Turning 37: I Can See 40 from Here

birthday hatThirty-seven years ago today I was ripped from my mother’s womb in a most undignified fashion and I’ve been disgruntled ever since. But, I do so love my birthday. I will milk this day for all its worth and I will do it with no shame. I rarely do anything remarkable on my birthday, but believe me, I believe my birthday to be a special day and I will use it as my excuse to do anything.

37 is an interesting age, I think.  From here I can see 40, a dreaded number for some reason. I guess because 40 signals middle age to so many people and middle age is the next step to being old and if there’s anything this society fears, it’s the concept of being old or seen as old. I can relate to that to a certain extent. I certainly don’t want to be seen as old because the connotations of that involves being fixed in mindset, less likely to engage in fun.

But I don’t mind getting older.

I don’t know. I just don’t think I have anything to fear from getting older. In many respects, I’ve always been an old soul, always seemed more mature and responsible and knowledgeable for my years. But then, at my advanced age I still watch cartoons and dance in public and sometimes dress like a toddler who got to pick out her own clothes and dress herself like a big girl. I feel like I’ve got a good balance going here.

I suppose I should be in panic mode. At 35, you’re just on the hill. At 36, you’re just over, but 40 is still at a considerable distance. But there’s nothing between 37 and 40 to block the view. Now here I am, in full view of 40 and I’m still struggling right along, not having checked off one item on society’s to do list. I should be mired in a pit of self-loathing right now, but I’m not.

I suppose if I hadn’t spent much of 36 in a major dialogue with myself about my life I would be panicking right about now. Instead, I’m feeling pretty zen, like maybe, just maybe, I can swing this life pretty okay and be happy doing it.

I have no fear of 37.

I think we’re going to get along just fine.

Murderville: The Last Joke–Episode 1

The Morning Paper Came with a Corpse

Munsterville was a good-sized industrial town, 70,000 give or take, with all of the standard issues accoutrements and divides of an average American city.  The residents of Munsterville affectionately (or maybe not in some cases) referred to their city as Murderville because Munsterville seemed to have more than its fair share of weird deaths and wild killings.  Though the city only saw a handful of homicides in a year, none of them could be ordinary, not a plain old shooting or stabbing or beating.  No.  Death in Murderville always had to have something unusual about it.

Pam Bendixen opened her eyes as soon as the she heard the first tones of her alarm.  She slapped it silent and rolled over, turning it off.  She was not a morning person, hated to get up early, but she’d been trained at an early age to get up with the alarm regardless of how she felt.  Her husband, Drew, on the other hand had a mother that had to cajole him out of bed every morning and until he and Pam had moved in together, was late for work at least once a week.

Sunrise barely peeking around the edges of the blinds, Pam rolled over to her still lightly snoring husband.  She pushed some of her sweaty blonde hair away from her neck before doing the same to the dark hair plastered to Drew’s forehead.  Pam leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.  His snoring didn’t even hiccup.

“Drew,” she said sweetly.  “It’s time to wake up, baby.”

The snoring continued.  Pam just smiled and leaned closer to his ear.

“Drew, sweetie, it’s time to wake up.”

The snoring stopped and Drew took a deep breath, but his eyes stayed closed.

“Show me those hazels and sit up or I’m dumping a glass of ice water on you,” Pam said in that same sweet voice.

Drew’s eyes snapped open and he sat up so fast that Pam had to move quickly or else his shoulder would have clipped her jaw.  She’d only dumped a glass of ice water on him once, years ago, but it was an effectively memorable experience.

Pam sat up next to her husband, who was busy rubbing some life into his face.

“It can’t be time to get up already,” he muttered into his hands.

“Sad to say,” Pam said, leaning on his shoulder now that it was safely still.

Drew’s hands dropped away from his face and he looked at his wife.  Pam smiled up at him and he gave her a sweet smile back before they shared a good morning kiss.

