The Friday Muse – Black Doors

The Friday Muse (Cropped)

Today’s Friday Muse piece was written a while ago and was actually used in my short story episodic experiment, The LZR Project. Veronica Amorou – a character from my Expired Reality series – muses on Black Doors, a supernatural phenomenon involving possible alternate dimensions.

Black Doors
The train started up and began its journey through the Wasteland. Veronica peered out the window every so often, but there was really nothing to see. There were no lights in the Wasteland, save for light bulbs of solo shacks, or random campfires of outposts adventurers made while journeying through the sand-drenched desert. During the day, black paneling came down over the windows, blocking one’s view from the Wasteland itself. Violence was a common occurrence out here, but more so were attacks from the random beasts which inhabited the Wasteland. A family sued the train company years earlier when their child witnessed a horrific dismemberment of an adventurer who came too close to a Riptosar.

At night though, at a time when the sun escapes the evils of the day and retreats to make way for the more courageous moon, there was no need to block the windows. In fact, the random campfire glows and electric beacons provided small tokens of hope, proof that life existed out here in the middle of nowhere.

Veronica recalled history lessons about the Wastelands in high school. Adventurers went in, so few came out or made it to the other side. Either the wilderness killed the unprepared ego trip, untamed beasts of all shapes and sizes tore the ignorant limb from limb, or some actually managed to get lost in some of the Wasteland ruins, which were said to have existed many thousands of years before Anaisha was even colonized.

Veronica remembered one particular story about a young man – brash and full of spitfire – who led a small team into an underground ruin near the Sarlin mountain range. Montgomery. That was his last name, I think. Montel Montgomery was his full name. The ruins were said to be inhabited by dark creatures and a rare artifact, but Montgomery and his team never returned.

When another expedition crew went into the ruins after him, they came back with reports of a large chamber full of doors. Black doors with silver knobs and strange symbols etched around the doorframes. The doors were said to float above the stone flooring of the chamber, no strings attached, no hover lifts. Whispers filled the chamber, but nobody in the expedition team could make out what was being said. Nowhere else within the vast ruins were the doors found, and when the doors within the one chamber were counted, the number came out to four dozen. The expedition team claimed they weren’t able to open any of the doors, and even if they could, each one of them said they didn’t want to know what was behind them.

door-vector-concept_GJZDjevuAfter hearing that story, Veronica spent many weeks researching black doors. The Black Door Phenomenon, in particular, was something that had been experienced by a few dozen people across Enera, each in a different location. People would turn a corner or enter a room or even wander outside, and suddenly there would be a black door. Some even said they would go to their neighbor’s house and their neighbor’s door would be replaced with a black door, with the strange symbols around the frame. Each black door had a different set of symbols, making interpretation nearly impossible. Some people reported being able to open the doors by turning the silver knobs. Once opened, they said they saw a variety of different things: apartment buildings, futuristic spacecrafts, alien species, and sometimes horrors beyond explanation.

No research uncovered a report of anyone ever stepping through the doorways. Veronica figured it was because anyone who ever did step through the doorways – and she was sure there were people who did out of a curious compulsion – were never able to come back to tell anyone about it.

The going theory right now was that the doors opened to other realms.

Veronica leaned back in her seat and wondered what it would be like to come across a Black Door. She wasn’t sure she’d walk through one if she were able to open it. To explore other realms was something that kept her curiosity at its peak, even though common sense and self-preservation kept Veronica from really committing to the idea of jumping through one of those Black Doors.

The D Word

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Today is my ten-year wedding anniversary. It’s been a challenging ten years – the most challenging of my life. But it’s been worth every minute. I wouldn’t change anything, to be honest, because every step and misstep has drawn me closer to my wife and has helped me to grow as an individual, a husband, and a father.

Five years ago, I posted the following article on my blog. I meant for it to be a rant against divorce. Five years later, I feel the same way – if not stronger – in my vehement disgust at how casual this nation and culture views marriage.

