I was a Goth in High School, replete with red hair and a black trench coat. In the late 1980’s such minor acts of rebellion provided an easy bullseye for bullies (of which there were many in my small town), and that was kind of the point. The bullies were going to get you one way or another. You might as well as be yourself, and if you were going to be pummeled, be pummeled in style. Besides, the farm boys and jocks could only torment you during the week – the weekend was a different matter.
One of my best friends lived in an apartment complex in Tulsa, 45 minutes, and a world apart from where I was. Every weekend, I would drive my parent’s Plymouth Sundance up and enter a vibrant universe of limitless-seeming possibilities and a feast of music outside the big hair bands that ruled the airwaves in that era.
The anchor of all this was IKON, an industrial/goth club on Peoria, not far from where my father worked his day job. Thanks to an archaic law, dance venues in Tulsa could stay open all night as long as they didn’t serve alcohol. The city would close this loophole in a few years and put the kibosh on our (and future generation of teenagers) good time, but that didn’t happen until later.
My friend, myself, and the revolving cast of characters crashing at his place teased our hair, applied make-up, switched into black garb, and arrived at IKON around midnight. We entered a world of flashing lights, dark corners, distinctive personalities and flowed with the tide of adventure. There was always someone to meet or an unforgettable story to bank into memory. Mainly, it was just fun. At some point, we migrated to the club’s back and home base – a sagging couch, where we caught our second wind after dancing ourselves silly. Every weekend was a chance for reinvention outside the confines of our rural towns and suburbs. Before long, the sun rose, and we emptied onto the Tulsa streets, like vampires taking in the approaching dawn.
IKON was a refuge for the bullied, maligned, artistic, and folks who were different. It was our magic portal in a sea of conformity dominating everything around us. My mind and ears were opened to music outside saccharin Top 40 hits there (and through the crackly reception of KTOW on my boombox). I also took in many touring shows that played there (The Dead Milkmen, PigFace, Ethyl Meatplow, and The Legendary Pink Dots, to name a few). I dutifully memorized music recommendations given to me and ordered them at Mohawk Music and Starship Records. I may go back to the beatings and harassment at my school, but I could take that music with me and the expanded possibilities that it offered. Like IKON, it taught me that there was a more exciting world out there.
I culled some of that music (along with new tunes that captured the ambiance of how I felt) into a playlist for a novel I am writing. I realize that this will be a very different set of tunes than other folks who were regulars there. After all, we are all different. Let me know in the comments if you have suggestions to add to the list.
Recent years have been a time of pressing questions for humanity. We stand at a historical junction where we can embrace an uncertain future or cling to a rose-colored past that is neither glamorous nor fair as some people desire to remember. Democracy is on a razor’s edge, autocrats are on the march, social unrest has reached a boil, and the earth cries out as climate change sends us warning after warning if only we would listen. And the pandemic, of course, has decimated lives, upended economies, and kicked disinformation into overdrive. None of the issues we face are tidy or will be resolved soon. For a world raised on neat and clear-cut stories, the thought that we may be in this for the foreseeable future is exhausting. It can leave you demoralized, beaten down, and paralyzed with indecision. Like many, I have also hit the pandemic wall. At times it feels like groundhog day with the same routine over and over.
Each of us processes these challenges in our own way. For myself, this has led me to reevaluate what my priorities are. My writing, for example, has continued sporadically, but all the issues stated above have taken precedence.
Last March, my partner and I contracted a severe case of COVID that went on for two months. There was roughly a week-long period where I wondered daily if we would make it through. The lingering effects of that sickness led me to be more grateful than before. It made me more aware of savoring each moment, whether playing with my children, taking a bike ride, or doing something as mundane as washing the dishes. I have by no means mastered this and probably never will, but I find myself trying more, and that is a start.
I come out of this time of contemplation with a stronger understanding of why I write and a greater responsibility to what I put into the world. I have finished a novel and hope to release it in the fall. I am recommitted to the work that I do, but also understand that I am only human and that it is okay to let go with no feeling of guilt. I don’t need to compare myself to others. The highest success is focusing on my own happiness and being committed to my family, friends, and striving to make the world better than it was before. As I mentioned, there are no easy answers, only the beginnings of understanding and what I hope will lead to wisdom.
What big questions have you struggled with over the last year? What answers have you found?
A review of Nightfall Gardens by TMBA Corbett Tries to Write blog.
"Honestly everyone is talking about the Red Rising Series book series by Pierce Brown right now, but I feel they should be talking about the Nightfall Gardens series!"
For the complete review, please visit TMBA Corbett Tries to Write.
A review of Nightfall Gardens from the Bookworm Coalition
"This is one of those stories that you read that the world, and it’s inhabitants, are so rich and completely incredible that you crave to see these ideas brought to life!"
For the complete review, please visit Bookwork Coalition.
Here's an interview that I did with Brittney Porterfield of BrittneysBookNook about the Nightfall Garden series and the next series that I'm working on.
What was your inspiration for Nightfall Gardens?
The idea of “Nightfall Gardens” started with a dream that I had of a teenage girl who was performing on stage in front of an audience. In the front row, there was a man with shocking white hair and a scar across one of his cheeks. I woke up and jotted that image down.
As I started writing the first chapter I realized that I wanted to tip my hat to the books that I loved as a kid like Treasure Island, Dracula, Great Expectations, H.P. Lovecraft and so on. There’s a little nod to all of those works in the series.
I also set out to try and write the creepiest YA trilogy that I could. I feel like most Middle Grade or YA books that purport to be scary, actually shy away from delivering real chills as if the author (or publisher) doesn’t think that kids can handle it.
The scenes of the monstrous staff that takes care of the haunted house in “Nightfall Gardens” and the creatures that live in the ghostly gardens outside of the house are the things that I get emails about the most. I think kids are more resilient than they are given credit for.
What I love most about this book is how beautifully disgusting it is, and I mean that in a good way! Nightfall Gardens would be the outcome if Tim Burton, Lemony Snicket and JK Rowling all decided to write a book together. Actually, I can picture Tim Burton creating this film, and it would be excellent.
This is a book for people who enjoy reading fresh takes on old mythology. The world is interesting and well-developed, and it makes good use of the familiar creatures of legends of old while adding in new ones, too. This book is a Middle Grade book due to the age of the main characters, but they do not act like little children, far from it. It is, however, the descriptions that really give weight and emotion to this book. They are elegantly written and maintain the overall tone and feel of the setting effortlessly. This is an enjoyable, well-written book that has been produced to a high standard. It will appeal to all lovers of fantasy, mythology, and middle grade/young adult fiction, no matter their age.