The Choice

 

Vintage Printing Press

Vintage Printing Press

 

I just finished the 2nd draft of a short story I began almost a year ago. It’s called, “The Choice,” and I am marketing it as a religious horror story. I decided to share a short excerpt of the current draft in this post. It is currently out in circulation to friends for editing.

This is also my first story I am going to send out for publication (a.k.a. rejection letters). 

Exciting!!

Does anyone know any horror short periodicals that solicit pieces longer than 5,000 words? I was hoping to send this to Cemetery Dance, but they have a 5,000 word guideline, and the current version is clocking 8,628 (I might be able to get it down to 7,500-8,000, but 5,000 is just not possible!). 

~~

She frowned.

Cobwebs covered the monitor. She hadn’t noticed earlier. How was that? She had watched through a complete cycle of the screen saver. It was like the silky strands had appeared while Lacy was staring at the stereo. Feeling slightly uneasy, she decided she must still be sleepy, and took a sip of her juice.

However they had gotten there, the cobwebs were definitely bothering her. They were thick; Lacy had never seen cobwebs so thick, and they seemed… wet.

Carla had many faults, but lack of cleanliness was not one of them. She was meticulous about dust, and never would have overlooked large cobwebs draped around the monitor. She pushed them aside with her hand, disgusted at how they clung to her skin, and decided to grab a paper towel for the rest.

Coming back from the kitchen, she dropped the towel.

The cobwebs were gone. 

A quake passed along her spine. She peered back into the kitchen, suddenly concerned that she was being watched, but there was no one there. She stared at the monitor, trying to find some bit of web leftover. She had washed the stickiness off her hands, and without that small proof, it was difficult to shake the feeling that she was losing it, her sanity that is. She waited a while then picked up the paper towel. She wiped the monitor and checked the towel: meticulously clean.

Unsure what to think, Lacy decided to continue as though sane. She fired up Internet Explorer, Solitaire, I-Tunes, and her email program, unconsciously hoping her fear would drown in activity.

The first one ready was the email. It fired up almost instantly. The other programs sputtered along, hourglass spinning, and refused to load despite several re-attempts. She cursed, resting on her earlier prognostication of Jed’s successful virus hunt. Pulling up the email program, she clicked on the inbox, and saw she had a new message.

 “One message? Freaking loser friends. Where is everybody?”  

To add to her annoyance, she didn’t recognize the sender. [None] was written in the subject line, usually a dead giveaway for virus-touting marketers. But feeling impatient from fear, and annoyed by the small inbox, she opened it.

“What?” she said.

The message had only three words: 

 

Look Behind You 

 

So she did.

She turned very slowly. Jokes weren’t Jed’s kind of thing – they took valuable time from gaming – but it was possible her friends had gotten Jed to let them inside. Lacy could imagine his response, “Whatever man, your funeral,” as he let them in. Wondering who it might be (praying silently that they wouldn’t spray anything on her new skirt), she turned around.

It was Carla. 

She looked dead.

~~

What do you think? 

I’ll keep you posted on my query attempts in future posts. 

           Cross your fingers, say some prayers, and wish me luck!

(and yes, this is not a Wednesday Watercooler post, but a Friday one. I’ve been running a bit slow these days) 

 

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Published in: on July 29, 2008 at 2:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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Sacraments of Presence

 

Eucharist

 

Watercooler Wednesday Post

It seems like everyone wants to know how I experience God these days.

Friends have asked, my pastor asked in last Sunday’s sermon, a book I’m reading mentioned it (The Forgotten Spurgeon by Iain Murray), and even Randy alluded to it in his post.

Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t take a chance to throw in some kind of word/grammar/writing moment. This week’s lesson is from Dictionary.com,

Def. Sacrament

1. Ecclesiasticala visible sign of an inward grace, esp. one of the solemn Christian rites considered to have been instituted by Jesus Christ to symbolize or confer grace: the sacraments of the Protestant churches are baptism and the Lord’s Supper; the sacraments of the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches are baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, matrimony, penance, holy orders, and extreme unction.
2. (often initial capital letterAlso called Holy Sacrament. the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper.
3. the consecrated elements of the Eucharist, esp. the bread.
4. something regarded as possessing a sacred character or mysterious significance.
5. a sign, token, or symbol.
6. an oath; solemn pledge.

I am going to focus on definitions 1 & 4.

