Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Stranger Dream


 I wrote this raw version in an hour. Enjoy!
The Stranger Dream
By Joshua A. Spotts (grateful/stranded/dream)
            Albert Mersault was a man of the darkness. His shadow was never seen. In the sunlight everything seemed as an image in a broken mirror. He clung to the thick darkness of the night, cowering in the darkness of the earth in the day. He walked silently with footsteps softer than a cat’s. He was master of the night. No one heard or saw him. He moved and did as he pleased until they arrived.
            The gas lamps were bearable. In fact, Albert liked them. They flickered and were familiar. They assisted him when the moon and the stars cut through the night ceiling for he hid in the shadows they caused. Those shadows were lighter and then darker, ever in a constant state of change. He enjoyed the effect this produced. If anyone glimpsed him there they would only see an illusion. They would dismiss his presence to the deception of their own eyes.  This was all before they came.
            They cut through his home. That wonderful darkness he embraced and which had embraced him. It was no longer safe. Those horrid beams of brilliant illumination bit through all he held dear. A spear of pure hate caught him full in the chest. He blinked at the dazzling light for a moment before he heard their voices. They had found him. Those silver badged varmints with their beams of light.
            Albert ran. He ran with all the purpose in him. He scaled a nearby fire escape. It didn’t creak and groan beneath his light weight. At first, he thought they wouldn’t hear him and they didn’t. The lights, they found him. He winced in their cruel illumination. He felt utterly naked, even swathed in dark robes like he was.
            “Climb, boys, we have him now! Circle ‘round.”
            The pursued player of the shadows fled across rooftops and the men with their illuminating beams chased after. Hate swelled in his chest, combining with his fear of the light. He glimpsed out across the skyline and glanced the reddening cloud. He cursed the light and dived through an open window. He moved silently through the room. A sleeping child rolled over in the corner. Down the hall, he slid down a banister and out the front door. As he left the building he heard the crash of furniture, curses of men, and the crying of the frightened child, then there were hands on him. Those long-fingered claws drug him to the ground as the sun rose in the sky. Albert Mersault screamed his hatred to the world.
            “He’s a thing of passion, be cautious.”
            “I think I can handle myself, captain.” 
            Albert huddled in a shadow behind one of the parapets. A man dressed as a prince emerged unto the tower roof. He held a sword in one hand and a club in the other. Albert hissed at him. The man towered over Albert. “Tell me what you heard.”
            Albert Mersault shrunk deeper into the shadow, fearing the light. A heavy, gloved hand pulled him out into the center of the tower. The hand slapped him to the left then backhanded him to the right. Blood trickled down Albert’s chin. He held his eyes closed. He sat in a humiliated, pathetic heap at the man’s feet. The club came down and he remained motionless, sprawled out upon the tower top, fully exposed to the hated light. “Tell me, fool. Or I will kill you like I killed your family.”
            “I do not fear death.”
            “Then live an eternity in the light,” the man stormed off the roof, his crooked nose held high. Albert chuckled, had he actually offended the man’s pride? Two men with the silver badges emerged unto the roof. They had clippers and needles and thread. They laughed as they sowed Albert’s eyelids to his eyebrows. His entire world shattered like an image in a mirror. He saw the pyramid symbol on the shining badges and cursed under his breath as they beat him with rods. He was stranded on that tower all day and the sun burnt his eyes out.
            Louie Mersault awoke with a start. What a horrible dream. He leapt out of bed and stared around. The red numbers on his alarm clock read 3:23. They gleamed through the darkness. He could still see! Louie sighed. That dream had been so real. The light turned on and there, in the doorway, stood a tall man with a shining badge. The pyramid and eye boldly declared who the man was. The Illuminati had finally come for him. The man spoke, his voice like tires on gravel, “what did he hear?”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Meat and Dessert Editing

Recently, while I was talking with a fellow Professional Writer, Katie Irons, she mentioned a particularly interesting illustration concerning editing. She told me that editing should be like polishing off a dinner plate. You start with the meaty parts first and finish with the dessert. This illustration stuck in my mind and now I am outpouring my thoughts on it.

