The Curious Case of A Mirror Untrue

Did you know that I once spent over six years on a novel? True story. The first draft of the first chapter was completed on July 31st, 1998. I was 22 years old and living in Blacksburg, Virginia. I can still remember the day that I birthed the concept – a hot sunny July afternoon, when this character just started pouring out of me Kerouac style (of course, some drugs might have been involved in this process). This story would be the one to put me on the map, a contemporary fiction work that combined showed a man’s slow descent from idealistic naivete to cold-blooded murder, with plenty of questions about the nature of art along the way. Hell, that’s the nature of the title, that what we see in the mirror rarely reflects what we feel on the inside, and it’s even more true in William’s case as he’s convinced himself that he’s still an idealistic outsider artist when in truth he degenerates into something of a scumbag who needs to redeem himself.

Part of the book is set in 1972 and is a rumination on idealism and the loss of innocence. A pack of 1972 baseball cards represents an idealized childhood that the protagonist never had in the first place.

Part of the book is set in 1972 and is a rumination on idealism and the loss of innocence. A pack of 1972 baseball cards represents an idealized childhood that the protagonist never had in the first place.

I abandoned the book at the end of 2003, which makes a whole lot of sense, as 2004 kind of marked the beginning of what I see as my “fallow period”. Words would come off-and-on for the next seven years, but the unbearable pain and confusion in my personal life overrode artistic concerns. I suspect there was also a great deal for mourning for Mirror Untrue, this fabled story that would never be told.

I made a few attempts over the year to punch it back into shape – my writing files show a trail of tears from revision to revision. The last major version to be completed was the second draft, though there are six more semi-complete versions of it floating around out there. The most recent attempt to revive it appears to have dated to July of 2011, and even then my notes make it look more like a half-hearted effort rather than any real reboot. I had Corridors and I had Room 3 and I really didn’t need a third book that didn’t fit into that sort of genre.

Well, that’s changed. I’ve recently made the discovery that critiquing and revising a few pages before writing a few pages and then repeating the cycle is an incredibly effective way to get the creative juices flowing. I started by critiquing the work of an Internet stranger, then rolled into my critique group, and then found myself with nothing to critique. Why not open up some old files and see what was hiding in there, maybe put some ideas in and see where they go?

I started yesterday by digging up the last version of Mirror Untrue and reading through the first chapter. I didn’t expect much.

It shocked me. The writing itself is a bit raw and needs work, and I obviously hadn’t learned a whole bag of tricks that I now carry around, but by God the concept itself – and the characters – are good, if I do say so myself. My final concept had been to layer the 1972 story in between the “modern” story, which I’m now going to leave in early 2001, as it was such a different world. But by God I think I’m going to breathe life into this old project and get it out the door. I’m not sure when or how, as this is a side-side project, but it might make it out there before the 20th anniversary of its inception. We’ll see.

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Fiction Wednesday: Announcements and New Cover Artist

I’ve decided to take a break from the usual Fiction Wednesday grind this week since the ongoing books are still…well, ongoing books (told you they were long) and I’ve hit an unexpected surge of creative energy. These surges usually don’t take hold until later in the Spring, around the end of April/beginning of May, so this one needs to go as long as it will possibly go.

This particular surge has pushed me well past the midway point on the current pass through City of the Dead and given me impetus to start another novel midstream. The City thing is weird, as it’s sort of a second draft, but I never finished the first draft completely due to a major change in the plot. I’ve never quite drafted a novel in this fashion, but it’s making the idea of discrete drafts something of a thing of the past. It’s nice because it allows me to react more quickly to ideas and issues that arise, rather than working in a straight line. The connections between story concepts become much more apparent, and themes arise more quickly. Look for a write-up on this process in the near-future.

Bottom line, however, is that the book is coming along well, and readers should enjoy it. It’s still a long way out, unfortunately, and will probably hit the same November timeframe that I seem to hit every single year. I hope to get some other work out there in the meantime.

Big news, however, is that I’ve engaged a very talented cover artist to do a refresh of the Among the Dead line – that means a new cover for Corridors of the Dead along with the upcoming City cover. I’ll miss having Ryan Bibby along for the ride, as he’s a great, super-talented guy, but his plate seems to be full at the moment. I absolutely want Ryan back for some other covers in the near future, but for now, Bulgarian artist Silviya “Morteque” Yordanova will be handling the art refresh.