Today is my five year wedding anniversary. Someone told me that the element of this landmark occasion is wood. Wood? Really? I think I’ll head down to the local Toys R Us today and buy my honey a set of Lincoln Logs. Those are made of real wood, right?

It’s our five year anniversary, for crying out loud! Five years of blissful marriage. And when I say blissful, I don’t mean we haven’t had our difficulties, but I mean that we’ve stopped to work our way through those difficulties together. We haven’t gotten into anything so nasty that one of us throws the ‘d’ word at the other. You know the ‘d’ word. It’s so commonplace nowadays that I wonder if someone somewhere is already working on a way to allow us to buy it out of a snack machine with that package of Doritos that never comes out of the rings. Divorce. Eck, I think I just threw up in my mouth trying to say it.

Divorce – hold on…okay, almost gagged there – runs too rampant in our family. Last count, among close family ties, we had thirteen divorces. That’s ridiculous. Has this country really started taking marriage so lightly that divorce is as common as a break up in junior high? “Well, Mom, she’s got a pimple now. I can’t be seen with that!” or “Dad, he just didn’t notice me in the dress I wore to school yesterday, so to heck with him.” It sounds silly, but so do a lot of the reasons I hear people are getting separated nowadays.

34751_1555636254318_1100156_nI wonder if – and this is a stretch – we communicated more. Would that work, people? I know that communication is one of the keys to our strong marriage. Men, if you actually talked to your wives instead of speaking in curse words and monkey gestures, maybe they would understand what it is you’re trying to say to them. And women, maybe if instead of throwing a temper tantrum and giving husbands that evil eye – YES, you know what evil eye I’m talking about because I’m getting it right now – you told your husband what’s bothering you. Would that be so hard? When we’re dating, we tell each other what’s on our minds. We give each other limitless ‘pennies for our thoughts’, but it seems when some marriages get past the first year – if they make it that far – everyone clams up and decay slowly settles in.

And then everyone is in court, fighting over the house, the kids, the ugly little chihuahua that both parties only want because they think the other wants it. A house divided will not stand. Children are not to be used as pawns in your emotionally juvenile tug-of-war. And you can easily drop that little chihuahua off at the pound – I heard they take all sorts of ugly animals nowadays. Let’s slide everything off the table and get back to basics, back to the reasons we married in the first place: love, friendship, companionship.

My wife and I have taken long and sometimes painful strides to right the wrong in our family patterns. ‘Generational curses’ is a phrase thrown around in most Christian circles to describe this not-so-uncommon phenomenon where the same pattern occurs over a number of generations, forever trapping the next generation in an endless cycle of destructive habits, unethical beliefs, and immoral deeds.

Everyone in our generation is so used to having an easy way out of things nowadays. Pull the escape hatch and you’re out of whatever it is that you’re too lazy to work on. Well, there’s no Plan B for this couple. I’m happy to say I’m in this for the long haul. Staying committed – to anything really – builds character and morale ground, something that seems to be going extinct nowadays. How sad, really. Does everyone just forget why they married their better half? I sure haven’t.

I married her because I love her. Notice how I used the present tense of the word love?

Five years. That’s something to celebrate!  I just don’t want to hear anyone using – you know – that ‘d’ word on our special day. :)

The Friday Muse – Ignite

The Friday Muse (Cropped)

I didn’t realize it’s been months since I last did a Friday Muse post. I’ve been getting settled back here in Arizona, and it’s taken me a while to show this blog some love. But, here we are, and I have another snippet of fiction for you guys (and gals). In the coming weeks I’ll be dropping some info on the fiction projects I am working on. I have some short pieces I need to write up for an upcoming anthology, and I want to return to Salt & Lyte and completely overhaul the manuscript draft I was working on last year.

Anyway, here’s today’s piece, Ignite. Not sure who exactly this character is or where she fits in any of my series, but she seems diabolically awesome.

Ignite

“I’ve left my life in your hands,” Cery whispered. “If you leave me, I’ll die.”

