s dead muscles surged with a new life.  The only reason that he could think that Pam would be muttering any swears while looking at the mail would be a bill that they didn’t need and couldn’t pay.  Adrenaline got him to his feet before he even knew he was moving.  Fight or flight in response to a bill.  Seemed perfectly reasonable and not at all the result of continued stress.

“What?” he asked, crossing the living room in several large steps.  “What is it?  What now?  Who wants money now?”

Pam turned and looked up at him, holding up a card.

“We’ve been invited to Winchester Harmon’s funeral,” she said faintly, in total disbelief.

“His funeral?” Drew asked, confused.  He took the card away from Pam and looked at it.  “Who sends invitations to a funeral?”

“Rich people, apparently,” Pam said.  “Just another way to extort status.  A guest list for a wake.”

Drew looked over the invitation.  It was addressed to both of them and indeed asked that they come to the funeral service that was going to be held on Sunday.  They’d found Winchester Harmon dead on their doorstep on Monday.

“Why would they invite us?” Drew asked, looking the card over and over again.  He couldn’t believe it.  It didn’t make sense.  “How did she even know we found her husband?”

“Well, I did send Mrs. Harmon a condolence card,” Pam said.  Drew looked up at her and she ducked her head a little, sheepish.  “I told you I was going to.  It only seemed like the nice thing to do.  I guess she decided to invite us to the funeral because of it.”

“That must have been a carefully worded condolence card,” Drew said.  “We found your husband dead on our lawn.  Sorry for your loss.”

Pam smacked his arm.  “Good gravy, Drew, I have more sense than that.  I was very tactful about explaining who we were and why we were sending a card.  I wanted to make sure that we weren’t just some weirdos that like to send sympathy cards to rich widows.”

“You say that like it happens all of the time,” Drew said with a smirk.

“It could,” Pam said and she smiled sly at him.  “I wouldn’t know.  I’m not a rich widow.”

“And I am happy for that,” Drew said, kissing her.

Drew felt his weariness return and mingle with mild desire.  His wife had that effect on him still.

“So, what do you think?” Pam asked.

“I think I want to skip dinner and take you to bed while I’m still awake,” Drew said, kissing her again.

Pam giggled and pulled away a little.

“I mean about going to Winchester Harmon’s funeral.  Do we go?”

Drew thought about it for a minute, rubbing his wife’s back while he considered it.

“Sure,” he said.  “Who knows what kind of information we might get by mingling with family and friends and acquaintances.”

###

Wanna read more? Check out the Murderville page to find out how.

 

February Writing Projects

roseIt’s a short month, so naturally I’m going to try to accomplish several things.

Though I managed to write a poem a day last month, I need to finish the revision of (Vampires) Made in America. I probably would have finished it last month, but I was in Chicago for Cubs Con the weekend of my birthday. Oh, I still worked that weekend, but just not as much as I would have if I was home. Another factor is that I’m adding chapters, so writing the new content is taking a little bit longer.

I’m also going to write the first drafts of two new short stories for the next short story collection, “Grandma’s Funeral” and “A Girl’s Best Friend”. I’m anticipating these to be somewhat difficult because it’ll be such a gear shift and the ideas have been sitting around for a while so I’m worried they’ve lost their freshness. I’m sure I’ll be able to get some kind of a first draft for each of them, but I’m anticipating an extra effort for some unfortunate shit. Thank goodness I like rewriting/revising so much.

I’m also going to be formatting Murderville: The Last Joke into a novella eBook, which will be available to my patrons at the end of the year. I will also be giving my $2 patrons their first freebie this month. So, if you want to get it on that, check out the Murderville page.

Also, the next episode comes out next week. Check out the preview of the first episode and then find out how to read the rest.