If you missed my livestream this week and would like to check it out. Please click on the link below. Tomorrow I post my first short story of 2019. I can’t wait for you to read it.
Part of 2018 saw me reduce the number of online short stories as write as I released two books and went on tour. In 2019 I have two more books coming out again. Lucius McCray will be releasing his book in March and the second book in the Berserker Series will be coming out in May.
Although I do not have as much time to write this year, I am trying to connect with my readers who enjoy my stories both within my books as well as online. If you are able, please join me at 7 pm eastern time on twitch. I’ll be there to chat, answer questions, and also share my experience thus far with e-books and paperbacks in regards to sales and royalties. I hope to see you there.
The middle-eastern stranger walked into the Baptist church located in one of the rougher parts of the city. Even by its tough standards, the man appeared poor, ragged, and beyond hope. His stained, dirty fatigue jacket had threadbare holes beginning to form where it had been slept in. A gray hoodie pullover lay hidden beneath the battered jacket, another layer to protect the lost and homeless against the cold cruel night of the mid-Atlantic. The hoodie itself partially hid the man’s face from view.
The old deacon saw all he needed to see. The man’s matted long hair stuck out from beyond the hoodie. It’s greasy, brown strands lay against the hood and the man’s neck. Disgusting, thought the deacon to himself. As if he heard the deacon’s thoughts, the stranger looked from the back of the church directly at the church official. The stranger’s dull, brown eyes appeared sad. The deacon gently elbowed his friend as they stood at the front of the church preparing to accept the offering.
The middle-aged man whispered, “John, look back there at what just walked in. I told you we needed to lock the doors to keep out the homeless.”
“Shhh,” said John, and then he whispered back, “Please Frank, it’s Christmas Eve.”
“Humph,” responded Frank. “I’m putting an end to this now. There are homeless shelters at the end of the block after all.”
Frank handed John his offering plate and quietly walked down the aisle as the church continued to pray for the offering and those in need. Frank walked up, pointed at the stranger and motioned with his finger for him to follow. The two walked out of the front entrance of the church together. Even though Frank was three feet ahead, the homeless man’s body odor made Frank gag.
Once beyond the door, Frank spun around and faced the stranger, “Look, buddy, you can’t just come crawling in and interrupt our service. If you want to get warm, head on down the street. They got coffee, food, and cots. They even have showers, and taking one might do you some good.”
Frank got a better look at the bedraggled stranger. His face seemed to fit a man in his thirties, but the sadness in his features caused him to look far older. His pants were marked with mud stains and stains that Frank did not want to imagine the source of. The lost man stuck out his hand. His fingernails were cracked, long, and black underneath.
The grimy man finally spoke, “Hi, my name is Joshua.”
Frank looked at Joshua’s hand for a few seconds and finally stuck out his own and shuddered as their hands met. Joshua’s hand was warm and calloused. Frank turned Joshua’s hand slightly back and forth to look for needle marks. He noticed a large scar on the back and front of Joshua’s hand.
Frank released his grip, “How’d you get that scar.”
Joshua smiled for the first time, and Frank swore his appearance got younger. “Oh, that happened a long time ago. I got it helping out my father.”
Frank nodded and asked, “So, you’re used to working hard?”
Joshua laughed slightly and gave Frank a friendly smack on the shoulder. “If you only knew half of what I’ve had to do. Hard work is a welcomed break.”
Frank shook his head confused, and then asked, “I don’t get it. Why were you in the church to get warm? Why are you homeless? Somebody like you should be doing much better.”
Joshua smiled and nodded. A light seemed to flash for a moment behind his dull, brown eyes. He reached out and took Frank’s hands in his. Frank wanted to pull back in disgust, but the warmth of Joshua’s hands and the peace that suddenly fell over him chased away all thoughts of the stranger’s sullied appearance. “I didn’t come to church to get warm,” said Joshua. “I came to worship my father.”
Frank wanted to protest. He wanted to call Joshua a liar, but something inside was stopping him from saying a word.
Joshua continued, “Frank, I see what you’ve been doing for me here. I know that people can be thankless and cruel. I know what it feels like to be used just to get a free meal, but you are doing my work. The shelter up the road is full of men you have helped. Did you know they are planning to come here after the service with a gift for you?”
Tears begin to flow down Frank’s cheeks. He slowly moved his head side to side as he spoke, “I didn’t. How do you know all of this? Who are you?”
A smile spread across the dirty man’s face, “Oh, Frank. You know who I am.”
