08 August 2013

Reflection on: The Slow Down

The school year is about to launch my family and me into a whirlwind. Where did the summer go? I'll tell you: into tasks that needed to be done. However, my thoughts about slowing down all year round are taking root, and I want them to dictate how I operate.

They won't wear Buzz and Woody boots forever

I look at Thing Three as he sleeps in a heap of baby rolls and I wonder where our newborn went. His brothers are way older than I remembered they were last night - and with the winds of the school year approaching, I don't want to become the 40-year-old who looks back and laments the busy schedules.

I want to enjoy my wife. Life gets messy and hard, but she's still my bride, my love. Will we use all our time together to work out how bills will be paid, or how to scrap and save for college funds? I don't want to. And although the peak of romance in our busy house is letting her sleep in, I would like to hold her hand and savor a moment here and there.

I want to slow down.

I want to know this moment is the only thing I have. I can't exist in the future, and the past is gone. But right now, it's here - I don't want to ignore it!

I've decided this school year will be the year of digging in and working my tail off. Sounds like a great way to slow down, doesn't it?

But it is.

If I decide to exist in every moment the way I should exist in it, then I don't miss anything; I don't waste away a work day because I'm daydreaming about next summer; I don't fret about school the next day because I have my crap done and I can build a fort of sheets with my boys.

Slowing down isn't always about doing nothing. If my mind isn't swirling with the should-have-done's, then it will be able to focus on one thing at a time. That's slowness - one thing at a time.

It's time to slow down.

03 July 2013

IWSG: Sluggish June

The brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh, The Insecure Writer's Support Group runs the First Wednesday of every month. There's quite a hefty list of writers posting about their troubles, check some of them out and post some encouragement!

Last month was not a writing month, especially when I compare it to April! I always have huge plans for the summer, yet it seems I do less writing. It always makes me groan to reflect on a whole month and see little progress in any of my current projects, but I'm trying to be strong!

I've been working on another short story along with my second book, and I know exactly how I want it to end, I know what changes need to be made in the second draft, and still I can't find the time or the energy to finish it! I also know why I've been so slow - I completed our house painting project yesterday, which took all of June - but that doesn't seem to help my inner-writer any. I still look over at my neglected composition notebook and wish it was bursting with the ideas that are clanging around in my head.

So, now that the house is a lovely timber bark, July here I come!



19 June 2013

What's Up Wednesday: 6/19

The What's up Wednesday meme/bloghop is hosted by Jaime Morrow and her sister Erin Funk. Visit their blogs to see what they write about and what they're up to!

What I'm reading

 

I've been looking through Yeats's poems again, and I've started a short fairy tale called "Undine" that I've intended to read for some time. However, the busy schedule of late has prohibited much reading!


What I'm writing

 

I'm still working on my second book - I'm about ten pages in on my second try. I've been putting most of my morning energies into another short story, and I'm ten pages into that as well.

I missed out on the start of Read. Set. Write! last week (see reasons below), so here's what I would have said:

I don't have solid word count goals. Each morning, not counting the weekends, I set out to write on both my book and my short story. I try for at least a page each.

I'm glad to report that I've been writing at least 2-3 pages a morning, and yesterday I wrote six! (This is great for me, by the way, even if it sounds like a puny amount.)

The best part about my writing lately is that I'm still doing it. Usually I go in short strong bursts that fizzle out. I had a busy April and in the past that would have been enough for a year, at least. So I'm glad to just be writing consistently!



What else I've been up to

 

House scraping. Still.

 

What inspires me right now

 

Indie authors everywhere. The more I read about self publishing and what it takes to become a successful writer, I'm amazed at the work ethic and the desire to get their work out there. Their stories make me want to continue writing and follow in their footsteps!

05 June 2013

IWSG: Fill in the blank


Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh, again (!), for running the Insecure Writer's Support Group! This blog hop is a great platform for writers to find others who are struggling to make sense of this sometimes defeating calling.

This last weekend I was bemoaning the fact that I'm not like a certain writer, and not long afterword I realized I had my topic for today. Fill in this blank and you have one of the many blocks any writer faces: I am not __________ enough.

Haven't you done it? Haven't you said or thought: I'm not enough? I could fill in that blank with so many things, and these are the ones that only apply to writing!

What's Up Wednesday: 6/5

The What's up Wednesday meme/bloghop is hosted by Jaime Morrow and her sister Erin Funk. Take a look at what they're all about, what they're writing, and what they're reading - and then take a spin on the hop yourself!

What I'm reading

 

My wife and I are still reading Quitter, by Jon Acuff. We are both enjoying the encouragement and the practical advice he shares about following our dreams.

I'm also working on a daily Psalm and 1 Corinthians, too.


What I'm writing

 

"Dystopolis" is live on Amazon and is only $0.99! Read a preview beginning here to see what you think, and then download the story! Any feedback is always appreciated, and if you're so inclined to write a formal review on Amazon, I'd say thank you (and try and return the favor)!

I've put my book down for most of this week to work on updating my blog and to write a guest post on the A-Z blog. I'll let you all know when that's happening.

Also, check out my post for today's IWSG! It's titled "Fill in the blank."


What else I've been up to

 

We are beginning the painful process of painting our house. Sigh.

 

What inspires me right now

 

A young mother of three just lost her husband to complications of brain cancer last week. They had been fighting the cancer for about six years and he'd had a least four surgeries and tons of chemo. Our community is in shock, and so is she. What is inspiring is her reaction to it all. She is so strong in her faith, and is using this as an opportunity to share that faith. At the funeral she was able to stand up and talk about her husband and what he was about. That alone tugs at my heart. Please pray for this family - she is strong, but the coming days and weeks will push her and her children to places they've never been.

30 May 2013

Dystopolis Cover Progressions

My good friend and fellow teacher Derek agreed to draw a cover for Dystopolis. Here's the first two proofs and the final draft:


I knew I wanted a sparse pencil drawing with a point of view that encouraged a dark mood. For the second proof, I asked for more damage on the buildings:



Once this one was done, I wanted a darker feel - again, to accomplish a dark mood. Here's the final:



I'm working on getting the final draft of the story ready...stay tuned!

