Fighting the Storm

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Backward.

The Storm was pulling Beth backward, and if she didn’t plant her feet in the ground and make her stand soon, she would die.

All around her, the cosmos spun and reeled, a fiery explosion that transformed the ordinarily calm night sky into an apocalyptic inferno. A tempest of such magnitude and strength had not visited the Earth for more than a thousand years, and Beth felt powerless beneath the weight of its world-shattering influence.

She reached into the void outside space—the staging ground of reality itself—not with her arms but with her mind. The damage was extensive, and Beth didn’t know if she could fix it.

What would Grandma do?

The woman had been the fiercest Guardian Beth had ever known, and she’d defended the Earth from the Storm for more than three centuries before passing the role on to her.

“You’re stronger than you believe,” Grandma had said on her deathbed. “You have to accept that, or the Storm will win.”

But how could she accept an idea that was so patently absurd? The Storm was cosmic in scale and all-consuming. How could a lowly human like herself, gifted though she was, stand against it?

The wind intensified, and Beth slipped further. Falling back, she was dragged through the ravaged street, asphalt tearing her windswept clothes and opening wounds along her arms and legs.

The Storm was winning, and it was going to be Beth’s fault when the world was swept away.

All at once, a silence fell before her. The Storm was still close, but in another dimension of sensation it was suddenly far away. Here, in this inner depth she’d never explored before, she felt an incredible source of power rooted to the very cosmos itself, humming to the rhythm of her beating heart. Here, she thought, was the power Grandma had passed on to her. It was immense, an entire celestial ocean, and in its awe-inducing presence, Beth knew for certain at last.

She could do this.

She touched it, hesitantly at first, like a child tasting something hot, then drew it into herself in a single draught. It was like ice. Like fire. Like liquid lightning. It surged and throbbed and thrummed inside her, so that the Storm now seemed an inconsequential thing.

When her eyes snapped open, she got to her feet at once, as if she hadn’t just been dragged across yards and yards of asphalt. She turned her gaze to the sky, and she felt the Storm quail against the fury of her newly discovered power.

“Go”, she commanded. “Go, and trouble the world no more.”

The Storm raged against her in reply, but Beth’s will now carried the force of a law older than the cosmos itself, and they both knew it was bound to obey.

“Go,” she repeated. “Leave this place now.”

And the Storm left.

One by one, the stars returned to the sky. Beth released the power only when she was sure the Storm was gone, and when she did, its energy drained from her body at once. She sank to her knees, exhausted. But she was no longer afraid, no longer worried she wasn’t capable like Grandma. She knew now that she had everything she would ever need and more, and she would be ready to defend the world when the Storm returned.

Were you fascinated by this story and want to read more? Become a $5 patron and I’ll write a longer version of it, at least 10,000 words in length. The same offer applies to any other piece of flash fiction on the blog. Learn more and become a patron today by clicking here.

 

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I’ll send you Neil Gaiman’s “Norse Mythology”

 

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Disclaimer: This promotion is not in any way affiliated with Neil Gaiman or the publisher W. W. Norton & Company.

Last week, I made an offer to my mailing list and got a fantastic response. I now want to extend that same offer to my social media friends and to also give those who missed that first email another opportunity.

The idea is simple. If you pledge to my Patreon at the $2 level or above, I’ll send you a free hardcover copy of Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology. I had a great time reading it, and I think you will too.

If you change your mind after I’ve sent you the book, you’re free to cancel your pledge, no questions asked. I believe most people are kind and won’t take advantage.

Your pledge also entitles you to other perks. The $2 level gives you access to rough drafts of every novel, novella and short story I write. The $5 level lets you decide which of my flash fiction pieces I should turn into a longer story. Whatever you can give, it will help me immensely on my journey toward becoming a full-time writer.

There are only two rules.

1. You have to have an address in the United States to be eligible (I’m working on the legalities and logistics of offering a similar giveaway to residents of Canada.)

2. You must become a patron at or above the $2 level on or before Monday, February 27, 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time.

That’s it. Once you become a patron, I’ll send you an email to request your shipping address, and once I get it, I’ll order the book through Amazon and send it to you as a gift. I may or may not do a similar giveaway in the future. This is an experiment. Let’s see how it goes 🙂

To become a patron and get your free hardcover copy of Norse Mythology, click the “Become a patron” button below.

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Announcement Next Week

I have an announcement to make about my upcoming book, Rite of Passage. If you haven’t already done so, join the mailing list using the form below.

