Monday, August 25, 2014

Metafiction and the Cry of the Human Heart

I've written about this topic before, a long time ago, so some of my older friends may recognize the gist of what I'm going to be talking about in this post. This is a topic I love to talk and debate about when it comes to critical reading of fiction.

Metafiction

That is a cool word. The technical definition essentially states, that it is a work of fiction that the author alludes or draws attention to the work's status as an artifact.

To boil it down, it is fiction about fiction. Plain and simple.

Here are a few of my favorite examples (some may consider some of these spoilers, if you haven't read them yet, so be warned):
-A story within a story- Or in the case of Hamlet, a play within a play.
-Breaking the fourth wall- Classic Deadpool from Marvel Comics
-Characters becoming aware that their actions are being directed by a narrator- Stranger Than Fiction
-A character reading a book that becomes reality- The Neverending Story
-Characters meeting the author of their story- The Dark Tower

These are a very sparse example of metafiction techniques used in works of fiction, but average readers are usually remember the examples that bend the rules of the fictional universe and have the characters questioning the line between fiction and reality. It's those stories that I'd like to talk about today. My upcoming novel, Lighthouse at the Edge of Forever will incorporate metafictive techniques, so this is also a shameless plug for my next project.

Why do we love to read stories like this? What is it that draws us in and captivates us about these types of tales?

In his book Epic, John Eldredge talks about how humanity is drawn to fiction because we subconsciously we desire to be part of a greater story, we are all part of a great epic.

Pursuing that train of thought, I would ask, why in post modern literature, has the metafictive technique become more widespread? Especially the extreme cases in which the line between fiction and reality are bent. Why are we as readers and writers desiring to blend that line between reality and fiction.

I would like to springboard from Eldredge's concept and say that the same train of thought applies to metafiction. I believe that not only do we desire to be part of a greater story, I believe that deep down we know that we are part of a great epic. I believe the each of us knows subconsciously that we are a cog in the great narrative of the universe. I believe our desire to read about stories that bend the rules and break the fourth wall stem, from this knowledge that we exist in a story.

Now this all may just be a result of me taking too many Lit classes beating ideas into my addled brain or a result of my Christianity and my belief that the universe is a love letter to humanity, but I believe that this goes beyond beliefs and religions. I believe that metafiction is a result of a cry from the human heart. It is our desire to be part of the grand epic, the ultimate narrative.

We write and read metafiction because it taps into that part of our consciousness. The Collective Uncsiousness, as Carl Jung stated.

Like calls out to like. Art is imitating life. Or if you want to get really meta about it, just think that we are characters in a book and all the metafiction being written is just because that's the way we are being written.

Thanks for bearing with me through this.

If you enjoyed please like, share, subscribe, +1, etc...

-Anthony

Oh and here's Keanu, as promised-

Makes you think...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Writing Exercise- Gods in the Modern Age

Today, I want to share with you another writing exercise from a writing group I'm a member of. This is the same group that I have shared other exercises (short about addiction and travel brochure). This week's challenge was to write about a pantheon of gods in the modern age and keep it between 500 and 2000 words.
I decided to use the patheon of gods of the Abekani people of New England and Canada. I would like to present the disclaimer that while I have studied a lot of the folklore and tales from this First Nation, my knowledge is not all inclusive. I have tried to write the characters as faithful to their representations in Abekani myth as I can, but I am sure that I may have missed something and for that I ask your forgiveness in advance. This was a fun "what if" writing experiment for me, and I may include this in a future collection of short stories. Please read and comment if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions. I also enjoyed writing this piece because I really enjoy using the state of Maine as a setting and this was a perfect excuse to do so. 
With no further preamble I present:

Two Gods Walk into a Bar

"A'rite, folks," the bartender said, raising his voice above the sounds of the Nor'easter raging against the building, "last call. You need to git before you're snowed in here. I ain't babysitting the lot of ya tonight."
Out of the six left in the bar, all but one shuffled out, bracing themselves against the biting wind as it whipped in through the open door. The lone patron left remained seated at the bar, sipping his drink, as he had all night. Except for his original order, there were no words from the new comer the entire night as he sat at the bar.  He just continued sip the drink slowly, his mouth obscured by the long black hair hanging around his face. The bartender waved at the departing regulars and approached the stranger. He swallowed hard and tapped the bar top in front of the stranger's glass.
"Time to go, sir. It's time for me to be closing. Time to pay up." The stranger laughed and sipped his drink again. When he set it down the bartender gently pulled the glass away and said, "You need to leave before the storm outside gets worse. Now's a good time." As the stranger laughed again, his hair parted and the bartender received his first good look at the man. The eyes that stared out from a smooth, young face carried a weight, an age to them.
"How's a deal sound?" The stranger said. "A wager. If I win, I'll not pay and you'll let me weather the storm here for the night."
"Are you crazy? You need to leave."
Before the stranger could respond the wind howled as the door opened to the maelstrom outside. A large man bundled in multiple layers of furs ducked to enter the bar. He shook his body, knocking the accumulated snow onto the floor in the opening, then turned and pushed the door shut against the wind. He took three large strides and set himself on the stool two down from the stranger. He did not speak but sat staring at the other two men. The bartender glanced at the stranger who took another sip of his drink.
"I'm sorry, sir," the bartender said, "but we're closed. I just haven't locked the door yet."
"No, I think I'll be staying," the larger man said. "I have business to discuss with your customer."
"Nothing to discuss with me," the stranger said above his drink. He took another sip and continued, "You interrupted us. I was about to wager with our fair purveyor of whiskey."
The larger of the two snorted. "Azeban, you still trying to swindle free stuff from them? From what I hear, you're not even good at it anymore."
"Now, sirs, I must insist," the bartender slammed his hand down on the countertop, "the two of you leave now or I'll…"
"You'll do what?" The larger man stood and continued, "No police are coming out in this storm. You don't have a weapon. You'll do nothing." He leaned forward, his face shimmering in the dim light, and his features became blurry. He inhaled deeply and large white feathered wings rose behind. The storm increased in intensity and the building began to shake. The bartender backed into the shelf and knocked bottles onto the floor. He slipped on the spilled liquor, but caught his balance before he fell. He regained his footing and ran for the front door and out into the storm, his screams lost in the wind. The winged man shifted back to his original appearance, walked over and shut the door, and said, "Now, Azeban, we need to talk."
"Bemola, first you need calm the storm before you kill that poor man. Then, we'll talk." Bemola waved his hand and the storm reduced its intensity. Azeban continued, "Why are you here? Did Dabaldak send you? Does the Great One want you to bring the raccoon back to the family?"
"Raccoon, ha, you haven't assumed that shape in about a hundred years from what I hear. But no, to answer your question, Dabaldak didn't send me. You know the Great One doesn't really involve in family matters for the most part." He paused and bobbed his head from one side to the other before saying, "No, Gluskab sent me."
"What?" Azeban stood, the stool falling behind him. "Gluskab knows how I feel about him. Why do you think I've been with the humans all these years? He lied to us." He slammed his fist down cracking the wood of the bar and said, "More importantly, he lied to them. He told them he would come back and he never did. Why does he want me now?"
"You're right, Aze. He didn't come back, but that doesn’t mean that he won't. That's what he's planning. He promised the People of the Dawnlands that he would return, and that is just what he is doing now. He is gathering the family back together and we will be with him when he returns to the Abenaki."
"Bemola, you've got to be kidding me? You've been on Katahdin for far too long. You haven't seen what's been happening to the People. You don't know what they’ve been through. It would have been better for them had Gluskab never shown them the way. We should have never interfered."
"He thinks that now that they are regrouping and growing again it is time to return."
Azeban spat. "He wants to come back as the benevolent hero and lead them to a glorious return. Snow Bird, go back to your mountain and make storms." Azeban waved his hand at Bemola as he leaned over the bar and returned to his drink.
"Do you not care for the family?" Bemola said as he rose from his seat. A hint of feathers showed on his face as he said, "Whatever your differences with Gluskab, the fact remains that we need you."
Azeban placed his glass down, looked at his old friend, and said, "What are you not telling me? What can I do that Gluskab cannot?"
"It's Miko. He's never forgiven Gluskab for turning him into a squirrel."
"That was pretty funny," Azeban said between laughs, "but what does that have to do with me?"
"You are and Miko were close. You were the tricksters."
"Yes, but I never condoned when he killed and ate humans. He and I never saw eye to eye on that. It wasn't until he was changed that we," Azeban wavered his hands back and forth, "worked together. I wouldn’t say we were friends, but we trusted each other."
"That is why Gluskab wants you. Miko has vowed to not allow Gluskab to return. Not just that but he has promised to use all his powers to terrorize the People."
"What's he going to do as a squirrel? Bite their ankles?"
"No, as the ages have passed, he has been able to shift his form, as you and I can. Gluskab's powers keep him from returning to his form as a wolf or bear, as of now he can only be a squirrel or a human, but he is working to undermine the Abenaki as a human would. He is no longer just a simple trickster anymore. We need you to stop him."
"Why? The Abenaki are fine without Gluskab. If he comes back now it will not be what he expects."
Bemola placed his hands on Azeban's shoulders and said, "Don't do this for Gluskab. Do it for the People of the Dawnlands. Miko's true nature has been suppressed by his form for so long. You know what he will be like when he regains his old habits. You are the only one in the family that he will talk to."
Azeban pressed the bridge of his nose between his fingers, breathed deep, and muttered under his breath. "Bemola," he said as he stepped away, "go back to your mountain. Keep making your storms. Stay away from the humans you claim to care about so much. They don't need us anymore. Tell Gluskab that if he wants to come back, to do so quietly. Live amongst the People of the Dawn as one of them. They need us to learn who they are, serve them, not to come back and lead them as lords above. I know Gluskab wants to come back and do as he did once before. Gift them knowledge and protect them, but he has not returned for so long. How would they feel? Would they feel as I do? That he did not come back in their time of need. I don't know, but I do know that we need to stay out of their lives. So, go back to your mountain. Send word to the family that I am not returning. I will find Miko and will try to reason with him. It may take a trickster to capture a trickster." Bemola opened his mouth to speak but Azeban continued, "No. I'm not coming back. Gluskab can come after me himself if he wants, but it's not up for debate. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be going."
Bemola reached out to grasp Azeban but his fingers passed through the trickster, leaving ripples in the image as if his body were made of water. He shook his head, the storm grew louder, and the blizzard grew into a whiteout condition. "How long have you been gone, my friend?"
"Just during my last speech to you," the image of Azeban said. "Sorry to have fooled you. Oh, actually, not really, I couldn't stay and have you take me home. I may be a trickster, but you are far stronger than I. Please, tell Gluskab to not interfere. Tell him, no, tell all of them to come live among the people. Our age is done. Let's live as they do. We had a good run. Go back to your mountain. Maybe I'll see you around next time you come down."
The image faded as it walked away and Bemola stood alone in the deserted bar. He laughed and shook his head again before walking out into the storm. As the snow and wind tore at him, he raised his arms to the sky and let the Nor'easter carry him back to his mountain.

