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The Mysterious Mr. Ridley

Meanwhile on a Horror Writing Discussion Forum

Name:  Ridley

Date/Time: 3/12/2001 8:23 pm

Subject: RE: The Course

Body:

Give Up Your Day Job and Stick To Writing.  It’s not often I tell someone this; after all, most non-published writers (and especially those who’ve invested with PODs for the privilege of belching out “my novel” to anyone who will listen) suck at story-telling.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: When you find something at which you are talented, you do it until your fingers bleed or your eyes pop out of your head.  I suggest starting out by submitting to small town magazines.  Get a few under your belt, then find yourself a reputable agent.  You have talent.  Enough said.

Name: 1dra

Date/Time: 3/13/2001 1:40 pm

Subject: Do it ’till your fingers bleed . . . eyes . . . pop out . . .

Body:

. . . Hmmm . . .

I’ve heard that before . . . somewhere . . . or read it . . .  just recently . . .

. . .Hmmm . . .

Could be just my imagination.

Anyway, gosh and golly.  Thanks for the encouragement!  I printed that one out and will tape it up when those doubts start start to crawl back in from their dusty corners, like they so often do.  You speak with so much authority. So much confidence. . .

. . . Hmmm  . . . Could it really be?

Would someone go to such lengths to imitate?  Guess it wouldn’t be that difficult to use the lame language–give the same advise  . . . in the same way.

But  . . . what if.

Naw.

Thanks again,

1dra

Name:  Ridley

Date/Time: 3/13/2001 5:48 pm

Subject: RE Men do what men do . . . and usually it’s for a woman

Body:

Life is full of many questions.  They’ll edge at your mind until it explodes.  If you read it in some book, then good for you.  Sales are up.  Good for me.  I suggest you browse through it once and then throw it away, burn it in the fireplace, give it to your neighbor, or use it to wipe your whatever clean.  It’s not a bible; it was never intended for that purpose.  You either have what it takes or you don’t have it at all.  No book will ever change this fact.

Ridley

(opens door, but just a crack . . .)

. . .and a draft escapes, rank and stale: the breath of a dead man.  Sunlight slips in like a bright knife through a dead fish. Then, a gaunt figure.  A pale grimace.  A wet rattle as his purple lips, cracked and bleeding, slip into a snarl.  Yellow teeth fill outlines of black rot.  A pair of beads, set deep, shine and squint and dart.

“Eh, Christ,” foam collects at the corners.  “You’re still standinare , eh?”

You don’t answer.

“Eh?”

Cough-cough-hack-spit.  Grunt-swallow.

“Fine then.”

A heavy sigh.  A nervous fidget.  An impatient squint–first at you, then back into the darkness.

“How long ya figure hangin’ ’round, then?”

Inside: a heavy thump.  A shuffle . . . then–somewhere deep in the bowels of it–a muffled curse, drags its muck up dank stairways, slithers though moldy corridors, crosses still thresholds. Damp paper peels from the walls as it sulks by.  Closer, closer.  It’s inside.  Deep at first.  But it’s coming.

The old man turns, but the door won’t shut.

Then it’s there, and it slips by him and through the crack in the door.  Angry from years underneath, the curse slaps you with a wet paw as it wafts, putrid, into your face– marking you like a dog does a tree.  Without reason, a kernel of rage spins in your chest.

A knowing look.  Unspoken, the words “What I tell you,” mingle with the dust escaping on the slice of sunlight holding the crack open, burning into the darkness behind him.

A grunt. “Hangin’ ’bout for this, eh?  Gonna get weird.  Little gross prolly.  A lot maybe.  Imagine. What I’m sayin’  . . . you prolly should leave now.”

His head tips back into the darkness–away from you.

“I’m not sure all what’s in there.”

Author’s note: To all those still subscribed to this blog, leave while you still can.

On resolutions, confidence, and this blog

I’m always hesitant, as a blogger, to write too much about myself—or this blog. Maybe I shouldn’t be, but there it is. Tonight, I’m going to break from that a bit because, well . . . what the hell.