The last two years had been rough.  Both of them had lost their jobs.  Pam found part time work as a bookkeeper and then freelanced those same skills on the side.  Drew fell into some construction work.  When he worked, he worked hard, long days with great pay.  But when he didn’t work, and he could go a week or two without working, it was all they could do to keep gas in the one car they still had.  They’d sold the newer one.  They still had payments left on the one they still had (it used to be just Pam’s), but it was closer to being paid off than the other one.  They just had a few more months to go on it.  Once they had that car payment money in the bank every month, things would feel a little more secure.  But until then, Drew also took gigs doing magic tricks at kids’ birthday parties.

“What have you got going today?” he asked.

“Just Green Light,” Pam said, referring to her part-time bookkeeping gig at a local dive bar.  “You?”

“Sheet rock at the Staley site,” Drew said with noticeable dismay in his voice.

“Oh, your favorite thing,” Pam said, frowning in sympathy.  She gave him another kiss.  “You’d better get in the shower then.  You don’t want to be late.”

“No,” Drew said, throwing the covers off of his legs.  “Wouldn’t dream of being late for a joy like that.”

Pam watched as he stumbled off to the bathroom.  Once she heard the bathroom door shut, she got out of bed herself.  She didn’t have to be at work until eleven, but Drew wouldn’t be home until late and when he got home, he wouldn’t be in the mood to do anything but sleep.  And maybe eat.  Pam’s day was full tomorrow.  She wouldn’t see him at all.  The past two years, they had to be grateful for the moments they could steal together.  Pam would fix breakfast and they’d eat it sitting in bed together, Pam still in her pajamas and Drew in his clean work clothes that would be more than filthy by the time he got home.  They’d talk or just sit in silence, maybe, and steal a few kisses here and there, and countdown the minutes before Drew’s work buddy Bear showed up and whisked Drew off to the work site he hated to do work that he hated.  And before he left, Pam would kiss him one last time and remind him that it wouldn’t be this way forever.  They just had to get the car paid off and things would change.  And then she’d watch Drew and Bear drive off before she finally got ready for work, showering and dressing and washing the breakfast dishes.

Pam passed by the bathroom door and paused long enough to make sure she heard the water running before continuing down the hallway to the living room to get the morning paper.  One of the first things they’d done when they both ended up jobless was cancel anything they didn’t absolutely need.  That meant all magazine subscriptions, the newspaper, and cable.  They’d kept the internet, though, because it was the easiest way to job search and Pam used it to communicate with her freelance clients.  That expense was justified.  However, at the Green Light Christmas party the previous year, Pam had won a year’s subscription to the local paper in the raffle.  She really wanted the coffee maker, as that would have come in more handy, but having the newspaper again was nice, too.  She’d missed occasionally working and always failing at the crossword puzzle.

Unlocking the front door, Pam pulled it open, and took one step out onto the stoop to retrieve the paper.

Instead of the paper on that chipped slab of concrete, though, there was a dead man.

Pam stepped back into her house and slammed the door shut.

She stood there for a minute in a kind of shock, trying to convince herself that she hadn’t seen what she’d really seen.  There couldn’t possibly be a dead man on her front step.  It must be a trick of the morning light.  A shadow that made her morning paper look like a dead guy.

Pam eased her front door open once again and peeked outside.

Nope.  There was definitely a dead guy on her front step.

###

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

 

January Writing Projects

Snowflower2016 has been put to bed (finally and thankfully) and 2017 has begun. I have a general schedule of what I want/need to get done this year in terms of writing. As of right now, I have a lot of free months, but that is just an illusion. Those blank spaces will fill up quickly as I get this ball rolling.

And of course, this ball starts its rolling in January.

My plan this month is to revise (Vampires) Made in America. This is part of my ultimate 2017 goal of getting this novel to the point of ultimate doneness. I’ve got three of these Outskirts novels just sitting there like lumps. Maybe if I do one, then the other two will follow. It’s a thought.

I’m also going to write a poem a day. I know it’s not National Poetry Month and I know that I ended up a big loser in the poetry contest I entered (I guess my Honors English teacher was right about capitalizing that last line after all), but I still have it in my head that poetry is something I can and should do, even if just for myself. Ideally, I’d like to put it to good use (by that I mean publish it in some form), but I feel that just to play with words in that medium will be largely beneficial overall.

