Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Note To Self: This is Not A Tragedy

If I could ask one single thing, if I could have one wish out of life, I think it would really be that my story is not a tragic one. That it was not something you heard and go "well, how horribly sad." 

It doesn't mean things have to go right all the time.

But, pff, wouldn't that be nice...

But just that it winds up an uplifting story, that would be enough. 

A lot of the pulmonary hypertension stories I get to see about women who are my age are literally testimonies of bravery. And in most of them, I see them surrounded by family. They darn well should be, and everyone deserves to be, but particularly in that situation. 

I don't have the primary PH form they initially thought, just a lesser crud that should improve with access to a breathing machine overnight, as it has a relationship with sleep apnea. It's not a good thing to have, and I've lost some lung power and gained some crossed heart wires, but all in all, it's a walk in the park, especially in comparison. 

I'm grateful for that. Very grateful. That turned a monster who was about to eat my life alive into some kind of poisonous snake I have to just go out of my way not to step on. It's a totally different situation. A far easier one than the people whose stories have inspired me, and the PH community who helped me and answered my questions with a new diagnosis.

And yet, I'm still admittedly kind of jealous of the people whose parents hug them before surgeries. 

Of the people who have parents who celebrate their accomplishments. 

Of the people who know in their life adventures that a safety net exists. 

For those of us who had an addicted parent, an abusive one, a mentally ill one, or the winning combo of all three, it's this weird reminder to be sick and to have all of those people who were supposed to love us just be absent or actively abusive (or absent because their default is actively abusive). 

It still hurts. You'll really have a lot of moments of wondering why you weren't good enough. 

I won't ever forget the kindness people who weren't obligated by familial ties showed me or my family. 

The friend who tried to show up at my house to be with my children before what was supposed to be a 5AM surgery, the one who celebrated with me when the more dangerous diagnosis was officially kicked in the butt. 

But it's a not a switch that gets flipped, it's more of a journey, the coming to terms with the loss of something you didn't really have. Being that sick made me really frightened that my husband and children wouldn't have everything they needed when I got worse or passed away because neither he or I grew up in functional homes (which might explain why we were so close in college when we met-there was attraction, shared interests and views, but there was also the fact that both of us were survivors in different ways). 

The people who showed up, who loved us by choice, did help that. They may never know how much they helped, even if I told them every day. 

But I sometimes have moments where I look back on my family history and think, well, how horribly sad. 

But their stories won't change as long as they don't.

Mine, though, is still evolving.
And, hopefully, it will be one that people can hear and think that it's motivating, positive in one way or another. That would be enough. 

I've recently tried to reframe the "why did this happen to me" with the "what led me here, and what can I do with that?" Days where your heart feels a little punched in the face, it does help. 

Stoicism also helps, and reading daily meditations about that helps to shake off the residual funk. (People get a little put off when you mention Stoicism, but just trust me- it's not the weird, cold, unfeeling thing modern culture kind of painted it as; think of it as a way to deal and handle the bad stuff that happens, not one that will make you impenetrable to it).

There is also a great website here about modern stoicism, and the author of the blog also has a book about just that subject if you feel like this philosophy has anything to offer you. 

I have to keep in mind that some days are just going to hurt a little bit and that's fine. I have to keep in mind that I'm trying to be all the things that weren't in my young life to my children. I have to keep in mind that it's possible to keep moving on, and this is not going to be a tragedy. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Review of "Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered" by Austin Kleon

That guy who wrote about stealing ideas like an artist has another book about connecting with people through what you do. "Show Your Work" by Austin Kleon is a short and easy book to get through, and I kind of think of it like a sticky note all of us probably need to go back and read even if this stuff sounds like common sense. 

And most of it probably is common sense coupled with some modern tips. 

That said, some pages gave me a lot to think about. To connect with people requires both that you showcase (honestly) your stuff and then go out and support other people. That second part often trips me up. I'm just as shy in the digital world, I promise. 

And sometimes life with a family is so busy that I can't even get my work done, let alone uploaded and then start working to support other people. That just has more to do with the particular season of my life as a mother of small kids with an illness than it does with anything else, but it's a hurdle I have to be aware of if I intend to make it over it. 

And that's what this little book is about, just awareness of what you need to do to make a name for yourself. 

This book isn't just for artists or writers or photographers. I'm looking into getting a copy for a friend of mine who runs her own business because this advice applies to anyone who needs to be conscious of getting client attention or noticed for their work. 

Show your stuff. Show what you do that you love, show the intricate details from behind the scenes, show other people's stuff who need support (WITH APPROPRIATE CREDIT) and show your story. And use books like this as sticky notes to remind you about doing that. 

This is worth a read for literally anyone trying to make a living doing what they are passionate about. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Some Serious Praise for Channel Zero

I hadn't heard a word from anyone about  SyFy's Channel Zero when it aired, and had I not come across a review of it recently, would not have known it existed. 

That kind of embarrasses me, because while being as much of a tech introvert as I am a daily life introvert kind of interrupts keeping a pulse on horror news, I feel like I should have known about this to cheer it on from day one. 

But I'm glad I found it, so there is that. 