I thoroughly agree with her. The "meaty parts" of her illustration concerns the first draft edit, which I am currently going through on a book of mine. The first draft edit is a run through to make sure everything fits. It is a test that the story is properly filled out and constructed. I have strayed from the method of first draft editing, though. I have added a scene and am struggling to tie it into the next. I believe that I should just make a note of that page and the issue therein and then move on. In this way, I can complete the entire first draft and then look at my list of details to fix for the desert part of my editing process.

Think about it. The dessert is often the most detailed part in a meal and it is typically reserved till the end. This is the same way with the finite details and the scene insertions and/or reworkings of editing. I believe that grammar falls under this section of the edit. There are so many details to grammar that if I looked for every grammatical error in the first draft it would take a really long time.

Overall, I believe the first part of an edit, the "meaty parts," should go quickly so that I can enjoy the dessert...okay, so maybe I won't enjoy it. I will enjoy the fact that it will be the last part of my self-editing process and that, dear reader, is sweet enough.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Peculiarities Part 2

Aye, that is me, standing out there in the rain. In this blog I am going to confess two more peculiarities that apply to me as a writer. The first is my compulsion that drives me outside in shorts to feel the weather fully upon my naked torso. (gasp, I used the word naked!) Sometimes, while I write and when it is stormy outside I feel an urge to rush into the weather. I stand out there, becoming one with the character in my head. After this strange ritual I hurry back to my laptop and pound out a scene involving what I just felt. I am quite sure I look rather strange while doing this. But, how would I know how to describe something if I had never experienced it?

In the past, I have spent hours outside in a jacket and jeans, during the winter, to feel the pain of a character who is lost in a frozen wasteland without adequate supplies. I can imagine magnificent things, like dragons, but to experience an encounter with one would be truly wonderful. I can imagine hours-long sword fights, but to experience one. To feel the tremendous fatigue. I can imagine the calming, magical touch of a fairy, but to experience it in our world today? Perhaps there is something wrong with my mind. Are these the normal urges of a person? 

The second peculiarity may not be as strange as the first. I have a tendency to spend entire days around my house with a cape around my shoulders and a sword at my waste. I have worn capes and tunics into public places. I didn't feel ashamed or even wonder why people were staring at me. In fact, I felt proud. I enjoyed throwing something shocking into their monotonous lives. Another time I wore a grey wig for an entire day for no particular reason at all.

And thus concludes my four prominent peculiarities. I feel that most of these come from my writer's mind. I could keep going with these confessions, but I do not believe that is necessary. I could mention that I carry around a pocket notebook that I use to, as I call it, "steal people's souls." I will consider explaining this habit of mine to you, dear reader. We shall see come Tuesday.  


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Peculiarities Part 1

There are voices in my head. I am a writer, of course there are voices in my head! Those ideas and characters, all struggling for my attention. Sometimes they is a pain, but at other times I enjoy them. They keep me company into the long night hours. They emerge in midday as I pound away at my keyboard. I stop typing, rise, and begin to act out the scene I was writing. My roommate, a math major, has been genuinely disturbed by these voices as he plays his life-sucking Facebook games. I cannot keep them in. The creative voices must be expressed! The creative voices are the peculiarities commonly exhibited in the writer. Here are two REALLY common ones:

One: There are times that I just start talking to myself. I do it in public. I do it in private. I don't always act out the scenes I am considering, but I have talked through entire pages worth of dialogue between two or more characters while walking back from the Dining Commons. I am entirely conscious of the world around me, but I am also entirely conscious of the world in my mind. Luckily, there has only been a few times when they've clashed.

Two: I have a disorder. I call it ORAU disorder (Obsessive Random Accent Usage.) I slip into accents, commonly Scottish or Irish ones, randomly during conversation. I also use accents when answering questions. For example, the lady at the checkout asks me, "do you want a receipt?"

"Aye," I answered. My Mom had to tell the cashier that I was saying "yes" in Scottish. I mean, what has the world come to? How have we reached such a deprived stage in our existence where the cashier at Wal-Mart doesn't know what "aye" means? It's preposterous! There are times when I purposely use accents while talking. A writer friend once dared me to speak in a Scottish accent for a week. I did it. Most of the time, however, I do not intend to use an accent and I just slip into it. I have talked to some other writers and they experience generally the same thing. Some writers need a trigger (someone else speaking an accent or a thought connected with an accent), others are more like me and just slip into the accents.

And now, dear reader, you know my dark, secret disorder. Have a good week. Part 2 will be released on Friday. 