I like the idea of a sacrament being visible; some of mine are, some of mine aren’t, but they are all means by which I receive grace from God. They are also ways in which I experience a feeling of awe, a sense of God’s presence as a tangible reality – not seen, but definitely felt – and ways that I am encouraged in my faith. I picked three, but they are not the only ways I experience grace, just three that came to mind.

 

1) Truth in unexpected places

It amazes me how valid Romans 1:19 is. 

As I read novels, short stories, film scripts, poetry – written sometimes by the most godless and anti-Christian of people, I realize that truth cannot be silenced.

Here is one example of many,

He sang of names and words, of the building blocks beneath the real, the worlds that make worlds, the truths beneath the way things are; he sang of appropriate ends and just conclusions for those who would have hurt him and his. He sang the world.

Care to guess who wrote these lines? Some may guess C.S. Lewis in The Magicians’ Nephew – the imagery is certainly similar – but it was not Lewis. It is the song sung by Fat Charlie in Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys.

Neil Gaiman is a man to whom great talents have been bestowed, though he does not credit it to God’s glory. Still it is beautiful language, written in Gaiman’s wonderful voice, and whether he meant it to occur or not, I often experience grace when I read his works.

 

2) Gracious conversation

It happens more often than I deserve that I will be speaking with a friend, a new acquaintance, a member of my family, or one of my co-workers, when something about the conversation shall spark an idea for a story, or a revelation about the character of God, or sometimes something as small as a reminder to a task left undone.

These brilliant flashes of inspiration, like tinder sparks to a fire, are grace-filled moments where God the Holy Spirit is visiting me through the ministry of those around me. They are divinely deposited moments of exhortation, reminder, inspiration, even affirmation.

I believe it was Mark Twain who said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.

 

3) Silence

This one does not happen regularly, which is strange given the blessings I accrue from it. 

But it is hard to have the computer shut, the music off, the book closed, just sitting and listening, meditating, sometimes not even praying.

I think that’s why it is a sacrament for me, because it takes God’s grace for me to believe that the tasks left undone are best left undone when compared to His silent presence.

I experienced this grace tonight (ironic given the frantic effort I had spent attempting to write this post!).

I was lying on my bed, watching the dance of light as the sun set; it set the leaves outside burning in its dying light; the wind rustled the leaves and scattered the light like crimson sparks. It was a grace-filled moment; my heart was stilled of its frantic efforts, and (ironically) more able to do the tasks before me.

Silence may be a void of noise, but it is a fullness of God’s presence.

~~

Are there sacraments you adhere to? Unique ways in which you experience God’s grace?

I would love to read your comments (remember #2?).

 

Published in: on July 9, 2008 at 6:39 am  Comments (3)  
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Fashion Mullets & Other Terrors

Man Mullet

Today I had a terrifying thought that wouldn’t go away.

       Mullets.

This morning I picked up my friend Sammy, grabbed our customary Thursday morning Top Pot, and arrived at men’s morning prayer (imagine 6:30am half-asleep unshaved men sitting in a large circle).

No one there had a mullet. I hadn’t seen any mullets lately. No strange nightmares of mullets. But I still kept thinking about them. I finally mentioned it to my friend Sammy and he said it sounded like a good post for The Journey

Here we go..

According to the Wikipedia article, mullets have been around since Grecian days. The article quoted a line from Homer’s The Iliad to prove it, with one problem – the reference is bogus.

I pulled out my copy of The Iliad and searched Book 2 lines 632-635, just like it said, plus about 4-5 pages before and after.

Not there, Wikipedia, not there. I was tempted to edit the article but I have no idea whether veiled references to mullets exist in The Iliad or not, and at 594 pages I was not feeling ambitious enough to find out. 

If it had been true – that mullets are an age old tradition spawning back to the days of Achilles – I might not have been so terrified. It’s always easier to cope with things that lie within the realm of the normal, but mullets, dear reader, are not normal

I was reminded of this 2 years ago while living in Bergen, Norway. There a hybrid form of the mullet has been enjoying a sort of Renaissance. It’s a hybrid, which means they shouldn’t be as bad as the real thing. Shouldn’t. But witnessing it daily proved otherwise.

It’s just as bad. 

         And remember these?