Frank looked into Joshua’s eyes, and fear struck his heart. His knees began to buckle and Joshua slid himself underneath Frank’s shoulder to hold him up.
Joshua chuckled and walked Frank over so he could sit on a bench in front of the church. “Easy, Frank. We don’t want to make a scene. Just rest here a moment. I came to tell you not to become jaded. Keep doing the work you have been created for. Through you, many of the outcast of this world will come to know me and their lives will be changed. In turn, they will reach many men and women. Don’t lose your faith in me.”
Frank put his head in his hands and quietly wept for a moment. He took a deep breath, wiped his eyes and looked up. Joshua was gone. Frank looked down at the dirty street, took a deep breath, looked towards heaven with a smile and said, “Thank you.” As Frank walked back into the church he joined the chorus of men, women, and children singing “Mary did you know?” He joined his friend John near the rear of the church and took back his offering plate with a broad smile upon his face.
George looked out over the city skyline. His high-rise condominium offered him a view of the city’s steel and concrete canyon. In the blackness of Christmas Eve the city’s lights were especially festive, and yet George felt empty. He hated the black tux he was wearing. His father always avoided such stuffy events. George’s eyes misted at the thought of his deceased father.
Dad, you died way too soon, thought George. He turned and looked inside his condominium. He did not know half the guests he saw milling about. Plus ones for a room full of people who were there just to be seen. George turned back and talked to the cold night air, “It’s not lonely at the top, it’s desolate.” George looked up towards heaven, “Dad, I would give all of this away if it meant you could’ve lived longer. Thank you for giving me everything you did, but what I really wanted all these years was time with you. We could have lived on less.”
George heard the sliding glass door open. A middle-eastern stranger he had not been introduced to walked through the opening and closed the door behind him. His black tuxedo was tailored and silk. It seemed to almost glow against the pail city lights and moon. His black beard was trimmed perfectly, and his hair, although down to his shoulders was freshly styled and washed. George knew he needed to put on a welcoming face. He never knew when a stranger could turn into a business ally or enemy.
George stuck out his hand, “Hi there, George McGovern, but you can call me George. I don’t believe we’ve met yet.”
The stranger nodded and took George’s hand. In contrast to the vise grip and limp handshakes of the evening, the new party goer’s handshake felt warm and welcoming.
“I’m Joshua,” said the stranger.
“Joshua, a pleasure. Who did you come with?” asked George.
Joshua leaned up against the railing and the sliding glass door opened. A caterer walked on to the balcony and offered a tray of red wine. Both men took a glass. Joshua took his time sipping his drink. His brown eyes seemed locked on George as George took a sip from his own glass.
Joshua removed the wine glass from his lips and spoke. “I’m afraid this is a bit embarrassing.”
George raised his eyebrow and interjected, “Oh really? Why? Did you crash my party?”
Joshua shrugged, “Perhaps, although you invited me.”
Both men placed their glasses down on the small table just behind him. George faced Joshua and spoke, “I invited you? I’m not sure how that can be. I don’t even know you.”
Joshua nodded, “That’s true. Although, you want to know more about me. I saw you crying in the cemetery as you spoke to your dead father over his grave. Do you remember when he used to take you to church as a child?”
George’s hand shook slightly as he raised it and rubbed his chin. “How do you know these things? Are you some sort of private investigator?”
Joshua shook his head and smiled. “Look into my eyes, George. Tell me, what do you see?”
George looked into the kind brown eyes of the middle eastern man. There was something familiar about them. He had never seen them before, but George could recall Joshua being there with him as he prayed in the church as a child. They were there when his mother had passed. Somehow, Joshua had always been with him.
George’s voice spoke with a slight quiver, ”Are you, Him?”
Joshua smiled and calmly reached down for his glass and took a sip of wine.
George continued, “I don’t understand. I quit going to church after mom died. I just couldn’t bring myself to believe in you anymore after she left this earth.”
Joshua put down his glass, “Everyone passes eventually, George.”
George shrugged, “I know. I don’t know why I never returned to my faith.”
George startled as Joshua suddenly wrapped his arms around George in a hug. Peace filled George’s soul and the balcony felt as though it was bathed in light, even though the city lights were still shining brightly against the night sky. Joshua released George.
“It’s okay, you’re forgiven,” said Joshua. “That’s why I’m here. You need to remember you are forgiven of all your mistakes. I have important work for you to do.”
George’s forehead crinkled, “You want me to quit the company and go into ministry?”
