Archive for the 'Working Conditions' Category



10
Oct
18

Flash Fiction: Cold

I hear my daughter, calling me to her room. She says she’s cold.

She died in the fire three years ago.

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09
Oct
18

Depression: Lock & Key

Depression is a fascinating feeling. It’s not any one thing, really; it’s a pile of conflicting emotions and responses, finely tuned to subtly twist everything you think or feel, seemingly with the sole intent of making you miserable.

When factored in with a physical malady, such as asthma, that seems intent on doing the same to your body that the depression does to your mind and heart, it leads to all kinds of fun metaphors.

I’ve decided that the duo together are rather like a combination lock. You know, those old Masters or Schlages that were on your locker or bedroom once upon a time. But this is no dinky lock that if you got irritated enough you could just snap off with a pair of pliers and a bit of determination. Nope. It’s one of those two pound monstrosities with an inch-thick hasp. Covered with rust and marred by the tool marks of those who’d tried – and failed – to force it open.

That lock is being used to hold together heavy-duty chain, the gaps threaded with barbed wire so old, gnarled and rusted that you probably could get tetanus just looking at it. It’s wrapped around my chest – extra tight, can’t have those lungs working, can we, buddy? – my throat, my mouth, my eyes, my balls, my brain.

The only thing that feels like it’s free are my hands… but they have a job to do.

Before I can do anything else, before I can try to be a productive member of society, before I can pretend that everything’s okay and today isn’t the day I drive off a cliff or get creative with my dosages, those hands have to twiddle the dial on that bastardly lock and find the combination.

That lock doesn’t want the combination found, though. So it finds all kinds of fun ways to stop you. The dial doesn’t want to turn, and the notches on the face are eroded so you can’t tell if you just turned 35 clockwise or 41 counterclock, assuming you even came close to where you wanted to be. Fine motor control goes out the window when you’re having to exert near-Herculean force to move it an inch in the first place, and the lock is tricksy. It’s stuck… except when it doesn’t want to be.

Maybe it takes an hour. Maybe two. Maybe all damn day. But you can’t do anything else until you find the combination. And the lock is, as I said, tricksy. “You beat me today,” it clicks and clacks out the hole the hasp was plugging a moment ago. “But I’ll still be here tomorrow.”

So I get on with the day, best I can, whatever’s left of it. But come the next, the chains have crept up on me again, wrapping tighter than the day before, the barbs now sharper with everything that didn’t get done the day before. The lock has changed the combination, and maybe even the rules; perhaps it will only have two numbers today, but will have to be spun backwards, or it might be ten digits today and they change every time you miss one.

So when I’m quiet, and haven’t been able to work or write or make snide commentary on trophy lists or do much of anything beyond staring at the television and trying to make sense of the pictures, it’s not laziness, stubbornness or stupidity – though I am sure I am guilty of all three in various measures.

It’s me being busy. Trying to pick locks.

Enjoy my content? Want to help me keep making it? You can, over at GoFundMe and Patreon! Drop by, share a like, or a drop a dollar in the jar if you’re feeling generous. In any case, thank you for reading!
23
Sep
18

Keeping Boats Afloat

“Whatever floats your boat.” It’s a phrase I’m fond of, for no particular reason. It’s frequently spoken slightly dismissively, usually in relation to a habit or endeavor that evokes little or no emotional response in myself but that seems of interest or import to another. Doubly so if it’s an interest or important subject that I don’t understand why it’s important.

Everybody’s out there just doing their thing, living their lives. Frequently the things going on in one person’s life are of no relevance to another. That’s how we get along; doing our best to keep our own boats floating without crashing into someone else’s or letting them ship water onto ours to save their own.

Maybe I’m going too far with the analogy. Oh well.

There’s going to be some whining and begging here, so you are free to skip with no hard feelings. I’m doing my best to get more content up, which isn’t always easy for reasons we’ll delve into in a moment, but hopefully there’ll be some more stuff for fiction, gaming or general horror fans soon.