This blog, boy I tell ya.

It’s been an interesting ride. Without getting into too many boring details, let’s take a quick look back:

Started: September, 2006
Total unique page views all time: 2,203,401
Highest traffic day: 13,483
Started earning money: April, 2007
Total earnings all time: $14,394
Highest earning month: $867
Total posts: 256
September 2011: Recieved my first “serious” offer to buy chriswondra.com. (a 4-figure offer)
October 2011: Got hacked and overcame my first serious cyber security attack

Okay. For the record, I’ve never done that before. As ridiculous as it sounds, I’ve never looked those numbers together in quite that way. Here’s what jumps out at me:

2006?!

Holy shit! That’s over seven years ago!! Where did the time go? Additionally, I think: Sheesh did I waste it.

256!?

Only 256 individual posts. In over seven years?!? Well Christ, that’s only (tappity tap tap, grumble months, tap click, times 12 plus 4 click 76 buzz whir) . . . that’s only a little over three posts a month!! And since I have a good idea about the quality of most of those posts, again, clearly wasteful.

Wasteful because the past two years, especially—I’ve done next to nothing to the blog. Next to nothing. The traffic, an average of a little under 1000 unique visits a day would come without me doing anything, really. I worked at it the first few years, had success and just rode it. Rested on laurels.

Pathetic.

Shameful.

Wasteful perhaps when I also consider the number of interesting things I could have been writing about. Things I’ve done. Things I’ve experienced. Running my first marathon. Running my second marathon in the barefoot style wearing a pair of Vibram Five fingers. The challenges of raising a family and caring for aging parents. All the do-it-yourself projects we do around here like, building a deck, installing cement board siding on the house, fixing a well. The garden. All the parenting stuff. And then there’s the significant emotional and spiritual work I’ve done. Whew. . . .

Lots of really interesting stuff. Valuable stuff.

I take solace, however in the words of Frank McCourt. You remember Frank McCourt, right? Angela’s Ashes? The Pulitzer Prize winning author? He didn’t publish his first book until he was sixty-six! His next one when he was sixty-nine! Da-Fuq?

What took him so long? This was his reply, which I read in the prologue of this book, Teacher Man.

“I was teaching, that’s what took me so long. Not in college or university, where you have all the time in the world for writing and other diversions, but in four different New York City public high schools. When you teach five high school classes a day, five days a week, you’re not inclined to go home to clear your head and fashion deathless prose. After a day of five classes your head is filled with the clamor of the classroom.”

I teach middle school. 12, 13, 14 year olds. Seven classes a day. And with the continued budget cuts to education (that nobody gives a fuck about in Wisconsin), I’m teaching more and more students more and more classes every year—for less and less compensation every year. The time I have after teaching has been devoted to figuring out things like how to fix my breaks without bringing it to the shop so I don’t have to pay someone else to do it or fixing my ageing in-laws snow blower, or freezing carrots from the garden, or watching my daughter play volleyball. That’s my life. That’s been my life.

I’m not complaining. I’m just being honest. It is what it is. And only the wealthy get any special treatment. Teachers? Fuck ‘em. And hard. Don’t get me started. Oh, and you, yeah you reading this and feeling like taking another shot at me in the comment section because you think we greedy teachers have it so cushy—you might as well just piss off now because I’ll delete your comment faster than you can type it up.

Open and honest debate time is over. Teachers lost. Schools lost. Students and families lost.

Time to move on.

Of course—those that know me better understand that I have been doing some writing. Whether it’s correspondence with a good friend (hi Bobbie S.), or writing for my side project, taking a shot at NaNoWriMo this past November, or working on that top secret project with my sister (hi Jess)—yeah, I’ve been sputtering along.