-End

Thanks for reading. Please like, share, +1, follow, etc...

Until next time,

-Anthony-



 
If you have any questions about copyright information or reproduction of this excerpt please check out the  copyright page.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Excerpt- 8.19.2014

It's an excerpt week. So far, I've been sharing segments from my works already published, but not today. Today you get a treat. This is the first draft (i.e. unedited- please don't judge me) of the tentitive table of contents and first chapter of my novel WIP, Lighthouse at the Edge of Forever. For details on this project, you can check this post. I invite any and all criticisms and questions about this project.

Oh and remember in the excerpt from Entertaining Angels, when I promised that Caroline and Elen would make a return?

They are side characters for this series.


Table of Contents-

          Prologue
  1. Not the Beginning
  2. The Shape of Things to Come
  3. A Key and a Door
  4. The Fox in the Lighthouse
  5. On the Shores of Nightmares
  6. The Gyre
  7. Shadows and Masks and Riddles
  8. Spiders and Philosophy
  9. All Roads Lead
  10. Halfway House
  11. To Find That Which Was Lost
  12. The Crossing
  13. The House of Light
  14. Rules of the Game
  15. The Queen of Shadows
  16. The Nightlands
  17. Treason and Betrayals
  18. Everyone Together
  19. Reunion
  20. A Sacrifice To Be Made 
  21. Homecoming    
  22. The Fox At the Funeral 
  23. The Centre
  24. An Ending of Sorts
  25. A Beginning of Sorts
          Epilogue
I
Not the Beginning


My dad used to tell me stories. Stories of adventures, incredible journeys, fantastic realms. My parents raised my brother and I on a healthy diet of Verne, Bradbury, Asimov, and their ilk. They fueled my imagination and my early childhood.
            My parents, both highly educated and respected in their fields, shared the passion and belief that all human fiction springs from the same place. My father called it a shared consciousness. Often I would overhear my parents talking about the Aboriginal Dreamtime, or the Celtic, Time Between Times as primitive understanding of this shared realm of stories. My parents believed all human imagination drew from the same communal source.
            My dad spent days in his study at a time during his most feverish moments of research. A web of note cards and pictures spun around the walls of his study. He spent many hours weaving red string from picture to picture and tacking notes all across the board. He traced common themes and stories across geography and time. Linking and linking until he found connections. He believed that by finding where it all connected, he would discover the place that it comes from. Endless connections that I used to sit and follow forever
            For at least a little while, fortune favored our family. What had begun as a side obsession became full time. A benefactor graced my parents with funding that enabled them to devote their full time to their research. They never told my brother and me his name, just that he shared their passion and wanted to see them succeed. The newfound wealth did not change our living in any major way. Except, we moved to a quiet place where my parents could study and research without many distractions. When I turned ten we moved to a rather old and large home on the coast of Maine. For two years, our life was happy. I enjoyed the seacoast, exploring the old house with my brother, and watching my parents explore their passion. I love them for the life we lived, and I thought it would last forever.
            A week before I turned twelve, I discovered just how much I had to learn about life and how wrong I could be.
            My brother and I sat at the kitchen table each with a handful of cards. The sunrise spilling in from the window cut a drastic swath of white across the black table. Andy looked over his cards at me; his blue eyes partially hidden by the unruly brown mop mom had the audacity to call a haircut. I gave him my best stone face, not giving anything away. He carefully pulled two cards from his hand and set them face down. Not taking his eyes off mine, he slid the cards to the center of the table.
            “Two fours,” he said.
            I laughed. “Liar. I’ve got three in my hand. Take it back.” Defeated he pulled the two cards back into his hand as well as an extra card from the deck. I looked away to thumb through my hand searching for the perfect cards to lay down. I did not dare try to bluff Andy. Even though he was two years younger than I, he always knew when I was not telling the truth. He always had an internal radar tuned in that could detect when I was not being honest.
            I decided to try my three fours just to get them out of my hand when a scream ripped through the house. Both of us dropped our cards and for a moment, we could do nothing. My brain would not let my body move, rational thoughts and instinctive feelings fought for control. After what felt like an eternity, we became unstuck and ran toward the study where my parents spent their mornings. I crashed through the house, knocking over the table in our hallway. I heard a vase hit the floor and a shattering of glass followed by the sound of Andy’s feet crunching on the broken glass. When I got to the study, I bounced off the door. This marked the first time since we moved here that my parents locked the study door. Andy arrived moments later, phone in hand, pounding out 911. I heard him in the background giving answers to the operator, but I strained to hear any noise, any sign of something beyond the giant oak door in front of me.
            No sounds escaped the room. No further screams. Terrified I continued to pound against the door. Crying out for my parents, Andy and I hit the door again and again. I paused and held my arm out to stop Andy.
            “What is it, Allie?” He whispered.
            “Listen. Do you hear that?” I held my breath and I heard a sound that I did not recognize. As I pressed my ear against the door, I realized that I heard the sound of my father sobbing. I redoubled my efforts on the door.
            “Daddy!” I screamed. “Open the door! Open the door, Daddy!” My hands continued to strike the door. I ignored the pain while they turned different shades of purple and red.
            Andy laid himself on the floor and peered under the door.
“Allie. Allie!” He said, “Someone’s moving. Someone’s moving.”
I looked down and saw two shadows bleeding through at the foot of the door. The shadows shifted as if someone walked toward the door. I called out to my father again, to no response. As I pulled back my right fist to strike the door again, a shuffling noise came from the study. As if someone approached the door. I reached for the doorknob but before I touched, a loud jarring thud shook the door. Andy and I jumped back. A small scream escaped my lips, and I pulled my brother close.
Distinctly now, it appeared that someone stood on the opposite side of the door from us. Unmoving. Silent.
“Mom? Dad? Please answer me.”
No response.
The door shook one last time. Rattling from top to bottom, and then flew open. No one there on the other side to greet us. Instead we saw both our parents on the ground. Both with blood coming from their nose and mouth.
I knew at once my mom was dead. The lifeless eyes staring into the distance. Strangely enough that did not chill me as much as the look of abject terror on her face. I pulled Andy close and buried his face in my chest, hiding his eyes from the scene. I stood there holding him openly weeping, tears crashing down my face onto him and him doing the same into my shirt. I heard someone screaming far off in the distance. It was making it hard for me to think or hear. It was only when I took a breath that I realized I was the one screaming. I hugged Andy tighter, and we supported each other from falling. We stood there like that until the paramedics arrived. Only then did we discover that our dad still lived. I overheard the words “barely with us,” but I took comfort in that one singular statement. It was then that my brain decided enough was enough, and I passed out.