I’ve had a lot of health problems this year. Severe jaw infection, pneumonia twice, strep, mold infection in the lungs, severe asthmatic beatdown from multiple forest fires, poisoned by algae in the water supply, constant fights with depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and now the potential of autism rearing its head. I’m a bloody mess.

None of those things help with writing, obviously; worse, they make it hard if not occasionally impossible to work, which means no money, which means no meds, which exacerbates the problem, compounding it exponentially.

To continue the above metaphor, the boat is springing leaks faster than I can find corks and bail water; drowning becomes an ever-more-realistic prospect… in a more literal way than one would like, given the penchant for lung problems I possess.

So, anyway. That’s why you haven’t seen much of me lately; I’m either lying on the couch staring at a visual novel while hooked up to a nebulizer or scrambling in brief periods of wellness to try to catch up or sleeping off the latest cocktail of medications that will supposedly fix me “any day now.”

I need help. (“So what?” I hear you say, “So does everyone!” I hear you shout.) So I turn here, where there are supposedly roughly 400 people who pay at least some attention to the things I say and do.

First, to each of you that reads this blog, pays attention to my Tweets, watches my videos or has bought or read my books, thank you. Intellectual and moral support by way of the idea that someone, somewhere is paying attention and may even like my stuff matters. Keep at it.

To those of you who’ve been in bad places and crawled out, or take pity on those who are sitting in their mental and physical caves somewhere despite not having been there themselves, or those who’ve drawn some entertainment or inspiration from the things I’ve done, thank you.

To all of them (and anyone not already covered who happens to read this) give me a moment of your time; I have a GoFundMe and a Patreon, both of which are there to help me keep paying for my meds and keep the lights on in those periods where I can’t work. If you feel like it, you can drop by and drop something in the bucket. Doesn’t matter if it’s a dime or a thousand, it’s appreciated and helps. But don’t think this is just a begging drive; sure, cash is great, but there’s less physical ways to show that what I do matters to someone.

A like. A share. A “keep at it, bro” e-mail or Tweet. Something to show that I’m not beating my head against a wall in the hopes that the concrete cracks before my skull and shouldn’t just throw my hands up in the air and walk away or let myself go down with the ship.

Okay, I’m done whinging for now. For those more interested in “real” content, I should have the second chunk of “Three Blue Hearts” up during the coming week, and I’m trying to put something together for Halloween – might be a stream of Death Mark or Call of Cthulhu, might be a livechat, might be something else, suggestions are welcome.

That’s all for now. And don’t forget, go hug your favorite artist or mentally ill person (or both) today. They probably need it.

29
Aug
18

Three Blue Hearts – Part 1

You know those little roadside shrines, the ones they put up when some kid gets hit by a drunk driver or drug into the woods and murdered or decides to take a leap off some mountainous hard curve? Everybody’s seen at least a few; battered homemade crosses, always planted too shallow and cocked to one side. Half the time any writing has been so weatherbeaten that you can’t read it anyway, and there’s usually the tattered remains of streamers dangling off it like stringy hair and a faded Polaroid of someone who could be anyone stapled to the middle.

Sometimes there’s other decorations; usually old toys or maybe votive candles if the area isn’t too dry. But there’s on decoration that, if you see it, you should walk away from.

Three blue hearts.

They look like gemstones, at first. If you make the mistake of touching them – like a lot of people do, more than would probably admit – you’ll find out they’re just glass. They’re strung in a line from a piece of twine, always looking clean and shiny and new regardless of how old the shrine is and how poorly kept up it is. They’re heavy, too; they’re solid glass, the size of a fist, and if you prod the bottom of the heart you’ll notice they’re plenty sharp. Sharp enough to draw blood.

You’ll find out. I did.

27
Aug
18

Sometimes they just die on you…

Sometimes, no matter how much you like a story or a character or a situation, there comes a point where you have to throw your hands up and say “Call it. Time of death.”

“Riptide” appears to have suffered such a death. With all the health problems and other upheavals, attempting to write hasn’t been easy… attempting to work on that story in particular has been all but impossible. When I open the document and stare at it, trying to remember what I was doing and attempting to reconnect with our protagonist in an attempt to see what she’ll do next, I get the flat hum of dead air, the long, low beep of a flatlined monitor.