29 May 2013

What's Up Wednesday: 5/29

The What's up Wednesday meme/bloghop is hosted by Jaime Morrow and her sister Erin Funk. Check out their blogs, find the link to all the others who are participating in the weekly hop, or join in!

What I'm reading

 

My wife is reading Quitter, by Jon Acuff, to me. Besides the fact that I love to be read to, this book is inspiring. It's all about chasing your dreams, doing what you're called to do. The more we read, the more I'm convinced that I need to write.
I also just started The End of Christendom, by Malcolm Muggeridge. It's actually a series of lectures that were given in 1978 at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. The main theme is remembering Pascal and his contribution to the Christian worldview. It's challenging.

What I'm writing

 

"Dystopolis" is still in process. I'm in the final edit stage.

Two pages in on my second book. The slowness is maddening, but I'm trying to enjoy/tell myself it's okay/remember that it's better that things come slowly...like sipping coffee on a cold morning.

Those short story ideas sill need work.

Also, check out this post for the Get Healthy bloghop!

What else I've been up to

 



Trying to keep up with Thing One and Thing Two...

 

 What inspires me right now

 

From Blaise Pascal (Pensee 188):

"Reason's last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it. It is merely feeble if it does not go as far as to realize that."

Dealing with Pain

Thanks to Stephen Tremp, Alex Cavanaugh, Diane Wolfe, and Michael Di Gesu for putting on the Get Healthy Bloghop! I hope what you find today - whether in this post, or on another blog - will point you in the direction of wholeness.

Painful Living


There comes a point where you forget what it's like to live without pain.

Since September of last year I've been dealing with acid reflux, and at its worst, even water would flare it up into my throat.

I cut as much out of my diet as I could: milk, cheese, coffee - coffee - chocolate, anything spicy, caffeine, citrus. And until recently nothing seemed to make a difference.

The first week of February I went to a GI specialist to have a scope of my stomach and esophagus. My wife and I were happy to find out that I didn't have the early signs of cancer - if you have prolonged reflux, the cells in your esophagus may change and cancer is possible. However, the only other thing the scope revealed is what I already knew: my stomach and esophagus were messed up because of the acid bubbling up into it.

After the scope, I was put on a round of antibiotics plus a coating agent (the biggest culprit of acid reflux: stomach infection). And although the intensity of the acid decreased, and the pump inhibitor did seem to help too, the acid remained.

Each morning I would wake up to mild discomfort that would flare up when I took my meds. Even an empty stomach didn't like me.

Months passed. Frustration ensued. Some other things I tired along the way: ginger root, garlic, apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, raw milk - yes, I tried everything!

Relief - finally!


Just in the last couple weeks I've found some relief. I took yet another round of antibiotics, for a nasty congestion in my chest, and the acid has seemed to subside. I'm now taking a somewhat large amount of zinc and plan to try colloidal silver if the remaining discomfort persists.

What else I've learned


Throughout the last eight months I've prayed much, mostly to ask what this pain could be about. I realize that we live in a broken world, and that we get sick as a result. However, I also believe that God uses pain to communicate with us when we aren't paying attention as we should. He set this quote from L'Engle in my lap and I was humbled:

"...It is chastening to realize that those who have no physical flaw, who move through life in step with their peers, who are bright and beautiful, seldom become artists. The unending paradox is that we do learn through pain...Pain is not always creative; received wrongly, it can lead to alcoholism and madness and suicide. Nevertheless, without it we do not grow."

And so, with this in mind, that God does work through pain, through illness - even to get us to listen more deeply - I will attempt to allow him to move me to wholeness.

22 May 2013

What's Up Wednesday: 5/22

It's time again for the What's up Wednesday meme/bloghop. Each Wednesday bloggers post about their respective week/day using the headings that follow. Join in the fun with this link to Jaime Morrow's blog - thanks again to Jaime and Erin for putting it all on, it's no small task!

What I'm reading

 

Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art of course...

My journey through the Psalms continues, more on this below.

I've also found an interesting site called Narrative Magazine. It came to me first as an app for my iPad, which I like better than the actual site because of how clean and quiet it is. There's some great material there, and it's free!

What I'm writing

 

"Dystopolis" is nearing an end, finally, and my goal is to have it available for sale within this month - I'm sure I'll let you know when people begin flocking!

This morning I revamped my second book. I've decided to begin at page one and rewrite the story with a different approach. Last week I mentioned that I didn't feel like I knew my characters, and I think starting from another point in the story will help. The pages I've written are not lost, I'll use much of what I've done, but not much of it - the way it stands now - will make the final cut.

Short story ideas have been flowing. Although I haven't set any words to paper, I've been jotting notes like crazy. Stay on the look out for more after "Dystopolis"!

What else I've been up to

 

Now that we're somewhat healthy, we're trying to get our vehicle healthy. The transmission died last Friday, and so the remainder of our free time has been conversation about where to fix our troubled van. It's good tomorrow is the last day of school, we need a break!

What inspires me right now

 

Last week I said I'm full because of my family and spring, I'm still full. I look around me and I see brokenness everywhere, then I come home and I couldn't ask for more. This morning I read Psalm 50; the last verse says, "The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!"



And surely the right way is paved with a thankful heart. I'm full.

15 May 2013

What's Up Wednesday

Thanks again to Jaime Morrow, host of the What's up Wednesday meme. Each Wednesday the participating bloggers post about their respective week/day using the headings that follow. Chase the link above to join in the fun!

What I'm reading

 

Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art continues to speak to me. I'll probably be mentioning it for many Wednesdays to come...

I'm also picking my way through W.B. Yeats's collected works. The Irish hit a chord within me that others don't (C.S. Lewis is the other culprit). When I read "The Lake Isle of Innisfree," I ache like he does to be transported to a "bee-loud glade." It's a similar feeling to that of Frost's poem, "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening." The depth of yearning is there. Last Wednesday I wrote about L'Engle and her positive view on suffering, and these two poets knew suffering. Maybe that's why their poetry has weight.