Ugg Boots

(Some of you are saying, “Remember? I’m wearing a pair right now!” It’s OK, your feet and legs will forgive you someday, really)

When I first went to Norway/Sweden in the spring of 2004, uggs were crazy popular. Almost every girl I met had a pair. Once I got back to the States, I placed the horror behind me and tried to move on. But then, about a year later, I started seeing them again. They were sprouting onto the feet of many girls I knew, like some hideous virus. Somehow it had been transmitted, caught like a cold, and carried back by some fashion infectee.

There are many things that can get into our country. And I understand our nation’s fear of illegal aliens, and the desire to build a Great Wall of America, but I have to ask,

Where does our real danger lie?

Oh yes, dear reader. The danger is very real. In fact, it may be coming to a salon near you. 

    Be afraid, reader.

         Be very afraid. 

Published in: on June 27, 2008 at 6:35 am  Comments (3)  
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Pogonology

The following post is part of Randy Elrod’s Watercooler Wednesdays

    It is also my exploration into the strange land of facial hair. 

This is a recent adventure for me. Unlike my father, who has had a full beard since he was 15, I’m only clocking about 3 years of observable lip and chin sproutage. 

I’ve learned a couple of things,

1) When you lose hair up top, and gain hair below, being carded for alcohol goes bye-bye, and sir becomes a regular byproduct of strangers’ vocabulary

2) Worrisome thoughts are whittled away with subconscious strokes to one’s chin

And I finally understand why all those creative types grow facial hair. It feels very, I don’t know how to express it, manly I suppose, a bit rebellious… maybe even a bit hip

Of course, sometimes it’s just lazy

I’ve found it’s actually a great indicator for how ordered my life is. A friend of mine let his beard grow wild recently, and I remember him joking, “I’m wearing my sin on my face.” 

So, what do you think?

 

Facial Hair

 

Manly? Rebellious? Hip? Or just plain sinful? 

Comment your opinion. 

(Bonus points if you can tell me what the title means)

 

Published in: on June 25, 2008 at 4:44 am  Comments (4)  
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Guarding the family Jewels

Pulling Hair

Another week, another Watercooler Wednesday post.

~~

I’ve heard them all before:

             Pressure makes diamonds.

        The heat refines the metal.

               Oaks grow strong in contrary winds. 

But if you’re like me and sometimes throw some gasoline on the fire, and a few elephants on your load, this post is for you. 

Last week was crazy. I won’t bore you with the details – it’s just that typical mix of things I had to do, things I wanted to do, and things I never should have said yes to. 

It was a rough week. 

I discerned just how rough yesterday when I finally had a day off. An entire day to focus on writing, reading, and the creative expression I crave. I went to a local cafe and sat down with a bowl of coffee; computer plugged in, wifi a-humming… and all I could do was sit and stare at the screen. For hours.

It was sickening. 

It’s been a long time since I felt emptied of words, but it happened yesterday. What a strange feeling to want to write, to have time to write, even energy to write, but to feel so empty inside, so drained, that the words just wouldn’t come. Connections were impossible to correlate; ideas blended together into a mush of well-tenderized manure. I wasn’t tired, I was just empty. If you could have seen me, you might have thought it was Afternoon of the Dead, the newest Romero flick. It was pretty bad. 

One reason it was so bad is that I don’t believe in writer’s block. I just don’t believe it exists. I can always find some dribble to eek out onto paper, but yesterday wasn’t doing. I hit some kind of creative wall, and I hit it with both eyes bugging. 

I had gotten myself so stressed out, caffeinated up, and overly committed, that when the time was there to write, I found I had nothing left to give. 

I don’t mean to gripe. I mean to warn you.

If you are a person who craves creative expression, as I do, you need to guard your time. Wolves and sheep alike will crowd in and threaten to crowd out everything creative; the good stuff in life will crowd out the great; and even the seemingly necessary will prove, in the end, just another wolf wearing sheep’s clothes. 

If creative expression is important to you, guard it like a she-bear  (Insert whatever crazy she-bitch animal analogy you’d like. I said she-bear because I’d like to have more hair. Rhyming?! Look Ma! I’m a writer again!).

What can you do to avoid a week like mine?

     Say no to the excessive time with friends.

            Say no to the extra hours at work.

      Say no to the extra hobbies.

          Say no to the good, so you can say yes to the great. 

If it’s important to you, you’ve got to put your foot down.

And if you are a man reading this, I direct you to the title of this post…

                            Guard it like that!

Published in: on June 11, 2008 at 4:05 am  Comments (7)  
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