Friday, November 18, 2011

An Adventure in Class

This afternoon I attended my Expository Writing class with my awesome professor Dr. Aaron J. Housholder. In this class we were given a list of writing prompts. We could choose one or several and merge them. I chose, according to my peculiarities, two prompts. One was "confusion," the other was "the voices in my head." I flipped open my writing journal and starting scribbling along with my quickly dulling pencil. I let the prompts pull my thoughts out and unto that lined paper. We had thirty minutes to write. Thus, after a lengthy introduction, I present to you A Dream of Confusion, a short work by Joshua A. Spotts.
Disclaimer: This is not fully edited and for that I apologize.

It is the fourth year in the month of Tuesday.
So the voices tell me.

Sweat drips from my brow. It splashes off the iron face plate of my helmet. I feel the salty moisture burning my eyes, but I dare not close them. My limbs are sore. The sword in my hand trembles as I struggle to hold it out before me. The armor that rests on my shoulders drags me down. I am tired.

It is now the eight month in the year of Friday.
So the voices tell me.

My feet are like the ice all around me. The bitter wind tears at my sweet, healthy flesh. My hair is hardened by the cold and my nose hosts icicles. The sword in my hand is rigid, but my shoulders shake uncontrollably. The armor that I bear is like the surface of a frozen winter lake and I am trapped beneath. I grow weary.

It is now the day of year in the third month.
So the voices tell me.

The rain falls in torrents. The feel of those droplets on my bare arms reminds me of the waterfalls of my home. I watch as the rain dances on the shivering sword. The armor I wear restricts the pleasure of the rain. My mind is tired. My left side is numb. My right side is weary. I drop the sword and the creatures of the night come faster than the rain falls.

It is now the seventh day of the sixth month and the voices say, "wake up!"


(I plan to create my own list of prompts and then give myself thirty minutes to write up a story on one or two, just like I did for this story. I believe it will make a great exercise for quick writing. Another short story exercise can be found at www.cleverfiction.com)

I hope you enjoyed this strange story and I apologize for posting this blog so late today, but it is still Friday, is it not? 


















Monday, November 14, 2011

The Wind is God's Breath


            I am fourteen days into November. It has been a busy month. I have no regrets about making it busier by dedicating myself to National Novel Writing Month, because I have gained a great novel idea. I have failed miserably at this dedication. My school work grabbed me by the throat as I already struggled to keep up with my NaNoWriMo goals and it threw me down. Last week was terrible. Assignments weighed down upon my back. One night I wandered outside, leaving my writing on my desk. My soul was weighted down by my troubles. I sought solitude and I found it, partially.
            I walked outside in my shorts and t-shirt. The wind caressed my body. The wet grass kissed my bare feet. I sat beneath a pine tree and allowed its scent to invade my nostrils. I welcomed the sweet scent. The wind continued to move around me. The trees danced in their places. I saw my breath as steam in the night air. I was alone. I had found solitude. I had also found something else.
            I found that I am never alone through the wind on that night as I sat there and cried. My tears were taken away by the wind, along with my burdens.  God is in the wind. Indeed, the wind is God’s breath for it animates all things. I can say from experience that God used the wind to animate my soul that night. The wind showed me God’s presence is everywhere. He upholds and relieves me when I am tired and weak. Praise God for His all-encompassing presence.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Tuesday and Friday

Dear reader, (wow, that's a standardized blog start...though you really are dear to me, no kidding.)
In the interests of increasing my personal focus and discipline, I have decided to publish a blog post every Friday and Tuesday. These specific publishing dates will force me to prepare the blog post a few days beforehand and thus, hopefully, give you better material to read.
I feel that discipline goes hand in hand with revealing how dedicated a writer is to his career. These self-imposed "deadlines" will force me to be dedicated to you, my readers. My teacher, esteemed writer Dr. Hensley, once told me, "the good writer always meets or beats his deadline." This is my goal. Keep me to it, dear reader.