What I'm writing

 

"Dystopolis," my short story project (most is still posted on my blog - start here), is proving to be more of a challenge to finish and get on Amazon. The more I think about it, the more I want to tinker with the story and add to it. Is this folly? Then there's the part of me that just wants to make it available for purchase so I can wash my hands and move on...

The first draft of my second book is slow in coming, but I'm not fretting. I usually draft by hand and then type the second copy. So instead of pulling my hair out about plot development, I'm simply beginning the typing process early. I'm convinced I don't know my characters enough anyway.

What else I've been up to

 

Trying to get our house well before summer. We're a coughing mess.

What inspires me right now

 

My wife, my children, and spring.

Last night my lovely bride began to sing a hymn as she prepared dinner. My eldest son was drawing at the dining room table, and almost immediately he joined her. I can't describe how full my heart feels when I hear both my wife and my five year old son joyously praising God while going about their day.

I'm full.

All around us creation is waking up. I'm amazed at the glory of it all.





And you? Are you full today? Are you taking in the warm air?

08 May 2013

Thou Shalt Love Thy Terrorist

I read a news story yesterday about a man from Mullinville, KS named M.T. Liggett. Mullinville is a small town of 178 people - not much to speak of comes from a town like that.

Yet his offer of love toward the family of Tamerlan Tsarnaev has put the town on the map - and not to mention his name all over the net.

Tsarnaev is the deceased suspect of the recent bombing at the Boston Marathon. The offer to his family has to do with the fact that no cemeteries want to accept his body. And the statement there is a powerful one. They are not accepting what Tsarnaev has done, nor do the people running the cemeteries want his name associated with their own.

Point taken.

However, as of this week, the family of this man is in turmoil because according to their beliefs he has to be buried - cremation is not an option. So his body is rotting on a table while his family suffers.

And, again, maybe that's the point those refusing his body want to make: let him rot for what he did.

Liggett thought otherwise. In the article he made this statement, "They can have my [burial] plot." He then goes on to say that it's not our job to judge a dead man, nor is it okay for those of us who profess Christ to - and I'm paraphrasing - refrain from showing love.

I can't think of a better example of showing love to our enemies than this. Here's a terrorist who has killed, maimed, and scared our countrymen, our country! He plotted and he carried out harm. And what he did will echo through America's history for as long as we have breath. Yet this elderly man is showing love.

People will be angry with him.

People will say he might as well be a terrorist himself.

People will hate him.

Yet if I call myself a Christian, and I do, then my reaction to hate must be love.

When Jesus allowed himself to be nailed to the cross, hate billowed around him as though he was burned at the stake. His reaction? Forgive them. He told his followers to love their enemies, pray for those who persecute them.

He says that to me still.

Tsarnaev is my enemy if I am a U.S. citizen, and M.T. Liggett is my example of Christ's love if I intend to truly follow what my Lord commands me to follow.

May the Lord forgive me when my reaction to hate is hate.

And so the question remains: how do we treat the younger brother? Do we forgive? It is our choice.

What's up Wednesday


Jaime Morrow hosts the weekly What's Up Wednesday blog hop, it's a great idea to help you jump-start your blogging week. Not only that, but it's a great way to find more reading material and fresh blogs. Follow the link to her blog to join in!

What I'm reading

 

I'm still working on Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. It's something I like to read slowly, some passages over and over so they sink in. The section I read yesterday was about suffering. It was challenging because she takes a positive view of the things that hurt and make us stumble. May our suffering have a purpose!

What I'm writing

 

I'm also still working on my short story called "Dystopolis" (it's still posted here on my blog - start here). I'd like to have it up for sale this month, and soon, but there are so many things I have to do in order for that to happen!

I started on chapter six of the first draft of my second book this week. It's slow going, but I had a breakthrough with where to go with some of the characters, so I'm encouraged.

What else I've been up to

 

The weather has been nice and we're spending a lot of time outside. Our three boys love to tumble around (literally), and we are preparing to paint our house. *sigh*

I can see summer vacation, almost touch it with my fingertips...

What inspires me right now

 

My daily walk through the Psalms had me at number 39 this morning. The prayer that the LORD would "make me know my end and what is the measure of my days," is convicting and powerful. To put on a humble attitude because I "know how fleeting I am" is where I'd like to be before our Creator. That's also where I'd like to be when I sit down to write. If I'm not humbled enough to quiet myself, I won't hear the inspiration from him at all.


What's up with your Wednesday?

01 May 2013

IWSG: Do you write?

A big thanks goes out to Alex J. Cavanaugh, who hosts The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Check it out for yourself!

Just a quick note about what it takes to be a writer.

Lately, I've been focused and driven. For the last six weeks or so I've been able to write every day excluding Sunday (much needed worship and rest is reserved for that day). I've also been focused on publishing the short story I've been serializing during the A-Z Challenge - read it here for free until I actually get that done.

What's Up Wednesday

First of all a big thanks goes out to Jaime Morrow for hosting the What's Up Wednesday blog hop, and Erin Funk for alerting me to it. Follow the links to their blog - join in!

What I'm reading

 

Whenever I need encouragement in writing or in life in general, I pick through Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. Right now I'm reading it in its entirety for the third time. It always hits me how true it is that we do not create alone, that God is with us, inspiring us, working through us.

I'm also almost done with Seeing What is Sacred: Becoming More Spiritually Sensitive to the Everyday Moments of Life, by Ken Gire. I've spent some time with this one. Many of the chapters challenge the way I think about everyday moments - especially in how I spend time with my children.

What I'm writing

 

The month of April has been busy. The A-Z Challenge has kept me honest with a daily writing routine on this blog, but also with my second book.

I serialized a short story called "Dystopolis" (it's still posted here on my blog - start here - you can buy the story on Amazon soon!), in 26 posts with the challenge. It was such a unique experience to sit down each morning and hammer out another section of story. It was a great way to force myself to work out a first draft.

The book I'm working on doesn't have a title, but the main character is Mossy, a boy who came to his parents one night as they walked through the forest. He was sitting under the trees waiting for them. The story takes off when Mossy's dad, Milt, disappears. Will their family be reunited? Will the mystery of Mossy's appearance be revealed? I'll let you know...