For those of you who already have, look for my email next Saturday 🙂

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Don’t Miss Out!

Tomorrow at 10:00 AM EST, I’ll begin sending out the final sketch of the first illustration for my soon-to-be-released short story, Rite of Passage. If you want to see it, be sure to join my mailing list before then by submitting your email address below this blog post. You’ll also get a free copy of another short story, The Sign, just for joining 🙂

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Life is Full of Surprises

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“Life is full of surprises.” It’s a statement we hear all the time, so often that it’s become a cliché. Just when we think we’ve got things figured out, life lunges from around a corner, throws us into an unmarked van and whisks us away.

I was never so naive in my adult years to believe I could foresee the future. I realized a long time ago that long-term goals are futile, that aside from a few common sense preparations, my time was best spent living in the present. Still, I found myself making plans. I’d decided I would live more frugally, that I would save a ton of money so that I could take a year off work to focus on my writing. I was strong in this conviction, and I was actually disciplined enough to make significant progress toward that goal.

Then I met my girlfriend Win, and a year and a half later I was moving to The Philippines to be close to her. Just like that, my short-term plans had evaporated, and once more I was starting from scratch, trying to figure things out, wondering if I would ever figure things out.

But you know what? I’m happy. Before I met Win, I thought I knew what would bring me joy. Then I fell in love, and I discovered what joy actually was. I had to give a lot up, and it’s been a daily challenge for me. But the struggle is rooted in love, and after being here for a few months, I couldn’t imagine living any other way.

So often, uncertainty makes us anxious. It’s not an entirely unreasonable reaction, because not every surprise is a good one. But I’ve learned that to be happy, I have to let go and allow life to steer me in the proper direction. The course isn’t always easy, but it’s always rife with unexpected opportunities for personal growth. Life is a mystery to be embraced. If we spend too much time worrying about what may or may not happen, we wither and die like malnourished flowers.

So I’m taking things one day at a time, and I’m trying to focus less on achieving some pre-determined outcome and more on discovering the outcome I was destined from birth to fulfill.

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Showdown

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Fear. It surrounds me.

I awoke this morning to discover that dangers and perils of every kind had gathered around me during the night, intent on doing me harm. I look each in the eye. I swallow.

A showdown.

How did this happen? I cast my mind into the distant past, try to pinpoint the exact moment the trajectory of my life turned in this direction. I fail.

I shut my eyes against the inevitable. “Take me,” I whisper, “I won’t be afraid anymore.”

I wait.

Slowly, I open my eyes. They haven’t gone, but neither have they moved. This time I thrust my chest out more boldly. “I said, take me!” I cry into the morning, naked and vulnerable, daring them to attack. “Do what you came to do.”

Silence.

I begin to shake, not with fear but with adrenaline. A giddy absurdity overtakes me, and the enemies that stand before me are transfigured. Weapons, armor and bared teeth become plastic toys, children’s costumes and empty gums, flailing before me in a parody of force.

I learn the truth.

My enemies, who had been so strong in their denouncements, who had whispered of my destruction in the middle of the night, who had vowed to tear me limb from limb the instant I ventured into the world they’d been guarding so jealously; they had only ever been harmless spectres, useless projections sent to prevent me from taking what had always rightfully been mine.

I stand.

I look at my aggressors, impotent and without life. I step forward. They shout at me through silent lips, brandishing their plastic pitchforks and red-capped toy pistols. I laugh. The sound is a deep, earthy rumble. It consumes me, makes me whole.

The spectres disappear.

I am reborn.

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One Life Ends and Another Begins

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“To live will be an awfully big adventure.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

On August 14, 2015, one chapter of my life will close in Los Angeles, CA, and another will open halfway across the world in Manila. I’ll step off my plane after fifteen and a half hours of non-stop flying with nothing but my passport, some cash and the few remnants of my former life from the States that will fit into two Samsonite Spinners on wheels, and I won’t be coming home.

How did this happen?

The short explanation is that I fell in love. Love is a curious thing. It makes us do things we would never do on our own. It makes us bold. For love, we’ll conquer the world. We’ll go anywhere, do anything, give up everything we have, whatever it takes to be with our beloved. For this woman, uprooting my thirty-one-year-old life in the States came as naturally as breathing.

I’m excited.

I’m about to undertake an extraordinary journey, shared by someone special. The Philippines is a beautiful country, filled with natural wonders and unique cultural marvels that can be found nowhere else. My girlfriend and I both enjoy traveling, so the adventure won’t stop there; together, we’ll take on the world.

