Decided this is going to be another year of firsts for me. Most years are...I do not allow the grass to grow under my feet. Never have. I have always lived in my head and always five years into the future. It is great for planning, organizing and seeing the 'big picture', but sucks though for living in the moment. I have also realized that with the decision to pull up stakes and move with the possibility of writing and editing full time, I have come full circle, where I was meant to be. All the running around trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grow up has finally materialized. Wish I knew then.......but then again I will never be that person sitting on the deck, at 80, wondering what my life could have become. I will have done it.
I remember being a kid, must have been 6 years old I am thinking, just immigrated to Canada from Holland. I spoke English, Dutch, German and French and I was in this brand new country where people dressed funny and it was cold. So I started writing. The very first story I wrote was about Dracula and a duck. They met up somewhere in Saskatchewan and became friends, until Vlad got hungry. The teacher loved it and had me read it at a school assembly.
Twelve years later I am standing in the recruiting office for the Department of National Defense. I was running away from home; needed to get out of a very abusive, soul sucking, child crushing household. I remember going to the office and saying "So what pays the most?" They point to Aircraft Mechanic and I said sign me up.
Fast forward another 6 years and I was plugging away at writing, not really serious about it because by this time I was married with three kids under three and living in Germany. My husband was in the military. I did write a horrific non-fiction novel about my childhood and my life though. Must remember to look for it one day and see if it is any good. Might be something in there to salvage. I do recall it is entitled "The Monster Under the Bed", my biggest fear being of the dark and the thing that lives under the bed to grab you before the lights go out. You must have done that at one point, your hand trembling on the light switch, your arm stretched out as far as humanly possible, your leg stressed to the point of dislocating but getting as close as possible to your bed, and mentally preparing to flick that switch, to hit the bed before the dark hits. Yup that was my childhood. Filled with monsters, torture, pain, abuse and a few other dwarfs that shall remain nameless for now.
Kids are fabulous aren't they? Perfect fodder for psychology experiments (yes I did, but that will be another post), perfect little beings that as parents, you stick all your dreams, promises and commitments in, hoping that they have a better life than you did. Both my husband and I swore we would never raise our kids how we were raised. We would love our children unconditionally, we would talk to them as if they were people, we would inquire about their feelings, thoughts and emotions, and above all, we would listen. And we did. Our children are by no means perfect. And we did struggle. Man did we struggle, with Autism, ADD, Bi-Polar Disorder thrown into the mix with the normal teenage anxiety and hormonal roller coaster ride. But we loved our kids. We listened to them and we treated them like people, not like objects to be owned and cast aside, a huge difference in the way my husband and I were treated. Did it make a difference? I think so. Today they are wonderful adults. My grandchildren, by the way, are perfect. And I like them. But having kids wreaks havoc with having any free time. Especially when you are struggling to make ends meet and trying to do what's best for special needs children in the mix. Writing was dead last. Nothing happened for years.
I cannot remember when it was, but I did start writing short stories. Embarrassing short stories. Bad short stories. I still have them and read them from time to time when I need to cringe......I worked at several careers, aircraft mechanic, psych nurse, hair stylist, procurement specialist. And in the process my work started to become a little better.
November of 2005 I was sitting in my favourite chair in the living room of the house we are still living in and I found a website that was catering to Canadian Horror authors just starting out. My finger hovered over the send key for a few seconds and I instantly felt sick to my stomach when I depressed that little rectangular button. Because, for now, I was a writer. I had never submitted anything and no one could tell me I sucked, therefore I was a writer. Now I was sending my thoughts out to professionals. Crap! What the hell was I thinking? If they told me I did not have any talent I was seriously farked. Anyone who is a writer will understand this line of reasoning. We all have very fragile egos when it comes to what we create with our heads. One month later they told me they loved my story and published it. And it won story of the Winter. I was spinning. And yes, my husband died in this story. Actually, the story was about a pet peeve of mine. My husband had decided to X-10 the house. You know, remote control the lights. The lights would turn on and off at any given moment; in the middle of a TV show, the middle of the night, middle of the day. Drove me batshit. And he would tell me, 'all you have to do is find the remote, press this button, find this button, press that switch, jump up and down on one leg saying I love technology and turn around three times'. I would look at him and think, or I could flick the switch.....He did not see the logic.....so I killed him in the story. It was published on his birthday. And it was this story that got me into the Horror Writers Association. Fitting.....
In 2009 my brain blew up. Woke up one day with the worst headache of my life. An ice pick had buried itself above my right eye and burrowed into my brain. With every beat of my heart, the pain grew larger and larger, kept pulsating and growing. I downed 200mg of Gravol, 1000 mg of Tylenol, 1000 mg of Advil and 500 mg of Muscle Relaxants and called my husband, slurring and drooling, saying if the pain didn't go away in 20 minutes I was going to the hospital and I went back to bed. Found out later this was bad. Real bad. At this point I had a 15% chance of survival. And I went to sleep. Had a wicked migraine for five days in a row, but the rupture sealed. Still did not know at this point that I had ruptured. A month later it happened again.......another 15% chance of survival. Wouldn't be another four months that I would have surgery to repair this and in the meantime, my brain kept bleeding.
During the recovery phase I found out I have another aneurysm and they cannot clip it. This would be a permanent fix. The upshot of this would be though that I would not be able to write because the neurosurgeon would have to cut through too much brain matter to get to the aneurysm. Where the bubble is located, is one of the rarest spots to have an aneurysm. So, I wait to see what happens next.
Kept writing and sobbed when I finished the first story after the brain spatter. Did not know if it was going to work or not, but it did. Submitted a few more stories and they were accepted as well. Kept writing and in 2012 decided Americans should be subjected to my awesomeness so I decided to hit up a few American publishers. If you understand writing, it is difficult. The writing, the planning, the editing, the sweating, the cursing, the crying......and if you understand Horror, it is even more difficult to get noticed. Especially if you are a Canadian. But a few were accepted and it was at this time I decided I needed to get way more serious about my 'hobby'.
Then I found out my friend died. She was 51. And my life changed again. I realized I did not want to live in Winnipeg. So we both decided to become hippies....run away to a climate where we can have more than three months of summer, where we can walk the beach 12 months of the year and where I can write full time. Full circle. Only took 44 years to get here.........