What else I've been up to

 

Only a few more weeks of school left! I teach English I and II at the local high school, and right now I'm teaching Romeo & Juliet, as well as a bit of poetry. Teaching is a joy and a challenge all at once.

And, of course, I come home and play with my three sons. The evenings are lengthening and we're spending more time outside - now if we could just stay healthy!

What inspires me right now

 

About an hour ago I read this from Psalm 32: "I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,' and you forgave the iniquity of my sin."

I'm again in awe that our God forgives sin, especially that sin that I can't seem to throw off completely. He throws it off for me, and I'm thankful.


So - what have you been up to lately?

13 April 2013

Dystopolis: 2.6











ittle patches of light fell on Evie's hands as she marked the grave. She took a flat rock and pushed it into the loose soil. The girl's shoe once again caught her eye. She had eased it off the swollen foot of the child, and now she slipped it in her pocket. "I will remember you."

Evie's dirty face was streaked with tears as she turned away and faced the street. There was no telling how long the daylight would last.

The quiet of the streets latched onto her, a wet blanket to drag, and the smell of rotting flesh still turned her stomach - even after all these weeks of walking through it. Coming around a corner and looking up, Evie's heart beat with joy. She ran up the steps of the building across the street and pulled open the heavy doors.

There was the stench hovering here, too, but Evie covered her mouth and went in anyway. Unlike so many other public buildings, this one was mostly untouched. The dust lay thick on the floor and shelves, and the books had to be wiped clean. She picked up the closest book to the door and opened it.

The radiant sun, the cloud-swept moon,
My dear, both declare I come none too soon.

The book yearned to be read, she could feel it in her hands. But the shadows lengthened, and Evie wouldn't brave the dark. She carried the book to the door and turned around. She would be back.


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Thus ends the preview of "Dystopolis." If you would like to continue reading the story, click here to buy the Kindle edition for only $0.99!



Thanks for reading!




Read the idea behind the story.

12 April 2013

Dystopolis: 2.5











idney beans, corn, Campbell's Tomato Soup. The cans clinked as her slender fingers dropped them into her bag. She ran her fingernails over the labels - the tin cans reminded her of late nights with her grandmother. They would chat when she came home from college, a wooden spoon swirling the veggies and beans back and forth, as they spoke of boys and classes.

That was a life ago. Yet her grandmother's voice was clear, even within the empty store, the empty streets, the empty...

"Evie, take your time. You've no need to rush. Look around you, take it all in. Think."

And now she had all the time in the world to think. The wind blew through the open doors and down the aisle Evie stood in. She saw black streaks fly across the storefront windows. A shudder ran down her spine.

"The world moves quickly - but you've got to take your time." The soup always felt so warm and filling all the way down. "Look, and you'll see things no one else has eyes for."

Her bag was full and she swung it over her back. She closed her eyes, sighed, and walked to the entrance. There was no sign of the crows. She looked again, this time focusing on the small things around her. Her breath caught. Under a car across the street she found a child's shoe, and with it a child cold and still.

Evie wept. The birds had left her alone, the car protecting her somehow. She pulled the body of a girl out and carried her to a group of trees around the corner. She would bury her. Yes, she would dig a grave here.

The crows will not have her. Evie began to dig.

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Check out the rest of the A-Z crew here! And come by tomorrow for 2.6 of "Dystopolis."

Jump to 2.4, or start at the beginning!

Read the idea behind the story.

11 April 2013

Dystopolis: 2.4











ets screamed across the sky and screamed across the sky. Adam covered his head with his bare arms and tried to shut out the sound. Everything was a dream - everything was a dream. It was the only thought that kept him sane.

Adam's powers of imagination had always been strong. During his school days he could sit in a room full of dull jocks and a droning teacher, and fill it with clone troopers and cowboys. It helped him survive then, it helped him survive now.

Like he promised himself in the library weeks ago, he hadn't left his house to walk the streets. He never would again.

Adam didn't see the books lining his shelf - they disappeared the night he burned the few he'd risked so much for. They said too much. Now, they said it to no one.

He began to watch and re-watch old movies from his collection. It was a shame he'd stopped buying DVDs; the rotation of action, comedy, action, comedy, couldn't keep his attention anymore, and soon he only turned them on for the noise.

Voices droned in the next room as Adam stared through his cracked glasses at nothing.

...increasingly on the alert to prevent them from taking over other mineshaft space, in order to breed more prodigiously than we do, thus, knocking us out in superior numbers when we emerge! Mr. President, we must not allow a mine shaft gap!


The sun burned the backs of the curtains; light flickered through the doorway, and Adam fell into another nightmare.

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Check out the rest of the A-Z crew here! And come by tomorrow for 2.5 of "Dystopolis."

Jump to 2.3, or start at the beginning!

Read the idea behind the story.

10 April 2013

Dystopolis: 2.3











nsomnia was what drove him to drink. The thought ran through Adam's mind for a long time as he looked at his glass affectionately. He couldn't sleep without a drink - at least one - and several put him out. The bottle of scotch he just finished fell to the floor with a clunk. "Ah, m-lady, my apologies." He bowed.

The steps leading to the basement were dark and Adam had to feel his way down. "Eight and nine to the floor - ahh!" He fell and his glass broke on the wall next to him. "Yes, ten steps, not nine." The thought of the full bottles in the next room made him smile as he sat in the darkness. "I'm coming for you!"

Adam chuckled at his joke as he flipped on the light. No horror of recent days was worse: the floor was soaked and reeked of liquor. "No! Wha - ?" He sat and stared at the empty bottles on the shelves, at the broken ones on the floor, and wept. His eye caught his shotgun; the barrel had glass in it, and the whole of it was sopping with alcohol. He considered using it right there where he sat, but another idea prevailed.

"Zoe!" He raged upstairs and into the dinning room. "What have I told you about going into the basement?" He swung the gun at her and knocked her to the floor. The sight of her on the floor, her hair askew and her body lumped, snapped Adam out of his anger. "Oh, I'm sorry - I didn't mean it!" He took her head in his hands and looked into her eyes. "Please, please forgive me!"