Joshua let a short laugh pass from his lips and George suppressed the urge to giggle along. “No,” Joshua said. “This company is your ministry. All your wealth and power, use it for the widow and orphan.”Joshua pointed below towards a dark gap in the city’s light show. “Down there, the people need your help. There is a Baptist church, a men’s shelter, and family shelter. I want you to go to the church and ask for a man named Frank. They are in need of financial help, and on occasion a helping hand.”
George nodded, and then pointed over his shoulder with his thumb. “What about these freeloaders? Surely, they don’t need anything.”
Joshua gently turned George to face the glass wall and his Christmas party guests within his condominium. “What do you see?”
George sighed and took a look. His executive assistant, Vanessa and her husband Lewis were chatting, but neither seemed to be paying attention to each other. From across the room, David from accounting was leering at Vanessa who was exchanging glances with him, both would occasionally allow their lips to slightly curl up with each flirting gaze.
George gasped, “Vanessa and David are having an affair?”
Joshua nodded, “Yes. She and her husband have fallen on hard times since he lost his job. David has been lonely since his wife’s untimely death. Unfortunately, they have taken solace in each other.”
“What can I do?” asked George.
Joshua shrugged and said, “I’ve given you a large company and powerful friends. Help Lewis get back on his feet, and spend some time with David. You both have lost people you love. You can empathize with his pain and perhaps make a trusted friend.”
George nodded and continued looking around the room. Some guests were laughing as others stood around with bland or sad looks in their eyes. George began to realize how large the task was before him. He turned to Joshua, but Joshua was gone.
George looked heavenward, “You’re asking more than I think I can handle.”
Inside his heart, George heard the response, “We can do this together.”
A tear gently rolled down George’s cheek. He wiped it away and walked back inside. Making a beeline for David, George stepped in front of David’s view of Vanessa, He shook David’s hand gently and spoke, “I’m sorry I haven’t had time to say hello before now. I believe we have something in common. We have both lost our families. I don’t know about you, but I could use a friend to get together with, especially during the holidays. Are you up for dinner and a few rounds of pool this week?”
David stammered, and then said, “Yes, that sounds great.”
“Terrific,” responded George enthusiastically. Then he turned to his guest and grabbed a glass of wine from a nearby tray sitting on an end table, and raised it.
George’s smiled lit up the room, and he said, “Merry Christmas to all!”
“Merry Christmas,” all replied in unison.
Are you interested in the success of giving your books away for free. In this week’s livestream I talk about what I have discovered in my research, and what options are available to build your reader base beyond giving away your books.
David was thankful to have past through Statesville. The unusual Christmas snow had left the western North Carolina interstates in a mess. There was only one lane on each side of the highway clear enough to drive on. Even those lanes had started to develop a slick slush despite the constant barrage of tire tracks. David was able to release the death grip on the steering wheel as traffic lightened significantly north of interstate forty.
A long jagged breath escaped David’s lips and got his speed back up to forty-miles-per-hour. There were now fewer cars on the road, but more snow. The Nissan Rogue’s all-wheel-drive kicked in, and the car easily traversed the snowy path in front of it. The further north he continued up interstate seventy-seven the deeper the snow got, both on and off the road. By the time he turned off the interstate to highway four-twenty-one, all black tire tracks in the white powder had disappeared.
Normally, he would have preferred to stay in Charlotte and hunker down. The city was expecting only a few inches wet snow, and it would likely melt in less time than it took for it to fall from the sky. He smiled as he thought about his best friend Hank and their work associates at Southend Brewery bringing in the Christmas season. He wished he was there, but he had a promise to keep. No other woman had loved David the way this woman had, and he would not leave her alone on a cold, snowy Christmas in Boone.
David started to descend a small hill not far from the old Wilkesboro speedway when he saw a young woman on the side of the road. Her white, older Cadillac sat with its hood up and steamrolling out. David wanted to press on, but he knew her small frame wrapped in a purple shawl would not fair well with the temperatures expected to drop below twenty degrees as the day wore on. He pulled over and had barely gotten the car stopped when the young woman appeared at his passenger door.
The passenger window lowered with a hum. David was astounded by the young woman’s beauty. Her auburn hair, bright blue eyes, and attractive smile enraptured David, and yet, there was something familiar about the beautiful stranger. “Do you need any help?” asked David.
“Oh, heavens, yes please,” responded the woman. “Do you mind giving me a ride to my home in Boone? I’ll have a tow truck retrieve my car later.”