As a side project this month, I’m finishing up a script outline that I started in December. Again, it’s an exercise in a different medium, outlining and writing scripts, but the ideas translate well to novels/novellas. So I count it as time well spent even if the movie would never be made and the script itself never even shopped.

And, of course, Murderville: The Last Joke starts next week, so don’t forget to get in on that.

I think this will be a good way for me to kick off 2017.

2017 Half-Assed Resolutions

resolutionsMy 2016 half-assed resolutions really were executed half-assed. Though I managed to not get dead (which seemed to be a real challenge for way too many people in 2016) and had a good time on occasion (again, an unanticipated challenge), my other three resolutions were only sort of achieved.

I did clean out my sewing drawer, but I didn’t get rid of nearly as much stuff as I thought I would. I got closer to mastering mermaid pose, but didn’t make it. The only resolution I managed with any real success was watching more Netflix. I watched nearly 50 new-to-me movies and documentaries on Netflix this past year. This is actually a real achievement for me. Especially when Netflix got Bob Ross and that became my go to.

But 2016 is behind us (thankfully) and 2017 is just getting started, so once again, I make my half-assed resolutions for the new year.

  1. Don’t get dead.
  2. Have a good time.
  3. Go through my books. My house looks like a disorganized second-hand book store. Every bookshelf is crammed full. There are books stacked in closets and on the floor. I feel like some of these books could probably do with a new home, particularly the ones I bought while in the throes of an obsession of a particular topic that I now have no interest in revisiting.
  4. Belly dance more. I do drills six days a week and I even shimmy while I do my mouthwash, but I rarely just bust loose and dance. I really need to do that more often. Just for the joy of it.
  5. Do something good. I feel like I’m too broke/selfish/lazy/shy/incapable of contributing something good or doing something good. So I really need to put the effort into doing at least one good thing this year.

Let’s do this, 2017.

An Unexpected Push

ThinkingMy floorset days have come to an end.

The store I work for is closing for good on January 7th.

I’ve been there over four years. Sometimes the gig was a real hassle. I questioned whether or not it was worth the commute, the minimum wage, the sleep deprivation, the bullshit that accompanies every retail job. I seriously considered quitting multiple times, but never went through with it. In the end, the actual work and most of the people I worked with won me over. The money wasn’t great (child learnin’ has been my main source of income), but it really helped fill in the gaps between the ends I needed to meet, particularly during the Christmas/New Year holidays when it’s the only day job I worked.

Now I need something else to fill the gaps.

I’m feeling strangely optimistic about this. A few years ago, I would have been depressed and panicky, woe-is-me-ly about this whole thing. I would have felt like it was the Universe taking another shot at me, kicking me when I was already close to down. Not so much now.

Now, I feel like this is the Universe giving me a push.

This is a push to do something new. This is a push to get out of my comfort zone. This is a push for a new adventure.

This is a push to really work my writing and make my writing work for me.

I don’t make a lot of money from my writing, but now what money I do make will be very important. It will help fill the gaps. Self-promotion is going to be key. I’m going to have to talk about my writing A LOT MORE than I already do and not in the “here’s what I’m working on, here’s how I write, here’s my writerly thoughts” fashion. I’m talking in the “HEY, BUY MY WORDS” fashion.

Right now I’ve got three writing revenue streams going at the moment: my self-published titles, the Storytime Jukebox, and the upcoming Patreon project Murderville. I realize that I’m going to have to start submitting in earnest once again, but I’m also going to have to push these three things a lot harder than I have in the past. In the past, I didn’t want to be annoying or insistent. Now I’m going to be.

When I first found out about this turn of events yesterday and posted about it on Twitter, the people I know there were very supportive. I think that contributes to my optimism. I am blessed with knowing some really awesome folks who are really supportive of my endeavors and also really supportive of me in general. I really do appreciate them.

So, the new year will be starting off with an interesting challenge.

For once in my life, I feel up to it.

I Do Not Christmas Well

cookiesYesterday, I made some sweet treats for the Christmas Eve get together that will happen later today at my mom’s. I normally do not contribute because between my mom and my nieces, plenty of sweet treats happen. But this year I told my mom that I’d made puppy chow for my sister and brother-in-law and she requested some.