I’ve admired Silviya’s work for more than a year now and I’m super-stoked to work with her. She seems to have a similar creative philosophy, and I think that her art perfectly compliments what I’m trying to do with my fiction. You can find her work at Deviant Art to get a taste of what’s to come. Drop in there and say hi, maybe give her a like on Facebook. I think she has a bright future in the business.

Wednesday Fiction returns next week with a review of Black Sun Rising and possibly The Knife of Never Letting Go. See you on Friday.

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So That Actually Happened…

I’d say good Monday morning, but is there really such a thing? I suppose if one won the lottery on a Sunday night, or maybe if, say, their football team won the Super Bowl last night (so close, but the Ravens are decidedly not the Redskins and never will be), then they might be inclined to call it a good Monday morning, but in general…

Where was I? Oh, yes. Something actually happened this weekend. Well, several somethings, really, but the most important had nothing to do with rediscovering my love for tea or picking up a few interesting items at thrift stores.

You see, and I think I’ve mentioned this before, I gave my first public reading on Saturday morning.

And I loved it.

Back things up just a little bit; I joined the Montgomery Writers Association back in September and have been attending meetings on-and-off ever since. I’ve participated in those events to which I was privy, such as the festival of lights sale in December, and have tried to make myself an active member of the community. I saw lots of folks giving readings of their own work and didn’t know exactly how the process worked – did the organizers hand pick people, or what?

Eventually I just decided to do the thing that has opened so many doors to this point: I simply asked, and learned that they accepted volunteers. Hey, I could use the experience and I enjoy public speaking (I’m a sicko, sue me), so why not? I offered my services and they accepted, tentatively slating me for April, something that I discussed not too long ago on this very site.

Well, a few weeks ago some lack of volunteers led to some schedule shuffling and, long story short, the chapter organizers asked me to speak in February rather than April. It would mean something of a mental shift, but it’s very rare for me to turn down such an opportunity, especially if it’s asked of me by another, so I grabbed hold of it and decided I wouldn’t let go.

Practice, practice, practice, and I was ready for Saturday. Flash forward to then.

A good friend of mine, Cathy Wiley, was the “official” speaker, and she got something like an hour to speak on how she had sold 35,000 books. I hadn’t counted on actually being part of her presentation (she flashed Room 3 up as an example of a good cover), but I joined in and helped her explain some of the scarier aspects of online marketing to the group. She gave an engaging presentation and I think we worked well as a team together. It may be a presentation that we give together in the future, hard to say for certain, but I think it could work.

We took a break, and I got myself set up and geared up to read. I mixed, I mingled, and whatnot. Got to talk to some interesting folks and hear some interesting ideas for stories. I’m going to keep my eye out for a few of them – I think they have great potential.

After the break I received a great introduction from the Chapter President, Alix Moore, and dove right in.

I read, of course, from Room 3, and presented the first scene where we see the effects of Room 3 and the hallucinogenic drugs. My nerves were on edge as I began, and my practiced presentation of the characters’ voices became a bit inconsistent, so I adjusted some of the attribution on the fly. By the time I hit the halfway point, however, things started to pick up, and I could tell that I had gotten the group’s attention.  I find that confidence builds on confidence, so the longer I went without a major flub, the better I felt, and so the better the reading became. By the end I had built up a pretty good head of steam and felt ready to read as long as I possibly could.

Of course, in the end, I had to stop, as another writer, Thomas Foote, followed me. I felt good, though. The whole thing felt right, in a way that other public speaking hasn’t so far. I suspect it has to do with reading my own fiction and working on the fly rather than sticking to a script. Not sure, but it felt a lot better to stick in the moment rather than worrying about missing some planned beat here or there. That’s where you get the real give-and-take with your audience, in the unplanned.

Afterwards, I sold a copy or two, handed out some more, and really got to talk about my book with a few people. To me, that was worth whatever money I might have otherwise made. I’m not going to lie and say I wouldn’t like to get paid for my efforts, but right now this is truly a labor of love, and I will take any opportunity that I can get to share this work, even for free. Provided, of course, that I’m not being exploited. So far, so good.