If you're searching around for things to watch after binge-watching Stranger Things 2, and you don't mind things getting weirder and insanely darker, you will probably find Channel Zero a really great fit. 

The acting struck me as wonderful. The first season centers around child psychologist, and he's portrayed just as soft-spoken and evened-out as you would expect him to be even in the deadly situations he keeps finding himself in. The second season starts out in a typical teen horror movie theme and runs it right the hell out of there on wheels of fire with interesting portraits of who the teenagers are as friends and people. All this is set against scary backdrops, creatures, and goings on that never ring as trite and are sometimes eerily poetic. It has good reviews, but I get the feeling this series is underrated for everything it accomplishes. The story lines are based on some of the best Creepypastas. 

Watching them as a fan of the genre, you can't help but think that this is the kind of beauty possible only in dark storytelling. And that is amazing.  

There are two full seasons as of right now, and should be a third in 2018. You can find "Candle Cove" of season 1 and "No-End House" of season 2 on Amazon Prime currently if you feel this calling to you. 

A Review of "Fliers" by Nathaniel Russel

You know what the best part of walking around modern art museums is? Those moments where you find something both deep and downright damn hilarious. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it is the best. 

Art can and is supposed to do a lot of things. The part of it that can crack you up is special, even more so in this day and age.

That's what this book is, that is all this book is. 

A series of posters that feel for all the world like part of a visual art museum. A hilarious part. My husband and I loved it, and our older kids begged to take some of the posters for themselves. Needless to say, this is a good gift idea. And my copy (no, I didn't let the kids take any pages out) is going to a friend with a lovely and strange sense of humor. 

If you need a break from the world, smiles at the absurd, or just some clever stuff to hang around your house, then "Fliers" is perfect. 

**I received this book from Blogging For Books for this review**

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Snowy Day

Or evening, actually. 

Snow didn't hit until pretty late and, knowing it would melt before noon, I and many parents around Houston woke our kids up early to play in the snow before school. My son's teachers were able to take their students outside before the big melt, but my oldest would have missed it save for the beautiful, cold drive to her class. Our youngest had never, ever seen snow. None of them could believe waking up to everything wrapped up in a sparkling white blanket. 

The last few years it snowed, 2008 and 2009, were when my middle child was born and around his 1st birthday (we recently celebrated his 9th with a Christmas themed-outing). He was extra excited it came back around after all these years without it. 

We're snow-spazzes around here, but most of our winter holidays are spent with us gazing longingly at portraits of traditional winter places and wishing we had a few days of that here (not all the time, as we do enjoy shoveling all that sunshine out of our driveways, but as a seasonal beauty-snow is amazing). 

It was a strange thing seeing layers of snow on our palm tree-lined streets, but we're so grateful. 

And on a surprise snowy day, there isn't a better book than Jack Ezra Keats "The Snowy Day". Like snow, it just feels like magic. 

We also watched Amazon Prime's animated adaption of it, which is just beautiful, and a sweet Christmas show to make a family tradition. (We all watched it last year, too, but it was followed by the kids asking if it will ever snow here. This year, it was definitely something special). 

2017 has been one for the memory books. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

"The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger" or How I Found A Stephen King Book I Liked.

I'm not a huge Stephen King fan. There, I said it. 

I know, it's weird to be involved in the horror genre and not worship him. 

And while I didn't like many of his books, it doesn't change the fact that he did so much for writing and horror that he deserves his rightful place as a master of both. And his life story is, like most of the masters of anything, uplifting for a lot of us. 

My dad talks about reading IT in nearly one sitting. If you knew my dad and how little he reads horror books, you'd know that was really something. 

For some reason, with any of the stories I tried, I felt that the characters weren't what I personally needed or liked. They weren't sympathetic for me. 

It doesn't mean there was anything wrong with them, but I've noticed something; having the privilege of being friends with some other horror writers- we all have this favorite bubble of brand of scary. Mine is more mythic. A place where terrible, horrible things happen but there are heroes, real heroes, as reminders that things must somehow be set right again. 

My husband rented The Dark Tower film for me, and while the movie does fall short of what it should stand as, the ideas of it were intriguing. And, I thought, hey, this right here sounds like a mythic horror. That's my home. I need to give that a try. So I hunted down the first book in the series, The Gunslinger. 

I had the chance to read it on my second overnight hospital stay for sleep observation with a face-hugger oxygen mask strapped to my head. I finished it in that evening. Not as impressive as my dad's binge-read, but seeing as how I wasn't sure anything King wrote was ever going to speak to me, this was nice. 

Roland is a more fallible kind of anti-hero than some of my favorites (like D) but still a mythic archetypal hero. The bad guy, the man in black, fits in that theme, too. But, around that skeleton, there are so many fleshed out characters and stories and creatures and scenery that I found myself really enjoying the novel. 

The language in it is beautiful. Even the gory parts of it. Or especially the gory parts, which will stick in your head long after you don't want them there anymore (like brains and blood shooting out like streamers...). It was a comfortable and imaginative read on a long night for me. 

So, yeah, I guess I'm kind of a King fan now. I'll definitely be looking at getting the other books in the Dark Tower series.