I woke in a strange room. Darkness all around save the faint light from around the window curtain. After only a moment, I registered the white walls of a hospital room. As I slowly took in my surroundings, my brain checked off in cold calculation everything that had happened. I squeezed my eyes shut until I saw white spots hoping beyond all hope that I had a seizure or passed out and had a strange dream, anything but the reality that I did not want to face. I might have succeeded if I had not seen my Aunt Caroline sitting in a recliner next to my bed. She was asleep, but I could tell that she had been crying. An empty box of tissues sat beneath her folded hands. Her feature so clearly similar to my dad’s brought me to tears. I did not know why she slept by my bed, but I knew she could not bear good news.
I sobbed softly, trying not to wake her, but she heard my whimpers and as soon as she opened her eyes, I completely lost my composure. She leapt to my side and we embraced. I do not know who was crying harder, but we sobbed and cried, the catharsis of tears releasing the pent up grief that we were holding internally.
Without pulling away, she said, “Dear, I have some news about your mother…”
She did not get to finish. I let loose a mournful scream and when I closed my eyes, my mother’s bloody lifeless face filled my vision. I dug my fingers into her upper arms, the skin appearing white around my fingertips.
“No! No! No!” I screamed, holding her tighter. She responded in kind, gripping me with all her strength. Holding me as the waves of my agony washed over me. Finding my center, a place I could hold onto I composed myself and pulled away.
Looking squarely in her eyes, I asked, “Is my dad dead?”
“No, sweetheart. He’s in a room. They’ve sedated him and are observing him for a while.”
“And, what about Andy?”
“Andy’s in the waiting room with your Uncle Michael. We thought it would be best if you had someone here to be with you when you woke up.” She leaned away; the light glistened of the fresh tears streaking down her face, and took my hands into hers. Squeezing them gently, she brought them up to her lips and kissed them softly.
“My dear, if there is anything that I can do.” Her voice trailed off into a whisper of a sob.
I continued to cry and lay down on the bed. I faced away from my aunt, clutching the pillow and soaking it with tears. Caroline sat on the edge of my bed stroking my hair and softly singing old hymns to me. I laid there awake not focusing on anything. Letting her voice drift over me and take me away. Eventually, I fell into a restless sleep. Unfortunately, this was when the dreams started.
            I knew I dreamed. I felt it obvious that I dreamed. I stood in front of our house outside on the porch ringing the doorbell. Finally, my brother answered.
            “Oh Allie, welcome home. We’ve been waiting. Dinner is ready, and I have something important to tell you, but not yet.”
            He escorted me into the house and down the main hallway. As we walked, the interior of the house began to change color. At first a subtle shift in the wall paint then more noticeable; every step I took deepened the shade of red that permeated my vision now. When Andy opened the door to the dining room, he stood by my side and leaned toward me motioning me to bend over so that we could enter the abnormally small doorway.
            As I ducked my head lower, I took in the room. At the table sat mom and dad, but not as they normally were, they were as I saw them last. Blood running from their noses; Mom’s eyes vacant. At the head of the table sat another Andy. Then I remembered that he had something to tell me. I leaned closer to him, and I listened to the brother standing next to me without taking my eyes off the brother sitting across the dinner table.
            His voice came out trembling, “It’s not right. We’re not going to be ok. We can’t go there or it’ll get worse.”
            As the words left his mouth, the Andy sitting at the table stood up forcefully enough to send his chair rocketing across the room behind him. Placing both palms on the table, he glared at the two of us. I grew afraid of this version of my brother, and felt the desire to flee. As I turned to run, I found myself back in my parents’ study. Everything in organized chaos, as my mom called it. Books, notes, photos strewn around. I took comfort in the familiarity, until I noticed something different. Something out of place that I have never noticed before.
            On my dad’s web of note cards and pictures, a new item had been pinned. One I did not remember. A picture of a small antique mirror now took the center spot in the web. All other items now connected back to this one by myriad strands of yard. It stood at the center, the nexus, connecting everything my parents had researched. Written on the photo, in my dad’s writing, were the words:
Is it a real place?
Is this the key or the doorway?