But this year I’d like to see if I can take a little poke at the universe. With wage and benefit cuts coupled with new laws guaranteeing that teachers never get another raise above the CPI, it’s pretty clear that teaching is no longer a real career option in Wisconsin. I could bitch and moan about it, and watch my family’s standard of living continue to drop, or I could, again, take a little poke. See if I can’t make a dent.

I’d already started a bit last spring by committing to writing one 500-700 word column/post that I’m publishing not only in local papers, but also syndicating out in blog format to media web sites across Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota. Of course the columns also show up on WeTeachWeLearn.org – a platform I’m building around the art and science of teaching and learning.

So, anyway, most of the time, the column runs just over 700 words. My point is, I’ve been writing 700 words a week now for just over nine months. I never miss a week. I’m proud of that.

I’m also proud that in addition, I’ve also been able to crank out the 50,000 words of fiction required to win NaNoWriMo. I didn’t say it was good. What I’m saying is that in November I averaged about 1,600 words a day. A day! So I can do this. I know I can.

Do what, you ask?

Well, I’ve got a couple of goals this year. It’s that time, you know, for everyone to have goals, resolutions – – call them what you will.

Last year, it was forgiveness. I realized that in order to survive the attacks that I and my profession were taking from the people in Madison and my own State representatives, I had to forgive them. I’ve put about as much as a person can into this (what do I call it now) profession, career,  job as a person can only to have it pissed on by not only my governor, but my own friends, neighbors and relatives–it was clear that the anger and bitter resentment had to go.

It might not sound like it by the tone of this post—but one of the things you have to do in order to forgive is accept the facts. If the facts above make you uncomfortable, tough shit. It’s my blog and I’m not pulling any punches in order to be politically correct. It is what it is. I’ve accepted and, in fact, done a pretty good job of forgiving those who have trespassed against us.

Forgiveness is deep. We’ve been over this before. I’ll just remind you (if you’re new here) that if you do it right, forgiveness never ends, but is is something you live with—like alcoholism. The facts and circumstances around them remain. And so does the edge. It’s just that you’ve run your delicate fingers along it enough to build callouses and the edge becomes less painful when you touch it.  Also (and this is the part that you never hear anybody talking about because hardly anybody does forgiveness right), done correctly, you become more powerful for having gone through it.

The power comes from the fact that you can now take the circumstances and facts and all the tumult and pain of the story at issue entirely within you.  It never goes away, like an old barb wire fence that now runs through a tree, you simply grow to surround it. Assimilate it. Accept it ALL for what it really is and was and means—leaving out nothing. Avoiding nothing. And finally be thankful for the experience—because of what it has made you: more bad ass than you could have ever been without it.

To be clear, this forgiveness I speak of is not forgetfulness, it’s not nice, it’s not pretty, it’s not selfless, and though you may call on spiritual resources to help you get through it—it’s absolutely not God’s doing. Not the real now-the-ground-is-solid-under my-feat-forgiveness. Not the Hero’s return from his journey kind of forgiveness. Not the death and rebirth type. And that’s what we’re talking about here.  The tree encasing rusty barbs.  Because, really and truly—I’m not fucking around. If you stick with me here, I promise you one thing—heretofore, reading chriswondra.com ain’t gonna be no tip-toe through the tulips.

But I digress.

Where was I? Oh, yes. This year’s focal point.

Last year, I set one overarching focus: forgiveness. This year, it’s confidence. More on that later, but one sort of offshoot of that is to write more. How much more? I set a modest but I believe very achievable goal of 500 words a day. This post alone is going to end up being three days worth. Which, actually is fine—because it took me about three days to write my last 700 word column.

I’ve been at this now for only five days. 360 left. You can do the math on word counts if you like. But the thing I’m really after is the practice. Yes there are a few things I’d like to accomplish. Finish that NaNo Novel, the project with my sister, keep up the columns, and maybe even this idea that’s germinating for a non-fiction book as well.