If you haven't seen the movie and have heard bad things about it, watch it anyway. If nothing else, Elba and McConaughey carry it really well and their scenes together are worth seeing. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

My Journey with Sleep Apnea Related Pulmonary Hypertension

I've always been a medical weirdo. 

Allergic to my own body, always heavy,  sinus tachycardia, with a left kidney that forgot it was a kidney, I was still relatively okay or could pretend that I was. 

But nearly four years ago, my heart jumpstarted itself to over 200bpm. 

I was heavily pregnant with my rainbow baby and alone in my house with just my preschool-aged son. 

I can still vividly remember that feeling-that I was going to lose this child, too, that I was going to die in the house and leave my preschooler without a way to get help, that this. was. it. 

I grabbed my son, I grabbed the phone, and I ran outside to my neighbor while I called for help. Having had more episodes like that and knowing how debilitating they can be, I look back on that like a real act of strength and determination, but it wasn't enough. 

My body continued to deteriorate throughout pregnancy, and I stopped breathing during labor and so did my baby, who was born at 35 weeks with only a nurse attending the lightning-fast delivery, and the cord was around my newborn's neck. She was born sick and with torticollis and severe reflux and needed all the help we could get her; including a physical therapist and occupational therapist. And my body was on a slow descent, too. 

I kept trying to ignore it. That had worked with my other medical problems which eventually seemed to take care of themselves. 

I went back to university while taking care of my family and new, sick baby. And on the weekend I had finally graduated, had the biggest tachycardia episode since my dangerous pregnancy. 

A beta blocker for irregular rhythm helped and I thought that was all I needed, but the episodes kept coming and my cardiologist just shrugged it off. I switched MDs after my friend told me about a local cardiologist that specialized in arrhythmias and after rounds of testing that I needed, we found it.

High lung pressure. 

When I heard that it wasn't my heart, I thought that was great news. "No, actually, this is very bad," My doctor said, his normally smiling face was somber. I'd never even heard of pulmonary hypertension. I didn't know it was a thing, or that it had a relationship to the tachycardia episodes I'd been plagued with. 

We hoped it was sleep-related, and the signs seemed to fit. Sleep apnea-related pulmonary hypertension is the easiest form to deal with, but my test came back negative.

My local care providers wanted to do a heart catheter to measure the pressure in my lungs seen on echocardiograms, but after a failed attempt at surgery, I transferred to my PH center of excellence in my city.

It was harder to get to, required my dad's and my husband's help to even get to appointments, and took forever thanks to the devastating flood, but there I was told that this was not the worst, angriest, form of PH they thought it was. It had to be sleep-related, having ruled out blood-clot related forms. And the damage was mild to my lungs.  

The alarm never went off for my lack of breathing during my next test, but it did record what happened.

A type of sleep breathing disorder was found in my second overnight sleep apnea test. 

I can't even describe how thankful I am about that, which sounds stupid but finally knowing that we have a definitive diagnosis that is treatable is a victory beyond belief for me. 

I've gone from being told I would be dead in 1.8 years to having a chance to live without being overly plagued by episodes in which my heart cannot beat correctly and I can not breathe. It's still a little scary. This has been going on for a long, long time. I wonder what it has taken from me and what I will get back with the right treatment. With SVT I guess I won't be off of my beta blocker anytime in the near future, but I have heard people say treating this helps everything, so maybe at least it will improve.

The CPAP machine won't be enough, as diet and exercise play a role, too. I can't wait to be able to actually move around more, I do okay right now but there is a huge difference in what I can do versus who I was athletically before this started. 

This is the finish line in a long, hard race in which I was only one step ahead of a monster. 

I can't wait for it to be over with and to start a new chapter. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Review of "The Fringe Hours" by Jessica N. Turner

As a busy mother, you've probably done that thing-that thing where when you have five minutes to yourself and you wonder what the hell you could possibly do in only a few minutes other than mindlessly scrolling social media.

Well, don't do that. 

In addition to the fact that science says that makes us feel unhappy, if you use it for something for yourself, you will feel better. This book deals with just that subject; carving out time for you. 

I needed this book. I think a great number of women might need it, too. The truth is that we have to take care of ourselves. Nobody is going to swoop down from the sky and make that easier, it has to be a decision. We sort of know that, it just feels impossible. Things pile up and we are the fire fueling the working machines of the people we care about. 

And maybe all you can get throughout the day are just a few minutes here, maybe an hour there (That's true for me right now). This book talks about the ways in which you can use that to improve your mental and physical and emotional well-being, sometimes just by sitting in the quiet.

Your time matters because you matter. 

And if you're struggling with that right now, just give this a glance to see if it might help. 

The chapters are concise, easy to get through, ending with questions you need to ask yourself about your priorities and your own life. 

It includes only one chapter about how financial obstacles and other mighty will-power smashing things make all of this stuff harder, and that's a shame, but at least it talks about it. There's probably a whole book just in that subject that someone needs to tackle, but it's mentioned. It's also religious and very Christian. If that's not your thing or not your faith, you can still easily use everything else in this book or substitute what you need to to make this make sense for you. 

I highly recommend "The Fringe Hours". 

***If you're looking for something new to read, go check out my story "We Fly With The Red Feather" in the November issue of Double The Books magazine right here-because everyone loves uplifting tales about demonic man-eating spiders...