The fire flickered in the corner. "I'll never do it again, please forgive me!" He helped Zoe into a chair, and to show her he was serious, he threw the shotgun into the fire.

Adam realized his folly too late. The memory of it ate at him in the study now, his insomnia only allowing him to sleep with bloody dreams.

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Check out the rest of the A-Z crew here! And come by tomorrow for 2.4 of "Dystopolis."

Jump to 2.2, or start at the beginning!

Read the idea behind the story.

09 April 2013

Dystopolis: 2.2











e rubbed his throbbing head. The light pouring in cursed his red eyes, and he rolled over and buried his face. Sleep took him finally, and he dreamed of earlier days.

It was that day, the day so many came to his gate, that haunted him. The bombs had ceased to fall, but sickness and starvation were just beginning.

"Please! Men are looting the city! Just let us sit inside your gate while they pass - we'll leave as soon as they stop!" Adam averted his eyes. The clothes on the woman smelled of urine, and the little girl tugging on her leg began to cry. "We don't want anything from you, please, you can kick us out when they go!"

A car rammed into a storefront down the block; a fire hydrant shot into the air. Adam loaded his shotgun and stepped back from the bars. "No! Please open the gate - they'll take us! Please!" Adam didn't hear her anymore. He moved into the shadows and watched as the girl cried and the woman screamed.

The men came. They laughed as they beat the woman. Her blue dress flapped in the wind as she was dragged away, the white polka dots blending and waving in an endless white-blue-white succession.

Adam breathed again. The rushing water from the hydrant pounded the pavement; smoke from the wrecked car rose and disappeared in a hazy sky. Adam felt safe once more.

Zoe was waiting at the table for him. He apologized. "Someone was trying to get in again. It seems that always happens around supper." Adam set his gun on the chair next to him. "Carrots with your roast?" He liked carrots, especially with tender pork. "Now that's delicious - don't you think?"

The silverware clinked and the brandy reflected the chandelier's soft light.

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Check out the rest of the A-Z crew here! And come by tomorrow for 2.3 of "Dystopolis."

Jump to 2.1, or start at the beginning!

Read the idea behind the story.

08 April 2013

Dystopolis: 2.1











lowing coals were all that was left of the night's fire, but Adam didn't move. He sat and stared at the ash gathering on each ember and thought of nothing. Smoke seeped into the room and up the chimney. Adam didn't notice.

The only light in the study seemed like orange eyes, only closing as they burned themselves to death, suffocating in their own flesh.

Three books lay next to him, one open. He had tried to read by firelight, like he'd always done, but what the triumvirate had to say Adam didn't want to hear. In succession he picked them up expecting the fullness he'd had before. He ended up watching the fire die. And now that only coals remained, he rose and walked to his desk. He poured himself a drink, then another.

On the couch, the open book still spoke, though no one listened:

She crawled over the bodies of the dead. His blood spurted over her hands.
'Quicker,' he gasped, 'I am dying  - but we touch, we talk, not through the Machine.'
He kissed her.

The ice cubes in Adam's glass clinked, and he dumped them out onto the floor. He poured again, then again. He saw the last eye shut from where he stood; he threw his glass and it shattered, the remaining liquid hissed in the heat.

'We have come back to our own. We die, but we have recaptured life, as it was in Wessex, when Aelfrid overthrew the Danes. We know what they know outside, they who dwelt in the cloud that is the colour of a pearl.'

Adam built the fire up. He sneered at the books on the couch and added them to the flames. As he watched the pages curl and explode, he couldn't contain his laughter. The black spine with the numerals 451 burned so brightly!

Adam watched again as the fire raged through the night, his sleepless eyes waiting for the orange glow to return.

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Check out the rest of the A-Z crew here! And come by tomorrow for 2.2 of "Dystopolis."

Jump to 1.6, or start at the beginning!

Read the idea behind the story.

06 April 2013

Dystopolis: 1.6











rost on the windows. That was what Adam remembered most about the day he met Zoe. She was standing in the department store he was rummaging through, and she didn't look at him when he spoke. He was surprised to see her inside the store - he had seen women like her from the corners of busy streets, but that was the first time he'd seen one of them from inside, and so out in the open.

Adam had never felt comfortable around women, but she was, of course, easy to take home. And, as Adam explained to himself as they went back to his house, his intentions were pure.

"I haven't had anyone to talk to - well, I suppose you haven't either - for a long time." Zoe looked straight ahead. "My home is quiet, the streets are quiet, everything's quiet." She was no different, really, but at least there was company. "And after all," he thought, "she can't have much experience in conversation, or in the friend department."

That was months ago, and not much had changed. Zoe liked to sit in the window-seat overlooking the garden, and even though she was there every morning when Adam woke, he still felt alone.

"Zoe! I brought the generator! Hot baths and hot food again!" Her long fingers held an unlit cigarette, and her martini glass sparkled in the sunlight. She was still. Her golden hair stirred as Adam walked by, and he kept talking. "The crows followed me home; they gave me quite a scare!" His hollow laugh echoed off the tiled floor and died. He wiped dried blood off his face and examined his cracked lenses.

Adam stared at Zoe's back. Her strapless dress wrapped itself around her, and Adam marveled at her perfect form. "I'll go get the generator hooked up." Zoe said nothing.

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Check out the rest of the A-Z crew here! And come by Monday for 2.1 of "Dystopolis."

Jump to 1.5, or start at the beginning!

Read the idea behind the story.

05 April 2013

Dystopolis: 1.5











ach crow was frozen, anticipating Adam's movement. His foot instinctively let off the accelerator when he saw the birds, and when he told that foot to move, it disobeyed. He slowly covered his head with his hood and gripped the steering wheel. "Breathe," Adam closed his eyes, "slowly, move - move!" He urged himself on, and inch by inch his toe reached for the pedal.

"Caw! Caw!" The closest birds rustled their wings. Adam adjusted himself in the seat and pulled the belt across his lap. The ax lay next to him, just to his right.

He pounded his foot to the floor and the forklift lurched. Adam's hood flew off and he grabbed at the ax as a black cloud threatened to consume him; they clawed at the metal bars and bounced off the frame surrounding Adam. Some of the birds hit their mark, knocking Adam back momentarily. And then, all at once, they were at his eyes.