            I woke to my aunt gently shaking my shoulder.
            “Allie? Allison? Wake up honey, you are having a nightmare,” she gently whispered. At some point, she must have opened the curtains. The pale moonlight bled in through the window and illuminated her as she stood by my side. The light gave her a hollow appearance. I could tell she needed sleep, and she still looked as though she stood on the verge of tears.
            I sat up and grabbed the straw cup beside my bed. Gulping down a mouthful of water gave me time to compose myself before responding to her. How could I tell her about the dream that frightened and stuck with me even in waking? A dream that I felt held secrets about my parents.
            “I’m okay, Aunt Caroline. Really,” I hugged her again. Tears welling up again. “What are we going to do?”
            “Sweetie,” she pulled me close and ran her fingers through my hair, her voice cracking as she said, “we’ll figure it out. Your Uncle Michael and I don’t have much to do now that Elen is in college. We can hang around with you guys as much as you need.”
            I started to thank her but another wave of anguish wracked my body. The sobs convulsing through my body as I clung to her. She became my lifeline, my anchor in the storm. I clung to her until once again I faded into sleep. As I drifted off, I smiled when I heard her soft voice singing again. Once again lulling me back into sleep.
            Whenever I try to remember my time in the hospital and the days afterward, I come up blank. I have heard that your brain does that to help you get over traumatic event. I do not buy that. If that is the case, then there is a lot that I should be forgetting about that day.
            The hospital did not keep me long. After a day, I went back home. It did not feel like home. My aunt and uncle tried their best to make Andy and I feel normal, but nothing made it work. I am thankful that we had them to take care of us. They made the commitment to stay with us until my dad recovered. The police visited us frequently. The ever-nice police officers asked Andy and me many questions. I broke into tears during most of our sessions. The official statement from the police indicated that they suspected a break-in, assault on my parents, and a flight once Andy and I discovered the attack. Not for once did I believe that statement. I remembered what I saw and heard. I knew someone, or something, was in the study with my parents and disappeared once Andy and I opened the door. No one ran away from that room that day.
            Once home, I spent all of my free time at my dad’s side. He could not come out of his comatose state. The doctors claimed that they could find no medical reason for it. They never talked to me about it, but I listened to what I could when they told my Aunt. After about two weeks, I grew frightened for my dad. I wondered if he would ever come back. I tried talking to him. Reading to him from our favorite books. Playing both sides of a chess game. Anything that would call out to him. Nothing worked.
            I began to spend less time at the hospital with my dad. When my aunt left the house, I would tell her that I had homework to do. One day, after she left, I paced the hallway outside the study. The door remained closed since the day that my mom died, going on three months now. No one entered it. The study was now a scared space.
            I paced back and forth, replaying the event in my mind. I kept looking to the door expecting the two shadows to be there. I could not figure out who it was. No one else occupied the room when Andy and I entered the study. I slowly approached the door. Gingerly reaching my hand out to the ornately embossed knob. When my index finger made contact with the knob, I felt a small jolt run through my arm. I could feel my chest beating in my heart; the rushing in my ears was deafening drowning out all the noises of the house.
            I hate doors.
            I slowly turned the knob; wincing as the latch clicked. With a burst of courage, I pushed the door open and stepped inside. The silence and emptiness startled me enough for a small scream to escape my lips. I looked around the room hoping beyond hope that my parents would be in here looking up a new lead or dancing to my dad’s records, as they were known to do.
            Nothing. The sections of the carpet that my parents had fallen were ripped out; the only sign that something horrible happened in here. I looked around the room for anything to remind me of my parents. I picked up a few books here and there, thumbing through them and reading some of the notes in the margins. I scanned around the room taking in the books and cluttered desks, coming at last to the centerpiece, my dad’s crown jewel. The web.
            It was not until my eyes focused on the center that I felt my stomach drop. There it was, in the middle of the web. At the center, the point that all the lines now connected to, was pinned a picture of a mirror and below the picture was a notecard written in my dad’s fluid handwriting:

It is a real place?
Is this the key or the doorway?
            I screamed again. How could I have known about this addition to the map? Did I see it before? Did my mind notice it subconsciously when I found my parents in here? My mind could not wrap itself around the unknown. I backed away swiftly, turned, and broke into a run towards the door. As I ran, I tripped over a book on the floor, falling hard on my right wrist.
            As I sat on the floor, clutching my arm against my chest, a glint of light from beneath the desk caught my attention. I reached and wrapped my hand around a handle. When I pulled it into the light, I found the mirror from the picture. The handle carved out of what seemed to be wood, with a gold inlay wrapping itself around the handle. The mirror itself looked to be old glass, with a few discolorations in the reflection. The handle felt oddly warm, as if it had already been held. I held it up and looked at my reflection. I did not look like the same girl from before. There was weariness in my eyes and face that I knew I did not have before. As I examined myself in the mirror, I caught movement in the corner of the mirror, as if another person were in the room with me.
            When I spun around, I found no one standing behind me. I decided to use the mirror to lure them out again, so I went back to looking at my reflection with my back turned to the entrance of the room. Keeping my eyes glued to the mirror, I caught a blur of movement again. I waited patiently, and then I saw him.
            My dad.
            Standing in the doorway. Bleeding from his nose. Crying.
            I screamed at the top of my lungs and dropped the mirror. It landed on its back and three cracks appeared running from corner to corner. When I turned around, he no longer stood there. I ran to the doorway and looked to either side of the hallway, but nothing showed that anyone had been in the hallway. On the verge of crying again, I went back into the study looking for any clue to what I had seen.
            When the phone rang, I jumped and clutched my hand over my chest. It rang again, and I felt compelled to answer it.
            “Hello. This is the Aisling residence, Allie speaking,” I said out of rote habit.
            “Allie, honey! This is your aunt. Your dad’s awake! He’s talking and doing fine. Go find your uncle and tell him to bring you out here. Andy is with me.”
            I could not say anything. I looked over at the mirror and wondered at the timing.
            “Allie. Are you there? Did you hear me…” Her voice trailed off. I could not focus on it anymore. I just looked at the mirror and felt a sense of dread grip my heart. I hung up the phone without responding and walked back over to the mirror. Still in the same spot on the carpet. Nestled amongst the long fibers of the brown rug. I picked it up and looked deep into the glass. Searching for any sign that it had played a trick on me. Then I noticed that the cracks were gone. The mirror looked brand new.
            I threw up. I knelt to the floor and stayed there, the knees of my jeans soaking up my own vomit. I clutched the mirror and kept crying until my uncle arrived. He said something on his cell phone to someone, something about finding me and another statement about being on our way, but I could not focus on him.
            The mirror consumed my thoughts.


End-


This is tentatively the first chapter of Lighthouse at the Edge of Forever. Please if you have any questions, critiques, or comments, leave them for me below or get in touch with me through the contact page. In the rewrite of this chapter, I plan on fleshing out the details a bit more, taking out a bunch of the adverbs, and cleaning it up a lot. I know this is rough, but I wanted to share. I'm really excited about focusing on this more and more as To Tread the Narrow Path draws to a close.


Thanks for reading. Please like, share, +1, follow, etc...

Until next time,

-Anthony-



If you have any questions about copyright information or reproduction of this excerpt please check out the  copyright page.

Monday, August 11, 2014

What was I thinking?

So, I've been promising this post for a couple of weeks now, and finally, I'm going to deliver. I'm going to be discussing my experiences and issues and joys with the wonderful world of serialization. As I've mentioned before, I am publishing To Tread the Narrow Path as a serialized novella. A couple of weeks ago, the last installment of Book II went live and brought the novella to its halfway point. I'd like to take the time today to talk about what brought me to this place and the process I've used to publish the novella.

First, though, I've got to give a little bit of history. If you aren't familiar with the serialization process for literature, its very common amongst what would be considered classics. For example, much of Dickens' works were published as serialized segments in newspapers as well as Alexandre Dumas (*please note, I am not making a comparison of myself to these two authors, as I would pale in such a comparison). The serial publishing format basically involves the work being split up into parts, chapters, books, or any other distinguishing segment, and being released as installments in a media form. During the time of Dickens it was done through newsprint. Recent writers have traveled the serialization as well, like Stephen King and Orsen Scott Card (*again, not meant as a comparison, just stating the facts). The rise of the internet and social media makes this avenue of publication an even more viable route to get stuff out there.

That brings us to me.

Earlier this year I took an old short story of mine and began the process of turning it into a novella. The short story, titled The Narrow Path, was a little over 5000 words. I had written it one night in 2002 for a creative writing class, and let it sit on my hard drive for over a decade. As I began the process of fleshing out the world of the story and expanding the narrative, I started to read articles about how serial storytelling was making a come back. There were writers publishing segments on their blogs, using services like the Kindle Serials program, and other social reader sites.