Monday, November 27, 2017

Spend The Rest of November With These Books...

November is National Native American Heritage Month, and that's an important thing to remember and talk about in the season of turkey-eating, harvest festivals, and Christmas shopping. These are my current two favorite books on the subject.

The first is "In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse" by Joseph Marshall III. We are reading this aloud with my middle son, and while it's great enough for an adult, this is just the right amount of action and complexity for my nearly-nine-year-old to love it. It chronicles a young Lakota boy named Jimmy learning of Tasunke Witko, or Crazy Horse, and in delving into the heroic story he learns more about who he is. That's a pretty great lesson. This is an easy but very moving read. Perfect to end November on or a great gift idea for the coming month, especially for kiddos learning about Native heritage.

The second book is just for adults. Not just adults, but historically-oriented adults.

 "The Apache Wars" by Paul Andrew Hutton reads a little bit like a textbook in the early chapters before things get going, but once they do, it's a detailed and human account of Native tribes and the war for the West. Some of it, of course, is bloody and heartbreaking, though mostly told in a matter-of-fact voice, so this is solely adult territory for reading. But the attention paid to every event makes this perfect for anyone fascinated by the history of our country. I learned things never talked about in any college history course, and the old photography pages are a great touch. This is a well-written, wonderfully put-together book. 

*I received this book from Blogging For Books for this review*

Enjoy the rest of Autumn,  because Winter and twinkling lights and biting cold are fast approaching- even for us in Texas.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Sugar Skulls and Dead Ends

It's I guess somewhat known that being sick triggers tachycardia episodes. It wasn't a surprise when I was awoken at 4AM, barely lucid enough to grab my husband's hand for help, with my heart moving so fast I thought it would just explode. 

This is how it goes. 

I have days now where I forget what I'm dealing with. But the days where I'm sick feel like I can't handle anything.

I spent the night right after Halloween in sleep observation, and apparently for naught since no sleep apnea was detected again. Our festivities were a minimum of dressing up, watching seasonal movies, and trick-or-treating. Which felt simultaneously good and depressing. Overscheduling is never a good idea for young kids and those who care for them, but at the same time, this is our favorite holiday. 

I didn't get to do a lot of handmade stuff. I probably wouldn't have even had a functional bat costume for my toddler without my best friend rescuing some pieces for us. 

All I can think is next year will be better. 

But with this still going on, and what feels like only half-inch progress toward a real answer for what is going on with my health, I wonder if next year will be better.

On the other hand, I was once told there would not be "next year", so that's something. Hope counts for a lot. It even allows you at times to catch your breath.

I had a small episode before taking everyone to decorate sugar skulls, something we try to do each Day of the Dead holiday. I medicated myself, watched the timing on how long it took to come down from the high heart rate and transient blood pressure, and went right the hell out anyway. And we had a great time. I've talked before, pretty early on this blog, about stealing those happy moments when dealing with chronic illness.

It's what makes the bad days get-through-able. 

It's what gives you pieces of your life back once it gets shattered by this stuff, and believe me, it does. 

All that said, I'm hoping to recover from the respiratory virus quickly and enjoy another one of my favorite months-it's pow- wow time, it's bake-all-the-great-things time, it's leaf-collection time. And shopping for Christmas time. Those are all great things to look forward to.

And yeah, I'm attempting National Novel Writing Month. I do every year. I have no idea how it will go, but I won't stop trying. We may even be able to schedule a write-in locally this year...

Happy November. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The New Diagnosis, New Treatment Plan, New Life.

Going to a pulmonary hypertension center of excellence saved me from unnecessary surgery, and from a diagnosis that is incredibly serious. 

I can't say enough that if you are struggling with an illness that might be rare, or feel just like you aren't getting the care you need, your best bet is heading to a specialty center. 

After redoing my testing, the damage they were seeing in my lungs on my other scans appears to be minimal. More like what would be seen with obstructive sleep apnea. My first test for that was negative, but that will be redone as well. And a breathing machine at night may actually help with the episodes of SVT. (It also might not make a huge difference, but I'm hoping it will). 

If once again it's seen that I have no sleep apnea, the next thing to focus on would be pheochromocytomas, or "pheos". There was only one positive marker for that in the bloodwork and it's similar to what you'd see in patients with a sensitivity to that stuff anyway-so it's not a diagnosis, but just a direction to look toward if needed because the attacks are pretty similar in nature. 

Those are really rare, and surgery for that would be hard for me, so all money goes down on the restructuring of my heart and breathing issues being sleep apnea related for the time being. And I'm, for the first time in months and months, looking forward to GETTING. BETTER. It will take both the treatment and lifestyle changes, but it can get better. 

That was something I was told over and over again wasn't happening. I think I wore the terminal diagnosis sticker the best I could, but the best I could deal with it was probably not healthy. I swallowed a lot of the sadness. I feel like I tore certain pages out of the book of me. Changes were made during the facing of this ordeal to who I am. A lot of them are probably for the better. Some of them feel like scars. 

 I met a lot of wonderful people who are dealing with that specific illness, and their bravery is almost indescribable. 

