Unwritten

It’s got to have been 10 days since I last did any writing. The issue is pain.

Since about ‘17, the pain (see AGONY) has been steadily increasing in my hips, and two points on my lumbar spine (and my left ear—but that is another story) such that I cannot sit at my desk, lean into my work, without triggering a landslide of torment. Early-onset osteoarthritis.

I rely on my writing as treatment for my bipolar disorder (same with drawing) so 10 days without writing is destabilizing for me, rendering me, at first, as irritable (ask Sherry), then proceeding towards sadness, yielding to feelings of insecurity, outright anger, and finally to moderate-to-severe depression.

I am writing this on my iPhone, btw…

There are few real solutions: surgery, surgery, and surgery. As diabetic, I’m especially susceptible to coronavirus (haven’t left the homestead in a few weeks) and other infections.

I’ve heard many writers, great and small, say that they often (always?) feel that there is not enough time. Joyce Carol Oates, whose body of work could fill an old-fashioned phone booth, has stated that.

I’m a long way from done-for, and if I have to finish my novel on my IPhone, I will. But that presents its own problems….

A Writerly Family

I am not the only writer in my family. We Dixits are a rather literary and artistic bunch. My cousin Pooja had the following article published in Salute. Pooja has been a journalist for several decades and worked as staff writer, (and at times as editor) at Times of India (India’s equivalent of The New York Times.

Pooja’s daughter, Ananya, at the age of 17, has had an article tackling equally weighty issues in feminism on Livewire (sister publication to The Wire.)

Coming Soonish…

Coming This October from Undertow Publications!!!


The Story Behind the Most Difficult Story I’ve Ever Had to Write

In late 2003, I started a short story tentatively titled “The Clacker.” I had the bare bones of a religious concept, itself based on my bare bones knowledge about the Cathars, a branch of Christianity wiped out by the Roman Catholic Church. (If this behavior by the RCC comes as a surprise, you probably shouldn’t be reading horror fiction, or science fiction, or fantasy or…look, just pick up some history books from your local library. Concentrate on books aimed at young adults.) Of course, I had internet access, just like the vast majority of Americans. Usually, research plus imagination crystallizes into some kind of story! It isn’t necessarily a good story, but at least it has a middle and an ending, to keep the beginning company. After several hours in which I wrote, and rewrote (moved around some words) the same two or three paragraphs, I surrendered.

But this wasn’t exactly a surprise.

You see, my creativity had been slowly leaching away, like a vital nutrient washed out of the soil by heavy rains. Creativity is, perhaps, the most vital nutrient required in order for writers and illustrators to grow their respective works of art. I was both, so the losses were doubled.

Fast forward to 2013, when a fortuitous change in my medication started growing that essential creativity once more, and without warning. I found myself suddenly deluged, not by rain, but by The Nutrient. Potent stuff that the desire to create is, I was overwhelmed by ideas. Stories I wanted to write and drawings I wanted to do wouldn’t just materialize; I had to grow them. I had a LOT of work ahead of me. I did a bunch of drawings, mostly of women and elder gods, and stuttered through the beginnings of half-a-dozen stories that were essentially going nowhere. I was all over the place, writing horror, science fiction, dark fantasy…but just their opening paragraphs. Drawing came naturally to me. I’d been a visual artist first, having picked up crayons at approximately the age of five. I didn’t write my first story until high school—during senior year, no less. Writing required more focus.

I don’t remember how I got the idea to go looking through my old fiction folders, but it was the trigger, or the key, or even the electron microscope (focus, get it?)—choose your metaphor. I opened many old files, which my latest version of Microsoft Word needed to translate into the new century, second decade. I found myself aghast at such amateur writing, and absurd, old tropes from the 1990s. The only ones that held any promise were the seeds of classical material: ghosts, apocalypses, cosmic horror, Lovecraftiana (no, probably not a real word), etc. You get the picture.

Ultimately, I settled on two stories: the apocalyptic “Sacred Glyphs” and one of those Lovecraftian pieces, entitled “The Clackers.” First thing I did was rename it “The Bible Black,” a title I stole from Ronnie James Dio’s final project, Heaven and Hell. The fact that he died before the album’s release just gave this song a creepy pathos that no musician could, or would, be able to pay for. If you want to hear the song that would ultimately inspire “The God Whom No One Worships,” tap here.

