El is a Spaceship Melody – Beneath Ceaseless Skies

 

My #Afrofuture novelette, “El is a Spaceship Melody,” is up on Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Inspired by Sun Ra. On a starship powered by jazz music. #blacktothefuture

El is a Spaceship Melody

I. Dare to Knock at the Door of the Cosmos

The living crystals were displeased. The dissonant chords of a harried melody rocked the starship Arkestra. When Captain LeSony’ra Adisa was a young girl dreaming about one day commanding her own vessel, she had never considered it would be filled with so many day-to-day irritations. She sprang from her seat in the main bridge at the sound of the music. She was not one to be tested today.

“Overseer, we aren’t due for a command performance for another three hours.” On the verge of yelling, she opted to save her anger for the person who deserved it.

“Commander Marshall moved the performance ahead.” The timbre of the Overseer’s voice, emanating from the unseen broadcast units, vacillated somewhere between clearly male and clearly female. Its AI was integrated into every fiber along the length of the Arkestra, its calculations vital to monitoring the ship’s systems, including the harnessing energy from the kheprw crystals that powered the ship.

“On whose authority?” The crystals needed to be recharged every few solar days, depending on the mission use, but the next performance wasn’t scheduled until 1400 hours. From the way LeSony’ra felt her last nerve being worked, she knew the answer before Overseer responded.

“His.”

“Of course he did.” She flung her headdress past the twists of the front part of her hair, the flat-ironed portion flaring out behind it.

Their mission was a joint venture between the Thmei Academy, where LeSony’ra headed the largest laboratories, and Outer Spaceways Inc., the private interstellar shuttle conglomeration, so the command structure of the Arkestra was fraught. Captain LeSony’ra Adisa held authority over all things related to the mission above Titan, while Commander Clifford Marshall retained jurisdiction over everything concerning the ship. Issues related to the crew fell into a gray zone. Because of the way Marshall commanded, even holding a lesser rank, he held more sway over the crew.

“Steppers, Chappel, you’re with me.” Cradling a small crystal ball in her hand, LeSony’ra nodded, and the two security officers flanked her. Breastplates covered chrome colored body suits. Each wore a gilded animal mask; Steppers an eagle, the Chappel a dog. They brandished shields, though their charged batons remained at their waist. The trio of women exited the bridge.

Their strident march from the turbo-shuttle to the engineering chamber drew everyone’s attention. Steppers and Chappel positioned themselves inside the doorway of the engine room. LeSony’ra stormed in, annoyed both by the musical cacophony in the room and the fact that the engineering crew had begun the performance without her.

Marshall led the six-person engineering crew. He had the delicate bone structure of a dancer, with his high cheekbones and fine hair. His razor-thin mustache was manicured within inches of its life. Fans billowed the heavy fabric of his shimmering command cloak like a sail in a stiff wind. His saxophone barely skipped a note at LeSony’ra’s entrance.

‘Captain Adisa’ had to be diplomatic; ‘LeSony’ra’ could be petty as hell. And she was all LeSony’ra right now.

She cast a baleful glare in his direction, withdrew opaque citrus-colored glasses, and set the crystal ball on the keyboards at her station, unlocking the vintage Clavioline. Its amplifier fed directly into the kheprw crystals’ containment unit. Her voluminous black caftan whipped about her as she took her seat behind the Clavioline, its iridescent silver overlay interfaced with the keyboards. Her gold chainmail headdress lightly jingled as she began to work the instrument. Her striped platform oxfords—“moon boots” the crew called them, since they were designed for zero gravity situations—found the foot pedals. Marshall used any opportunity to undermine her authority. Always eager to ingratiate himself to the crew, to prove who ought to be in command. He was in need of a reminder of who was in charge. It was time for a true command performance.