With the right diagnostic tools and specialists, I found out I was lucky enough not to be that sick. And that's all it fucking is. Dumb luck. Emphasis on that first word. It could be any one of us. And we need to have more conversations about things like that; about the compassion needed, the research, the funding, the understanding surrounding these kinds of battles. 

That we live in a world where diseases like Pulmonary Atrial Hypertension still exist bothers me in so many ways. And I can't think of any damn thing to do now that I am clear of that diagnosis for the people still living with it except donating for funding research, and raising awareness of the condition and the need for fast and proper testing if you are suspected to have any kind of PH-related illness. 

A few months ago I was told I needed to get ready to be really sick, and then die. I was told there was no way I'd see my children grow into gangly teenagers and beautiful adults. I was told this was probably it. 

And it's not. 

And everything feels different. This is a different me. A different story. A different ending than I expected. 

Nothing is promised to any of us. 

But this is hope. 

Credit to the photographer for the background for the sketch:

                                                                                Joel Filipe

Thursday, October 19, 2017

How to Put Together An All Hallow's Read Treat Bag

Step 1. Place Halloween book in the bag. 

And done

Pat yourself on the back for celebrating literacy and a really fun holiday and sharing that with someone you love. 

Not kidding. It's that easy. 

Unless you're like me most years and are going the "put your candy in an old grocery bag because I forgot to buy you a trick-or-treating pail" route, you probably are going to be purchasing something cute to put Halloween candy in for your kids. 

Put a Fall or Halloween themed book in the cute bag before you hand it over. It doesn't have to be a scary book, but it can be if the person you are putting it together for loves that sort of thing. 

That's it. Literally, there is nothing else required to celebrate All Hallow's Read. 

I generally try to pack it with one piece of specialty candy (like bubble gum tape) and a cheap toy or word search game as an extra surprise, because who doesn't like those things? 

Remember that this doesn't have to be elaborate. Especially if you are on a budget. 

The most expensive item on the list is the book, and maybe you can't afford to buy a new one of those (kids books especially can run you twenty bucks plus pretty easily). Some Dollar stores carry books, and sometimes they gear those toward holidays like Halloween, so it's worth checking those out. Thrift stores often carry books, too, but I don't have a lot of luck finding relevant titles-though I'm sure if you had time to pick through a pretty large selection you could get something. 

Some years I just use library books. Which will cost you nothing. 

Having someone check out a book for you that they think you will love is still a wonderful surprise, I promise the kids won't care (we usually donate our new books once we read them anyway unless it's a reference title or something really loved- my kids don't reread books and I sure as hell don't, so sometimes loaned books make far more sense). 

For adults, you can do the same thing, or even purchase e-books (which are generally cheaper) for All Hallow's Read. 

All that matters is that you keep the person's taste in mind. Don't buy your best friend who is scared of the Walmart Halloween aisle a gory novel. That's being a jerk. 

You could go the seasonal route and look for something autumn-themed or maybe even ask if a cozy murder mystery would work. 

The important thing is to give books and stories you know the person would enjoy. Don't forget that writing a story for someone works, too. 

So, what's going into our All Hallow's Read bags this year?...

We picked the second book in the "Last Kids on Earth" series for my oldest.

This is great for higher level elementary kids and maybe even some middle-schoolers. I enjoy these books myself, actually. With not-too-scary situations that still require its main cast of kids to be brave and witty, this is one of my favorite series for this age group right now. 

For my middle child, who isn't a huge scary thing fan (except for Bendy and the Ink machine) we picked "Pumpkin Town". 

It's humorous, the illustrations are awesome, and it's not too short or too long-a common problem for picking books at his age. 

And, for our toddler, "I am Bat". It's modern, it has a message about sharing, and since she's going to be a bat this Halloween, it just works out. 

For all the kids to share and because it's a fun read aloud, we also have "Grimericks". It's not overly creepy, but it's still very much in the spirit of the season, with darkly magickal illustrations and limericks. 

Enjoy your Halloween with your favorite people, eat wonderful food, and share some great reads. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Downtime with Z Nation.

I'm working on two new covers. Two new covers and a re-edit and a new short story. I'm working on two new covers and a re-edit and a short story and trying to keep up with the life that happens with two middle-schoolers and a toddler and more medical appointments than I can even focus on at any given moment...and I did that thing where I run myself into the ground. 

When that happens I get some signals from my body that I'm in trouble. 

I was awakened by my heart running a marathon in the middle of the night, and while the episodes of tachycardia were short (probably thanks to my meds) they were also insistent. I spent the majority of the night fighting it and trying to keep track of the time so that, if one of them exceeded the 15-minute window, I could call for help. None of them did. 

I required a lot of help to get through the next day, and I'm still recovering today, too. The attacks used to be brief and over but now often drain my energy and body for longer periods of time. 

As much as I'd like to feel accomplished and have everything done, I have to realize it's not always possible and probably not a great idea. 

It's one of those things that REALLY sucks about indie publishing-you are responsible for everything. It's a great way to learn about the industry from the ground up, but there is a learning curve and it's a lot of juggling. 

And sometimes juggling is about knowing when you're going to drop fucking everything and stopping before that happens.

So today is a minimal responsibility day-there are always things to take care of, but my quiet time won't be filled with working today. 

