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.
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.
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.
**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**
As 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.
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.
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.
Yesterday was Bell Let’s Talk Day on social media. It happens once a year to raise money for mental health and end the stigma around mental illness. Naturally, I participate on Twitter by using the hashtag. As someone who deals with depression and anxiety, mental health is something I think about probably more than people who don’t suffer from any sort of mental affliction.
I say that I deal rather than struggle because honestly, I deal more than I struggle. Last winter was a struggle with my depression. This winter I’ve been dealing with my depression. I deal with my anxiety far more than I struggle with it. I deal without any sort of meds because that’s my choice. I’m sort of lucky that I have the option to deal without meds because I know that some people don’t have that choice. Meds are necessary for them.
I was first officially diagnosed with depression when I was 20, but there’s no doubt that I’d been suffering from it for several years by then. And here I say suffering because I was truly suffering. I had no concept of how to deal with what I was going through because I had no real grasp that there was anything wrong with me. I thought I was just a shitty, defective human.
Since then, I’ve learned how to deal. It’s been a slow process because I do everything the hard way and I’m a stubborn person. I’ve also had to overcome the fact that I’m prone to self-destruction and a lot of the way I internalize the outer world has led to forming ideals that are harmful. It’s only recently that I began to accept the concept of self-care as something that I deserve.
It seems that in the last year or so I’ve taken a giant step in owning the shit that hinders my mental health. I’ve come into so many situations lately, situations that I would normally subject myself to because reasons and be totally miserable, and instead of doing the normal, I asked myself, “Why the hell am I doing this? It does nothing for me.” And then I’ve excused myself from the situation.
For example, I avoided Facebook for like a month. It was doing nothing for me. My friend’s page looked like a Klan meeting happening at a tent revival while a cryptic Days of Our Lives episode played and the English language was repeatedly mauled. Of course, it wasn’t all bad. There were some good things, some funny things, some accurately spelled things. But I had to wade through such shit to get to them. I was checking Facebook multiple times a day because I didn’t want to miss anything, didn’t want anyone to feel slighted if I didn’t like the sixth profile picture in a week or that album of baby pictures or that status about how their life was so great or whatever. It was a chore to scroll my feed. No, it was a stone drag to scroll my feed.
And one morning I asked myself, “Why are you doing this? What are you getting out of this?”
The answer was that I wasn’t getting much more than aggravation out of it.
So, I didn’t check Facebook that day. Or the next. Or the next. Nor did I play the games on Facebook that I felt a duty to play every day because reasons.
As a result, I had more time. When I wasn’t playing the games or refreshing my feed every thirty minutes, I suddenly had this abundance of time that I never felt like I had before. It was much easier for me to focus on my work when I wasn’t suffering from eye strain from rolling my eyes so much and I wasn’t half-pissed from repeated exposure to the ignorance and hatefulness and inability to work a fucking homonym. My overall mood and peace of mind improved.
I felt better.
Now, I check Facebook once, maybe twice a day. I scroll for a bit, like a few things, play one of my games, maybe wish somebody happy birthday, and then I’m done. Sorry if I miss your stuff, but I’m better off if I don’t hang around too long. I’m sure you understand.
Except I know there are people who don’t, friends and family members who’d gladly tell me what a fucking wuss I am and I need to suck it up and deal with it.
Good news! I am dealing with it. Been dealing with it for years. I’ll be dealing with it for the rest of my life, thanks. I’d apologize for not dealing with it to your satisfaction, but I’m not sorry. You can fuck off.
My mind is a fucking hellscape most of the time. It’s loud and messy and some days it doesn’t work worth a shit and other days it works overtime. This is my normal. For me, being comfortable in my own head is my sanity.
My mental health has, rightly, become one of my top priorities.
If that makes you uncomfortable, perhaps you should check in on your own.
Thirty-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.
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.
2016 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.