New Normal

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We need to let go
of this idea of normal
as something we’ve lost.
There is no normal.
It’s true monthly, yearly,
five years, a decade,
but easier to see if
you look back twenty years,
then another twenty years
then another twenty.
There is no normal.
There is your childhood,
and then there is now.
Sometimes, normal just changes
faster than usual
with a cruel snap
like whiplash,
but the disaster
is just as normal
as the calm before.
We always live in
unprecedented times.

“The Warmth of Many Skins”

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My winter gothic tale “The Warmth of Many Skins,” LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD x HUSH, is loose upon the world in the second volume of BLEAK MIDWINTER, SOLSTICE LIGHT, from Quill & Crow. It appears to be doing well in some early reviews. I’m blushing.

Resolute (5)

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I’ve been having trouble putting together this end-of-year list because of a deep sense of despair and hopelessness for this future, be it this year or five years from now. I recognize this as depression, partially situational and partially bad brain chemistry that I don’t treat with medication, just sort of learn to live with. As a result, I can build momentum without motivation, and I will proceed with plans made, but God, it’s hard to believe in myself.

2022 was the year that I finally gave up the ghost at the job I’ve been paying the bills with for eight years. My last day is next Friday, and even though it was my decision, I can’t help feeling like it’s a kind of failure that I couldn’t make it work. I suppose it’s like a bad marriage in a way. You know it’s best for everyone if you separate, but you invested all of this time that now feels like it yields nothing. And that’s where I’m mentally stuck right now, although I have general plans of pivoting industries and I have the privilege of a financial cushion.

I’ve tried to pivot before, and it didn’t go so well, so I’ve got that failure hanging over me to remind me that this may not work out. I have back-up options if that happens, but it’s still not the best personal encouragement for making such a big change.

Less depressing changes in my personal life include getting to watch my niece grow so much between turning one and turning two. She’s gone from being a baby to a little girl with opinions and personality, and being called Tía is strange and amazing.

I’ve also had a banner writing year because of a slew of poems and short stories sold, which is the kind of encouragement I needed and tells me that I’m doing something right. Between flat rates and royalties, I made over a thousand dollars, which is a milestone I’ve never reached before. Now, because of PUPPETEER professional edits, I spent significantly more, so I still haven’t made an actual profit, but getting paid pro rates on some poems and short stories is incredibly gratifying.

Because of quitting my job and having a block of unpaid months, I’m going to make it a point in 2023 to write and edit more with the aim of selling. I have a handful of longer works that need to be edited for submission, and I’m going to take my ‘sabbatical’ to do that as well as get some sleep (rest and rejuvenation).

This year didn’t produce any self-published novels because I had other deadlines to meet, but here are my stats for writing this year, not including the editing work done on those novels with an aim for self-publishing this year. Considering I never thought I could do short form or poetry well, I’m tremendously proud of my short-form writing accomplishments, if frustrated by how far behind I am on my novella/novel schedule. I also can’t thank Quill & Crow enough for seeing value and beauty in so many of my gothic and horror pieces in 2022.

– wrote at least one flash poem a day, including a 31-part long concept poem for December
– wrote 15 short stories, 1 novelette
– planned to finish a novel by the end of the year and start a new one, but dayjob required a lot of overtime and energy in December, so I’m almost finished but not quite
– published 3 poems and 6 short stories, with more to be announced and published in 2023

Poetry:

“Goddamned,” Crow Calls: Volume 4, Quill & Crow Publishing House, June 12, 2022
“The Chase,” Crow Calls: Volume 4, Quill & Crow Publishing House, June 12, 2022
“An Empyrean Con,” Bloodless, Sliced Up Press, October 28, 2022

Short Stories:

“Resin,” Beyond the Veil, Ghost Orchid Press, February 9, 2022
“A Still and Weathered Stone,” The Crow’s Quill, Quill & Crow Publishing House, June 2022 issue
“Tastes of Desperation,” Tales from Brackish Harbor, Quill & Crow Publishing House, August 13, 2022
“Lullaby,” The Crow’s Quill, Quill & Crow Publishing House, October 2022 issue
“Wandering Lights,” Halloween Horrors, Black Widow Press, October 13, 2022
“Ragged,” The Crow’s Quill, Quill & Crow Publishing House, November 2022 issue

It’s my plan for 2023 to continue submitting new and trunk work to short story and poetry submission calls, but I’m going to focus more on long form this year, including completing some of my contracted novel work and wrapping up stories already slated for self-publication (with editors already paid for editing work on most of them). But anything else as yet unassigned for self-publication, I’m going to either try to submit to good indie presses (novellas and shorter novels) or find representation (longer novels). I may still self-publish for creative control, but I might not be able to afford to do it for a while because I’m saving for an associate’s degree.

Among self-published works coming out this year, I have PUPPETEER (Thorns 4); OUT OF CURIOSITY AND HUNGER (formerly THE VERY HUNGRY), a short creature feature novel; and DEAD ENDS, a collection of morbid and macabre poetry, most previously published on social media (so I can’t sell most of them), but some have never been posted before.

I’m sick to my stomach from blowing up my life with no guarantees, because I’m not a gambler and I much prefer a sure thing, but I’m going to press on anyway, because that’s just what I have to do and have always done. And I’m going to get some rest, because that’s what I need.

Here’s hoping that writing continues to be fruitful and fulfilling and that 2023 ends up better than it feels right now.

the sea is boiling today

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The sea is boiling today
But that’s okay
We can clear the burning black
From the smoldering bay

The sea is boiling today
But that’s okay
Dead fish are swimming
Belly up to play

The sea is boiling today
But that’s okay
The coral’s gone white
The seaweed’s gone gray

The sea is boiling today
But that’s okay
It’ll only last an hour
Or at most a day

The sea is boiling today
But that’s okay
No need to point fingers
We can afford to delay

The sea is boiling today
But that’s okay
Sure it looks bad here
But not as bad as they

The sea is boiling today
But that’s okay
We promise it gets better
No need not to stay

The sea is boiling today
But that’s okay
We’ll keep our thoughts pure
On our knees to pray

The sea is boiling today
But that’s okay
By the time it’s all gone
We’ll all be away

Scarlet Eyes

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I made a casual resolution that I’d like to write a Dracula musical, just for my own enjoyment, because I like my collection of them. This lyric has been clattering around in my head for a while.

is this a dream?
or am I awake?
does the lord come
for my soul to take?

the twilight grows damp
my vision goes dim
the sunset downs dark
all I see is him

i try to awaken
but the whispers insist

the scarlet eyes
the scarlet eyes
the scarlet eyes in the mist

cool on my skin
hot to the touch
have i ever known love
to desire this much?

lights in the shadow
salt on my tongue
sin in my heart
yearning unsung

i try to remember
why i should resist

the scarlet eyes
the scarlet eyes
the scarlet eyes in the mist