To deflate this bloated blog post, I will hurry along, now. I asked both my wife, Sherry, and my good friend, author/artist Dean Italiano, to give it the metaphorical red-pen treatment. They both gave me a lot of good advice. I think it was around then that I renamed it “The God Whom No One Worships.” But as I read it over, again, I felt something was wrong. I was too close to it, though, had worked on it too recently, to be able to see it clearly.

So I hired Mary SanGiovanni’s MSEditing to help me improve that story, and it was worth every penny. When Michael Kelly was seeking a short work of pulp fiction, I sent, among other things, “The God Whom No One Worships.” He accepted, asking only that I retitle it “The Night Kingdom.”

So, “The Night Kingdom” (It just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? That’s why he wins the awards, folks.) will appear in the inaugural issue of Weird Horror #1, along with twelve other chilling tales, this October. I urge writers to pick it up in order to get an idea of what they’re looking for, and I urge everyone else to pick it up because it will undoubtedly be good spine-tingling fun.

Space & Time #134

Space & Time Magazine #134

This issue is filled with fiction and poetry by some of the field’s up-and-coming as well as established authors. It also contains my illustration for renowned author and poet Marge Simon’s “Keeping Time.” So be sure to pick it up at Barnes & Noble, or at SpaceAndTimeMagazine.com .

 

Also, I must give a special thank you to author and science blogger John R. Platt for locating Space &Time issues #94 and 95, two magazines I lost in which my art appeared in the 1990s.

The Healing

Amy & Adam

Here is the completed drawing of my lovely niece and nephew after judicious use of Gelly Roll white gel pen. This drawing is about as healed as possible using conventional, non-digital means. Here is a slightly different version:

 

An Unhappy Accident

Amy

 


This drawing, intended as a gift for my sister and brother-in-law, was going just fine… until I clumsily spilled Crystal Light Fruit Punch on my desk, soaking the righthand portion of the drawing and leaving high velocity fruit punch spatter over parts, though thankfully not all, of my niece Amy. My sister-in-law, Tammy, and I discussed the situation and decided that I would cut away the saturated portions of the drawing, and repair and continue with the rest. So far, I’m happy with the progress I’ve made.

Flights of Mania

I’ve been especially troubled lately by the “manic” in manic-depression, classified as mania, or hypomania. Mania is the flip side of a coin whose other face is depression. I’ve already discussed MY experience of depression (for we are all different, and feel these things in our own way.) Without a doubt, depression is unpleasant. Mania is far more deceptive. When I feel the approach of a manic episode, colors become more vibrant, smells more intense and generally more pleasant, and my sense of taste can make a chocolate chip cookie seem like a doorway to infinite orgasmic pleasure.

The experience is much more than sensual, however. Things just seem to fall into place perfectly: every sentence I utter is on target and filled with wit or wisdom, my movements are more graceful, my cognition crystalline in essence, and my creativity very nearly limitless. In fact, where creativity is concerned, the good ideas come more frequently as the mania approaches its peak, necessitating hastily jotted notes while I’m working on something unrelated. It feels good, very good.

Mania, for me, usually means sleeplessness, which is absolutely fine, because there is so much I want to get done. One night of insomnia is a small price to pay for such clarity of thought. Lately, however, my manic episodes have been averaging two to three nights. There are catnaps, to be sure, but they become decreasingly refreshing by day two, and sometimes, go away altogether. And all those great ideas morph gradually into rapidly cycling thoughts, paired with uncanny forgetfulness. Then come the thought loops, an obsessive treading and retreading of the same ideas, accompanied by pathological worrying. I become paranoid, convinced that someone’s lack of response signifies that he/she is angry with me. My hands start to shake, the light in the room sears my retinas, and my favorite music is suddenly discordant and anxiety-inducing.

If, beyond this point, I haven’t yet begun to cycle back, I encounter what the DSM-5 (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) calls “derealization,” a sense that the world I’m inhabiting does not actually exist. Next come little whispers and stray sentences, most quite convincing, often forcing me to seek out their sources. When I inevitably fail to find the speaker, I return to my worry-loops, and occasionally see movement in my peripheral vision.

At times, these episodes become severe enough that I need to double my intake of my anti-psychotic medication. Then, finally, begins the journey back towards “normal” and from there to depression. It’s the circle of life, at least my life…. Continue reading