It will be filled with popcorn and pizza rolls on the couch. And finishing my book. And watching "Z Nation" with my husband. 

We missed this show when it aired starting a few years back (yeah, I know. But we had a new baby, The Strain was on, life was busy) but now I'm sad we didn't tune in.

It's horror, it's definitely a zombie series, but it has a sense of humor while still maintaining some aspects of right-and-wrong that make horror compelling. 

If realism in zombie stories bothers you, skip it, because they crack open fresh walking dead heads with everything from egg beaters to golf clubs. 

But what they do have are memorable and likable, if goofy, characters and an interesting storyline. It's a great show to take a break with, especially in October. 

Also, "A Tribe Called Red" made some music for this show for an episode (I haven't gotten to those yet, but it looks and sounds great). I have to watch anything they had a hand in because they are amazing, and you can check out their stuff here . 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

All Hallow's Read: "Oniate"



Tanner and Addison stood by the buffet, reaching down every few minutes to help clear away plates and food, but mostly they were just talking, talking with that half-smile on their faces that meant gossip. That wore that half-smile all the time. Tanner was somewhere near blonde, Addison had browner tones with blonde highlights and hair that changed lengths so often that it had to be clipped in somewhere, but both women had the same weirdly doe-like brown eyes. So alike were the color and shape that they could be related. Though, they weren’t.
            Hartly stood apart from them, putting rolls and lunch meat into a plastic-topped bin. They couldn’t convince anyone else to take leftovers from the buffet so this would go into the fridge in the back for the workers. Hartly’s phone buzzed, she checked it but knew who it was.
            A text message checking in on her. It was her friend, Virginia.
So, you are….?
            Surviving. Packing everything up and should be back home in an hour, Hartly texted.
            Survive faster. Virginia texted back.
            The funeral had been horrible, awkward and draining. A mass event for Shadelynn Max, the young woman from the office. She was two years younger than everyone else and cover-of-a-magazine beautiful. And smart. All of those things made her hated.
The entire thing just reminded Hartly that, when she died, only those closest would be allowed to remember her this way. The obscenity of those who didn’t care, or who hated Shadelynn, crawling all over the place was enough to make Hartly feel ill. Tanner and Addison, who really only seemed to like each other, still attended and even attempted to run every event dealing with personnel.
It was a strange phenomenon.
Hartly finished shoving the trays of food and one lopsided coconut cake into the fridge. She turned to find both of them waiting for her, blocking the tiny prep kitchen’s only entrance.
“Thanks so much for staying to help,” Tanner said. “You sure you don’t need to take any of the food home?”
“Yeah, I mean you don’t have to leave it if you can use it,” Addison said, “Not that you’d want to eat any of this stuff. Shame about the lousy catering, but if I were her husband, I wouldn’t have even spent the cash for soggy ass sandwiches from that dump.”
“Right,” Tanner said. “This whole thing, it’s just weird. Killed on the wrong side of town probably visiting her little side action boyfriend.”
“That’s how it goes, so sad,” Addison said. “Were you friends?” Addison flipped her hair over her shoulder, but one of the clip-on pieces stuck weirdly out to the side. Tanner eventually smoothed it back.
“Yeah,” Hartly said, “She was nice to everyone.”
“Aww, I bet this is hard,” Addison opened her arms for a hug.
“I’m sorry, I’d hug you, but I’m not feeling well. Probably coming down with something,” Hartly said. It was the truth. Her head was killing her, and her body was sore like it was awaiting a fever. She couldn’t wait to get home. To get distance from the oddly pastoral funeral home and everything in it.
“Oh, I imagine. Living downtown like that, in that cramped space with all that dust and dirt nearby. My allergies would murder me,” Tanner said.
            There was a loud sound, a kind of bashing noise that made all three of them jump.
            Then silence.
            Then another bash.
            “Where is it coming from? That’s creepy,” Tanner said. Looking around wildly with those eyes, she’d never looked more like a deer.
            “Someone fell, or something fell over I bet,” Hartly said.
            “Seriously? There’s nobody else here right now. What the hell could make that noise,” Addison’s voice changed to something darker and more dramatic.
            Another loud noise, a scraping sound.
            It was coming from the reception hall.
            Hartly moved to open the door. Addison pushed her back.
            “What are you doing? We don’t know what’s out there, let’s just go,” Addison said. She and Tanner were already moving toward the exit.
            Hartly hesitated. The noises were scary, but this was real life. Real life in a funeral home, maybe, but real life. Someone could be hurt and need help. She twisted open the door.
There was nothing behind it, an empty space of off-white and pastel pink wallpaper.
“Hello?” Hartly said, not really loud enough to be a yell. It was still too scary to yell.
She leaned out of the doorway, long black hair swishing forward ahead of her.
            There was a dark spot on the floor. No, not a dark spot. Something far more impossible.
An arm. Gray like old burnt charcoal, but definitely a human arm. It whipped around violently, bashing against the hallway wall.
Hartly ran, disoriented and dizzy, she ran out of the reception room and accidentally back into the chapel. There was nobody, nobody left to help, nobody to tell, not even a body for the arm to belong to.
The sound of what had to be the reception hall door. Could that thing open doors?