The more I thought about it, the more attrictive this process became. I started looking into my options and researched various websites and routes to make this a reality.

Finally, I settled on publishing through the Amazon marketplace. I got in touch with the people over at the Kindle support to find out the logistics and away I went.


Available now on Amazon (*wink wink*)

The first segment, all four parts of Book I, were published and available on the Amazon marketplace in February of this year. The idea was that people could purchase the first segment of the novella and receive all future installments for free as an auto update to the book on their Kindle device. Between February and now, I have published the next four installments of the novella bringing the book to its midpoint.

It's been a lot of fun bringing this story to life this way. The unpublished pieces have a way of changing based on the input of readers. It's fun to have a give and take in this way. Currently, I'm working on Book III and getting it ready for the light of day. Once all of the installments are out, I'll format the book for print and publish it as well.
So, that is the story of how I came to be publishing my novella in serialization on the Kindle. Now, I'd like to share the part of the story in which I ask myself, "What was I thinking?"

Don't get me wrong, I love the concept and the practice, but the challenge of writing, editing, rewriting, getting an outside edit, and publishing is a grueling process. Also, the auto update function of the Kindle is not working as promised from Amazon. That has been glitchy at best and I have had to deal with some very frustrated readers because their Kindle won't update the most recent installment without an email to customer support.

All that being said:

It has been a great experience. I'm enjoying the journey and looking forward to the end of the line. To Tread the Narrow Path is very dear to me and this process has allowed me to grow it and shape it in  ways that I would never thought of had I not published it as a serial.

Would I do this again? Maybe, but not for a while. My next WIP, Lighthouse on the Edge of Forever will be 100% complete before I send it out into the world. I won't be returning to serialization for a long time, I think.

For me, this spurned me to finish something, and at the time that's what I needed. I would encourage you that if you are feeling hangups on finishing something you've started, whatever it may be, find the motivation or influence to push you past the hangup. I needed this to push me to finish and I couldn't be happier about it. It has been a hard road, but rewarding and I would do it over if given the chance.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed. Please like, shrare, +1, etc...

Please join me next week for an excerpt from one of my WIPs.

-Anthony

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Writing Exercise- Addiction

So, today would normally be an update post for the month, but I posted that a week early, last week, so instead I am sharing a writing exercise that I did for a writing group I am a member of. This is the same group that I shared the exercise from last week, the travel brochure for Sciath's Reach. This week's exercise was to examine a character that struggled with addiction. I decided to play a little outside the box on this one, but I'm pleased with the end result.
I will warn you that compared to the majority of things that I've shared or written online or in publication, this does veer to a darker territory. So please continue at your own risk. Those that have beta read for me in the past may recognize elements and names, and yes, those are intentional. I may have this tie into some of that at a later date.
Feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts.

