Down the Rabbit Hole

Today is the type of anniversary that makes me realize how long I’ve been working to build a full-time writer and artist income. Nine years ago I began participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for the first time. I had already been working on my goals for five to ten years (the timeline is intentionally blurred in my memory for motivational purposes) and hoped that getting 50,000 words on paper would get me where I needed to go. I completed my goal to write 50k works in 30 days (a giant feat) but still am not sure where it got me.

I declared then that my novel would be called Laugh, Bet, or Fold and described the plot to be written with this synopsis:

Stacy Tracy gained two things from her grandfather: a rhyming name and a deep love of poker. She grew to despise rhymes after being told for the millionth time how cute her name is, but her love of poker had only grown stronger with time. Realizing she’s better at knowing when to bluff, bet, or fold at the card table than in life, Stacy declares a new goal. She wants to be the first woman to win the World Series of Poker Main Event and, hopefully, improve her ability to utilize those skills outside the casino along the way.

In an e-newsletter a year later, I shared the draft I had worked on at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference that summer:

At first Stacy wasn’t sure if it was an epiphany or just really good weed, but as her high led her to contemplate the signs she became convinced. Her love of poker was no secret, but this was the championship. It was as old as she was and no woman had ever won – one of the few remaining male chauvinist strongholds in a supposedly equal society.
     Although in her heart she’d always been a feminist, until now she had never felt called to fight. She wasn’t denying the pang of jealousy that had struck when TrickySlick dropped the news link in the chat box to notify his tournament competitors that it was, “time to remind the ladies they truly are the weaker sex”, but it seemed plausible that comment was the code which unlocked her secret. There were signs.
     The table where Annette Obrestad stood being crowned champion of the first European World Series of Poker seemed strangely familiar, as if it was in that dream she had a month prior, the one from which she awoke remembering only one phrase, “Live like it’s all poker. In love, be the Joker.” The couplet of advice still made no sense in its entirety, but she figured that it was safe to assume it wasn’t offered to discourage her from playing.
     About once a week since Stacy turned thirty, she had pondered the significance of the fact she could conjure few memories from her childhood at will and usually the first to come to mind was the night grandpa had taught her to play. Clearly it was proof the allure was inherited.
     Her slow but steadily growing kitty at Poker Pub was like the Little Engine that Could. If she continued winning tournaments at her current success rate, it would only take… sixteen years… but just last week a late night stroll had led her to a bar where she’d gotten a strange feeling she was meant to play.
     The bartender had stoically declined to explain the thumps, thuds, and murmurs from above, but when a much louder crash compelled him to dash upstairs to investigate, the elegant bar fly he’d introduced her to dished the dirt. Poppy said the owner was really paranoid about the authorities discovering his poker game. The history etched on the walls of the preserved saloon had given Stacy the feeling that, no matter the quantity or color of chips being tossed into the pot, at the Horsemen Lounge they played for blood.

In 2015, a few months after I had the pleasure of meeting my poker hero, I participated in NaNoWriMo for the second time. I had become inspired to relocate the characters I had invented to a new location and twist the plot into something more exciting than my real life (which had inspired the first draft(s) on which I was stalled). I don’t remember exactly when I gave up on that draft or why. I believe I did not make the 50k words goal that year but kept working on it for several months. I think I simply couldn’t figure out where the story was meant to go. The characters wouldn’t tell me.

In 2019, I participated in NaNoWriMo a third time, once again using my life and a dear group of friends as the main source of inspiration. That time I called my novel to be You Betcha and summarized the plot in one sentence: “Five Horsemen and two Madames make one big bet against the Billionaire Boys Club to prove that what you do with your money is far more valuable than the money itself.” I don’t remember getting very far on that draft. I recall having trouble imagining the scenes and mentally beating myself up for not being able to write the way I wanted to… and giving up on that version rather quickly.

I hadn’t been able to play poker nearly as often since Black Friday – that dark day in 2011 when I lost my ability to play online for tiny sums I could 100% afford and work on building my bankroll in a responsible manner. From April 2011 until June 2021 (when I moved to Las Vegas), I needed a minimum of $100 to play most of the time and I didn’t often have that in cash to spare. I had available credit, but using my available credit too freely was the reason I had little cash to spare… so, I mostly refrained unless a friend hosted a game I could play at for less money… which wasn’t all that often… which made it harder and harder to write poker stories.

