Because my hobby is fretting, I know how to dwell on bad shit. If you’ve read here any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that.

I’d like to also learn how to dwell on good shit. The same way I can recall stupid ass crap I did fifteen years ago and paralyze myself with burning shame, I want to be able to recall how it felt when everyone sang me happy birthday at the book launch of The Wolf’s Bane or how good it felt to see the excited faces of the people at the Halloween reading.

In related news, the Butcher and I are rewatching The X-Files, trying to cram nine seasons in before the new mini-series. I don’t know if we’re going to make it.

I was a big fan at the time, though, in saying that, now seeing what fan culture is like, I get that it’s not true. I watched it religiously until I didn’t and then I never, like, bought the DVDs or anything.

So, it’s fun watching shows I haven’t seen in twenty years and seeing what I remember and what I don’t. There’s a LOT I don’t. And what I find the most interesting is that, when watching certain episodes, I’ll find myself panicked upon seeing the villain. So, I KNOW I must have watched that episode and had the piss scared out of me by it, scared enough that just seeing the villain again makes me have a physical response.

But then I won’t remember anything about the particulars of the episode.

I mean, they must be in there some place, because, damn, I can see how The X-Files influences a lot of my writing. But the particulars of an episode are mostly crammed too far back in my mind for me to recall them.

But the bad guys? Even though I haven’t consciously thought about them in years either, the memories of them must sit in a more accessible part of my brain.

My uncle believed that your mind was like a room full of filing cabinets. Everything you ever experienced was in there someplace, though you couldn’t always find it.

I find myself, sometimes, having things come up unbidden. Like, the other day, I was in traffic and I had this strong memory of sitting at my computer in grad school.

I’m not sure why my brain threw that back up at me, but I do find that memories are like the coal fields of Illinois. If you drive south, the coal is at first, very near the surface, and easy enough to get at, and then it plunges way down under you, still there, but not really accessible, and then, when you get far enough south again, it comes back to the surface.

You can map where it sits near the surface up north–Coal City, Carbon Hill, Diamond, Coal Valley–and then again, when it reemerges down south–Carbondale–and you know it’s down there in the middle.

As must be my good things. I just need to figure out how to get them nearer to the surface for when I need them.

Back to the Boobs

I went in for my second annual mammogram today. I has to go over to Vanderbilt because my insurance is a dumpster fire. This is nothing against Vanderbilt. I really liked how things went today.

But, seeing as how this was the year follow-up after my surgery, I would have preferred to go to the place that did my surgery and thus would have my films and charts and such.

Instead, only half the shit Vanderbilt needed ended up over there, even though I checked at my appointment and called to make sure everything had been sent.

So, instead of finding out today that everything looks good, I have a kind of half-knowledge. The doctor said he didn’t see anything in there he’d be worried about if this were my first mammogram. However, knowing that this is my second, he really wished he had the first one to compare to.

When he gets those, he’ll be able to give me a better all-clear.

Here’s the thing, though. I’d like to think, based on my mom and grandma, that I’m not quite halfway through my life. But I’m close.

I don’t want to be on my death bed wishing I’d really tried to get a novel published.


Work is very stressful right now. I’ve been trying to deal by…I don’t know. Going for walks. Thinking calming thoughts. Conquering worlds on video games. Crocheting.

But I just can’t get calm.

I had a dream that I knew a woman who married a creek and they had crawdads as children and she said to me, “You can’t love 47,000 children equally.”

And I woke up in a kind of feeling of horror and like I’d just realized something profound. But what? I’m not sure.

Still, man, you don’t want to be the chick with crawdads pouring out of your cooter. I assume crawdads must be an egg thing, right? Like you’d just go out in the yard, drop a bunch of eggs, and leave them to hatch or not on their own.

Or maybe in the creek?

I definitely would have to learn more about the early life of crawdads before I married a creek.

I Guess I’m Nervous

I dreamed I had to walk to the event Friday, like hike out in the country from one venue that I had wrongly gone to (but where there were wrinkly fries, so all was not lost) to another and, when I got there, I didn’t have the story I wanted to read and I couldn’t get a hold of the Butcher to bring it to me, so I was like “Fine, I’ll just find it in my emails and read it off my phone.”