Sincerely,
Joshua A. Spotts

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

To Divorce a Gem

To Divorce a Gem
Joshua A. Spotts
             
            Silvia Coldspoon was a strange woman. She wore multi-colored bathrobes that dragged along the ground as she walked. A nightcap lingered awkwardly atop her head. Inside her house, atop her lush blue carpets, she walked barefoot. Her toenails were bright pink.
In public, her approach was always announced by her flip-flops whether it was winter, summer, spring, or fall. She wore black trench coats that were far too short for her gangly frame whenever she went to or from work. All in all, her appearance was either seedy or silly, depending on the lighting around her.  Yet this strange character had a golden heart.
Miss Coldspoon, she had been Mrs. Whithernarrow once, in fact, throughout her entire life, she had been Mrs. Swatchz, Mrs. Dunhow, and Mrs. Stuart; anyway, she owned an ice cream parlor. Every single one of her former husbands had died. You may think that the sorrow from these deaths forced her to revert back to her maiden name. You are wrong. She changed to her maiden name when she opened her baby, Coldspoon’s Ice Cream Parlor.
She was known around town, not only for her vast host of oddities, but for her constant smile. That and her ability to spit gum from her mouth into a trashcan with perfect accuracy. Her parlor quickly became the chief social gathering place in town. It was open from six in the morning—she sold coffee as well—to eleven at night. During that entire day, Silvia meandered around among the customers and talked with them or sat in her office writing children’s stories while her few employers manned the parlor. She found her work delightful.
“Goodbye, Jess, enjoy your date. Jack…he’s a fine man.” Silvia hugged her employee in the doorway.
“Thank you for letting me off work early, Miss Coldspoon. This means allot to me.”
Silvia smiled as Jessica hurried across small town street and got into Jack’s parent’s minivan. They were such a happy couple and yet they had nothing. All of Jessica’s earnings were going toward college and Jack was helping pay off his family’s debts with the money he earned from his laborious construction job. Silvia knew these sorts of details about everyone in town, but she was not a gossip.
She returned to the counter and started to polish it. She ran a finger across the laminated oak. It was smooth and pleasing to the touch. The bell above the door rang. Silvia glanced up at the Coca-Cola clock above the shake machine. It was 12:01AM. She assumed that it must be Ernie coming in from his shift at the local packing plant. Before she even turned around her assumption was disproven. Instead of Ernie’s heavy tread she heard the gentle tap of high heels upon the tile floor. “Becky?
“Yes,” a soft-voiced answered.
Silvia turned around and approached the woman. She brushed tears from Becky’s cheeks. She switched the sign on the door from “open” to “sorry, we’re closed” as she guided Becky to a nearby booth. “Sit down, Becky. I’ll get you some tea and then we can talk.”
“No,” Becky spoke up and then hung her head. “No tea, please.”
“Come now,” Silvia placed her fist on a hip. “It’s on the house.”
“No, but thank you,” Becky answered.
“Alright,” Silvia slid into the seat across from Becky. “What’s the matter, darling?”
“It’s Mike and I,” Becky savagely swiped away her flowing tears.
“Shush, dear, shush.” Silvia reached across the table and grabbed Becky’s hands. “Let them flow, let them flow.” 
“Mike,” here Becky dropped her head into her hands. Her shoulders heaved with deep sobs. “He’s filed for a divorce. We go to court in the morning. He says he’s restless. I asked him what was wrong with me and he said ‘nothing!’ I just can’t believe it. We were so happy. Am I too fat? Have I been too emotional? What is wrong with me?”
Silvia rose and sat beside Becky. She wrapped her in a motherly embrace. “There is nothing wrong with you. You are perfect just the way you are. The fault is Mike’s. He is a fool for leaving such a gem as you. Now, shush, shush.”
Becky cried in Silvia’s arms until one o’clock. She raised her head from Silvia’s tear drenched shoulder and said, “thank you.”
“Come stay at my place for tonight, dear.” Silvia helped the shaking Becky into her coat. “I’ll go with you to the judge in the morning.”
So, Silvia closed up and drove home with Becky in the passenger’s seat. They passed the crooked-branched maple tree where Becky had contemplated hanging herself when she first entered Coldspoon’s Ice Cream Parlor. Silvia Coldspoon looked over, placed a hand on Becky’s knee and said. “Whenever you need me I will be there for you.”
A single tear of happiness wandered down Becky’s cheek.

                 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Does it Matter?