And then there’s this blog. I figure it’s time. And I figure, it doesn’t have to be pretty. There are a lot of things that have held me back from writing for a long time–even before the invent of this (or any other) blog. One of the first things my focus on confidence is inspiring me to eliminate is the fear and self-doubt that has slowed down my writing for so long. It’s already taking root and changing other things too, but the writing thing; that was the first.

Which takes us back to the blog. Last month was the lowest traffic month in this blog’s history. This month is shaping up (so far) to be even lower. While the increased writing may affect that, I’m not focusing on it. Notice, my goal is not to revive the traffic, status, rank or earnings of the blog. No. This is about the writing. Pure and simple. Down and dirty. I’m going to scrape the scum from the sides of the tank here and the only way to do that is with words. The way I see it, blogs are made of words. The more, better, and interesting the words, the more current, relevant and valuable the blog.

And of course, you’re welcome on this year’s journey—if you can stomach it. All I promise is honesty and bloody fingers though.

The other kind of Christmas . .

“Then there is the other kind of Christmas with present piled high, the gifts of guilty parents as bribes because they have nothing else to give. The wrappings are ripped off and the presents thrown down and at the end the child says—”Is that all?” Well, it seems to me that America now is like that second kind of Christmas. Having too many THINGS they spend their hours and money on the couch searching for a soul. A strange species we are. We can stand anything God and nature can throw at us save only plenty. If I wanted to destroy a nation, I would give it too much and would have it on its knees, miserable, greedy and sick.”  —

John Steinbeck 1959, Letters of Note

She was witchy

“She was witchy, yes, and in charge of a cauldron roiling with ideas and stories, but she always gave the impression that the stories, the ones she wrote and wrote so very well and so wisely, had simply happened, and that all she had done was to hold the pen.”
–Neil Gaiman on Diana Wynne Jones, in the introduction to Reflections: On the Magic of Writing

Nanowrimo is kicking my ass

Seth heard Rachel swallow, take a breath, but something was different.  Inside her purse, his attention was drawn to a marble he couldn’t quite get a hold of.  He refused to believe it was leaving a slimy residue on the tips of his fingers.

“I really don’t think . . .” Rachel said, and that was it.

Seth closed his hand around the marble and instantly, as if trying to defend itself, it sent a wave of shocking cold into his hand.  Seth looked up at his wife.

Rachel was convulsing, gagging, suffocating.  She turned to Seth and before her eyes rolled to their whites, looked passed him and down the row, confusion and panic spreading across her face.  Instinctively Seth followed his wife’s last glance.  Caroline, rigid, head back, staring lifelessly at the plane’s overhead compartments, a thick white foam oozing from her mouth and nose was no longer breathing.  He turned again to his wife, but she was gone.

His hand, still buried in Rachel’s purse, was now numb as the marble’s cold spread rapidly up his wrist.  He tried to let go but his hand was now locked in a frozen grip.    He released his nose and, like a hose relieve of its kink, warm snot gushed over his lips and chin.  With his free hand now, he reached in and pulled out dead one with the marble in it.  Prying open his cold and lifeless fingers, he saw in his palm not a marble at all, but an eyeball staring up at him, the tiny black pupil dilating evenly from within a green iris.

“Sir.  Is that yours?”

#1 Grandma was reaching passed Rachel now toward his dead arm.  He tried to recoil but it was too late.  A pinching grip and he was paralyzed, a scream stuck in his throat.

“Sir.”

#1 Grandma was shaking him.  The pupil dilating in his hand overtook the eye entirely.  Seth watched in horror as the black ball dissolved into his palm, crept up his fingers and spread tentacles of inky slime up through the veins in his arm.  Overcome completely with panic, he closed his eyes and put all his strength into one final scream.

“mnahmneaha.”  It was only a whimper really.

“Sir!”

“Dad!”

Seth opened his eyes.  Rachel was gone.  Grandma #1, who now wore a business suit was shaking him from a seat across the aisle.   An alarmed stewardess rushed toward him, with a handful of towels .

“Sir?  Are you back with us?”