Which kind of sounds like hell.

I’m really looking forward to November when life goes from being intensely busy to just busy.

Soon Enough, I’ll Have a Closet Full of Toilet Paper Rolls, Just in Case

I’m making more money than I ever have in my life and I have paid off a couple of looming debts. A couple of weeks ago, I was joking with the guys that, if I had some money, I would buy a new sweater. I paid bills today and realized, I could buy a new sweater.

I’m not going to. I have to work up to buying clothes. I kind of hate it.

But I could.

I have to say, I kind of get why lottery winners burn through their money. And, in a way I haven’t quite come to terms with, I understand why my parents give all their money to my brother and why they’re so weird about giving it to us.

Being broke has a kind of consistent pain to it, like someone is laying a red hot poker across your back all the time. But what can you do? You make it work. You learn to live with the pain. You get used to the smell of your own flesh burning.

I have more responsibilities now than I did two years ago. I do work harder. Not as hard as I worked for Caterpillar or at Dairy Queen. Until you’ve stood so long that sitting hurts and standing hurts and all you want to do is lie down and die but you can’t, you haven’t worked hard. Anybody at a desk job who thinks they know hard work, that they’re really “earning” their check is lying to themselves.

At some level, I feel like it’s some terrible sick joke. I had jobs where I wanted to throw up but couldn’t at the end of a shift, just from physical exhaustion. And I made a quarter of what I do now.  Like, what a huge scam, that this is the working world and this is the kind of job that is respectable and earns you a salary you can have a family on. I can’t tell you how often I walk through this world like some kind of disguised interloper, marveling at all the decadent ways people live and tell themselves they’ve earn.

There were weeks we ate rice, every day. That’s what we could afford. There were times when the Butcher didn’t have a job and I didn’t know how we were going to make it. I never want to feel that way again. I’m relieved every day that, at least, for now, I don’t have to.

But it’s strange to not feel that way. And I can see how, when you’ve hurt that long, you do things to keep hurting. Maybe in part because you don’t trust the feeling of not hurting. Maybe because you know you haven’t earned not hurting, that you don’t deserve less pain than your loved ones. Maybe because you don’t want to lose the callouses you’ve built up, should you need them again.

Flat Lands, Big Sky

I always have really mixed feelings when I go back to Illinois–a mixture of terror and homesickness. Not as bad as the last time I went to Michigan and had to cry in the rest stop to work up the courage to keep driving, but still some feeling of both wanting to be there and fearing that I might see someone who used to know me, who I used to know, and wondering what that would be like.

Away, Away

I’m off to another con. I have mixed feelings. I’m excited. But what if I miss the dog? What if the dog misses me? How will I finish this afghan?

Maybe the dog could finish up the afghan and send me pictures. All problems solved.

Anyway, check back in here tomorrow at six for…um… a story, the likes of which I forget. I think we’re starting with a tale of revenge and witches. If not, then it’s a tale of revenge and dogs. Or a tale of revenge and another dog. Or a tale of revenge and a parrot. I’m just saying, I basically write the same story over and over again. Ha ha ha.

No, I do think tomorrow night is the one about wandering around Mississippi talking to yourself like a lunatic.

I hope you enjoy it.

Stupid Sunday

I made a tactical mistake scheduling all my chores and deadlined things for Sunday, because I am dragging today. I did get a lot of crocheting done, though, because I had to sit around various waiting areas.

I’m going to Archon in a couple of weeks and I’m excited and nervous.

I’m in a kind of frenzy with the book. It’s weird to be working so hard on something that might come to nothing. It’s weird to even think that it might come to nothing. Writing, in general, is a weird thing.

I’ve got to get something decided for October around here. It will be half-assed, though, folks, I can promise you that.