           The rain hit the car windshield and scattered in a million directions. Puddles had invaded the low spots of the road. Teeth rattled together as the faithful car carried its occupants along that washed-out country highway. Chocolate mud stained the car’s brown fenders. The windshield wipers swung methodically, fighting against the eternal rain. A young man leaned forward at the steering-wheel. His hands gripped it as his eyes narrowed, trying to cut through that watery assault of nature.
            A red octagon appeared ahead and to his right. His foot found the brake paddle. He felt the vibration of the anti-lock brakes as the car struggled to a stop. Looking left, though he could not see through the rain, he knew an old Victorian home awaited him. He knew it would be filled with light and the smell of burning wood would once again drift into his nostrils. He knew a plate of cookies, warm and perfect, awaited him on the kitchen counter. He could almost taste them.
            Taking his foot of the brake, the young man let the car lurch forward. He jerked the steering-wheel left. His father’s grey head lolled to one side, but the snoring never ceased. Gravel ground beneath the car’s wheels as the young man turned into the driveway beside the old house. He parked the Buick in the garage. Grabbing all his bundles, he stood for a while before his dad shot out of sleep, “why’d you stop? Oh, we’re home.”
            A wall of rain confronted them as they stood inside the doorway. As soon as they stepped out into the storm, umbrellas held overhead, the wind changed. The rain shot through the night at a near-horizontal angle. The pair, father and son, made a mad rush across the open yard to the front door.
            The son wrapped his knuckles against the rough, wood door. The cast iron handle clicked as the latch was loosed on the inside. The door swung open and warmth embraced the son. His mother wrapped him in her arms. “Welcome home, son.”
            “Thanks, mom.” The young man wrapped his gangly arms around her. A smile was on his face and in his heart. He felt as though his mother’s love warmed him more than the gentle wood heat drifting up through the ornate iron vents in the floor. The door was shut and the rain banished to fall in lonely exile.
            The smell of the thanksgiving turkey in the oven filled the kitchen as the young man meandered through it to deposit his baggage in his bedroom. Cookies were stacked like corporate towers on a cooling rack by the stove. Little feet rushed around a corner. A curly, brown haired bundle of energy charged at the young man. “Andy!”
            “Hello, little buddy!” The young man, Andrew, scooped his little brother up into his arms. Those plump arms wrapped around his throat. That head nestled against his neck. Andrew held his little brother out before him and stared into those deep brown eyes. He saw a flash of light out of the corner of his eye and he set down the little fellow. In the back of his mind he heard his mother scolding his little buddy for being out of bed.
            He knelt down and peeked around the corner. Big, blue eyes stared at him. They were shy at first, then recognition filled them and Mae, his little sister, through herself at him. The light from the kitchen played in her golden hair as he grabbed her up and held her close. He kissed her gently on the forehead and then led her to bed, where he prayed over her and wished her a good night sleep. She snuggled into the covers with a smile on her face as he left the room.
            Laughter filled the air as Andrew embraced his elder brother and his wife. His mom passed out cookies and milk. As the family sat around the fireplace with smiles upon their faces, primarily due to the wonderful cookies, Andrew’s father called for their attention. The room fell silent. They all knew the look on his face. A fan whirred somewhere in the house. He spoke, “as you know, we’ve been having some tests done concerning Mae.”
            The family nodded. The mother’s smile vanished and a frown replaced it. Tears gathered and spilled down her cheeks. The father spoke again, his voice trembling. “Today your mother and I received the test results. The doctors have placed her only a few points of retarded. So, when she can’t spell her name or asks the same questions over and over…”
            Andrew’s mom broke into deep sobs. His father rose and walked over to his wife, those strong arms encircled her, and a large hand brought her head to his chest. Tears moistened his white shirt. “You will all need to be patient with her. It is likely that she will never graduate from high school.”
            “How can this be?” Andrew’s mother asked. “Were we too old?”
            “No, no, honey, the doctor said it was nothing we did to make this happen.”
            Freely, the tears flowed, though the sobbing slowed. Andrew’s brother and his wife bowed their heads. Andrew joined them in prayer, placing his hand on his father’s back. He could feel the heaving of that muscled back as his father wept freely.
            They all returned to their seats and Andrew’s father said, “we just wanted you to know.”
            Andrew leaned forward and with his deep voice spoke, “I do not see how this matters. Does it change who she is? It does not make her any less my sister.”
            His mother looked at him with her teary brown eyes. A smile was born on her face.

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