A few weeks ago I learned by watching an Embrace the Grind vlog interview featuring my new friend Jaman Burton (poker vlogger) that he enjoys journaling possibly as much as I do. The next time I saw him, I admitted to having a trunk full of little books full of stories about my life. He said he does his digitally. Then my childhood friend announced her plan to participate in NaNoWriMo this year and my competitive spirit flared up. I was upset by the thought she might publish her book before I finish writing mine… until I reminded myself how much I have written here about me… and the fact that my stories as written are becoming more and more worthy of being my first book as I inch towards personal success as an artist and poker player. Actually, it’s possible all my stories really need to make a great book is the happy ending I continuously feel is right around the corner. Adding all those ingredients up, I decided I should start thinking about my website as my other journal and start writing my happy ending as it occurs.

Then, just before I finished writing the above words, while pondering whether or not I would mention the fact I believe my Prince Charming is someone who occasionally or regularly reads this blog to get to know me better but is not actually in touch with me day to day, I had to take a quick break from writing to get ready to go get my annual physical at the doctor… and the radio (first Pandora, then the local stations in the car) did that thing it’s been doing really often lately where it feeds me songs that sound like the movie soundtrack for my life… as if trying to erase any doubts I might have about whether or not I’m doing the right thing(s).

First, the lyrics implied my guy wants to be part of my story:

I will follow you way down wherever you may go
I’ll follow you way down to your deepest low
I’ll always be around wherever life takes you
You know I’ll follow you

Imagine Dragons, Follow You

Then they told me to stop thinking and start writing – let the words dance across the page:

Don’t think about it
Just move your body
Listen to the music
Sing, oh, ey, oh
Just move those left feet
Go ahead, get crazy
Anyone can do it
Sing, oh, ey, oh
… Show the world you’ve got that fire (fire)
Feel the rhythm getting louder
Show the room what you can do
Prove to them you got the moves
I don’t know about you,
… But I feel better when I’m dancing, yeah, yeah
Better when I’m dancing, yeah, yeah
And we can do this together
I bet you feel better when you’re dancing, yeah, yeah

Meghan Trainor, Better When I’m Dancing

Because it’s time to start the show:

But, oh my oh my God the entertainment’s here
Everything is suddenly amazing here
Sit back man, relax man
Sit back man

AJR, The Entertainment’s Here

And living in a Macklemore video sequel/parody by leading a scooter ride with my buddies down The Strip might someday happen because letting the words flow on this page more freely could give me a fresh start. In case you don’t know, I was a motor scooter sales person and scooter group leader when Maclemore’s song Downtown was released. It has only come up on Pandora perhaps a handful of times since, but today was one of those days.. just before it played this:

Like a sunrise on the longest night
Like a rescue coming just in time
Yeah, you save me when I cannot see the light
Like a heartbeat to a lonely drum
When I thought that, that the end had come
You remind me that it’s only just begun
Took my soul down to the water, mama
I came back a different man
Long as we got one another singing (oh, oh, oh)…

Everything’s gonna be alright, everything’s gonna be alright
Got a brand new, got a brand new, got a brand new lease on life

Andy Grammer, Lease on Life

So here I am, writing without much editing, letting the words fall out, being brave… because ever since my dream of becoming a writer, artist, and poker player began, I’ve felt haunted by songs that tell me to do just that. Especially this one:

And I’d give up forever to touch you
‘Cause I know that you feel me somehow
You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be
And I don’t want to go home right now

And all I can taste is this moment
And all I can breathe is your life
And sooner or later, it’s over
I just don’t wanna miss you tonight

Goo Goo Dolls, Iris

I’m not putting myself on a 50k words in 30 days schedule right now. I can’t handle that kind of pressure on top of all I’m already doing. However, it’s possible I’m writing the rough drafts that will become my book or movie as happened in Sex in the City and Julie and Julia (two fictional flicks that inspired my life trajectory). Just now, when I got in the car to finish typing this post and drive home, this was on the radio:

So wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself, and I
Didn’t know I was lost…

Aloe Blacc, Wake Me Up

These are not the only lyrics that spoke to me today nor the only signs I’ve seen that all my hard work may soon pay off beyond belief. I’m not sure I could ever have imagined a life quite like the one I’m living. So, I’ll be back to tell you more stories soon… after I clean my apartment to a point I would be happy to show it to Prince Charming when he shows up… and finish the next two videos for my new vlog… and perhaps play some poker online… but before I forget the amazing things that happen. I the mean time, if you haven’t seen it yet, click here to watch my first fortune telling poker hand analysis. I would love to hear what you think.

P.S. I dressed like the White Rabbit yesterday to work on Halloween and today I’m wearing my favorite hoodie with Q♡ art featuring Alice and the Red Queen… just in case such things hold the power to help me manifest my Wonderland.

P.P.S. I now work in the poker room where I interviewed my favorite poker player years ago.

Untitled altered playing card art by Rachel Hoyt
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