David nodded, “Sure, hop in.” With a flick of his finger, the door locks shot up, and the young lady quickly got into the passenger seat and shut the door. She looked around his SUV and then at David. “It’s so warm and clean. Where is your wife?”
David blushed, “I’m not married.”
“Then who cleans your truck?” asked the inquisitive young lady.
David shrugged, “I do. I like to keep my belongings in good shape.”
The young woman nodded, “Such a catch. Oh, where are my manners? I’m Minerva. I know it’s an odd sounding name today. My parents named my siblings and me after our dead relatives. Some names didn’t age as well as others I’m afraid.”
Before he could stop himself, David asked, “Do you have any sisters like you?”
Minerva laughed, and then replied, “Careful, young man. You never know who you’re talking to.”
David faced the road and nodded his head, but then turned back to Minerva, “Wait, you’re my age. I’m hardly a young man compared to you.”
Minerva cleared her throat, placed her hands in her lap and patted the seat, “Well, you were acting like a young rascal, but I forgive you. Shouldn’t we be on our way?”
David nodded and eased his car back on to the empty highway that was rapidly changing from a snowy trail to a flowing blanket of white. The thirty-miles-per-hour he was now cruising still left his knuckles white in a death grip around the wheel.
“My, you look tense,“ said Minerva. “What brings you out here on such a nasty day?”
“My grandmother,” answered David.
Minerva reached over and gently touched his right hand. Her cool fingertips felt familiar, and his grip eased on the steering wheel. “Tell me, why is she so special to you?”
With only a momentary glance away from the snowy road David quickly answered, “She raised me.” He looked back towards the road and continued. “Mom and dad divorced when I was in elementary school. I was caught in the middle. Having my parents fighting all the time was more than I could take, and I sort of gave up on life. Grandma and Grandpa took me in and raised me. I don’t know what I would have become without my grandparents. We lost grandpa a few years ago, and now it’s my turn to take care of grandma.”
The touch of Minerva’s young lips on David’s cheek made him jump in his seat. Her friendly kiss lasted only a moment, but it made him feel warm and welcomed. “That’s for being a good grandson. You’ll make some woman very happy one day.”
Looking at Minerva and back to the road, David was not sure what to think. She was certainly beautiful and kind, but she was different. Unlike other women he had met, she seemed more like a sister than a possible date. Before he realized it, Boone was coming into view. “Where should I drop you off?” asked David.
“I live on Delmar Street,” said Minerva.
David nodded, “That’s the same street my grandma lives on. I’m surprised we’ve never seen each other.”
Minerva smiled and said, “Oh, I bet we’ve seen each other before. Perhaps we were both too busy to speak.”
“I wouldn’t be that busy,” muttered David to himself.
A few minutes later Minerva pointed to the side of the road in front of a seemingly empty house a few hundred yards from David’s grandmother’s house. “Drop me here dear.”
“Here? You don’t want me to accompany you up to the door?” David’s voice was tinged with disappointment as he eased his vehicle on to the snow-covered shoulder.
Minerva let a small chuckle escape her lips before replying,“Oh, no. You’re far too young for me. Thank you for the ride. I know your grandmother really appreciated your visits and loves you very much.”
With that, Minerva quickly glided out the opened passenger door and shut it behind her. David wrestled with his seat-belt; he wanted to ask her over for tea later at his grandmother’s. She would love to meet Minerva. After a few seconds, he finally freed himself of the vehicle. Looking around Minerva was nowhere to be found.
He dashed around the vehicle, and then stopped short and reached out for the car’s hood to steady himself. Minerva seemed to have vanished, and there was no sign of any footprints in the snow near the vehicle. A cool breeze hit David’s body, and the chill shot all the way through him. He rushed over to the driver’s door and scrambled inside the SUV. David checked the back seat and then roared the engine to life and hurried to his grandmother’s house.
David burst through the front door and hollered, “Grandmother, you won’t believe what just happened to me!”
The house was strangely still after his outburst. Only his grandmother’s old cuckoo clock ticked. David took a few steps into the family room and saw the familiar gray hair of his grandmother. She appeared to have nodded off for a nap. He walked around the corner of the chair and found a picture frame in each of her hands. Her eyes drooped half open. He gently reached over to wake her up, but she we cold to the touch. For several seconds, nothing moved.