Her Clavioline chords strained to find a place in the jumble of sounds. All captains were trained in improvisation, a skillset based on observing, listening, and reacting. No plan, no program, no control; only the interplay of past preparedness and honed intuition. Since she had handpicked the engineering ensemble during her travels, she trusted both their muscle memory and instincts. On her mark, the music reset and the Arkestra‘s crew followed her lead. The bass rumbled in tow. The drums pounded. Marshall’s saxophone pealed in faint protest. A torrent of sound, but once LeSony’ra shifted register, the chaos harmonized. She never told them what to play next. Not the song, not the chord changes, not the key. They just had to keep up, composing and performing at the same time.

The kheprw crystals glowed with approval.

[READ THE REST OF THE NOVELETTE HERE]

Free Preview Samples!

King’s Justice, the second book of the Knights of Breton Court trilogy will be available next month.  To whet your appetite, Angry Robot has made available a sample chapter.  (I won’t lie:  I keep playing with it just to watch the pages flip.  In fact, I’m only doing this blog post as an excuse to play with it again.)

As a huge fan of sword and sorcery tales which take place in ancient Africa, the anthology Griots is a project that I’m excited about.  Not just because it’s a chance to highlight “sword and soul,” but it’s a chance for me to be in the same table of contents as one of my heroes, Charles Saunders (author of Imaro) as well as my friend, Carole McDonnell.  You can read an excerpt of my story “Lost Son” here or go here to sample other stories from the antho.  Available soon.

On the less than free sample front, my story “Pimp My Airship” has been reprinted in the anthology Descended from Darkness vol 2. Not only do you get great stories from Mary Robinette Kowal, Jennifer Pelland, Alethea Kontis, Ekaterina Sedia, to make it seem like even more of a Dark Faith reunion, the stories from the Dark Faith issue of Apex Magazine are in here, too.  This means you get stories from Jerry Gordon and Paul Jessup.  Available now.

For my gamer fans, I was part of the development team for Leverage:  Grifters and MastermindsEvery job needs a plan, and every con needs a player. This sourcebook for the Leverage RPG includes expanded rules for staging heists, planning capers, and putting one over on the mark. It’s the ultimate resource for both players and Game Masters, including more classic con frameworks, new twists, a host of cover identities, criminal masterminds, and plenty of scenario ideas. Available February 8th.

A Couple New Story Sales

Because I can’t just find a genre and stick to it (aka, why I’ll probably never sell a short story collection), here are my latest story sales. First up, I have a story in an anthology of weird western stories entitled “Dead West:13 Tales of Murder and Mayhem” (cover art by Bob Freeman) from Bandersnatch Books due out around Halloween 2010:

Jerrod Balzer – A Show of Rage

Steve Vernon – Border Crossing
Hunter Lambright – Things Worse Than Ghosts
Daniel I. Russell – Rainchild and the Trickster
Rick Hautala – Screaming Head
Steve Rasnic Tem – Sleeping Ute
Lisa Morton – St. Thomas of El Paso
Harry Shannon – The Reckoning
Martel Sardina – The Turtle’s Only Friend
Michael Knost – Thinning the Herd
Maurice Broaddus – Trails End
Steven Shrewsbury – Boston Corbet:: Castro Gunfighter
Matthew Pizzolato – Windigo

By the way, that marks my third weird western. The first was in Dark Dreams II. The second was sold to Inhuman Magazine (hmm, a sale I don’t think I’d announced yet, but, there you go) and now this one. They are somewhat connected, in that they have recurring characters.

The second story is for an anthology of dystopic SF for Dark Quest books called Dark Futures (art by Alexey Andreye). It comes out in the second quarter of 2010 but is available here for pre-order:

“Black Hole Sun” by Alethea Kontis & Kelli Dunlap
“For Restful Death I Cry” by Geoffrey Girard
“Tasting Green Grass” by Elaine Blose
“Endangered” by Robby Sparks
“Nostalgia” by Gene O’Neill
“Beautiful Girl” by Angeline Hawkes
“Father’s Flesh, Mother’s Blood” by Aliette De Bodard
“Terra Tango 3″ by James Reilly
“Love Kills” by Gill Ainsworth
“Memories of Hope City” by Maggie Jamison
“Do You Want That in Blonde, Brunette, or Auburn” by Glenn Lewis Gillette
“Marketing Proposal” by Sarah M. Harvey
“The Monastery of the Seven Hands” by Natania Barron
“A Futile Gesture Toward Truth” by Paul Jessup
“Hydraulic” by Ekaterina Sedia
“Alien Spaces” by Deb Taber
“A Stone Cast into Stillness” by Maurice Broaddus
“Personal Jesus” by Jennifer Pelland
“Meat World” by Michele Lee

I like to keep diverse company.

Looking for a Few of My (free) Stories?

People are always asking me where they can read my stuff. You know, without having to actually PAY for the privilege. So I thought I would list the stories of mine that are available online as free reads:
Pimp My Airship
– “I think I’ll write a steampunk story with all black characters and call it ‘Pimp My Airship'”. Which Apex Magazine published August 2009

The Ave
– from the now defunct Horror Literature Quarterly (November 2007). Originally, this story was the second half of the story “Rite of Passage” published in Space and Time Magazine (November 2008). An incarcerated man comes face to face with the spirits of his African heritage.

In the Shadows of Meido
– IDW experimented with having short stories in the back of their comics (December 2005). Because if I’m going to write a vampire tale, it might as well have some samurai in it. Warning: this vampire doesn’t sparkle.
Uncle Boogeyman

– I believe this was the second story I wrote when I decided to be a writer (and originally the other half of the tale “Nurses Requiem” which was published in Dark Dreams III). Many drafts later, it was published by Dark Recesses in November 2009. A few nurses aides take it upon themselves to carry on the work of a mysterious force within the confines of a nursing home.

Just and Old Man on a Bench
– Originally bought by Brian Keene when he was the editor of the Horrorfind.com site (June 2004). Everyone has a story, perhaps even a deadly one, even an ordinary looking old man just sitting on a bench. This story is the prelude to “Just a Young Man and His Games” published in Doorways Magazine (March 2008)

Temptation
– an EARLY story of mine published on the Fear & Trembling site in November 2007. A little girl realizes she has the power of life and death over her baby sister. It was inspired by and named after this painting by Seymour Guy.

A Couple New Stories Out…

My story “Hootchie Cootchie Man” is in the current issue of Black Static (#14). Look at this beauty:
It was reviewed on Suite101.com. The review reads in part:

The eponymous ‘Hootchie Cootchie Man’ by Maurice Broaddus is a car thief who steals to order – but the order is placed by those wishing to ditch their cars by leaving a couple of hundred dollars under the floor mat. Nathaniel gives a girl a lift and then keeps running into her over the next few hours, as ‘Like a desperately needed word on the tip of his tongue, Nathaniel was on the verge of realizing an important truth.’ There is something slightly reminiscent in tone of Broaddus’ spare prose of Michael Moorcock, in that Nathaniel is somewhat iconographic in the same way as Jerry Cornelius and the Eternal Champion. The pick of the issue.


And here is the Amazon review (and the Horror News Net) which reads in part:

“Closer Than They Appear” is far and away the best tale in the issue, a painful story of self-doubt, self-hatred and self-destruction that rocked my ass in three pages flat.

GO BUY THESE ISSUES!!!

*I know, I’ve just made Jason Sizemore weep in his coffee.

Wounded Stories III: Wounds As a Source of Healing

One of my favorite essays I’ve ever read was Brian Keene’s Bleed With Me. It was about what artists have to do for the sake of their art, which is essentially to bleed for others. Our pain, our hearts, our souls laid bare in order to convey the truth of art. Put another way, it is the vulnerability and transparency of the artist that is the source for the best art experience.

Admittedly, there are varying levels of transparency. Sometimes the emotional truth is easier to get to through the distance of fiction. Even on my blog, it’s still fairly safe, after all, it is my platform with moderated comments (though that doesn’t stop the occasional troll). Encountering people in the real world is an entirely different matter because be it blog or story, once it’s sent off, it’s in the hands of the readers for them to experience as they will.