I’m scared.

Just because I’ve decided to plunge head-first into the deep end doesn’t mean I’m not afraid. I’ve never done anything like this before. What if I lose my job? There are very few Stateside employers who are willing to hire remote web developers. What if something happens to me in the city? What if I’m robbed? What if I get lost? What if I’m trapped in a serious natural disaster, like a major earthquake or typhoon?

As a sufferer of anxiety, I always used to play it safe. Until recently, the very notion of being suspended in the air above the ocean for fifteen or more hours at a time would, for example, have been enough to drive me under the bed, cowering in fear.

But I’m tired of playing it safe. After dating my girlfriend for a while, with all the frustrations that long distance relationships inevitably bring, I knew I would have to do something extreme if our relationship was to have any hope of surviving. So I took a deep breath and I jumped. Life’s too short to play it safe. Sooner or later, we’re all going to die; it’s just a matter of when. We should make the best of the time we have and live our lives to the fullest, for not a single man or woman knows when Death will come knocking on their doorstep.

Life is an adventure.

Over time, reading and writing about everyday adventures changed my attitude. It turned the boring and the ordinary into something exciting and extraordinary. Once my outlook on life changed, so too did my desire to undertake adventures of the more exotic variety.

I have no idea what will happen when I arrive. But for good or for ill, I know that it will be an adventure.

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The Walking Dead

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The magic is gone.

I’m not sure when I noticed. It didn’t go all at once. It lingered, even as it slowly leached away, until the universe had been sucked dry, a desiccated husk.

I wander a broken world denuded, a disinherited prince. There are no sorrows, no joys. Just a dull flat aching despair, my soul’s pleading cry, a desire to live once again. But the spark is gone now; there is no life within me.

I am the walking dead.

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My Mission Statement

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I’ve spent the past few years thinking a lot about who I am and what I was made to do. It’s been a long journey, fraught with anxiety, self-doubt and confusion. I’ve traversed the desert of darkness and despair, have had to question whether or not I have a purpose, if I was meant to be a writer or if my art is just the accidental by-product of genes, passed on through countless generations, heralds of random chance and a fundamentally chaotic universe.

By attempting to comprehend my existence and its reason for being, I’ve come to a much fuller understanding of what it is I’m supposed to do.

It’s my sincere hope, of course, that everything I write will entertain and delight you, my readers. I want to make you happy. In a world filled with anxiety and despair, I want to give you leisure and rest.

But there’s more.

There are things I wish to communicate, themes that have surfaced over and over again as I’ve plumbed the depths of my imagination. Everything I write, while intended to entertain, also serves a higher purpose. What follows are three things I hope to accomplish as a writer.

1. To explore the entire spectrum of the human experience.

What motivates people to do what they do? Why do they feel a certain way? How do people react to the actions of others? These are just a few of the questions that fascinate me, questions that have set me on a path of exploration that’s taken me deep into the heart of humanity.

We are a species rich with depth and complexity. There are no simple answers; every question is answered by another question. Yet in the neverending process of asking new questions, we come to a fuller understanding of ourselves.

2. To discern and articulate the extraordinary that hides in the shadow of the ordinary.

As humans, we’re easily distracted by the everyday tedium of our existence. We lose ourselves in routine, becoming so absorbed in the doings of the world that we fail to see what lies beyond the surface.

I believe that beyond the thin veil of the ordinary lies something much more wondrous and strange than any of us could possibly imagine. I believe that once we train ourselves to see the world as something more, the cardboard superficiality of our dull surface-existence falls away to something much more rich and mysterious.

3. To demonstrate that life has meaning, that all of us have a purpose.

I firmly believe that existence has meaning. I will always believe it, no matter how confused I become, no matter how many times others may argue to the contrary. In the vastness of the cosmos, we are not alone. Each of us has been given a mission, some task to perform in love for the benefit of the human family.

Simply by being who I am and by writing what I discover hidden within my soul, I hope to convey this message to others, to give hope where so many have fallen to despair. I wish to show the universe for what it is, a cosmic framework in which everyone and everything are interconnected for an everlasting good that was made to be shared.

How about you? What’s your mission?

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What do you do?

John Wilson (American, born 1922), Black Despair (Black Soldier). Signed and dated 1945.

What do you do when you’re feeling down, when despair grabs you by the throat and throttles you to the ground? Do you fight back, or do you lay down and let life have its way with you?

When I was a kid, my dad told me once that sometimes, it can be hard simply to exist. I didn’t understand him then, but I do now.

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