David’s fingers fumbled to unlock his cell phone. His actions ceased, and the phone fell to the floor. The pictures inside their frames took David’s breath away. In his grandmother’s left hand was a picture of the two of them last Christmas. They smiled and were wearing their silly Santa hats in front of the fireplace. It was an unusually warm Christmas, and both had on short sleeve shirts under the Christmas sweaters they immediately removed after the photo. His grandmother even cracked a window to let out the hot air caused by the fireplace.
In her right hand, she held a picture of a young man about five years older than himself. Next to the man was a young, auburn-haired woman with bright blue eyes. The bikini she wore fit her perfectly. Both had broad smiles on their faces and no daylight between their bodies as they held one another. His grandfather’s writing was in the corner of the photo. “To my Minerva, you make Myrtle Beach beautiful.”
David leaned over and kissed the top of his grandmother’s still head. “Thank you, grandma.” He reached down and retrieved his cell phone. David walked over to the couch with tears in his eyes, sat down, and calmly dialed 911.
“Come on, Carl. Quit wasting my time.” Sargent Tony Sanchez smacked the corner of the wood laminate desk. Carl Jones jumped in his chair. Tony knew Carl had information about Julie. Tony grabbed the young girl’s photo and slammed it again in front of Carl for effect. Carl startled again, but not as much this time. Tony watched Carl lean down towards the photo.
Carl’s index finger traced the outline of the child’s face. A chill ran down Tony’s spine as Carl ran his finger down the thirteen-year old’s black hair. He raised his hand and resettled it on the girl’s high cheekbone and tan skin. Suddenly, Carl raised his hand, extended a second finger, and poked out the photo’s two brown eyes. A gasp left Tony’s mouth before he could stop himself. Tony could feel his chest tightened and rage began to build.
Tony jerked the photo away and slapped it down on the far side of the table. Carl’s eyes followed it, and the corner of his lips curled up. Tony stood over Carl, placing himself between the photo and the disturbed, evil man that sat before him. “Tell me, Carl. Tell me who has her.”
Carl shrugged, “How would I know?”
Tony slapped the wall of the interrogation room. “Don’t play dumb with me. Not after that little show.”
Carl crossed his arms and smiled. Tony’s knuckles turned white as his balled-up fist shook to restrain themselves. He cleared his voice and spoke to Carl in what sounded almost like a growl. “I promise you, Carl, if you don’t help me, I will make sure you go down for this.”
Carl lifted an arm and waved off Tony’s threat. “Really,Sargent? How do you propose to do that?”
Tony took two deep breaths, turned his back to Carl and walked over to his chair. The old metal groaned as Tony rested his weight in it. There was a broad smile across his lips by the time he sat down and faced Carl.
Carl frowned, “Why are you so happy all of a sudden?”
Tony crossed his legs and watched himself pat the top of his knee. He looked up at Carl. “Well, I was thinking about how much fun it’s going to be to have you put back in jail. Those boys over in County probably won’t let you make it to the state prison.”
Carl’s voice grew higher. “You can’t do that. I ain’t done nothing wrong. I want a lawyer; you’re bluffing.”
Tony raised his hand, and Carl took a breath.Tony leaned towards Carl. “I was just trying to help you out, but you’ve made it clear that you don’t want my help.”
Carl scowled, crossed his arms and legs and glared at Tony. “Don’t play your games with me. You didn’t help nobody but yourself. You had me arrested. I wasn’t doing nobody no harm until you showed up at the halfway house.”
Tony nodded, “I know, and we know you didn’t take this girl.”
Carl nodded his head furiously.
Tony continued, “Now hear me out, we also know who did. Of course, you know we need evidence for the jury. I happen to know that you know who has her, or I should say who had her.”
Carl looked at the floor and said nothing.
Tony continued to press. “See, here is my problem. Because the two of you associate in the same, um, social circles, one might argue that you had something to do with it.”
Carl bristled, “You can’t prove that cause it ain’t true.”
Tony shrugged, “Perhaps, but it’s still a violation of your parole. You know you aren’t supposed to be hanging around your old crowd. I was doing you a favor by letting you return to town to be with your sick mother when she passed away.Now, you need to do me a favor and tell me where to find the man who has Julie.”
Carl pulled his legs up on the edge of the chair and wrapped his arms around his knees. His dull brown eyes peeked over the top of his dirty, faded jeans. Tony stared into the angry, dead eyes. There was something about them that seemed to exude evil. Carl spoke from behind his knees, “I ain’t no snitch.”
