For my current project, I wanted to try something new. I had planned to do NaNoWriMo and could not think of what to do. I had so many ideas, and a constant list of creations I needed to create. I was at a loss to start. Last minute (November 3rd) I decided to go with interconnected short stories. This decision was simply come by. I was drinking at a bar and telling a story about when I met the Goat Man and my friend T kept repeating what I said in that deeply serious Old Native tone that anyone on a reservation knows. It is a tone that immediately says this is a serious and old story you need to hear; which always involves jokes, lessons, and several side eyes to ensure everyone is paying attention.
I laughed at his voice, and more at the fact that the people around us just did not understand what he was trying to do. I knew though, and I knew that he was being hilarious, because he was making fun of something semi-sacred, and completely ridiculous, and most importantly he was making fun of me. That is the difference between Natives and others that I have found. Natives can make fun of our own ridiculousness and sacredness without losing that part which is sacred. I have heard jokes about the spirits by people who were currently smudging their homes in protection. We can make jokes without insulting our spirits, we just can’t disrespect them. That is the crux of the difference, there is a separation between humor and disrespect, for us, the Creator has a sense of humor.
Perhaps this novel is based around that idea. What is respect, what is sacred, what is scary, what is humorous, and what are combinations? What is it that we laugh at when we are in pain or suffering? Because that is also a native trait, to laugh at our own pain, our own suffering; to laugh because it is better and more cleansing then crying. I will not walk into certain buildings, but I will joke about how I will not walk into those buildings. The words are a balm to my actions and my actions matter.
I do not have all the answers, so back to the tale that started it all. I was telling my tale and T was being ridiculous in his old Indian voice. We told my story, and I loved it. I got home and wrote it down. My story, my first story, my built-in ready to go story. And every story just spewed out after that.
I wrote and wrote and wrote, and toward the end of the month I was missing “The Day I Fell in Love” and “The Worst Day of my Life,” but I was nowhere near the 50,000 words. I was sad, I kicked myself for having taken days off writing. I felt I obviously was not going to make it through NaNoWriMo. I did what any great author does and took another night off to drink. In my stupor, I kept replaying what was in these stories and what was missing. I moved stuff here and there and sat down to write nothing. I wanted to write nothing and instead, I wrote Uncle. I can say that I wrote Uncle’s entire arc that night, then reworked it again and again over the next two days. All of it, written and done, and then added to the amalgam, which put me so close to the finish. I woke up after writing what I needed to rewrite and was like, holy shit I am right there, so close and a week to go.
I was blown away, I was like, holy I did this. I so did this, I have two stories, that I will be able to do, and there I am. It was amazing and wonderful. I loved the feeling, and I will every year that I do NaNoWriMo do interconnected short story collections. It frees you from an outline while forcing you to add in things from each story to all other stories. And the best part when you come up short, you go back and reshape the stories. The whole system is beautiful. And after everything is done and you make it through NaNoWriMo your edits and rewrites to fix it up are still fun because you get to ensure all those pesky interconnections are there and make sense. But all of that is here nor there, so what is it that I have written?
I combined the bones of stories I have been considering for years. Stories of horrible families, and wonderful friends; wonderful families and horrible friends. Stories of spirits and unknowns, ghosts and teenage angst. I intermixed those bones then fleshed them with colors and made them into what you find in the book. I broke each story apart and made them into a single story. As the overall form took shape I found I wanted to tell this story. Part of what I am saying will make sense with this book, and part of it might not until I finish more of the tales that are in my head next year for NaNoWriMo. I thank you all, and I hope these stories are something we can all enjoy.
What all this means. Starting February 7th, and every Wed. after for 8 weeks, I will be posting blog posts that include Uncle’s build-up to each short story, and then publish each short story on Amazon. I will, at the end of this 8-week posting series, publish the full book “This Life as Told by an Old Ndn.” So, if you do not mind waiting you can get the whole thing cheaper through the collection which can be preordered. If you cannot wait you can order each story on its own.
Trigger Warning: These stories include some unpleasant language and in a few, implied child neglect.
Non-Trigger Warning: I created my own covers for this book unlike my others, so they are not wonderful. I wanted to learn how to create covers, and what I was capable of. Now I know, and knowing is half the battle.
Uncle is known for his ability to take the stories of others and using those stories as a deep medicine to cleanse them. One dark night he lets stories of Thomas’ life on the Reservation swirl around and around in a cold spiral that reaches throughout the boy’s life and pulls from the spiral those moments Thomas needs to face.
Find out about the rest of Thomas’ stories at ourorchard.co
For those that wish to play along
For those that wish to share their own stories or write about these stories please us the hashtag, #toldbyanoldndn
My plan is that once this book goes live I start looking at taking submissions for an attempted anthology of indigenous authors in Syfy, horror, fantasy, etc, etc, indigenousfuturism/speculnative fiction. I will plan on keeping the hashtag for ongoing anthologies of my own creations and the combined creations of us all.
I hope you enjoy the tales.