Puppets

"Tell me, can you read my mind right now?"
"No, I mean, yes," I said as I pressed my fingers into the corners of my eyes. "I can, but I won't. Last time it did things to me. It made me do horrible things. I made people do horrible things." I sat up, the lounging sofa creaked as my weight shifted, and looked at the doctor. He continued to scribble on his yellow legal pad. The pen moving fluidly across the paper making only the slightest scratching noise, but sounded like nails on a board to me. He finished his note and ended with a flourish of the pen, then looked back at me.
"Mr. Rheoli," he straightened, and then leaned forward, elbows on his knees, the pad dangling from one hand between his legs, "You've suffered a great deal. I need you to accept what happened to your family. I need you to remember what happened. You need to come to the reality that you cannot read minds or control them. What happened to your family was a tragedy and you need to deal with it head on without the trappings of this alternate reality you've constructed for yourself."
I know what happened, you pompous jerk. I was there. I caused it.
Oh God, I caused it.
I began to weep. I squeezed my eyes against the tears streaming down my face, between my fingers, and falling into my lap. I heard the leather of his chair squeak as he shifted in his seat again. I could not keep the images of my parents and brother out of my mind. I made them do it. I killed them.
Luke, only fifteen, face down in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor. Mom sitting at the kitchen table, leaning back, her hands holding the hilt of a knife in her chest. Dad on the other side of the small table, slumped over, with his hands dangling off to the side. Blood flowed freely from the long vertical slits in his wrists. I stood in the middle of this macabre display laughing, my body electrified with pleasure. I made them do it and I didn't care.
The doctor coughed and I snapped back to the present, but I let my guard down. A low static began to build up in my ears. I brought my hands up to the side of my face and rocked back and forth. I couldn't let it start again.
"Andrew, are you okay?" He asked. I should call the nurse in here, echoed over the static and with the doctor's thought in my head I began to feel the pleasure wash over me. I had to stop before it was too much for me to handle, but a pushed a little further. I hope Agent Matthews is watching this. I could feel the euphoria spreading through my body, but I knew I had to stop before I took it too far. I couldn't let it happen again. I started repeating complex math equations in my head and began to verbalize them as I closed the door on the doctor's mind.
"Square root of two equals one point four, one, four, two, one, three, five, six. Square root of five is two point two, three…"
"Andrew, what are you doing?"
"Trying to stop from reading your mind again, sir." I could not hear the static anymore. I dried my face and forced myself to slow my breathing.
"Again? Am I to assume that you were just now reading my mind?"
"Yes, sir." I cradled my head in my hands as the pleasure receded only to be replaced by a headache.
"And, you felt the pleasure, the rush, as you described it? Why did this time not turn out like the incident at your house?"
"Because," I said, taking a deep breath, "I stopped myself. If I go too far, I don't think I'll be able to stop. The more I do, the harder it is to stop."
"Tell me again, what happened with your family? Why was it so hard to stop?"
"I think, I don't know, but I think that it feels better the more that I do, and the more I do the harder it is to stop. I started by reading their minds a little, but eventually to keep the feeling, I had to go deeper. Then I had to start making them do things, controlling them. At the end, I could only keep the feeling if I made them do things they wouldn't normally do. I made them kill each other."
He began to scribble on his pad again and I could not help but reach out and open the door again. I pushed enough to see through his eyes and read his notes.
Recommend for Project Aegis. Do not as active participant, schedule for study and dissection before he loses control again.
I pulled back as I began to shake from the chemicals coursing through my body. I wanted to push deeper to find out what he meant, but I did not want to risk another incident.
"What is Project Aegis?" I asked.
"It's nothing," he swallowed hard and he glanced quickly at the door. "It's a rehabilitation project for people with your disorder."
"Even without reading your mind, I know you are lying. What's going on here?" I stood, and the doctor leapt out of his chair, knocking it over and began to inch away toward the door. I caught glimpses of his thoughts, jumbled images of armed guards waiting to lock me up. "Don't make me do this," I said, holding my hands up in front of me, "Please, just let me go. I promise, I'll go be by myself. Don't make me do this."
"Andrew," he neared the door, arms raised above his head, "Andrew, my boy, do you realize what we could do if we understood how you do what you do? Just let us take you in. You won't be harmed."
"Won't be harmed? What is study and dissection?" I took two steps closer to the doctor and ducked as the door to his office splintered inward, sending glass and wood flying toward me.
The room flooded with guards in riot gear and they formed a curved line in front of me, all with rifles pointed at my head. The doctor still cowered near the door and covered his head, as a man wearing a black suit and a bulletproof vest strolled into the room. I fought hard to keep in control. I couldn’t let it happen again.
"Hello, Andy," the suit said, "mind if I call you Andy? Of course you don't. My name is Agent Matthews. I work for an organization that is in place to catalogue and protect the world from the weird, and you are mighty weird, son."
"Heh," I chuckled, "Protect. Aegis. Pretty clever."
"See," he said looking around at the others, "see, this kid gets it. Yes, we protect, and right now I have a feeling we need to protect everyone from you. How do you see things?"
"I'm dangerous. I control people. I make them do things they don't want to do." I started opening doors, ever so slightly. The armed men no longer could fire upon me, no matter what orders Matthews gave them. The euphoria slowly spread from my head down, and I fought to maintain composure. The doors opened a little more. Their minds told me of the snipers. I extended myself to them and had all three take a leap onto the pavement below.
"So," Matthews said, "You understand. You're either like a rabid dog that needs to be put down, or someone with a gift that can contribute to the future of humanity." I need you alive at least until you are in the facility, then you are just a slab of meat for the scientists. He cocked his head to the side and I could hear the report that his snipers all lay dead. He glared at me and pulled his gun from its holster. I let him get far enough to hold the gun in front of me but stopped his finger. "Damn you," he said. Before he could say anything else, I forced his armed guards to kill themselves. They all aimed at each other and fired. Quick and easy.
I soared. The fire burning within me raged and I needed more fuel. I knew this was the same path I traveled before, but I didn't care. It felt too good. The doctor tried to run, but I stopped him and made him stand at Matthews' side. Each heartbeat pushed me higher. I felt like a god. I flicked my hand and before either could say a word, Matthews shot the doctor. I felt a rush and pushed into Matthews mind, down to the core.
"Hmm," I said, "You were going to kill him anyway? That's why that didn't feel as good as I'd hoped. Let's try something else." Matthews moved his gun to his temple and his finger hovered over the trigger, but something didn’t feel right. "Ah ha, you would do that wouldn’t you?" He couldn’t respond, but his eyes narrowed. "You are the type to fall on your sword. You have failed your masters and would see this as an honorable death. Well, we'll have to find something more suitable. Something buried deep inside that you desire, but would never ever act on." I pushed deeper. Deeper. Until finally, "There it is. Oh wow. That is deplorable. I don't know how you could live with yourself after that." His eyes grew wide and pupils dilated. "Well, there it is. Go forth and do my bidding." He holstered his gun and turned away leaving me to myself.
As he left, my mind exploded with euphoria. Wave after wave washed over me and I collapsed to my knees. When the feeling subsided enough for me to stand again, I walked out of the office seeking my next high.
There's no stopping now. I can't go back.
End

Hope you enjoyed.
-Anthony

If you have any questions about copyright information or reproduction of this excerpt please check out the  copyright page.