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400: This is not my beautiful house!

400

Welcome to post #400! While it’s great to reach a milestone, I also have to keep my wits about me. Shaggin the Muse is, surprisingly, not the longest-lived blog that I’ve ever created. It’s certainly getting up there, but I’ve had a few that lasted a year or so longer. That said, I didn’t have any doubt that it would reach this point; what, was I just going to give up on my writing? Hardly. Still, I can recognize my own happiness at having enough ideas to get this far. Ideas are always the toughest part of writing a blog, and so far I’ve had a few slow downs but no major roadblocks.

This has certainly been a strange journey, though, one that’s encompassed two novels (both of which received total rewrites), more than a dozen short stories, an anthology appearance, and even a novelette.  I’m saving some of the navel-gazing for post #500, assuming I get that far, but 400 is still a nice round number to look back and take stock.

Shaggin the Muse opened its doors on February 25, 2011, right around the time that I wrapped up the fourth draft of what would eventually become The Corridors of the Dead. At that time, I referred to it as the Torat series rather than Among the Dead, and the first book would be Torat: Initiation. The series still consisted of three books and had a similar game plan, but featured some key differences, which I’ll talk about in a bit.

This blog exists simply because I felt it had to, as a means of publicity and not much else. My rather unfortunate first post reflects my feelings on the process at the time:

Intend to turn this into an official blog for my works, however, I am currently head-down in trying to get this novel ready for submission to a contest. Will eventually update on progress and thoughts.

dat sum

That’s it. The entire substance of the post. The damned thing is that I had plenty of blog experience at that point. By my count, I’d had something like seven blogs prior to this site and have been blogging in one form or another since early 2005, so it’s not like my reticence had been borne of fear. Truth is, I had few ideas on what I wanted from this site  other than including updates on my works-in-progress, and even then I felt something of a grudging “requirement” to offer those updates.

You see, it’s always been easy  to talk about other people and their ideas, but not so easy to focus on myself and my ideas, especially when it came to writing. Oh, sure, I could blog about emotional issues in my life with very little trouble (at a base level fiction is already pretty much this), but writing about my actual works? Just way too personal, and running too much of a risk that no one cares. I know, I know. It makes little sense to me now, too. I can only surmise that the process of creating fiction showed even more of my soft underbelly than some of those deeply personal things that I talked about over the years.

Today I’m the exact opposite. I’ve gotten so used to sharing my fiction and baring that part of myself that it seems odd that it ever worried me. At the same time I’ve gone back and removed a good portion of those older blogs because they cut too close to the bone. My fiction is still highly personal and incorporates much of my emotional landscape (I think good fiction should do this), but it’s different now – overt talk about emotional issues just doesn’t appeal to me anymore. Two years in the trenches of the publishing wars will do that to a person, that’s for sure. I certainly know that public appearances with my fiction felt unthinkable back then and here I am gearing up for public readings and sales with some anticipation.

Now, to talk about my relevant work on February 25th, 2011. Torat: Initiation would turn out to be a very different book from Corridors of the Dead. Oh, both books shared a majority of characters, save for an angel named Mora (AKA Uriel, the angel of death), a down-on-her-luck diner owner in Vegas. I miss her, but some of her lives on in the character of Omarosa, introduced in The Station and taking a much larger role in City of the Dead.

For comparison’s sake, here is the original opening of Torat: Initiation:

Working as the night porter for the motel really was the best and worst of both worlds. Matty loved having the extended alone time; the quiet time, the time when she could just sit with her charcoals and inks and do whatever came to mind. She hated that stretch between 3 and 6, when the entire world came to a dead stop and the spectre of sleep hung on her bones like a shroud, fended off with regular shots of Red Bull and Mountain Dew.

She dreaded it, but it also produced some of her more surreal works of art, and so she tried to be ready to seize that dragon and ride it all the way to some great art. This night she was working on a charcoal drawing of her lover, transforming her from a pretty blonde with curved, nordic features to a sneering warrior.