I think this October is going to be weird, in general, but it’s good to open yourself up to weirdness. Still I’m getting nervous about how booked up I am. First weekend is Archon. Second weekend is SFB. Something’s threatening to happen the 17th.  I’m running out of nine consecutive unbothered nights. I might just have to block off the 22-30 now and refuse all engagements.

It’s Easy to Love an Obedient Dog

This week is very busy and stressful. The dog has been walking like an angel.

I understand the appeal of throwing oneself into a fundamentalist religion. It’s really hard when you look at what life has dealt you and you feel conflicted and you’re not sure what to do. There’s something nice about having someone in authority at times like this say “You can’t do that because you’re a woman” or “You have to do that.”

Then you can either be pissed of and do it anyway (and thus ends your short experiment with fundamentalist religion) or you don’t do it. Either way, the path becomes clear.

But when your ethos is be happy if you can figure out how to, be honorable, if possible, and be good to others when you can, there come crossroads where which street to take is just not clear.

You can, I suppose, guess where I’m standing today.

Back From Memphis

I’m back from Memphis. It was lovely. I ate this delicious tuna taco that blew my mind. I caught up with old friends. I saw surprising people in the bathroom. I read a ghost story and the audience loved it and it felt like magic. I moderated a panel and it was really interesting and gave me a lot to think about on the way home.

Speaking of the drive home, everyone should drive 100 from Nashville to Memphis-ish once in their lives (or the other direction), if only to see what happens when TDOT says “fuck this old road, fuck it so hard. I’m done. No more curves, no more turns, no more taking the landscape into account. You just pave the fuck over whatever is between here and there.” Highway 100 out there in the middle of west Tennessee is as straight as a Midwestern road. I’m sure whole towns got paved over. Hills. People’s pets. They did not care.

If it’s the straightest road in Tennessee for the longest length, I would not be surprised.

I had a lot of time to think out there, on that unnaturally straight road.

Ten Hours

Y’all, I went to bed at 8 p.m. and slept soundly until the Butcher’s alarm went off shortly after 5. I then fell immediately back to sleep and slept until my alarm went off forty-five minutes later.

I feel fantastic.

And both cats are in the house along with the dogs. And no one is barking or hissing, so that’s nice.

Old Habits

This morning, as I was getting out of my car, absentmindedly thinking about the dream I had and wondering if my subconscious is trying to just plainly tell me that I’m bad in bed, I reached down to push in the knob to turn my headlights off.

I have not owned a car that had headlights like that since I was seventeen. But I still floundered, confused, this morning when my hand didn’t find purchase on that knob. And then spent a moment being confused about just what the fuck my hand was doing.

I sometimes think that my memory works like the veins of coal under Illinois, shallow at the near end, shallow at the far end and too far down to reach in the middle. I have taken painful things and willed them down the hole, so to speak, sent them away. But I know they’ll come back eventually.

I mean, I reached for a thing today I haven’t touched in twenty-four years. And I recently realized I can picture exactly how T.’s blond stubble sparkled in the sunlight again.

I feel weird. Painfully weird. I think that’s a memory as well, come back to me as real as ever.

You can see why people believe in reincarnation. It feels like everything circles round and round in a life. Why would a life not circle round itself?

I Caught a Fleeting Glimpse Out of the Corner of My Eye

I did something yesterday I have been trying to do for over a decade. I made a plan for how to do it, how to really do it, about four or five years ago, I think. And I stuck to it and I didn’t take vacations and I didn’t visit people and I didn’t go out as much as I wanted. And now it’s done. Fuck you, Citibank. I hope the hackers take you out first.

I don’t feel relieved though. Which I thought I would. Mostly, I feel kind of numb and sad. I did not grow up that poor. But I made more money at 28 than my dad did when I was 18. I’m making more money now than I think my parents ever did combined. I made a lot of financial decisions that, I’m sure, from the outside, looked dumb as rocks. I had no ability, no knowledge, no wisdom from mentors to make better decisions. They were literally the best decisions I could make with the knowledge I had. I don’t beat myself up over it.

This, though, makes me cry. I feel like it’s the second cry you have over a bad car accident. The first cry is all fear and gratitude. And the second cry is when you realize how precarious things were, when you see that it was just as likely that you didn’t make it.