And I also said that I’d make sugar cookies.

Here’s the deal.

At Thanksgiving, my great-aunt gave me two batches of sugar cookie dough that she’d made from my great-grandma’s recipe and colored red and green with food coloring. Now, I do not bake. I have no baking skill. I can fuck up cookies from a tube. But my great-aunt thinks that because I can cook, I can bake cookies from pre-made dough without incident. She also thinks that I will eat red and green cookies. I will not. My issues with that is worthy of another post.

However, red and green pre-made sugar cookie dough was right up my nieces’ alley. I was going to take the dough to my mom’s house for my middle niece’s birthday Sunday and let the girls bake them.

Then winter happened. Between the ice and cold, I wasn’t able to see my niece for her birthday (we have a plan B for after the new year; such is the life for us with winter birthdays).

When my mom requested the puppy chow, she also mentioned that my youngest niece wanted sugar cookies.

“Oh, I’ll bake the sugar cookies that auntie gave me and bring them up,” I said.

And so my fate was sealed.

In addition to my lack of baking skills, the stove in our house is questionable. My mom bought it for $100 at a yard sale in 1986. Really. It no longer heats quite evenly, you can’t tell when it’s pre-heated, can barely read the numbers on the knobs, and sometimes it will electrocute you. Really.

The potential for disaster was high. Just the kind of thrill seeking I like.

I baked the first batch of cookies, the red ones, which were more pink than red, and looked like I was trying to bake Laffy Taffy.

They…survived.

It was impossible to tell if they were done because red cookies don’t brown like plain sugar cookies. But the bottoms of them were browned to just before burnt, so they had to be done, even though the tops looked not done.

For the second batch, the green batch, which also looked like Laffy Taffy, I figured out that I had to put a second pan on the bottom rack to help diffuse the heat, rotate the pan of cookies half-way through baking, and pray constantly to a crotchety baking goddess.

The green cookies came out a little better, but any sort of browning on colored cookies just looks wrong.

I’m told from my taste tester that the cookies are fine. Which is good. I hope the nieces enjoy them.

But they look better in the container.

“Stop Working for Free in 2017!”

flame box elder penThe title of this post came from a tweet in my feed. No, it wasn’t spam or some other kind of sponsored content, though it can read that way, I suppose.

To me it reads as the truth.

I have often struggled with the concept of getting paid for my writing. I feel like I’m imposing on people by asking them for money to read my work. “You’re an artist!” a voice in my head yells. “You’re not supposed to be doing it for the money!” And then another voice pipes up and says, “Dude, seriously? You’re writing all of this shit anyway. Get paid, man.”

But still, I struggle.

The second voice is right, though. More right than the first voice. I don’t write for the money. If I did, then I’d be writing to the trends, pumping out thin stories with excellent dressing, capitalizing on whatever looks like it will be selling in the next few months. Publishing trends can be hard to predict, but they’re pretty easy to get in on, especially now with the convenience of self-publishing (not at all putting down self-publishing as that has been my primary means for the majority of my writing career). Writing, revising, and self-publishing a decent novel in a few months that fits in with a going trend is possible.

But I don’t do that.

In fact, when people ask about the nature of my career and why I don’t sell more books and why I don’t have an agent and all of that, I tell them that my biggest hang-up is that I don’t write what other people want to read. I write what I want to write, what I want to read. And my tastes are apparently far from the mainstream. It’s hard to find any traditional success when you write stuff that can only find a small audience, no matter how loyal. Publishing, after all, is a business. They are very motivated by the money.

Still. I should get paid for what I do write. There is no shame in this. I’m not asking for a handout. I’m asking to be paid for my work. It’s no different than when I get paid for child learnin’ or working floorset. Just because the paycheck isn’t as regular doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve it.

This is the mantra I’m carrying into 2017. I’m not working for free. This doesn’t mean I won’t be doing anymore freebie stories on occasion. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to start charging you guys to read these wonderful, informative blog posts.

It means that I’m not going to act like I don’t deserve to ask for money for my work. Because you know what? I do. Because writing IS work. It IS my job. It’s the job I’d like to be living off of instead of my day jobs. How do I do that? By insisting that I get paid.