Belm shrugged and brushed his palms together, wiping the dirt from his skin. “You speak as if I’ve loved you this whole time. You still don’t get it, do you? I never loved you. Not the first time we laughed, not the first time we kissed, not the first time we had sex.”

Cery tried again to budge the pile of wooden beams off the lower part of her body, but they were too many and too heavy. Pinned, she knew she wouldn’t get free without Belm’s help. He had the strength to help her, the muscle to move the wood, but he lacked the will…and the love. She knew all along that he didn’t love her. That isn’t what hurt. Over the course of her life, Cery had grown to accept the fact that nobody could love someone as hideous as her. The face deformity she carried with her from her youth, from the house fire, scared everyone away. She was never surprised to find that Belm did not truly love her. What hurt was the fact that he lacked the decency to help another human being.

He adjusted the heavy armor he wore and clanked his way toward her, kneeling down so his face was just above hers. “It’s for the best that you die here, you know? Nobody loves you. Nobody ever has, and nobody ever will. You’re the beast in the castle, locked behind solid walls so nobody has to see you or speak of you. Did you actually expect me to fall in love with what you see in the reflection each day? Honestly, you have to be pretty naive to believe that. Maybe you did because it’s all you had to believe in. Maybe you just wanted a bit of pity and hoped by attaching yourself to me you would get it. You were wrong. I have no pity for the likes of you.”

Cery crossed her arms over her chest. “I loved you, you know?”

Belm reached his hand out and stroked her cheek with his fingers. “I know. That’s what made this so easy. Bringing the barn down on your pathetic form was so easy, as is the act of leaving you here to die. No food, no water, no help for miles and miles. I’ll fly away like a crow, and you’ll stay here and die like a helpless sparrow.

Cery suddenly grabbed hold of Belm’s wrist. “Please, stay with me a little longer. Give me that.”

Belm laughed and yanked his arm out of her grip. “You still cling to me, the man who is slowly killing you? You are stupider than I thought you were. Good riddance.”

“Please. Just one more kiss? One more time to experience the warmth of your lips?”

“Since you asked nicely, and you are a stupid, stupid girl, I will grant your wish.” Belm knelt down again and leaned in to kiss Cery on the lips. Once his lips touched hers, Cery grinned slyly. A blaze of fiery heat swarmed around Belm’s face, igniting his head in flames.

He fell backwards and plunged his head into the dirt, scrambling to put the flames out. He screamed and yelled and flailed around. Cery snapped her fingers as the wooden beams pinning her to the floor caught fire and burst into ash, freeing her to stand to her feet. The pressure of the beams had injured her legs, but not badly enough to prevent her from walking. Approaching Belm, she placed her hand on his shoulder and the flames surrounding his face died out, leaving him with a head full of melted skin.

“I hope you’ll have a little more respect for me now, Belm. You think because my face is scarred that I am unable to function or love or live? Now you’ll learn with your own scars, with your own burns and scorch marks.”

“Wh…wha….what have….have….you….done,” he asked behind burnt, trembling lips. Smoke rose from his head, and Cery could feel the heat emanating off his now bald skull.

She touched her finger to his chin and tilted his deformed face up toward her. “I have now made you like me. Unlovable.” She turned and walked out of the collapsed building before snapping her fingers and lighting it up in a heap of flames.

Beyond Me

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It’s been a struggle. Life. My life. I can’t say that I’ve had it the worst. No, I’m blessed beyond reason. I just mean that God’s been teaching me and guiding me through a lot of stuff lately. Confusing stuff. Hard stuff. Very emotional stuff. I still don’t understand it all, but in the end, my understanding of it isn’t completely necessary for me to get to the other side. I just need to trust God, God’s Word, and God’s way.

One of the things I have been working on for months now (and essentially for many years) is turning The Crossover Alliance – a once-small online community for readers/writers of edgy Christian speculative fiction – into an online publishing company.

When I was first approached by fellow ally Mark Carver with the idea to turn The Crossover Alliance into an actual publishing company, I was extremely hesitant to say the least. I mean, a publishing company? I’m a self-published author who has never seen the bestsellers list. Who am I to start a publishing company? I know most of the ins and outs of publishing. I know formatting, I know cover design, I know proofreading, I know web designy things. But a publishing company? It seems a great thing beyond me.