Adam swung the ax with his right arm and shielded his eyes with his left; the forklift veered and glanced off a dumpster. Several crows were crushed and many others retreated at the impact, giving Adam time to prepare for their next assault. He honked the horn and yelled as he drove on, swerving and swinging the ax. Finally, the birds kept their distance, though they followed Adam all the way home.

The three-story house loomed on the horizon. Made of stone, the structure stood out among smaller, more colorful buildings. Adam opened the gate and drove the forklift into the shelter of the garage; as he pulled the double doors shut, the crows lined up on the property's wall.

Adam pressed his head against the closed doors and began to sob. "I'm safe," he said aloud, "I'm safe, and this is all a bad dream." He composed himself - Zoe would be waiting, and he could already see her blank stare that would bore a hole through him.

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Check out the rest of the A-Z crew here! And come by tomorrow for 1.6 of "Dystopolis."

Jump to 1.4, or start at the beginning!

Read the idea behind the story.

04 April 2013

Dystopolis: 1.4











arkness fell in sheets across the dusty tiled floor. Adam picked his way toward the back of the store, his flashlight guiding him. There wasn't much on the shelves, and he ignored what was left. Finally, he saw the generator. It was bigger than he'd remembered, and he had no idea how to get it back to his house.

Adam cursed. "No plan, I came all the way out here with no plan." He picked up a screwdriver and threw it. The clang it produced made Adam shine his light to see what he'd hit. There was hope! He climbed into the forklift and tried to start it. "Please, please let this work!" After several fruitless efforts, he slid off and walked around looking for any clues as to how to start it. He laughed when he saw the propane tank on the back. As soon as he opened the valve, he knew it would start.

The headlights on the forklift lit up the generator and he scooped it up easily. He would have to exit through the back of the store - "All the better," thought Adam, and he tried to erase the memory of the crow perched outside. He whistled as he looked for his last item; the ax glowed blood red in the dim beam of the flashlight. He grabbed it and hustled back to his new ride.

The warehouse behind the main part of the store was even darker, and the light from the forklift seemed to be all there was that existed. Adam turned a corner and saw streaks of daylight through large double doors. He pulled them open, jumped back on the forklift, and drove into blinding light.

It was several moments before he saw them - the waiting black birds, watching his every move.

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Check out the rest of the A-Z crew here! And come by tomorrow for 1.5 of "Dystopolis."

Jump to 1.3, or start at the beginning!

Read the idea behind the story.

03 April 2013

Dystopolis: 1.3











arrion birds circled the street. As soon as Adam saw them, he put up his hood and pulled on black gloves. One more stop, he thought, one more stop and I'll never walk these streets again. The few things he needed would allow him to sustain himself for a long time, maybe the rest of his life.

"And Zoe," Adam's lips mouthed the words. She was waiting for him - in the same chair, looking out the same window, nursing the same drink. Adam sighed. If only she would talk to him, or see him, that would make everything much more tolerable.

A crow flew past and landed on a stoop just ahead of Adam. It cawed and made eye contact. Adam crossed the street, looking back at the bird. A tricycle tripped him and sent him sprawling into a hedge of overgrown bushes. He pushed himself up and felt the crow before he heard or saw it; its black wings lifted as it called and called. Adam kicked at it, but it wouldn't fly away.

"Go! Get out of here!" Adam stood and ran around the next corner where he knew he could get inside the hardware store he was headed to. Flapping wings, talons, a blackness seeking for his face. He yanked on the handle of the glass door; it closed and he tried to catch his breath.

The bird retreated to a shopping cart outside. It opened its beak and Adam turned away.

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Check out the rest of the A-Z crew here! And come by tomorrow for 1.4 of "Dystopolis."

Jump to 1.2

Read the idea behind the story.

02 April 2013

Dystopolis: 1.2











 eyond the computers. Adam shuddered. He closed his eyes and forced his feet forward one at a time; when he opened them, his fingers gripped the straps of his backpack and he quickly looked down.

It was the stillness. They sat there unmoving before the computer screens, their stench unmistakable. The books, Adam thought, the books were worth this. His step quickened when he heard what sounded like a pen fall to the floor just to his left. But that was all. They were still, and Adam could feel their stillness.

But he was at the front desk. He set his bag on the counter and waited. The computers didn't seem to hum like they should, and the staff was absent. Adam looked in the offices from where he stood but all was still in the back as well. The longer he waited, the more his thoughts spiraled out of control. They would follow his trail, They would bring their rancid bodies close to him and touch him with decayed fingers...

"Ah!" Adam's imagination played tricks. He grabbed his backpack and ran for the door. The sunlight hurt his eyes, but he could breathe. Slowly, Adam put his bag on his shoulders and walked down the steps to the street. He didn't look back.

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Check out the rest of the A-Z crew here! And come by tomorrow for 1.3 of "Dystopolis."

Jump to 1.1

01 April 2013

Dystopolis: 1.1











dam pulled books off the shelf quickly. Bradbury, Huxley, Forster; they were like old friends coming home. He sniffed the spines, not bothering to wipe the dust away first. The delicious sneeze that followed echoed off the library's stone floors.

Adam looked around, but the sound died and he shoved the books into his backpack. Another few aisles, he thought, and I'll be done. He repeated this to himself as he walked to the poetry section. He kept his eyes on the floor, on his feet, and only stopped to be sure his were the only ones making the click-clack, click-clack, that bounced back at him from darkening walls.

The title he was looking for all but fell into his hands. He pushed his glasses up on his sweaty nose and turned to his page, as he called it.
 Whose woods these are I think I know
Adam closed his eyes and the rest of the poem seeped out from him instead of the pages in his hands. "Promises to keep," the words left his mouth unbidden, and again he looked to his left and right until the sound of his own voice faded. The snow of the poem melted at his next thought. Deep breath, Adam. He secured the final book and walked.

The circulation desk lay beyond the rows of computers where They sat. Chills ran down his spine at the thought of it. They would see him, and though they wouldn't walk after him, it was enough to have to pass them at all.

