It's only been three months, but 2024 has been a hard year.

I got sick at the first of the year. I tested negative for everything, but it didn't go away. A month later I came up positive for Covid. For nearly two months I was sick and coughing up a storm. It was scary.

I did get better. Shortly after, I was working outside. There is a beautiful Camellia tree outside our property, with bright red blooms. The tree was getting choked by invasive vines, so I was cutting them and pulling the vines out of the tree. Stubborn things, I was going at it very hard. Too hard. I damaged my sciatic nerve. It's been over a month, but the pain continues. I start to get better over a weekend, but I go back to work in the machine shop. Back to the punishing concrete floors, the stressful jobs, the intense labor. By Monday afternoon I'm in pain again.

A week or so ago I was hurting and hadn't slept well the night before. I was feeling groggy and I ended up getting my finger caught in a cutting tool. I took the end off of my left index finger. Yes, it hurts to type. I'm getting better, and I will heal, but it was terrifying.

My wife Clara cares for me more than any other person ever has. More so even than my own mother. She came home from her job on the day of my injury and informed me that I am retiring at the end of the year.

It's sooner than I planned and I'm not as prepared as I hoped to be. I'm left with little choice. Clara watched me limping in and out the door for the last month. I'm hurting, I'm stressed, and I've had enough.

I'm scared. Red was right in The Shawshank Redemption. You become institutionalized. Most of us are in economic prison. The billionaires make all the money and we who keep the wheels turning scrape by. Our entire system is breaking.

Horror. It's been my savior and my downfall. I always had to have this book, that movie. I try to restrain myself, and I lose my will and I buy buy buy.

My lifestyle has to change. Book-buying is grinding to a halt. I'm sorry if I pass your table at a con and don't even look at your books. I can't do it. No more boutique Blu-rays. My purchases will be mostly, nearly always, at thrift stores and library sales. My new reading will come from the public library.

There will be very rare exceptions. F. Paul Wilson has a new one coming in July. I am down for that one. I have Richard Chizmar's Memorials preordered from Amazon.

Will I really be out all that much? I recently bought a set of two books from a newish writer and a newish publisher. Very acclaimed in the community. I read three or four pages of one and hated the book. I've bought hundreds of small press/independent books over the years. I don't think I've read half of them. Most simply aren't that good.

I don't even wish to accept free copies for review purposes. Taking a book is like silver crossing my fingers. I feel indebted and I'd rather not.

I'll still sell used books at cons and the profits, marginal as they may be, will help. I considered raising my prices, but I want to provide affordable books to readers. I'm far from the only one struggling. Doing so mainly pays my way to conventions where I can be around my friends and the horror community at large.

I'll have to watch eating out and other unnecessary expenses. It's intimidating, but...

Freedom. No longer chained to a job where they tell me I am valued, but I obviously am not. No one is. Employees are commodities, like paper clips and screwdrivers. When one breaks, they get another.

I look forward, so forward, to watching a movie every morning. To read. Read! With no worries about alarm clocks and a hellish commute and the job I have to face the next day.


I plan to be a house husband and I gratefully accept the title. I will cook, clean, tend the yard. I want to raise bees and grow things.

It's daunting. I'm terrified and I'm excited.

I hope I can get through this year with my health intact.

I hope I will be up to the task of maintaining the house and yard.

I hope this prospect will be financially sustainable.

I hope to live a long life and never stop loving horror and imagination.

I hope.

Written by Mark Sieber

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