If you know me, you know that I’ve never really been one to back down from the impossible. I’ve seen a great many things in my life, things that God has done that nobody else thought possible. I’ve walked a narrow road of impossible things and have come to this place where God is calling me to put my hand in for another seemingly insurmountable task.

This task is to start this company, to create a publishing house where those who specialize in edgy Christian speculative fiction can come and network with other authors, promote their books, and call The Crossover Alliance their book’s home. With the collaborative help of four of the greatest guys I could ever ask to work with, I’ve been taking steps to slowly and surely build The Crossover Alliance into an actual business entity. I just learned that my LLC was approved, I’ve secured an EIN #, and I’ve registered as a business through the state of Arizona.

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Now it’s time to journey out into the deep waters and see what God wants to do with all of this. Yes, it’s a bit scary wading into something that is far beyond me. But that’s the point of this Christian walk, isn’t it? Isn’t that the point of faith? To go to a place, to pursue something that you know you are not capable of obtaining or handling yourself? God expects us to do so so that He can show up and do what we cannot do. It’s one way He reveals His glory.

The doors (officially) open on July 28th. That is when we will re-release the first volume of our short story anthology. That’s when we’ll start accepting novel/novella submissions. That’s when the next chapter of this incredible journey will begin…

A Season of Struggle

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Not going to lie. It’s been rough as of late. Even before I left California on the 800+ mile journey back here to Arizona at the end of April, I was battling emotional demons. I didn’t want to leave California. I didn’t want to move. Not really. It seemed smart logically, but the fact is, California has always had a special place in my heart. It’s where I was born. It’s where I ventured to numerous times in my adolescence. It’s where most of my extended family lives. Most of all, the weather and geography are more than favorable compared to Arizona. I prefer forests and oceans to desert and dirt. Any day. Anytime.

That being said, the move was something God had initiated. It’s the only real reason I agreed to move. But now as I’ve been settling down here in Arizona once again, surrounded by family and friends, I’ve had a hard time shaking the intense depression that has been plaguing me. When I say depression, I don’t mean suicidal, I just mean heavy…intense…sorrowful. It’s not just sorrow over leaving California, it’s sorrow – and confusion – over where I’m at in life.

It’s been years since I heard God whisper in my ear that the medical company I was working for would be my last 9-5 job until my writing could pay the bills. Years. I am actually coming up on Year 6 this July. Six years of journeying through faith, trusting in God to provide for our family on an income of one. And God has done it. He has done miracles and He has done things I had never seen before and probably may never see again. There has been beauty smeared in with these ashes, and I am so grateful that I serve a God who loves me and my family enough to sustain us through this incredible journey.

Cactus Shadow

But I’m exhausted. I’m tired from the journey. My endurance has run its course, and now I’m left with fatigue. I thought when God moved us to California that it was the start of things finally moving with my writing career. I thought it was the end of the family drama in Arizona. I thought it was a move from the desert to the Promised Land. Like Moses, I feel as if my arms are being held up by those who care about me enough to hold my arms up.

It dawned on me the other day that I haven’t published any new fiction in the last couple of years, aside from some pieces in a short story anthology. But God has been working, on me, on my family, and on my writing career. The emergence of The Crossover Alliance publishing company is one of the main events that took place while I was living in the Bay Area, a new venture in my writing career.

But if I’m really honest about all of this, I’d have to say that none of this is about a career, but more about a calling. Careers almost always involve an interest of money at some level. A calling overlooks the money and runs with a severe and heavily-focused purpose with little interest in letting anything get in the way. A calling requires sacrifice at the most inopportune of times, cuts off friends and family when they poison the waters, and will require all of you even on days you don’t feel like all of you even exists. With a calling, there is no 110%. There is everything or nothing.

My writing is my calling. And my calling is more than California. It’s more than jotting down words on a page to entertain. It is reaching a dark world with the light of Christ via a pen, keyboard, or any other writing/typing utensil I can get my hands on.