Transparency is a learned skill. People might be born open, but we learn to protect ourselves, to shut people out, and build walls. Personally, I’ve been blessed to have a half dozen pastors who get in my face, hold me to account, and walk with me (not engage in CYA meetings to say they have checked in). I am also in a recovery program. And let me tell you, I’ve had to confess that I suck at transparency. In fact, I’m convinced that I need an introductory program of steps to make it to the first 12, just to get me to the sharing part.

As much as we may sometimes want to, we can’t live alone. We have blind spots. We’re biased to our own stories, positively and negatively. Live life outside of our paradigm. People who grow up abused may consider that the norm until they develop relationships with people outside their experience. We live from a place of fear, wanting to protect ourselves from pain. For many, that means suppressing emotions or otherwise leading a flat emotional life. We have a distrust emotions, for some it’s a Charismatic paranoia, afraid of letting emotions sweep us away as a part of the faith experience. Step outside of our mindset of how people ought to behave and deal with how they do, meet them where they are.

So how do we begin to access our heart? How do we begin ending that awkward dance of disconnectedness? We long to feel close to another, be it intimacy with God or simply a connection with others, yet live in the shadows of not knowing what to share, or fear over-sharing and chasing people away. It’s funny, some people need conflict to access their hearts while others are so conflict averse, they find it easier to walk away from relationships. We have to come to a place where we learn how to listen and know ourselves. Sometimes we’re so numb we have to begin by praying to have our hearts woken up, to have the fear broken, and be released to be the real you. And that’s risky: people may not like the real you. Start with what you know. The power of confession is admitting our failings. There is a power to putting our feelings to words through prayer, sharing our stories of woundedness, and finding healing as we push one another forward.

Moving forward is the key. Some people become stuck and need help to not suffer needlessly for the wrong reasons. Some days it hurts more than others and people cry out. For some, in the superficial sharing, pain can become romanticized, An openness about woundedness brings with it the danger of exhibitionism—an emotional Munchausen syndrome—as if the superficial sharing is the end of the process. While people don’t need to be categorized as being drama queens seeking attention, open wounds don’t heal, so we can’t stop with just airing problems.

Sometimes a person in pain can’t recognize their hurt and nor diagnose a treatment. All they know is that it hurts. We’re all afraid of the pain, none of us wanting it in our lives. We want it to be fixed, ended, to be made better and while we wish we could go back to the way things were or snap our fingers and make everything better, it is a process. One which requires time. The proper community plays a role in this process. Cries for help are met with care, compassion, understanding, forgiveness, fellowship, and in all things, love; all the things that make and should characterize a community. Shared pain stops being paralyzing. In the sharing and bearing, community is build as they carry one another in shared hope, in their common search for Christ.

Learning to stand and walk (not hide) midst of pain and misunderstandings involves allowing the opportunity for people to speak into your life, to walk beside you, to break through our fears and loneliness. To allow others to know what’s going on and pray for you. For those with similar stories to find you and lead you. It allows community to spring up in a time of need and do its job and in so doing the community acts as witnesses and agents of grace and love and peace.

Wounded stories become opportunities in peoples lives. Moments of confession, to reflect on and live out our faith, and to build community if we’re bold enough to wade into another’s pain and story. To do so means we have to move outside of our own preoccupations and agendas and needs and worries. It means a withdrawal of self to allow room for another. It may mean allowing them room to vent, cry, be angry, be silent, rest; in short, to be a safe place.

While we have to move forward in our pain, wholeness can’t be given from one to another. Not a friend, not a romantic interest, not a well-intended seminarian, but only through the blood of Christ. It means washing our own wounds and past, giving them up and letting go of them. It means finding forgiveness, for ourselves as well as others. In so doing, our wounds become occasions for new visions. In our weakness we have a reminder that we can’t do it alone, that we have to move forward while clinging to God’s promises. We need to let the light of His amazing love work through us, holding us together, holding marriages together, dispelling the lies of isolation and abandonment.