So, despite being in the middle, I have to state that the patient has died. It is an unfortunate truth of writing that sometimes that happens. It is sad, it is frustrating, and frequently leads into a blame game, pointing fingers at everything and everyone that might have led to the death. But sometimes it just happens. They slip away. At least, to me.

The bright side, of course, is that because writing is an inherently magical act, sometimes that death isn’t permanent. Sometimes those stories will get dragged back to the temple where some brave soul donates for a resurrection. They may return, Gandalf the White style, more powerful and radiant than they were before their deaths; they may return relatively unchanged, popping their feet up on the table, cracking a beer and asking “What’s up?” Sometimes they come crawling back as shambling monstrosities, abominations that are mockeries of their former selves… but at least for a horror writer, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Thankfully, while work has slowed significantly on Believe Me, it hasn’t died completely. So that’s one good thing, I suppose. There’s also a different bit of serialized fiction, “Three Blue Hearts” that seems to actually want to crawl onto the page, and that should start cropping up come Wednesday. Keep an eye out for that.

What about my fellow creatives out there? Has there been a project that you were working happily on but that just died in its tracks and refused to allow life-giving efforts? What caused it, and how did you deal with it? Let us know down below!

18
Jul
18

Fiction Snippet: Lune de Amant – Running

She ran. It was times like this where she was most at peace with what she was. With the restraints of her position removed, with no one constantly looming behind her with her hand held in a vice or a possessive palm against her waist, having no need to primp and preen and endure hours of near torture to put on the airs of a respectable lady, she felt free. More than that, she felt alive.

Alive. Something she wasn’t even sure she understood the meaning of anymore. Not since Martin had found her, at least. She might have been in pain, ill, possibly dying. But she had at least felt something. Now, as she drifted along at his side, everything felt as though it was being pushed through a bit of gauze drenched in filthy water. No smell was particularly noticeable, no color vibrant. Even her own thoughts felt dull and muted.

But out here, when she ran free wearing thick, warming fur instead of choking silk, acting with instinct rather than carefully measured thought and planning, going where her pulse and nose took her instead of where Martin led her, she was someone else. She was herself, much as she might resist the admission.

Tonight was different, though. She had run, not because the animal in her had begged her too, not because the moon had called her to it, and not because Martin had told her to. She had run because some part of life’s former brilliance had bled once more into her human guise and she had not known how to process it. It had been a year since she had felt that way, had interacted with the world as someone who walked in it rather than through it, and she had been afraid.

To run as a wolf was simpler. Easier. Less to think about, nothing to worry about. It gave her an opportunity to exhaust herself and let her hot blood cool. To settle herself back to that comfortable grayness when she walked on two legs again.

Nicholas. It was his fault. If she hadn’t met him…

She paused, shaking her shaggy head and chuffing in an attempt to banish it. Even in a world composed mostly of smells and vague shapes, she could see his face clearly in her mind. He’d done nothing, really. Merely extended a hand and asked for hers, leading her to a dance that was so much more lively than those that Martin had taught her. Laughing, spinning, tasting things that had almost led to her cry at their sweetness, all at Nicholas’ arm. Never with him commanding it, always him asking, always her accepting.

No. It was not fair to blame him for it. She had made her choices. She could have – should have – declined his invitation to dance. Could have excused herself and clung to Martin for the evening before returning to their suite, none the wiser.

Unable to banish his face from her mind, she ran on. Stopping only gave those thoughts a grip. She ran faster, her pumping legs serving as pistons to shove his image aside.

After several minutes, when she thought she had left such thoughts behind her, she realized she had done no such thing. Apparently thoughts of Nicholas still held her in sway, even as she fled under the gaze of mother moon. She dug her claws into the soggy earth, stopping as she realized where her feet had taken her.