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Check out the rest of the A-Z crew here! And come by tomorrow for 1.2 of "Dystopolis."

Read about the idea for this April's posts here.

31 March 2013

Liebster Blog Award

When I checked my blog yesterday I got a huge surprise, Kirsten Hart has given my blog the Liebster Blog award - and I'm very grateful, Kirsten! It's fun to open one's dashboard and find such good news!





In order to accept this award, there are these requirements:

Things to do:


1. Post the award on my blog
2. Thank the blogger who nominated me and link back to her site
3. Post 11 random facts about myself
4. Answer 11 questions that the presenter of the award has asked me
5. Nominate 11 new bloggers with fewer than 200 followers that I want to pass the award on to
6. Ask the new nominees 11 questions

11 facts about me:

 

1. I teach English and Creative Writing
2. My favorite writers include C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald
3. C.S. Lewis is now my favorite poet
4. My first book (yet to be published) has talking animals in it
5. I played baseball in college
6. I like to garden
7. I'm trying to get on a digital diet
8. Robert Frost's poem "You Come Too" is one of my favorites
9. My family and I live in a small town and we wouldn't live anywhere else
10. Bare branches always make me stop and stare
11. Early spring is my favorite time of year

11 questions from Kirsten:

 

1. How do you drink your coffee? 
I drink my coffee black - pressed.


2. If you were a sandwich, what type of sandwich would you be? Why?
I would be a BLT because anything with bacon is just lovely.


3. What is the strangest job you've ever done?
I've changed some diapers in some strange places, if that counts.

4. If you could be invisible for a day, would you use your invisibility for good or for evil?
I might slap some former students...I mean, for good, I meant to say for good!

5. Other than invisibility, what skill or talent would you like to have? 
I would like to be able to hit a baseball over 400ft.

6. What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?
When I took my final teaching test I thought I had shut off my phone. I hadn't. I got a text with only a few minutes left and I had to pretend it wasn't me so I wouldn't forfeit the test. My heart was in my stomach and the guy next to me kept smirking. I got out quick once we were dismissed...

7. If you could commit one crime and get away with it, what would it be?
I might steal a van Gogh.


8. What is your favorite ice cream?
Chocolate chip.


9. If you could be a fictional character from film or literature, who would you be?
Luke Skywalker.

10. What is your favorite song lyric?
"You make beautiful things out of dust...you make beautiful things out of us." Gungor, "Beautiful Things."


11. If you could rule the world for a day, what would you change?
I would give every family an acre of land a piece so everyone could grow their own food.

And the nominations go to:

 

1. Heart of a Ready Writer
2. Faith, Friends & Flip Flops
3. TREE HUGGER
4. Beyond Acadia: Reading, Writing, & Living Well
5. day of grace
6. Bouquet of Books
7. Life & Faith in Caneyhead
8. Awakenings and Reflections
9. Coffee in the Garden
10. Homeschooling in Arkansas
11. A Book a Day  


11 question for the new nominees:

 

1. What is the idea behind your blog?
2. Who is your favorite literary character?
3. What book are you reading right now?
4. What is your favorite movie?
5. How many hours to you sleep at night?
6. Are you a morning person?
7. Would you rather read an ebook or an actual book?
8. What is your favorite season?
9. Who inspires you?
10. What motivates you?
11. What takes your breath away?

Thanks again to Kirsten! Check out each blog I've nominated, they are worth following. And don't forget to drop by in April - the A-Z Challenge should be interesting.

29 March 2013

April A-Z Challenge 2013

Two days ago I was certain I would sit this April out; today I decided I would kick myself if I did.

Last year my theme was Beautiful Things, and I picked 26 things that I consider to be worth calling beautiful. I'm taking a different approach this year.

I'll wrap up my first year teaching creative writing this May, and I have challenged my students to do many things with their writing and thinking. This blog challenge is my way of modeling creative writing.

It's in that spirit that I'm going to attempt to write one short story in 26 posts. I'll tie in the successive letters of the alphabet by using them as the first letter of each post.

Come along for the ride!

26 March 2013

Age of Distraction

Doing research for my unit on Fahrenheit 451, I ran across a quote from a writer named Cory Doctorow. I wanted information mainly about the culture of distraction that we all live in now, or are at least tempted to live in, and his discipline is informing my daily writing routine.

  When I'm working on a story or novel, I set a modest daily goal - usually a page or two - and then I meet it every day, doing nothing else while I'm working on it. ...Writing a page every day gets me more than a novel a year...Twenty minutes is a short enough interval that it can be claimed from a sleep or meal-break.

I decided to give it a try, so I've been getting up a little bit earlier - scorning the snooze button - and writing a page a day. It hasn't been a week yet, but I've already produced six pages. This is my schedule:

530: Wake up, stumble to the den; read, pray
600: Write
630: Breakfast
700: Prepare for work
740 - 330: School
335 - 830: Family time (play w/ Thing 1 & Thing 2; lug Thing 3 around; converse with my lovely wife, bedtime)
830 - 1030: Edit my first book, blog, have an actual conversation with my wife, sleep

A few years ago I wrote my first book in the wee hours of the morning, and I had forgotten how much I enjoyed that process. The morning is quiet, and my thoughts have time to roam, and my pen has time to slowly create.

It's also a time free from technology.

At school I find myself glued to my computer when I don't have to be. That's the new habit, and if I don't make a time for myself to read, pray, and write - especially a time when all the noise hasn't begun - it won't happen.

The time is there. It's the shaping it for what we really want it for that's difficult.

19 March 2013

Thank You to the Local Library for the Background!

I bought the books you see in the background at the library in our small town - these and another armful for $1 if I remember correctly. It's been a long time coming that I make a change to this blog, and I thought a stack of books would emit the right mood.

The top one is by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It's  called Tanglewood Tales and is full of retold Greek myths. I was pleasantly surprised, and a bit appalled, that no one else had snagged it. The market for old books is a shrinking one, I suppose.

Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days comes next. The torn edges have since been mended, but it's a great look here (and I'm torn about the white markings on both middle books; sometimes I think they add charm, sometimes they annoy me...). Side note: I can't help but think about Back to the Future every time I hear the name Jules Verne.