I am Done with Gardening

My eyes are swollen up again! I’m leaking some kind of weird clear liquid from my face. Skin-face not nose and mouth face where you might expect to find liquid. I have weird bumps. Things itch.

I am fucking done with touching things outside. This is the second time in a month. I had to show up for the launch of The Wolf’s Bane looking like a puffy potato and now I have to go to my very first con looking like, again, a puffy potato. With crusties.

2015–the year of writing wonderfulness and face disaster.

The Perils of Not Sharing

I know it’s a weird thing to say with a blog like this, but I am a private person. And one thing that aggravates me, but I can’t figure out how to get around it, is when someone does or says something that hits too close to home, to something I don’t want to talk about, and certainly not to that person. And yet, if they don’t pickup on the cue that I’ve changed the subject or stopped talking, I feel like I’m kind of being forced into disclosing something I don’t want to disclose to the person who’s already kind of trampling on my feelings.

I really hate it.

Especially because I’m pretty sure I’m a trampler myself, sometimes. But ugh.

Old Things

I saw a dear old friend yesterday at lunch. I hadn’t seen her in years and it was good to catch up and too short.

Then I dreamed that a mutual friend of ours, who I haven’t seen since grad school, and I were on a car trip, driving home from somewhere in Michigan and we stopped at my Grandma’s house in Battle Creek, which was, of course, not her house this time, but the house full of people from where I graduated high school.

The guy who stalked me was there. He lived in that house. And he worked at Burger King. And I stole his hat and threw it through the brazier, which upset him and I told him I’d buy him another one. And then we left.

As dreams usually do, it sounds stupid when I type it up.

But man, it’s weighing on me this morning. It’s the two things that weigh on me all the time: In what ways am I hidden from myself in ways that are harmful to myself and others? How am I here when so many people I know are smarter or more creative or more deserving (which, yes, I hate that word) are not?

The magnitude of luck that has brought me to this point is immeasurable. That’s what I keep thinking.

But the thing about the weight of the dream is that it reminds me that lucky and happy are the same word at heart and part of the weight is that I don’t experience them as the same thing. Being lucky in this way–me being here, the guy who stalked me working fast food–it doesn’t make me happy. I feel grateful, don’t get me wrong.

But I’m always waiting for the world to be set back right. I am so far out beyond where I was taught I’d be allowed. I never feel like “Oh, well, it is what it is and the things I was taught were wrong.” Well, that’s not true. I feel like that in the light of day all the time.

But at night, I know the scales are uneven and tipped in my favor. And I know every story of the gods monkeying around with the fate of a person leads to that person’s eventual downfall. You can’t be lucky all the time.

And yet, I don’t have the things I want. I want to write a damn fine haunted house story that people love. I want it to be published by a publisher who will get it into bookstores. I want to be able to walk into Parnassus and Barnes & Noble in my own town and see it on the shelf.

And that’s farther out, scales tipped even more ridiculously. I can’t do it. There’s just no way to be that lucky, considering how far luck has brought me. It just can’t hold.

But I have to try for it.

Eye, Day 2

Imagine yesterday’s picture, but with my eye swelled shit and a nifty rash on my face and a different nifty rash on my hands. I got in to work early and went over to the employee clinic. The doctor was suitably appalled, but she doesn’t see any sign of infection and there’s nothing still in my eye, if it is indeed a sting. She couldn’t tell if it was a bite or if it’s just some allergy. The rashes are just what my body does when something is going wrong–secondary rashes. My body’s way of saying “something bad is happening.” Thanks, body. As if I didn’t notice.

So, now I’m hopped up on steroids and Claratin. Fingers crossed.


Our front porch kind of sucks because it doesn’t have a roof. It’s more, in fairness, like a small front patio. So, you can’t really sit out on it without being blinded by the afternoon sun. I’m sure when the 50 year old hackberry was full sized, this was less noticeable, but it’s pretty unfortunate now.