Nicholas’ estate lay below. She could still see the brilliant glow of the windows, and dim forms milling about in the courtyard, their shadows grown grotesque by the flickering lanterns set high on either side of the walkway. Her twitching ears could make out the sound of the band playing on, even though the revelry had ostensibly ended hours ago. She suspected they’d carry on this way until dawn at this point.

There. Her nostrils flared, and it was almost a physical pull on her snout that drug her gaze towards one of the second story window. Her eyesight in this form was not as good as it was when she walked among the sheep, but some scents were so strong to her that they became visible; the person standing in that window was covered in two such smells.

One looked to her a muted green, lingering mostly about the figure’s neck and arm. It was one she knew well; the same color trailed behind her in paw print shapes. Her own scent.

The other glowed to her, an orange that shone brighter than the lanterns scattered about the estate and was nearly as intoxicating as the rum-laced drinks she had sampled earlier in the evening. The only scent that had drug her out of the gauzy filter and drawn her interest. Nicholas.

She couldn’t tell what he was doing, beyond standing at the window. The sounds of the remaining partygoers drowned out anything that might be coming from his direction. She saw him stiffen, as though started, and glance over his shoulder; the colors of his scent sparked in a brief flash of red, before returning to orange once more. He seemed to shudder, though she thought he might actually have been laughing. A moment after, he turned back to the window and pulled it shut before snuffing the light within and cutting himself off from her senses entirely.

She wanted him. Without the clutter of her human thoughts, she could admit that at least. But he represented a life she no longer lived, an unsettling sense of normalcy that would forever be beyond her. And regardless of what she told Martin, a part of her didn’t want to return to normality, treasured the time she spent running on all fours, free beneath the cold light of the moon.

Part of her wanted to run to him, and use the gifts given to her to shred and claw and destroy the thing that had disturbed her so. Another portion wanted to go to him and make him like her, so she would not feel so alone. A third felt she should divorce herself of the night world, subdue all such wild urges, and seek him as a human woman might. She knew she could make him hers with unnatural talents – Martin had showed her how – but she wanted him to be hers in a more natural way… as she would be his.

She whined, tail tucking down behind her. It was too much. Too many possibilities, too many consequences, and all of them were too hard to think about in this shape. It felt constricting and cloying instead of free now, trapping her with circular thoughts and vague fears.

She bounded away, pausing to give one glance back to Nicholas’ window and giving a low howl that – thankfully – was not answered. She would run. She would hunt. And she would steer clear of him until this internal storm calmed.

08
Jul
18

Leave of Absence

I’ve been gone for awhile. It wasn’t intentional. Been an interesting time.

Quick version: They determined there was severe infection in my jaw. That required dental surgery, the removal of all my teeth and a denture. Okay, not so bad. I couldn’t talk for a while, but still survivable.

Of course, then the antibiotics they game me caused an allergic reaction. So we had to start on a different set. Those knocked me out. And neither did the job; the infection decided it would spread. Cue the next three months where they couldn’t decide what was wrong with me, but had reached the point where they were talking spinal taps to figure it out; all this while I’m unable to eat, unable to sleep properly, barely able to talk, and running to the toilet every few minutes to vomit.

That may have been slightly over-descriptive, but c’est la vie. My lack of activity was not voluntary. They finally killed it by shooting me up with some kind of super antibiotic mixed with steroids, but that has its own problems; the city of Salem has been suffering from an overabundance of algae in the water supply, toxic on its own right and only made worse by the chemicals they started dumping in to kill the algae. Normal people are recommended to stay away from the water, and for those with compromised immune systems – such as, say, someone who is on three different steroids normally and is extremely prone to bronchial infections, has just completed three different courses of antibiotics, and has two extra steroids mixed in there, too – it’s damn near deadly. Found that out when I drank a pot of coffee the day after they lifted the water advisory only to discover they slapped it back down that afternoon.

So, yeah. Been having a lot of fun trying to just keep breathing and functioning. Haven’t gotten much writing done as a result. I was doing well to be fully conscious for five hours a day or so, most of that hiding in the bathroom with my Vita or an old paperback.

Things should be going back to normal, now. Fingers crossed.




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