Hartly ran through the giant wooden entrance doors, doors she could remember going to an exit.
There were Tanner And Addison, just opening the double glass doors to get the hell out.
Hartly crashed into both of them but never lost her balance because she was larger and could not afford to. “Run! Just run!”
They argued with each other about how stupid either this was or that Hartly was, but thankfully understood they were in danger and ran.
“My car is right here,” Tanner said, and she swiftly unlocked her door with the remote on her keys, hopping in.
Hartly stood there for a second, she couldn’t decide whether a vehicle was better or running was safer, but Addison was already climbing into the car. “Get the fuck in here and tell me what’s going on,” She screamed. Hartly did, but as she pulled herself into the backseat of the Suburban, something crashed against her door, closing it for her, and nearly on her.
            Against the window’s tinted glass, the gray ashy palm pressed against it so fiercely that the grass began to crack. “Drive! Go,” Hartly screamed.
            “It’s just a hand, it’s a fucking hand,” Addison said. “What the fuck is this shit?”
Tanner was crying instead of screaming and drove the three of them over a curb, they bounced onto the dirt backroads of the funeral home and floored it. Hartly hoped the noise and the speed would get someone’s attention, anyone’s attention.
But this place was in the heart of the rural area.
And nobody seemed to be around. They passed a restaurant and gas station, but it looked closed, and they couldn’t risk stopping there, even though none of the women could see the severed arm anymore.
“What was that?” Tanner asked.
“It’s just…an arm, just a hand. It was moving, thrashing around in the hallway.” Hartly said. “It flew after me. I mean I think it flew, it had to. It could open the doors.”
“Flew after you? So it wants you? Why the fuck are you in the car with us?” Addison said.
“Stop it, it started when we were all there. Hartly was probably just the slowest.” Tanner said, wiping her eyes, and staring into the rearview mirror.
“It went after her door, too.” Addison reminded her. “Probably some bullshit magic curse, whatever the fuck she’s into. And now it’s following us because it’s following her.”
Hartly realized being in the car with these two might be just as dangerous as facing the hand.
“Look out!” Hartly shouted. Neither of the two seemed to see it or register if they did, but the thing was flying right toward the front windshield.
It crashed through, Hartly saw it press against Tanner. It went right through her. A gush of blood and the meatier pieces that make up a person flew everywhere, blocking out the afternoon sun that had been cascading from the windows. Addison, who’d been in the passenger seat, was trying to grab the wheel.
She must have succeeded because they were turning. Or spinning. And the Suburban flipped. Hartly’s head felt like it would burst and kill her as well. Her vision was leaving. Hanging upside down by the seatbelt, but with no strength to unbuckle it, she still fumbled for it. Blood was stinging her eyes, Tanner’s blood.
Was the thing still in the car? Addison was getting out, running. Finally, the seatbelt button clicked, Hartly hit the top of the vehicle, her head made it hard to even breathe, but nothing else mattered except for getting out of the damn car. She heard the sloshing of Tanner’s insides, and the long fingers of the gray hand appeared, grasping the side of the black leather car seat, almost delicately.
Hartly rolled out of her partially open door and ran, nearly throwing up from the pain.
Addison was just in front of her. “No, it’s still alive in the car, we can’t outrun it!” Hartly yelled, she turned and made a dash to the restaurant and gas station they’d just passed.
            It felt like it took too long to get to, she half expected the thing to be right behind her but it didn’t happen.
The store and diner were as closed as they looked when driving by. Hartly took off her shirt and wrapped it around her hand and arm to break the glass and unlock the front door. Addison surprised her, nearly making her heart stop, but together they pushed through the county store and ran to the bathrooms.
Closing the door behind them and sitting against it, they tried to silence their breathing. Hartly wondered if it could actually hear. It had to be tracking them somehow.
            “You know what? I’m sorry.” Addison whispered. Hartly just nodded. They were both covered in blood, but Addison looked cut and bleeding from her own body. Probably from the glass shattering in the front of the vehicle. Hartly realized she was just in her sports bra, a gothic affair that seemed grotesque under the circumstances-a cotton black bra that showed a painted on rib cage and a heart. Her shirt was still around her arm and she unwound it, shaking out the glass, and began to tear it into strips, holding the fabric to tear it as quietly as possible.
            Hartly pointed to the giant cut on Addison’s arm and wrapped it. She used on more on Addison’s right leg. She wondered what they must look like, Addison in her expensive floral dress and beat up, and herself in just a bra and skirt and blood. Both of them in dress shoes. Hartly wondered how she’d explain that a flying hand killed Tanner to the police. And then wondered if they would live to say anything to the police at all.
            Things like this probably happened all the time. And just the victims never lived through it to talk about it.
            The pain in her head gave Hartly no choice but to slump against the door. Thankfully it was dark, with a thin line of glass as a window that even a ghost hand probably couldn’t fit through.
And it was quiet. Finally quiet. Hartly’s breathing slowed. She closed her eyes.
            The pain was unbearable. Near her temples it felt like something was digging, cracking into her skull. She began to see things, flickers of light. And her last rational thought was that she must have a blood clot because speaking and moving were impossible now.