She looked up when the door chimed and sat Kristy aside, stepping through the doorway to find a small, hunched old woman who greeted her with kind eyes. “Good to see someone’s still awake.”

Matty rubbed her eyes and smiled. “Yeah, kinda my job.”

“Still admirable. Could just as easily sleep back there, you know.”

Matty lifted an empty Red Bull can from beside the register and shook it. “The magic of caffeine.”

It’s a testament to my growth that I can read that and immediately see why the book struggled to place with an agent; I hadn’t done much real work done to build a connection with Matty. I don’t blame myself, though, as I had very little idea of how to do such a thing. Thankfully, that’s changed over the last two years, and I know that I could do a fairly effective job of connecting the reader with that incarnation. Continue reading

State of the City: January 2013

Lazy

Hi Readers. It’s Friday yet again – the second Friday of 2013, of course, and I think it might be time for a status update. You know, I occupy a funny place as an indie writer. I consider this a job, and I take it very seriously, but there are times when I become tempted to think “well, I report to only myself (and possibly my wife), so who cares if I don’t do this or that?”

That’s the kind of threatening inertia that can take down a career before it even begins; I know, I’ve seen it happen with a few folks already. I want to avoid this kind of thinking, but it’s such a strange space to occupy that motivation beyond motivation “for its own sake” becomes a nebulous concept. At least, until I think about readers. That’s why I address so many of my updates to you readers directly. You’re the ones that (theoretically) pay my bills, and the ones who might possibly enjoy anything that I bring to market. In some respects, that makes you the ones to whom I report. And you know what? I’m pretty okay with that concept. Customers are king in my other business, and so customers must be king here. Thinking this way also helps when it comes to things that enrich my career, such as writers conferences or convention appearances.

Anyway, enough with the navel-gazing. It’s something that has been on my mind lately, and I just wanted to say something about it.

Now then, the good stuff: what’s going on? The answer is, a lot. Shadow Boxes, the short story collection, is still on the table. I had previously hoped for a February release, but a combination of factors (including aforementioned convention appearances) makes that highly unlikely. May might be a little more realistic, but we’ll see on that front. As I’ll explain in a bit, I’m currently very invested in City of the Dead and want to make that the highest priority. Still, Shadow Boxes is on my radar and will see the light of day in 2013, barring any major issues.

That brings me to the Among the Dead trilogy and, specifically, City of the Dead. I’m pleased to report that the first draft is at 64,000 words and counting. Forward progress is currently halted just short of the opening of Book 3 (which means I’m roughly 2/3rds of the way through) in order to return to the scene of the crime, as it were. I’ve gone back to page 1 and am revising from there forward. Continue reading

Happy New Year from Shaggin the Muse and my 2012 Booklist

Wow, so this is the second New Years Eve for this site. I’m planning a 2012 in review post for later this week, but for now I can just say that 2012 was a great year for my career. I published a second novel and a plethora of short works and attended my first show. I managed to crank out half a million words. More than that, I began to get my legs under me and figure out what I’d like to see out of the next few years. Next year I’ll be releasing a short story collection and another novel and attending a few shows, with an April show already confirmed. More information coming on those in the near future. For now, I just feel that I have some decent momentum going into 2013.

I hope you’ve had a great year and have a lot to look forward to next year. We only get so many of them and as I get older I realize just how important it is to do the most you can with the time you have. Yeah, I know that’s something of a cliche, but it begins to settle into your bones as you approach middle age, that’s for sure.

Now, enough of that. It’s booklist time! This year I set a goal to read 60 books (up from last year’s 50). That meant I would have to read, on average, more than a book a week. I hadn’t done that in many, many years and wasn’t sure if I would make it. I’m happy to report that I’ve exceeded that goal, hitting 64, which means I’ll probably keep my goal static next year. Let’s see what I read…

Ready_Player_One_cover

Alexandria

Wednesday Fiction – Open Slay, Part 1: The Beast

Welcome back to Wednesday Fiction, folks! As promised, I’m ready to continue this ongoing fiction experiment. The new series, Open Slay, is designed to be delightfully cheesy B-movie schlock (is there any other kind), so don’t go into this expecting any sort of highbrow art. The concept itself is silly enough, so I felt that trying to carry out a “serious” take would just undermine the whole endeavor. Besides, I’ve loved cheesy horror anthologies ever since I was very young, cutting my teeth on The Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits and numerous comic horror anthologies. I wanted to write one of those stories, and…well, last week when we had breakfast at Cracker Barrel I saw a completely demented looking snowman. Thus was born Open Slay…

