So I missed my first Wednesday post, literally one day after promising to post them regularly for the month of NaNoWriMo, but I swear I have a terrific excuse. For a change, it wasn’t that I forgot. It’s that we were changing out our cable company yesterday, which turned into a job and a half thanks to the primeval wiring of this house, which in turn meant that, since we had bundled our TV stuff with our internet stuff with the last company, we had no internet for most of the evening. So don’t consider this an apology/make-up post, just consider it delayed.
I was planning to make these Wednesday posts tie in with my present work-in-progress as a nod to NaNoWriMo, so this first post was actually going to be about horror/survival video games in general and Five Nights at Freddy’s in particular, but I think that’ll also have to be delayed, as I’ve decided to lead off in a different direction instead. You see, I write a lot of posts about the things I write and how I write them and even occasionally why, but a few things have happened that make me think the time has come to write at least a little about the writer, and how the things that happen to me influence these make-believe things I write about.
If you followed that train of reasoning, award yourself fifty points now.
The time feels right, because this last month (that of October for those of you finding this blog at some indefinite point in the future), has been one big bag of suck for me. It has been a struggle not to let my personal life bleed too heavily into the book whilst simultaneously drawing on those emotions to make what my characters do, say and especially feel seem real to the reader. And I found myself thinking at odd moments what a balancing act that really is, particularly for someone as naturally introverted as I am. I’m a private person. I profoundly dislike talking about myself. This blog is like a damn millstone around my neck. For as much as I enjoy connecting with my readers–and I do, I really do–I HATE having to think of something to say. Sitting on my shoulder as I type this, there is a little horned devil-me whispering that no one gives a nickel-plated crap what my ‘process’ is and what kind of egomaniac am I to think otherwise?
So it’s funny that I should make a living doing something as intensely personal as this. Because it is personal, you know. Over the years, I’ve come to believe more and more than any book, no matter how academic or how fanciful the author wants it to be, cannot help but become an autobiography. I’ve said before that as a writer, you have to find all your characters relatable, to want them to succeed (heroes and villains both), to cheer their successes and mourn their losses. Well, that kind of connection cuts both ways; my characters end up sorting through my emotional baggage all the damn time. When I’m mad, they fight; when I’m sad, they cry; when I’m feeling good, they get to feel good.
I’ve learned to use it to my advantage. When writing upbeat scenes, I play upbeat music and try to keep it relaxed and comfortable. Conversely, I tend to wait to write my downbeat scenes, because I know I’ll be sick again soon and I write them better then. This is probably part of what’s made Everything Is All Right so easy for me to write, because so much of it is so incredibly dark and since I’m under no pressure to make it marketable, I can just relax and go dark with it. It’s very liberating.
And that brings me to October, which is normally my favorite month of the year, and which this year began with my dog dying. Now, Brawny was an old dog when we got him, and his long-time partner-in-crime, Bounty, had already died earlier this year, so it was not unexpected, but when something like that happens, it’s a lot like slapping a rattlesnake. You expect the bite and you know it’ll hurt, but trust me when I say all that foreknowledge takes exactly NONE of the sting away when it happens.
Immediately on the heels of Brawny’s death, my own health took a hit and I spent about two weeks stuck in bed. During this time, I wrote, because my FNAFiction is going up chapter by chapter every week whether I work on it or not (readers of that book may find that has a familiar ring). As I slowly graduated from sitting up in bed to walking up and down the halls again, I found myself one night at 2 am with nothing to do, so I went down the hall to collect Posey, my hedgehog, thinking we would watch a horror movie together and share a turkey-and-mealworm sandwich, something we do about twice a week. Or did, I should say.
I had been listening to Posey run on her wheel hellbent for leather just one hour before, so I was in no way expecting to walk in and find her lying there. She was not dead, but she was dying. I couldn’t tell you how I knew, I just did. Her eyes were bright, her breath was clear and unlabored, she had no sores or lumps or anything, but she was dying. I held her and kept her warm and talked to her until she was gone. It took about two hours. Even right at the end, she showed no signs of trauma or distress. She just licked my thumb, put her head down and died.
The very next day, I wrenched my back while sitting and avoiding the world by living vicariously through my Sims. And a few days after that, we acquired the kittens I mentioned in a prior blog post. They have all four pulled through and stabilized, by the way; this isn’t THAT bleak a post. And a few days before the end of the month, I got, like, just so sick, guys. So sick. The kind of sick where my sisters were coming in to check if I was breathing. On Halloween, my birthday and favorite holiday rolled into one, I was draped across my bed with a bucket, contemplating my life’s choices.
I’m getting better, slowly but steadily. And I’m writing, because it’s National Novel Writer’s Month and also because my book is being posted with or without me, but mostly because that’s my escape mechanism anyway. It’s just fortunate that what I’m writing at the moment is a story that is all about loss and pain and making bad decisions, but also living long enough to regret them. Sure, it’s about killer animatronic animals in a pizza parlor, the same way Land of the Beautiful Dead was about the zombie apocalypse or The Scholomance was about, well, the scholomance. Underneath all that, it’s about the same thing all my books are about: finding the people who see you at your worst and love you anyway, who take care of you even when you don’t want them to, and who take you in when you have nowhere else to go and tell you you’re home. It’s been a bad month for me, but what I see when I look over October’s work is not my hurts, but my family. In that spirit, here is my first Wednesday Writer’s Blog excerpt, from my FNAFiction, Everything Is All Right, Part Three: Children of Mammon.