            There was an old man sitting by a small campfire, his glasses and bald head reflected the dancing light. He had dark skin and a soft smile, a smile like her own. It was her grandfather.
            Her long-dead grandfather.
            Hartly found herself sitting near the campfire, in a cheap lawn chair. A towel was around her. She’d been swimming in the lake. And this was the best part of her summers as a girl.
            She wanted to ask if she was dying, but her silence was unbreakable in the hallucination, too. Her grandfather smiled at her, that soft smile. “You know,” he said, “Unkind words do nothing for anyone. Someone has wronged you, been unkind, what can your words do? Nothing. The creator didn’t intend for us to use language as a careless weapon. And there are punishments for the people who use it that way. Make sure you stay on the other side of that.” He said.
            Hartly nodded, but it took everything out of her even for that little movement. And it rattled her already shaken brain, she put her hands on her temples. “Oniate,” her grandfather waved his hand in a ghostly motion, “Dry fingers. Look into the fire, watch the flames. I can only distract it for a short time. But, you must not run. The guilty run, so you must not. You must keep walking on the other side of it. Look into the fire, Hartly. Time to survive faster,” he said. Her grandfather reached beside him and took his trucker’s cap and placed it on her head. She couldn’t remember what golden logo had been embroidered his favorite hat. But her headache was gone.
            “Get up or I swear to God I’ll leave you here,” Addison said, shaking Hartley’s shoulders. The shaking hurt in the spots sore from the crash. But her head didn’t anymore. The sight of her grandfather and his fire were long gone, and it was just the quiet and darkly dingy rustic bathroom, and Addison, whose brown doe eyes were wide. “I’ve tried everything and everyone, I can’t get phone service. It doesn’t make any sense. The thing hit the goddamn window,” Addison said. “We probably need to go out the front before it decides to break in that way.”
            “Might already be too late,” Hartly whispered, but Addison was already peering out of the bathroom door, already starting to sneak into the country store aisle. “Listen, I had a vision-”
            “Your witchcraft shit probably brought this thing here. Not sure I give a fuck about your vision unless it told you how to kill a floating hand,” Addison said. They moved quietly to the front entrance. “We have to run when we open this, it’s nearby and this makes noise,” she whispered.
Hartly grabbed her shoulder. “No. I know what this is. It’s Dry Fingers. What they once called Oniate. It’s the vengeance for those wrongfully spoken against, especially the dead. It left us alone back there. Right after you apologized. Anything that can go through a car, through a person’s rib cage, is powerful, and it could have gotten us there. You’re only chance is to apologize.”
            “For fucking what? Are you insane? I’m not doing that. Because I didn’t do anything wrong. And if it’s me, why the hell is the thing chasing you, too?”
“I don’t know,” Hartly said, “I don’t know that. But why for once in your life don’t you try apologizing for hurting other people. This is a spirit of retribution. This is all it does. It might not work, but if it can…” Hartly let go of Addison. Either she’d listen or she wouldn’t. And there wasn’t anything else to do.
It was Hartly that pushed open the broken glass entrance door, and both women ran outside, kicking up dust. Hartly kicked off her shoes and Addison did the same. The sun was nearly setting now, just a sliver of pink gold in a cold twilight sky.
Hartly’s lungs hurt, she turned to see behind them. Dry Fingers was there, flying after them both. It was fast and it would catch and kill them. She tried to keep running into the evening sky, following the last light of a retiring sun. But Hartly was not a runner, not a good one. And she realized that this was pointless. The whole thing. If that creature wanted them dead, they would die. And better to die here and not risk anyone else. Better to be an obscure happening, a story not told anymore, than expose other people to a monster.
Suddenly Hartly just stopped. Didn’t fall, but stopped. “Addison,” she yelled. But Addison didn’t stop. Didn’t look back. And the arm pulled her highlighted hair, pulled her body backward onto the dirt road.
The gray, dead hand closed over Addison’s face, squeezing, Hartly head bones pop. And beside them was an unexplainable shadow cast by no light on the road. One Hartly knew well. It was her grandfather, talking to the thing, pleading with it. She knew those gestures the shadow was making. She stood for a minute, hoping his intercessions would save Addison, that the thing would let her go.
But blood was oozing out of her face. And she was making a wet noise as her breath came out, but there were no screams, and eventually, no noise.
Hartly turned and wiped the tears from her face and began walking down the road.
Every few seconds, Hartly turned around, expecting Dry Fingers to be at her back. But it was there still in the distance, tearing apart what had once been Addison. And eventually, that sight was gone. And even in the darkness, the hand never reached out for her.
When Hartly saw the lights, the headlights of cars on the highway, it was like walking into another dimension, like a bubble she’d been trapped in had suddenly burst. She was back. Back in reality. Her phone buzzed, then set off a noisy trance song, it was a call from her best friend. She answered and just began speaking before there were questions. She felt like she could barely find the energy to explain.
“Call the police for me,” Hartly said. “Tell them I’m just down the intersection of Tuckett, near the funeral home and two people have been murdered.”
“Hartly! Don’t hang up! Don’t! What happened?” Virginia’s voice sounded so sweet. She’d forgotten what it was like to hear that in someone’s voice, that caring. 

“I survived.” She said. 

       *** Check out the photographer for the background on Unsplash***