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?
I haven’t written an update on “The Labyrinth” in a while. I’m moving the publication date back to come out two weeks before Halloween (good timing). This isn’t because I haven’t been writing.
Like all novels, this one has taken on a life of its own. In order for me to do justice to the story and give my characters the respect they deserve, I’m taking a couple of extra months to make sure everything is perfect (or as perfect as can be). In other words, I want to wrap up “Nightfall Gardens” in style.
I can tell you that I’ve really let my imagination run wild in this book and that unlike “Lost” I plan on wrapping up all of the mysteries that still linger from the first two books in the trilogy. It’s also going to be much more mammoth than “Nightfall Gardens or “The Shadow Garden.”
The cover is currently in the can (as they say). Tony Roberts really knocked himself out continuing in the vein of the first two books with a stellar creepy cover. I’ll unveil that down the road as the publication date draws near.
Also, there will be some cool contests I’ll be announcing here soon as well as a big “Nightfall Gardens” party that’ll take place in NYC in the fall. I’m open to hitting the road for a couple of reading stops after the book comes out, so email me if you have any suggestions.
Thanks for your patience. I promise it’ll be worth your wait, and if you haven’t told your friends about NG, please share the word. Thanks!