In 2011 I was in the midst of delivering on a five book contract with Charisma Media. During the year, I worked on three books at once. The first book was already in Charisma’s hands and I went through the months long process of editing with a professional editor, designing a cover, and approving the final book. The second book was the one I would turn in at the end of the year in its final format. I was editing and writing the final manuscript. The third book was the next book in the series and I was outlining, researching, and writing the rough draft.
So, why in the midst of this would I decide to write two short stories a week? Simple. I had to keep my creative juices flowing and to do so, I availed myself of a wonderful website no longer around called “Storypraxis”. My editor, Andy Meisenheimer was involved in the website and the premise was that every couple of days or so, a story prompt featuring a word or a phrase was released. You then had about 36 hours to free write a short, short story based on the prompt. No editing. Just free write and get it down on the screen. Then, you uploaded the story and if it was “good” enough, it would be featured the next month in the site’s digital magazine.
I recently ran across all of my short stories from that brief time. From the stories I wrote over a year’s time, I chose 63 stories to share with my readers. I have put them together in a short book entitled “Praxis Makes Imperfect?: Prompting Your Story” available at this link.
If you are interested in writing, I challenge you to take a look at the writing prompts. They are listed in the front of the book. Sit down and just let your imagination flow and see what comes out of the inspiration from the word. Then, if you are at all interested, check out the story I wrote from that prompt. Some of the stories are ridiculous. Some are almost sublime. I used this process to explore characters, ideas, what if questions, and possible novel ideas. Some of the short stories ended up in my novels. Others are waiting in the wings impatiently, the characters tapping their toes with arms or tentacles or appendages crossed waiting for me to unleash them into the world of my stories. Patience beings. I will get to you!
So, enjoy this little book. See what stories the prompts inspire in you and write, write, write! Bleed all over the page! Let your imagination soar! And, then judge for yourself I managed to soar. Or to crash and burn!
Now, back to that hunchback wandering in the catacombs looking for that certain book of arcane secrets . . .
I am working furiously on “The 12th Demon” and there are vampires. Then, today’s prompt for storypraxis intrigued me so I wrote this short, short story that captures some of the flavor of the characters in “The 12th Demon”. I hope you like it!
the end of the night
“Why haven’t you ever asked to drink my blood?”
Sebastian glanced at our reflection, rather my reflection in the train window. “We are friends, Jon. I’ve never looked upon you as dinner.”
I pulled his cloak up around his shoulders. He was slumping in the train seat, his cloak rumpled, his hair askew and his features haggard. Gone were the imperious, powerful facial expressions of the vampire I had known for months now. “You look terrible, you know.”
Sebastian shrugged. “I’ve looked worse. You should have seen me during the Crusades. Kill or be killed. Drink or die. Blood everywhere. I was an unholy mess.”
I glanced at my watch. Ten minutes. “Why are you doing this?”
Sebastian turned away from the utter darkness outside the train window and his burgundy eyes were moist. He blinked and patted my hand. “It is time. There is always a time to cease; to pause; to exhale.”
“You don’t inhale.” I said.
Sebastian smiled and his fangs were visible. I glanced around at the other passengers on the train, all still and ensconced in their private worlds. Who would he have eaten? Which mortal would he have claimed?
“I could give you just a little.” I held up my wrist.
Sebastian pushed it gently away. “Do not tempt me, Jon. You are the reason I have chosen to die, you know.”
I felt my heart quicken. “Me?”
“Yes, you. Pulling me into your world of arcane investigations. Proving to me that their are monsters worse than I in this world. Showing me that the future of mankind is hopeful and you will prevail in time over the creatures of night and blood and death like me.” He turned back to the window. “How long now?”
“I never chose this lifestyle, Jon. It was thrust upon me. But, I chose every victim over the centuries. Some reluctantly. Some with glee. You have given me Choice again. I don’t have to be this way anymore.” He sat upright in his seat and turned so that his gaze was fully on me. His eyes glowed with his power. “Do you think there is a place for me in heaven? Or, will I live forever, again, with the damned in hell?”
I swallowed under the intensity of his gaze. “I cannot answer that, Sebastian. I refuse to believe you have no soul. I refuse to believe that God’s forgiveness would be denied even you. I have to believe that even Judas could have claimed forgiveness.”
He nodded and released me from his gaze. I relaxed. Never would I feel those eyes on me again. I glanced at my watch. “One minute.”
Sebastian adjusted his cloak and his ascot. He ran a hand through his dark hair and like magic, it was straight and full. He was suddenly himself, his powerful vampire mastery filling the air with electricity. “So, it is morning in France?”
“Yes, we will be out of the Chunnel any moment now.”
Sebastian reached over and turned up his palm. “I have prayed to your God, Jon. I seek His forgiveness. We shall see if He will take me in this new morning at the end of the night. Tell Lydia she has chosen a good man in you. Will you hold my hand?”
I took his cold, frigid hand in mine and he turned his gaze fully on me. Light glimmered out the window for a second and with a lurch, the train passed out of the tunnel into the countryside of France. Sunlight gushed in through the window and fell upon Sebastian’s shoulders. He closed his eyes and waited.