Todd Bell stepped away from his snowman, putting his hands on his hips as he admired his precise handiwork. The snowman proved that he deserved better than spending Christmas weekend banished to a remote cabin in the Poconos.   He should be sipping nice claret in a warm, dry studio, not standing shin-deep in the snow, his shoes covered in ridiculous plastic bags.

He promised that he would address the issue with Ally that very night. No matter how great a lover the girl might be, she was not worth the misery of this filth.

He sighed. Still, you must do what you can with what you’re given, he thought. He thought this to be the motto of a true artist; no, a creative force. A craftsman.

Critics had hailed Todd’s paintings as – dare he think it – genius, possessed of a dramatic flair natural for the Daniel Reich gallery. He had deliberately cultivated the shocking, bloody style, as one did not see it in many other Village artists. He felt he could have carved or thrown clay. The medium didn’t matter, his dedication to excellence mattered.

And you have certainly outdone yourself this time. He smirked. He had granted The Beast (as he had christened the snowman) a strange smile, crooked and a bit deranged, promising something far worse than holiday cheer.

I have to make sure that asshole Bailey sees this thing, Todd thought. Andrew Bailey. Voice art critic and bane of Todd’s existence, the troll of a man had appeared in several of Todd’s paintings now, first as a victim of a brutal back alley mugging and most recently as the disgustingly obese victim of a murderous wife.

This, though? This might well be the best likeness yet.. Todd had decided that The Beast’s mouth – as a central feature to Bailey’s ugly maw – would have to be its most important feature. Simple stones would never have done justice to the thing, so he had used a simple spoon to carve the teeth from the snow, ensuring that they came out pointy and jagged, in the same fashion as the snaggle-toothed critic. The eyes had been a simpler matter. He had rendered these as large, rounded things that regarded the world with a perpetual hunger. Todd’s point of pride, however, had to be The Beast’s limbs.  The lack of articulation had always been his objection to the snowmen that his friends had created as a child. Today, he had kicked them in the back of the head, fashioning The Beast’s legs into thick trunks that supported its barrel body.

Snickering, Todd whipped out his iPhone to snap a picture. He may not have been able to get a signal in this godforsaken asshole of the world, but he could still ensure that the world saw his genius, Instagrammed, the moment that he got 4G reception. Continue reading

Shadows, Shadows Everywhere!

Greets, readers, and welcome back to the ongoing show. Hope you Americans had a great holiday, and for those of you abroad, sincerest apologies for the radio silence last week. I took the week off, for whatever that means to 90% of writers. In my world, it just means that the word count took a temporary dip (as it does every year) as I spent time with family and friends. I continued to chew at my stories as a dog will chew at a bone, and I even managed to start writing the next story for Wednesday Fiction, a fun holiday story titled “Open Slay” (heh). Here’s a little hint as to the story’s subject matter:

Hmm. What could it be? Anyway, look for the first part on Wednesday, with the next three parts following on each week, culminating in the final “episode” on December 19th. This is the last story that will make the short story collection due out next year.

Speaking of which, big news on that front! The collection now has a title, as brainstormed with the lovely wife: Shadow Boxes. Shadow boxes, of course, are “enclosed glass-front case(s) containing an object or objects presented in a thematic grouping with artistic or personal significance” (Wikipedia). The title seemed especially fitting given that each of the short stories in this collection are played out on a single stage.  Continue reading

Wednesday Fiction: Abby the Hero Part 4

Welcome back to Abby the Hero.