So, I’m asking every member of my family to go in on a porch swing with an awning as a birthday present for me. They haven’t said whether they’re willing to do this, but there have been secretive phone calls.

I’m crossing my fingers. Because, if we ever have nice weather again, I’m kind of dreaming of sitting on my front porch, making afghans and watching the world go by.

I Do Not Have Enough Yarn for the Hill House Afghan

Which, obviously, I kind of knew this weekend, but I did nothing about it. And now I’m a little aggravated with myself. I’m really nervous about this Isaac Franklin piece. And I have a rash all over my hands, on my neck, on my stomach, and my feet itch so much I can only assume it’s about to pop up there.

But my seeds are planted (except the hollyhocks) and my plants are in. And I spent a bunch of time out in the glorious sun. So, I think it’s worth it.

Things Happening

1. As previously noted, The Wolf’s Bane is out May 22nd and there will be some kind of party and I would love to see you there.

2. I also have a story in this anthology, and though I don’t know a lot of people with $100 to throw around, if you are and this looks like fun, here you go.

3. I have a big non-fiction thing in the works. I just found out last night that my pitch was accepted and it’s due next Wednesday. I am really excited and also kind of want to throw up. But woo!

I’m the Man

I always have such mixed feelings about going back to Illinois. The Butcher was telling me about how he was poking fun at a girl from Gallatin recently for her claims that she’s a country girl. And then he had a list of things that make a girl a country girl and I scoffed at his list because, by his standards, I was a country girl. And he said, “Yeah, you are a country girl.”

I don’t feel like a country girl. But I kind of blame that on “Nashville.” I remember standing around this guy’s shed while he worked on his car and he probably had a Confederate flag with Bocephus’s face on it. I know he played Junior’s music loudly. And I remember listening to “Country Boy Can Survive” and feeling like it was saying something about me, about my people, even if they were my people only uneasily. But moving here, I’ve learned the hard way that the flag was right–“country” and “Southern” are the same thing to people like Hank Jr. So, all that music I thought was for me, because I did want to spit some chew in that dude’s eye, really wasn’t. I wasn’t, as it turns out, from the right “country.” I still like country music, of course, but I never don’t feel like an interloper now.

Back before that, when I was in junior high, my friend C., lived near a kid who was a year older than us, who had an older brother who was in high school. I am positive we were in junior high, though we may have been freshmen. The guys lived with their dad, who I guess was an asshole, but I never remember him being around.

This one time, we went down there and they were listening to Anthrax, the “I’m the Man” EP. The boys were smoking cigarettes and drinking their dads’ beer. I don’t think they have this genre of kid now, but they were kind of gangly and underfed looking, with longish hair that might have looked “surfer-dude”-ish in other circumstances, but at that time just meant that they wanted to head-bang but too long hair would have caused them trouble with their dad. They always wore black t-shirts and jeans–almost always Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth, or Slayer. Sometimes Dio.

Guys like this were often my friends, often my secret, unrequited crushes. They seemed to have this way of slouching through life that suggested that, even if everyone else was willing to act like everything was okay, they knew it sucked and they wouldn’t pretend otherwise, which made me feel less alone and crazy. Other than C., I don’t think I knew a girl who was willing to say that we were living in a hellhole and, mild as it may be, it wasn’t a place a girl ought to live. I missed her when she left. Her mom begged me to make her to come back, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it (if I could have done it).

Anyway, there we were, all sitting around listening to the same song over and over. They offered us beer. I declined. I can’t remember if C. did or not. They offered us cigarettes. We said yes. I think C. had smoked before. I hadn’t. The older brother sat right next to me and helped me light it. He smelled like stale beer, but pleasantly, and smoke, obviously. And, more than anything, I wanted him to kiss me. But his hair hanged in his face and I couldn’t read his expression.

The Drawback to this Weather

The Butcher’s been sick. I’m feeling a kind of grogginess that makes me wonder if I’m getting sick.

I miss walking in the mornings so much. But who knows how long it will be again until the backyard isn’t utter mush. I wonder if the neighbors would mind/notice if I put in a paved walking path back there?