As I emerge from this funk I’ve been drowning in, I sense I have become a different person. These last six years – and especially the two years I lived in the Bay Area – have refined me into a new person, one with an iron will, a steel faith, and a laser-sight focus on God’s promises, with little interest of letting anything get in my way of obtaining them.

Oh, and that’s another fact of a calling – it will change you regardless if you want to be changed. But know that you will always be changed for the better, not the worst.

Getting Into The Rhythm…

Well folks, it’s been almost a month now and I think I’ve finally gotten into a rhythm out here in Arizona. The move out here was a tough one – emotionally and physically – and although I’m glad that I’m back here in Arizona around friends and family, I miss California gravely. But, there is work to be done, especially with the start of the publishing company. I’m diving in head first, if only to distract me from how badly I am hating the triple digit heat right now.

Some awesome things that need to be mentioned:

Indiegogo Logo With TransparencyIndiegogo Campaign:
My Kickstarter campaign did not reach goal, but I have an Indiegogo campaign running right now to help draw in funds for The Crossover Alliance, the publishing company I am starting. To make things even more epic, an anonymous supporter has agreed to match pledges dollar-for-dollar up to $1500, so if you’re interested in supporting this venture, please head to the official campaign page and donate. You’ll can score some digital subscriptions to our first year’s catalog as well!

BE EOTI Cover 2015 (Resized)Black Earth:
All four books in my Black Earth fiction series will be pulled off of Amazon and other websites soon to prepare them for re-release through the publishing company. Covers will be polished, text will be cleaned up, and the books will get some extra razzle dazzle over the re-release period. Look for End of the Innocence, the first book in the series, to be published this August.

New Fiction:
I have some new fiction I’ll be writing for the publishing company’s upcoming short story anthology. I’m not sure what that new fiction is yet, but it is sure to be good. I think.

Anyway, I’ll have more to say soon. For now, I’m back and I’ll be showing up more consistently on the blog now that I’m done with the move. Have a great weekend all!

The Friday Muse – Astrid

The Friday Muse (Cropped)Today’s Friday Muse piece reveals a new location on the planet of Anaisha – perhaps a location we’ll see in the third book of my Expired Reality series? Who knows…

Astrid
Laughter once echoed through these hallways. A joyous raucous. The people used to dance here, under a blue sky filled with sunshine and a dark sky bleeding with moonlight. Elaborate parties were once thrown here, filled with stunning costumes, war-torn romances, and dazzling magic. Victories were toasted, glories were reveled in, and successes were shared. This was once a place of beauty and grandeur, a place envied by the outsiders. Here is where crops grew in excess of the population. Nobody here ever lacked. Food covered the surface of every table, and clothing covered all flesh.

castle-in-the-sky_MJbizmqOThis place lived in plenty…once. The Land of Plenty is what the outsiders called it. Me…I called it a mirage. I knew it wouldn’t last long. I watched as each took pleasure without giving thanks to the one they call the Invisible God, the one who blessed them with everything they possessed. None of what once was is anymore. The dark sky – filled with thunderclouds and constant rain – refuses to speak of the prior years. A heavy sadness fills the hallways, whispering regrets in the ears of those who are willing to listen.

I live here only because I have pity and sadness within my spirit for this place. It anchors me to these stone walls, refusing to let me pass through to the valley beyond. So much was possible in the days of Astrid’s glory. But the people became drunk on their own pride, drugged with their own arrogance. The temples which were set up for worship to the Invisible God were torn down first. Then the books – the tomes of the Invisible God’s edicts –  were burned in mountainous piles in the courtyard. Lastly, those who still spoke in secret whispers to the Invisible God were tortured and killed.

I was sent here to give the people one last chance to turn around, to turn back the clock and rebuild the temples, rewrite the tomes. They were given a second chance – and they spit in my face, cast me out into the Wasteland with nothing more than a sack full of fish bones.

And it was with that action that the Kingdom of Astrid fell.

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