His second effort was slightly more successful, although he hated to give her ideas if she wasn’t already thinking about it: “HEADING HOME SO SOON? DON’T GO YET. THE FUN’S JUST STARTING.”
“Home, huh?” She glanced at him, shook her head, and resumed staring at the floor. “I don’t even think of it like going home. I’m just bouncing between jobs. Christ,” she muttered, frowning. “Now you’re making me think about it. I can’t even remember the last time I felt like I was home. Legit, can not remember. Unless,” she said with a bitter twist of a smile, “it was Aunt Easter’s house. Ever since then, I’ve just been on some endless fucking drug-fueled day-labor road-trip, and now I’m back. I can’t even say I came home. I just came back.”
“I MISSED YOU.”
“It’s not my home,” she said angrily, ignoring him. “I don’t live there. I don’t even think of it as a place that I own. It’s just a job. Do you get that? They were supposed to be my family. I was supposed to love them. Now they’re a job!” The last word cracked, not with tears but as if she’d run out of air to say it. She breathed for a while, slow but shallow, staring at the floor in the middle of the room, and finally said, “And I don’t want it,” in an angry, weary whisper.
Bonnie was aware of nothing he could say that wasn’t some variation of, ‘AWWW, THAT’S TOO BAD!’ and he’d be damned if he’d say that. Silence was bad, though, and with every extra second, it only got worse, so he kept searching, clicking through soundfiles with growing desperation as his Ana sat and stared at the world from a thousand yards away.
“I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL.”
Bonnie, startled, swung toward the sound of Freddy’s unexpected voice and saw him standing in the shadows at the back of the room, between the playground and the gym. For how long? Long enough, clearly.
Ana did not start. She merely clapped a hand over her eyes and gave her head a tight, angry shake. “I know you’re only saying that because you have to, but for fuck’s sake, just stop. You don’t have the first fucking clue what I’m feeling.”
“YES,” said Freddy, limping out from the dark and into the room. His eyes met Bonnie’s just for a second before he looked away, like Ana, into the middle of the empty room. “I DO.”
“Oh yeah?” Ana dropped her hands and turned to give him a challenging stare. “What do I do? Let’s hear it, big bear. Pearls of wisdom from the pizza parlor life-experience circuit. Hit me.”
Bonnie flinched, suppressing a triggered reminder of Rule Number Seven, but Freddy didn’t.
Freddy studied her, not twitching, not clicking, thoughtful. When he moved again, it was with a beckoning hand and a calm, “FOLLOW ME.”
Frowning, Ana looked at Bonnie, but he was just as confused as she was and he must have showed it. After a moment, she pushed herself off the table and went after him, through the now-unblocked cashier’s line and into the lobby.
He had not been invited and it was probably wrong to intrude on their private moment, but struggling with moral implications was really more of a Chica-thing. Bonnie gave them a head start and then limped after them, switching off his eyes and picking his footing carefully to be as quiet as it was possible for him to be.
The cashier’s station was open-air and the gift-shop window was broken; he found a place on the wall between the two where he could stand without being seen and rotated his ears so the microphones at their bases could pick up their voices clearly.
“THIS. IS. MY. FAMILY,” Freddy was saying. “DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT WORD MEANS, KIDS?”
“Well, Disney would tell us it means no one gets left behind, but we both know that isn’t true, don’t we?”
“IT. MEANS. WE. GET. TO. CHOOSE,” said Freddy.
Ana did not appear to have a smart comeback to that.
“WE. DO. NOT. CHOOSE. OUR. FAMILY. LIKE. WE. CHOOSE. TO. BE. FRIENDS. OR. CHOOSE. TO. STOP. BEING. FRIENDS,” he added with a grumbling undertone. Bonnie could almost see the shrug that must have accompanied it. “THEY. ARE. GIVEN. TO. US. WE. ARE. GIVEN. TO. THEM. WE. DON’T. HAVE. A. CHOICE. WHO. WE. GET. BUT. WE. GET. TO. CHOOSE. TO. LOVE. THEM.”
“Or not to love them,” Ana said, too quietly almost for even Bonnie’s mics to pick up.
“OR. NOT,” Freddy agreed. “LOVE. ISN’T. ALMOST.” He paused, clicking. “ALWAYS,” he amended. “EASY.”
“It isn’t always enough, either.”
“NO. BUT. WHEN. YOU. HAVE. IT. IT. MAKES. UP. FOR. A. LOT. OF. WHAT. YOU. DON’T.”
Silence. The sound of gears turning inside his own body was enormous.
“Wow,” said Ana and laughed. Really laughed, as opposed to the hurt, upset huffing she’d been doing. “That is shockingly profound of you, Freddy.”
“What’s that even from?”
Freddy grunted and started walking again, forcing Bonnie to limp rapidly, but quietly, back to his place by Ana’s ‘room’.
“I guess you’ve had to deal with a lot of dysfunctional family fallout over the years, huh?”
“YOU COULD SAY THAT.”