We need to know and own our own pain, our own story. Being authentic, raw, and vulnerable is risky. Being a wounded healer means allowing others to enter our lives, connecting their story with yours … without having any idea where this will lead or what it will look like. We can only hope that life on the other side of the journey to wholeness—the journey our of our dark places—will be a much better place.

***

Wounded Stories I: Wounded Story Tellers
Wounded Stories II: Suffering Servant
Wounded Stories III: Wounds As a Source of Healing

Wounded Stories II: Suffering Servant

We all carry around hurts with us, pain which, left untreated, has a way of settling in and rotting us from the inside like a festering wound. Sadly, hurts and lies have a way of shaping us as we carry them around inside us like an infection. Be we wounded by parents, having felt the cold indifference of friends, the sting of a careless word from a pastor, a sense of abandonment at a critical time, or just the tragedy of life in a fallen world, our stories of what carves out pieces of us are all too similar. As much as our American culture teaches us to “suck it up”, pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, eventually we come to the realization that our own strength will only take us so far.

The walking wounded run a risk when we choose to encounter another’s pain. Our instinct may be to flee, find a way to distance ourselves from them, even ostracize them. After all, it’s an emotional risk to put ourselves out there in order to be arms of comfort, ears of compassion. Ultimately, we’re also faced with a two-pronged tension: we can’t find healing in one another, yet who can alleviate suffering without entering into it?

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:3-5

Christ identifies with us in our pain and woundedness. Our stories are His stories from a life He experienced alongside us. Leading us by example, making our story His, knowing our hurts and fears. He lived with eye to hope, no matter how dark it got. Hope provides a glimpse of the destination we wish to reach. Home.

We don’t take away one another’s pain. There’s no way for us to. What we can do is share one another’s pain, bear one another up. It’s messy, there are no universal steps because life, like the people in it, is creatively individual. So we also have to give each other room to move. It’s also from this place of brokenness that is a starting place for a profound journey.

Entering the complexities of our inner lives, our inner journey, involves sifting through and dealing with the muck of transformation. We all want to lead safe and protected lives, yet we aren’t called to safety (another tension we have to live within). Still, we search out a safe place to confess, repent, and heal. Seek those who are safe, possibly those who can relate to our pain, our woundedness. Those who are willing to be raw and failing yet be at one other’s disposal. Muddling through the faith and doubt, light and dark, hope and despair, that often comes with the real inner work of transformation.

And we continue to let Christ in as we pursue an emotional intimacy with Him. Continuously learning to give ourselves over to him. Continuing to wash our past and brokenness in the blood of Christ.

***

Wounded Stories I: Wounded Story Tellers
Wounded Stories II: Suffering Servant
Wounded Stories III: Wounds As a Source of Healing

Wounded Stories I: Wounded Story Tellers

“…I have found that the very feeling which has seemed to me most private, most personal and hence most incomprehensible by others, has turned out to be an expression for which there is a resonance in many other people. It has led me to believe that what is the most personal and unique in each one of us is probably the very element which would, if it were shared or expressed, speak most deeply to others. This has helped me to understand artists and poets who have dared to express the unique in themselves.” –Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person

We are called to be wounded healers taking care of our own wounds, while prepared to treat the wounds of others. The idea of wounded healers led me to Henri Nouwen’s book, The Wounded Healer which I’ve been meditating on for the last few weeks.

A lot of folks don’t know what to do with folks who are truly hurting. They are quick to label them crazy or drama queens, accuse them of self-aggrandizing behavior. To be fair, condition not always easily recognized, hidden behind walls, retreated to caves to lick wounds (ironic that our instinct is to withdraw from those who would help us). On the flip side, people who are hurting aren’t always the most cooperative of “patients”, often scared or indifferent and stubborn, or whatever else their posture of woundedness, unable to give voice or words to their state of despair or hopelessness. Burdened with the weight of guilt and shame, and self-contempt, they might pull away from people, not wanting to let others see our wounds believing them to be too ugly.