I had originally intended to end the story here – four parts, that seemed to be more than enough time to share Abby’s story. The thing is, stories often have minds of their own, and protagonists minds of their own. Combine the two and you encounter a scenario that you never quite counted on. It’s a pleasant occurrence when it does happen, but you never really know how to plan for it.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So here we are. Obviously, this is something of a flashback-via-video-recording. I think flashbacks in short stories can be a fine line to tread – you’re already trying to only fit the relevant information in, so you’d better make damn sure that the information you’re sharing is relevant. Thankfully, this time the trail of breadcrumbs for this particular story leads here, and the trail continues on past the flashback and into the present, where Abby gets her last revelation in Part 5.

Apologies for the length on this one; believe it or not, this is a slightly abbreviated version. There’s just too much to tell in this flashback, and I’ve sliced it as thin to the bone as I dare without compromising the vision. As usual, the full version will be presented sometime in the near future.

You can read Part One here, Part Two here, and Part Three here.

On with the tale…

 

Abby had not been a child of the Cold War; in fact, the concept had been dead for close to a decade by the time she joined the world, but she had read enough books and seen enough videos to understand what rocketed into the sky before her. One movie in particular jumped out at her now. She had stumbled across it late one night on YouTube and hadn’t been able to click away, fascinated by people going about their lives right at the end of the world. The people in that movie had seen missiles fly into the air just like the ones that rose into the sky before her (okay, not exactly like this, she thought, the effects had been really cheesy). They’d said it could only mean one thing: the Russians would fire back.

Abby racked her brain. This couldn’t be the Russians, would it? She wished she had paid more attention to the news videos online; she had seen something about a crisis in the Middle East, but ignored it. Didn’t they always have some sort of crisis going on?

So, no, maybe not the Russians, but she sure as hell didn’t count on those missiles going out without something coming back. Something very, very nasty.

Daniel spoke up in her ear, and she came back to the moment. “Abby, you still there? You shouldn’t ought to talk like that – “

Abby seized the camera from its position on the fallen log and lifted it toward the sky, following the missiles’ arc. “You see that?”

“I see it. What is it, though?”

She tucked the camera under her arm and ran for her scooter. “It’s the end of the world, Daniel. You run and tell mom and dad, tell them what you saw, tell them that they fired the missiles and you all need to get into the cellar as soon as you can.”

Daniel went quiet for a few seconds, and when he spoke again, his voice cracked. It couldn’t be easy for the 11-year-old. “What about you?”

She stowed the camera in a leather bag on the back of the scooter and pulled the helmet off of the handlebars. “I’ve got my scooter. I’ll worry about me, you worry about the family, okay? I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

Scrabbling sounds came from the other end of the phone; no doubt Daniel getting up from the computer and heading for the cellar door. “I wanna keep you on the phone, is that all right?” he said.

She turned the ignition key. “You know I can’t talk and ride. You just go on ahead and get everybody. I’ll be there as soon as I can. Isn’t more than a five-minute drive.”

“Okay,” Daniel said, panic and terror palpable in his voice.

She wished she could be there to comfort him. “It’ll be okay.”

“Okay,” he repeated, and the line went dead.

She stowed the phone in her pocket, kicking out the kickstand. She leaned forward and squeezed the throttle, willing her little red scooter to pull from its reserves, going as fast as it possibly could. The machine topped out around 30 MPH, and she knew she’d need every bit of it to get back home as quickly as she could.

The dirt road that took her out of the countryside jolted the scooter, nearly throwing her a few times, but she held as steady as she could, relying on the skills that she’d honed over years of driving her father’s ATV over these same back roads.

The road wound downward toward the valley between this ridge and the one where her family lived, the curves adding an extra layer of difficulty to her flight. On a normal day she wouldn’t exceed 15 MPH on these roads, but the imminent threat of destruction pushed her forward, commanded her to go faster, to keep it steady and handle it as well as she could.

After what seemed an eternity, she reached the bottom of the dirt road, the scooter jolting as it hit the pavement that intersected the dirt road. She eased off of the speed, allowing her just enough time to wrench the scooter to the left, onto the open paved road. Once she’d straightened, she opened the throttle up again, her eyes trained on the dissipating vapor trails in the sky.

She felt the phone vibrating in her pocket. She tried to ignore it – desperately wanted to ignore it. She lowered her head and focused only on the road, counting off the moments in her head, but each vibration against her hip shook her soul. What if Daniel hadn’t gotten the family down below? What if he’d frozen up?