Nothing happened. No fire. No ash. No explosion of flesh. His cheeks flared with crimson and his hand suddenly grew warm in mine. I gasped and released it. He opened his eyes. They were bright blue. His mouth fell open and my eyes grew wide. His fangs were gone. He turned and looked out the window and the morning sun fell full on his face. He looked through his own reflection and smiled.
The holidays are very hard for those of us who suffer from depression. I know. I have depression. My pastor and I wrote a book about it. I recently wrote this short, short story for storypraxis and posted it on the ink*well website. I want to share it with my readers. I hope you find it comforting or possibly even inspiring. If you suffer from depression, the holiday season can be devastating. I am praying for you. If you are the fortunate ones who never suffer from depression, there is someone you know; someone you love; someone you can help who is suffering from depression. Pray for them this season.
Awake My Soul!
I do not move.
I am quiescent and still.
Movement for me is pain. Life is pain.
The trees outside are harsh and bare. Winter has stripped them of vigor and life. Gray fingers claw at the even grayer sky. Even the clouds do not move. The air is still. No wind. No breeze. No life. My daughter has placed me here on the porch. I feel the sting of cold on my cheeks but I can ignore it. I have ignored all feeling for months now. Since Tom died, I have had no reason to move; no reason to feel.
My daughter has wrapped a scarf around my neck and tucked it into the woolen sweater Tom gave me last year for Christmas. I can still smell him on it when I choose to acknowledge my sense of smell.
“Why is she out there on the porch?” That is my son-in-law inside the warm house.
“I’m tired of her, Richard. I can’t take this anymore.” My daughter has tears in her voice. I cannot feel them. I cannot touch them. The tears mean nothing to me.
“She’ll freeze to death.” Richard says.
“That’s the idea.”
There is a profound silence. And then, subdued sobbing; quiet, subtle. A white flake shimmies down the still air and lands on my nose. I choose not to feel it melt. So intricate, so beautiful in its design — one of a kind — it dies on my cold skin. It dies on the already dead. For, she has left me to die out here alone; cold; still; frozen.
The sliding door opens behind me and a waft of warm air bathes the back of my head. I cannot feel it on my neck for the scarf. Richard’s shadow falls over me from the lights inside the house; lights that try in vain to chase away the gray.
“You’ll have to forgive your daughter, Mom.” He says behind me. “She is very frustrated and wants to leave you out here to die.”
“I’m already frozen.” I whisper and he leans over me. His breath touches my forehead.
“Did you say something?”
“I’m already frozen.” I say more strongly. “Let me finish dying.”
My lips pull apart and I realize they have frozen together. I feel the pain as the first real sensation I have experienced in months. Richard squats beside my wheelchair and for a second, I choose to notice the strong profile of his face; his angular cheekbones; his gently stubbled chin; his clear eyes. He is watching the trees.
“Winter is hard for all of us, Mom. Spring is coming. I want to tell you a secret. It is a deep and abiding secret that no one can know.”
More flakes are falling now and caressing my cheeks. I choose not to feel their gentle touch. One lands on my cornea and I blink involuntarily. I must not do that again. But, try as I might to ignore his statement, the attraction is there. What secret is he talking about? “What secret?” My voice is a bare whisper.
“Virginia is stressed out because we have chosen to take a journey. It is a long and tedious journey and we will be gone for weeks. She doesn’t know what to do with you during that time. She can’t leave you alone. And, she isn’t going to leave you out here to die.” His breath streams away from him, a living thing full of warmth and moisture and the snowflakes eddy and swirl.
“Rawanda. In Africa. There is a little girl. She needs a family.” He turns his head to me and his gaze is full and hot on my face. Tears mingle with the snowflakes. “She needs to know her grandfather. She needs to know what he was like. Only you can tell her that.”
Another snowflake hits my eye and melts. The moisture runs along my eyelid and I feel a hot tear trickle down my cheek. No! I cannot let this happen! I cannot feel!
“Will you come with us to Rawanda? Will you come with us to get your granddaughter?” His eyes are full and round and wet and the snow is covering his bare head, peppering his shoulders.
I feel something deep within stir from a slumber of unforgiving anger and frustration. The black dregs of my depression begin to drift away as the warmth stokes itself in my heart. No! I want to scream. No! I want to hold onto the stillness; the inertia; the coming of winter’s death. I try to ignore Richard’s gleaming eyes and his warm breath and when I subtly avert my gaze a flash of bright red burns my retinas. A lone flower dares to challenge the grayness from my camellia bush. The snowflakes are covering it now and it wants to be seen; it wants to look upward to the hidden sun for life and warmth; it wants to live.
The chair creaks; the ice breaks across my knees and I push, push, push up and out of the heaviness of my crypt of sorrow and I stumble to the flower. I brush away the snow with shaking hands and my tears anoint the petals with life. With life!
Awake my soul! Awake!
I turn to my son-in-law who is standing with his mouth wide open and the snow covering his head and my daughter stumbles through the open door with her hands pressed to her tear streaked face and I feel the ice crack as I smile. “When do we leave?”