They have a sense of being lost, believing themselves without family or friends or anyone to understand or relate to their plight. As they bottom out, not knowing whether they want to live or die, unable to give any direction (or even perspective) to their story, they become prisoners of their own existence. People feel alone when no one seems to be around to walk through your pain with you, to simply be there to pray with, talk to, comfort. That’s part of the healing power of being present.

A desperate cry demands a response from their brother. Not indifference or isolation, not intellectual platitudes of a well-intentioned seminarian. These are easy emotionally, safe responses, sometimes betraying a hubris and insensitivity, an aloofness to the pain and suffering of others. As Larry Crabb said, “the solution to the problem of disconnection is connection.” To become present to one another means that we have to encounter each other in a very real and very human way. The comfort of presence allows us to smell, feel, hear, and see another. It’s a connection through each other’s story that puts a lie to no one being there, the lie that no one cares. It lets the wounded know that there are people waiting on the other side of the dark time.

We are human and we will fail one another. We can’t and won’t be there perfectly for one another, despite the well-meaning promises between parent and child, spouses, boy/girlfriends, friends. It’s all a part of the mystery of people. They’re so individually … peoplely. It’s easy to point out the failures to draw near to others. We forget, they’re people too, wounded in their own ways, and like the rest of us, have to work through their own fears, hesitations, self-preoccupation, and self-protections in order to reach out to others. It’s why the idea of dealing with people who are deeply wounded and hurting leaves them befuddled, not knowing what to do.

We’re all called to be wounded healers, but it’s hard to lead another out of pain if you’ve never allowed yourself to deal with your own pain. Sometimes you have to head straight into the pain to come out of the other side

Our own emotions—anger, fear, disappointment, resentments, distrust—may keep us from drawing near to our “neighbor” when they are wounded (by themselves or by life). Healing can begin with a simple forgiving embrace, a confession of failure, not justifications and rationalizations. Few people want to keep screaming in the face of their pain. They want someone to listen, to truly listen. Few people don’t hope for recovery, don’t want to be restored or find wholeness, who’d rather find temporary shelter in the attention of their stories. We’re not called to camp out in our woundedness or brokenness, but it is the hope of that promised wholeness keeps us pursuing the way of Jesus.

The gospel story isn’t that we sin and God forgives, or that we’re just sinners. We’re children, heirs, called to a life of joy. We are to make his life our own and be transformed. He is the source of healing, the Balm in Gilead. We are to grow to look like him, not just as the suffering servant, but becoming fully human. And making the journey to become fully human and return home.

***

Wounded Stories I: Wounded Story Tellers
Wounded Stories II: Suffering Servant
Wounded Stories III: Wounds As a Source of Healing

God Doesn’t Have Writer’s Block

I’ve written about the church’s uneasy relationship with art and spoken before of how story impacts my Christianity, but I’ve been thinking lately about how the many in the church have an uneasy relationship with story. Which is ironic considering that a good chunk of the basis of our faith is rooted in lessons provided by a collection of stories.

Our imagination is an amazing gift. Our ability to conceive ideas and construct stories is beautiful. It joins us to our Creator and is part of what makes us human. Its dark side, however, is that it can be used as a destructive device that can distort reality and is why so many inherently trust any sort of metanarrative. Story is a powerful thing, rife with potential, and because we were created in God’s image, we want to write our own stories.

I write by outline. When I’m plotting out a novel, there’s a story I know I want to tell. So I can spend pages creating characters, laying out plot points, describing different scenes, jotting down snippets of dialogue to capture each character’s voice, and generally plotting out the overall story. But I leave the end of the outline, the climax of the story, open. If my characters are real, they aren’t always going to cooperate with the story I have in mind. If they were created as living, breathing, fully fleshed out characters, they have freedoms and will make choices. They have their own story to tell and I need to give them room to allow them to write it themselves. If I impose my plot at the expense of their character arcs, the story I’m writing will ring hollow. I am not being true to them or the narrative.