Sighing, she took her right hand from the handlebar, sliding the phone from her pocket. Continue reading

Wednesday Fiction: Abby the Hero Part 3

Welcome back to Abby the Hero. Last time (click that for Part 2) I wrote a lot of pretentious words about my protagonists discovering more about themselves and the world around them. To expand upon that, I think you could draw a direct line from Elsbeth to Abby to Matty DiCamillo, each expanding their consciousness in widening circles. But that’s really what a good story should be about, right? About the protagonist discovering more within her- or himself and, in turn, the world? That’s my own personal take on the matter. A story doesn’t work if the character barely changes.

That’s why I feel that this particular series of stories relates to my own life, in some way, to my own growth as a person; when I compare where I am now to where I was five years ago it becomes readily apparent that my own consciousness has expanded in ways that I could never anticipate. This may well be my way of following the inevitable conclusions down the rabbit hole.

Oh, and a side note – this is a slightly abbreviated version of this part, as some interesting things happen in getting Abby out of the house, but it caused this entry to run even longer than usual and ultimately didn’t make a difference to this version of the story. The end result, however, is that there are two versions of this story: the one you’re reading now and the longer one that will appear in my short story collection.

You can read Part One here and Part Two here.

On with the tale…

Abby stood in the backyard, her hands on her hips as she gazed out across the harbor, into the ebony ocean. She could still see the waves breaking beneath her, but that was only thanks to the anemic moonlight that filtered through the gray clouds that hung low in the sky.

Rain coming off the ocean. It would not be pretty.

Her trip through the dreaded hallway and out into the small yard had surprised her; she had anticipated untold horrors after some of the shocks and threats that the house had thrown her way, but the place had looked relatively sane as she made her way toward the outside. She had held Trudy aloft before her, a magic wand to dispel the darkness that closed in around her.

At last she had opened the rather ordinary door at the end of the hallway and stepped out into the cold night, allowing the wind to assault her for a moment before she did anything else. Yes, that wind had been freezing, but it had been something, contained some sort of energy. She needed it.

This will all be worth it. She promised herself that, and stretched, reaching for the sky. She knew she was delaying now. Who could blame her, though? She didn’t think anyone, even the most hardcore urban explorers on the web, would be in a hurry to climb into that cellar after all she’d seen in the house.

She had to do it, though. Even with her reticence, she could feel that itch at the back of her mind that drove her forward. That same itch took her to places like this.

As she thought this, she felt the first drops of rain hitting the top of her head, spattering and running down her forehead in fine, cold rivulets.

That’s your cue to get in the cellar, she thought, and sighed, getting to it.

The cellar sat just where she had expected, a rude concrete protrusion jutting out of the rocky ground. Two small wooden doors covered the hole in the ground, folded one on top of the other, their surfaces shining from the slick rain. A rusted metal handle jutted from of the top door, the black eye of a small keyhole staring up at her from its center.

The rain became more insistent as she leaned over, pulling the key from her pocket. She slid it into the dark hole and twisted, listening to the sound of metal on metal as it ground in the lock.

Abby persisted, turning it with all of her might. At last something came loose inside the mechanism and it wrenched to the left, clicking when it hit the stop. She twisted once more, for good measure, before she removed it. She slipped the key into her pocket and seized the handle, giving it a gentle tug.

Nothing. Like the lock inside of it, the door had been frozen in place by years of neglect and the rain that came in off of the harbor.

Stubborn S.O.B., she thought. It had the upper hand, but she would prevail. She hung Trudy around her neck and squatted, wrapping both hands around the handle. She turned as hard as she could, but still had no luck.

Desperate, she slid her fingers between the edge of the top door and the door beneath it. She set her feet on the ground and pulled with all her might, but, again, the door refused to budge.

“You asshole,” Abby said and straightened up. The rain was falling hard and insistent now, plastering her hair to her forehead and wetting her to the bone. She had to get inside this thing, and would not be denied. Summoning all of her anger, she lashed out against the handle with one heel.

That did the trick; metal squealed and came loose, and the door bounced off of the one beneath it, at last popping open. Rust and loose wood fell down off of the door and into the hole in the ground. Continue reading