The Works of Robert Browning is next, and though I haven't cracked it, I've discovered notes and an inscription that links the book to our local college. The name is from an old family here, and the notes are written in a neat cursive - which is almost as rare as the old books.

The bottom book is called My Love Affair with the State of Maine. I confess I picked that one up because I haven't yet read anything set in that state. I still haven't...

And that's the history behind the new background, hope you enjoy!

18 March 2013

Leisure to Digest

I'm going to subject my English II classes to Fahrenheit 451 this last nine weeks - I can't wait. My second time through the book was just as thrilling as the first. I found myself writing notes furiously as I didn't want to interrupt the pace of the plot; I almost feared I'd break the spell Bradbury crafted so well.

One of the many deep findings that I'll be emphasizing to my students is the part where Professor Faber is explaining to Montag what their culture really needs - besides books, that is. He says, and I'll paraphrase, we (yes, we) need three things: 1. Quality of information, 2. Leisure to digest it, and 3. Freedom to act on what we gain from the first two. Montag's initial reaction to the need for leisure is that there is plenty of off time, which is true. However, just like our culture, that off time is filled to the brim - and past the brim - with activity. It's not until the last few pages of the book that Montag experiences silence and true space to think. And at first it scares him.

Oh, how I see this filling of space with every spare moment we have because if we have to stop and think for even a minute even 45 seconds we might be alone with our thoughts and we might have a thought or that thought might be that we're alone or that we don't know why we're unhappy with what pop culture says should make us happy like our touch screens and our vast number of online friends that are swayed with the wind of the times...

These are some things we'll discuss:

We're forgetting how to be alone with our thoughts.

We're filling space with steam and smoke.

Being bored is okay.    No, really - it's great.

16 March 2013

A Plodding March

I'm not the only writer in our house...
The road back to a normal writing schedule is proving tiresome. I could blame yet another "first" year of teaching - as this year I'm teaching two new grades - or I could cast my woes of troubled progress on to house projects, health issues, little people who have to eat every day and want me to play Star Wars...the list is extensive.

But the real problem is me; I can track all my former success back to a well disciplined approach. In 2008, I wrote a small book while learning my way as a new dad and working a full time job. All it took was 30 minutes a day. In the span of one spring and summer, I wrote over 32,000 words. Not all that impressive, I know, but it was my first project, and my only one finished to date.

And now, well, I have so many fragments, so many ideas, so many notes that I want to pursue, but I lack the discipline to sit and pound out that first messy draft.

One victory: with the help of the resident editor (my lovely wife), I was able to submit a poem and a short story to a contest.

Another victory: I'm completing a short post here.

One step at a time...

31 January 2013

Bleak House, by Charles Dickens

I read Charles Dickens because I know I will love his characters; it's been weeks since I finished Bleak House and whenever I see the cover of the book, or my mind slips for a moment into thoughts of reading, Esther, Mr. Jarndyce, and Jo force their way into my life and make themselves comfortable.

I've not read everything Dickens wrote, though I intend to try, and choosing what to try next is a painful process. I suppose the reasons are obvious; the main one is that the books are thick and take large amounts of brain power to digest (I hate that word in regard to books - digest. As though I could consume even one page containing someone like Lady Dedlock. So I'll say his books take large amounts of brain power to engage. Better). The point is I have to choose what I read carefully.

And so, when I chose to read Bleak House, I chose it because I first read some criticism on the book by an author I admire: G.K. Chesterton. It only took one sentence, and in that sentence Chesterton said he believed Bleak House to be Dickens's best novel.

So I read it. Eight weeks later, approximately one week per one hundred pages, I'm not sure it is the best Dickens novel - but deciding that wasn't my objective in reading the book. As I said, I read Dickens to live with his characters, to invite them into my daily life as I invade theirs.

When I was done with Bleak House, I read Chesterton's full introduction to it, the same one that inspired my choice. And mostly, I have to disagree. The novel may very well be the best Dickens wrote; the fog of Chancery may seep into every crevice of every setting, and indeed, it does. However, the emphasis Chesterton puts on Richard and his development, or rather his falling apart, seems lacking. Richard occupies an important part of the story, but it's not the essence, the fullness of the story.

And, to give Chesterton a break, who can capture the fullness of a Dickens novel in ten pages? Nor will I in one post.

My point is this: how can I judge a whole novel on one character - not to mention a densely populated Dickens novel? The other characters cry out, "What about us?"

What about the Lady Dedlock and her pride? One dislikes the very room she's in, her distaste for everyone is so appalling. Yet, there she is, later in the book, taking my attention and making me see her cold nature for what it is: shame, honor, and love.

What about the Lord of the Dedlock house? Dickens creates the ass of a man simply to turn us once again when the events surrounding his fleeing wife only evoke pain in his proud heart - pain that is deepened because of his blindness and ignorance toward her. Forgiveness becomes his namesake.

And what about Sir George? The law-writer with no name? Esther? What about Caddy and her long-suffering?

Books could be written about the depths of human nature scraped from each and every character, and it's doubtful I'll forget any of them. The best novel of Charles Dickens? I don't know, but I do know this: Dickens didn't just write novels, he created an artful copy of humanity that no one should miss.

29 January 2013

Overcast

A January morning isn't supposed to make me think of spring. But there it is: the mist casting itself across my eyes, the rain meandering down the bark of trees (it's green, the bark is, and I think of moss growing in quiet places where water trickles from stream to river).

I walk. It's not more than one block and my ears ache, the cold seeping in and reminding me it's winter yet. Birds are silent but for the swoosh of wings and the clatter of branches. High above the branches of a bare Elm sway - but slowly with the gentle wind.

My dreams fade and I'm unaware. It's there that my mind is cleaned, and the tap of keys remind me of the darkness that was and is no more.

Smoke curls from a roof of neighbors, only one light is on. The hush of rain, the swiftness of clouds, the settling cold - I am still. May my thoughts be stilled, may these clouds slow me as they send the slow rain.

Should I miss the rain (how would I know?), tragedy seeps too, and slipping past, the waters may speak, but will I hear? May I not miss the rain, may I not miss you.
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