I wonder if this is how God operates?

Stories can sometimes be painful and take dark and unexpected turns. When situations, crisis moments, rise up, we want to impose out plots on them. As a church, we can get tempted into wanting to write our own stories, trying to create “look what God did” tales—wrapping things up in time for our Thanksgiving service or next sermon series—that we overlook the people involved and the story HE’s writing. Stories proceed at their own pace, moving along their own timeline. Sometimes when faced with a painful or overwhelming story, we want to get to the end quickly (sometimes any ending), not allowing time or any sort of narrative process to unfold, simply to get over it and feel better. Trying to manage the story rather than being true to the story and characters.

I had a story once where the words were coming easy, the characters fully imagined in my head, and then I tried to force a story onto them. Instead of dealing with the characters in front of me, as they were, I moved the story at the expense of them and their needs. Shocker of all shocks, the characters quit cooperating with me. It was like they opted out of the story. So I had to scrap the story I was trying to do and start over.

We also have a way of trapping people in stories, not just as a people, or as a church, but also as individuals. We are quick to label people—“that’s the crazy one”, “that’s the drama queen”, “that’s the villain”—defining them into roles that they aren’t free to grow out of. Similarly, we can sometimes do the same damage to ourselves when we believe lies about ourselves.

Similarly to losing focus of the characters, we can lose focus of the story and end up forcing stories, locked into the endings we want. We end up trying to salvage a story:

-if we can just get this person saved
-if we can just get these people to reconcile
-if we can just change this person’s thinking or way of life

All good ends, but mixed in with an inherent hubris: as if we’re the author’s of those stories. What it reveals is that we don’t trust narrative. or the Ultimate Author. Our need to control locks us into creating “an opportunity for a miracle” (you know how we like to give God a helping hand with the situations we encounter), wanting to have a good “look what God did” story to tell, as if we need to provide Him crib notes to help the story along.

But God doesn’t have writer’s block.

As much as we would wish or act like it is, life isn’t a choose your own adventure story. Stories happen on God’s script and on His time table. As such, narratives are uncertain and should be prayerfully written. Narratives aren’t safe and require faith in an ultimate Author and asks us to surrender our narrative to Him and the story He wants to write. Our stories are ones of continued surrender.

We need to encounter each other as stories, bumping up against and connecting to others as fellow participants and co-authors of a story of reconciliation and healing. Pain and suffering is our universal language, our great uniter. Our collective sin, our response to that sin, requires that we walk through the pain of a fallen world with a willingness to enter into one another’s paralyzing situations.

The story isn’t that we sin and God forgives, but that we’re children of God’s, co-heirs with Jesus, called to a life of joy. We are to make His life our own, transforming us, sometimes through the refining fire of pain, to look like Him, as children come to resemble their parents. That’s the story we find ourselves in.

Uncle Boogeyman Now Up on Dark Recesses

Back in college, I began to seriously consider pursuing writing. I took a few creative writing stories and the end result was three stories, more or less. The first was my story which became Soul Food, a tale of a sin-eater in the hood, published in the inaugural issue of Hoodz magazine (after a convoluted path to print).

The second was my story which became Dark Night of the Soul, a piece I’d been tinkering with since high school about a man who falls in love with the goddess Kali. It saw print in last year’s anthology, Dark Harvest (which also reprinted Soul Food).

The third story was my 10K word opus reflecting on my days as a Certified Nursing Assistant. Eventually, I realized that I was actually telling two stories and I split the story into two. The former, the story of an assistant working in a nursing home of demon possessed elderly patients, was published in Dark Dreams III (Nurses Requiem). The latter, a tale of corrupt nursing assistants abusing patients to serve a greater darkness, has been published on Dark Recesses.

I hope you enjoy Uncle Boogeyman (plus, it’s another free read, so you have no excuse not to read it).