The Patreon project is a step in that direction. Adjusting the prices for my existing self-published works will be next. Working on something to get traditionally published is on the To Do List.

Come 2017, I will get paid.

Patreon Project! Murderville

MurdervilleAs I’ve mentioned a couple of times in the past couple of months and as I’ve been plotting for the last several, I’m putting my Patreon to better use and that better use starts in January.

Murderville was originally conceived as a short-season TV series. I don’t know why, since I don’t know the first thing about writing TV shows, but that’s how it came into my head and that’s how I outlined it and how I was going to write it. I’m all for learning and practicing different writing mediums. I never got around to writing it as an actual TV show, but the outline remained and the idea of it never really left me. Particularly the characters featured in the first “season”.

You know me. I don’t get rid of anything. Writing hoarder to the end. So, when I decided that I really needed to do something productive with my Patreon instead of just letting it sit there collecting dust and no money, I came back to Murderville.

I wrote the first “season” as a novella called Murderville: The Last Joke and then broke the novella into eight “episodes”. One episode will be posted each month starting in January. At the end of the year, I’ll put out the novella as an ebook.

Nifty, yes?

So….What is Murderville?

“Murderville” is the affectionate (or not-so-affectionate) nickname given to the industrial city of Munsterville. Because even though there’s not a whole lot of violent crime in the city, it seems that people have a tendency to die in really strange ways. Can’t just have a plain old shooting or stabbing, not in Murderville. There’s always a twist.

The Last Joke features Pam and Drew Bendixen, a couple hit hard by the economy and struggling to rebound. To add to their woes, Pam finds a dead man on the doorstep one morning. The one positive about this is that the deceased was a successful business man and there’s now a $25,000 reward for information that leads to his killer. That money could really help Pam and Drew out and since they did find him on their doorstep, surely they could work in a little detective work between their  multiple jobs and family demands. After all, what do they have to lose? Oh, and they could also help a family get closure and obtain justice and all that.

If you sign up to read Murderville through Patreon, you pledge either $1 or $2 per episode and you can read the episodes right there. You also get the novella at the end of the year. $2 patrons also get sneak peeks at the other projects I’m working on. Gotta sweeten that pot somehow.

Don’t want to be a patron? No problem. For the low, low price of $8 (the minimum amount the $1 patrons will pay) paid through PayPal, you get the password that will allow you to read all eight episodes here on the blog.

The episodes will also be readable on Google Docs.

So don’t miss out.

The fun officially starts on January 10th.

December Writing Projects

Milwaukee Christmas treeShit kinda got wacky last month, I will not deny. Cubs World Series parade, the election, the world on fire, NaNoWriMo. Just unforeseen craziness. And so outside of NaNo, my writing really didn’t get a whole lot of attention. I was going to try write, revise, and submit a short-short to a contest, but that didn’t happen. I got it started and it ended up being abandoned in the chaos. The essays I’ve been writing for practice met the same fate. Only NaNo and a rough revision on my Patreon serial idea happened.

And now it’s December and the holiday season is upon us and if this isn’t my well-documented least favorite time of year. I automatically call a mulligan every December because it takes so much of my energy to find and maintain any little dribble of holiday spirit.

But I still got shit to do.

The Patreon serial project is going to be my main focus this month. I’m getting a beta read on it right now, I’ll do another revision on it, and then go from there. The goal is to have this little thing going starting in January.

Which means I will also be pimping this thing. If this sort of self-promotion annoys you, let me remind you that I don’t work one of my jobs for like a month because of Christmas/New Year’s. I don’t work, I don’t get paid. Any little bit of coin I can scrape together helps to ease that pain.

Speaking of, you may or may not (probably not) have noticed an update to the Storytime Jukebox. You can now read the short stories on the blog. You drop in your coins like usual (via PayPal) and I’ll send you a password to use on the story link. Nifty, yes? Sure. The novellas are still only available on Googledocs, though. Or you can buy the short story collections they’re in. That’s good, too.

Though Patreon will definitely be my main gig this month, if I have any spare brain power, it’s going to be spent organizing my plan for next year.

Because I’m going to need some kind of plan for 2017.