Tony sighed and said, “Well, Carl. Then I’m going to arrest you. You know what prisoners do to convicted child molesters. You’d be safer being a snitch.”
Carl grabbed the back of the chair, “I won’t go, I can’t go. They’ll kill me,” he screamed.
Tony lifted his hands, “Now calm down, take a breath. All I need to know is where your buddy is keeping the girls. That’s it; I have everything else I need.”
“What buddy?” moaned Carl. “Do you mean Curtis?”
“Curtis is staying in that abandoned cabin just outside of town, near the edge of the lake. But he has booby-trapped the woods,so don’t just go walking up and knocking on his door.”
Tony had his lead, but he focused and kept his calm. “Do you mean the cabin right off the road on the south side of the lake?”
Carl shook his head. “No, there’s an old place on the north side. You can only hike to it. It’s about a mile through the woods. Most of the trail is overgrown,that makes it hard for people to find. Curtis told me it was the perfect place.”
Tony pulled out a legal pad from the corner desk and began to write furiously. “Perfect place for what, Carl?”
Carl released his knees, and his feet slapped against the linoleum floor. He leaned forward on his elbows, “You know what for,Sargent.”
Tony felt queasy to his stomach as he nodded his head. “How do you know all of this?”
Carl’s voice was flat, “Curtis and some of his friends told me.”
Tony flipped the page and kept writing. “Friends? Are you on the internet again? You know that’s against your parole.”
Carl shook his head, “No, I’m not violating my parole. We talk in the park some days. The fellas find me out there reading or feeding the squirrels.”
Tony nodded, “Do you know what happened to Julie.”
Carl closed his eyes and nodded, “Yea, she’s gone. Curtis said she tried to get away twice and kicked two of his friends in their groin. They let loose on her, and then buried her in the mud about a foot under the water.”
Tony worked to keep his lunch in his stomach. “Okay, Carl. You helped me. Now I’m going to help you. I’m putting you in protective custody.”
Carl jumped to his feet and tried the doorknob, but it was locked. He turned to Tony, “You can’t do this, they’ll kill me if I go back to prison. I ain’t touched a soul, just like I promised. I wanted to, but I’ll kill myself before I do that again.”
Tony grabbed Carl’s arm and pulled him away from the door. “Easy, you aren’t going to general lockup. We’re putting you in solitary in a nearby town until all the arrests are made. It won’t take Curtis long to figure out you snitched on him. I want to make sure none of your friends show up at the halfway house.”
Carl crossed his arms and shivered, “Two of the guys live there.”
Tony nodded, “We’re aware. Well, turn around and let me cuff you so we can be on our way.”
Carl took a step back. “Wait. If this is protection, why can’t I go without being handcuffed? Believe me; I’m no flight risk now.”
Tony nodded, “Okay, Carl. I suppose you did do the right thing. Have it your way.”
Carl stepped back to let Tony take the lead, and then he gently put his hand on Tony’s shoulder and spoke, “You know, Sargent, I know I’m a monster, but even monsters can be redeemed if they really want to be.”
Tony nodded, “I hope so, Carl. I hope so.”
With the release of my first book I hired a publicity team. Why hire a publicist? What does it cost? Is it worth the money?
If you are an author and are looking for options to publicize and market your work, check out this week’s recap on YouTube from my Twitch livestream over at http://www.Twitch.tv/gmacwriter. I have a new episode every Tuesday at 2 pm Eastern Time.
The tension in Paul’s muscles made every breath labored. He sat there looking out this window questioning his very existence. The yellow trees of fall were letting loose their leaves onto the forest floor that surrounded his small one bedroom cabin. Paul questioned every decision he had made.
His laptop’s screen glowed into his fallen face. Paul saw nothing but despair around him. His book sales had died off, and he felt like he had been hidden in the abyss. Paul had followed the advice of some of the most successful people in his life. He had worked day and night. Everything should have resulted in resounding early success.
Paul looked up at the ceiling. The old logs were almost black with age. Splinters, gashes, and scrapes covered much of the wood, but the roof was solid. Paul spoke towards the ceiling, “Why, God? I thought you wanted me here. I thought you gave me stories to share. It’s like I don’t exist. Is that your idea? Am I really this useless? No income, no hope, no readers?”
The computer’s lid gave Paul little resistance as he closed it. Paul knew his body was too broken to enter the rat race once more. Paul mumbled to himself, “Run with the big dogs or stay on the porch.” A smile traced across his taut face. He remembered a time when he not only ran with the big dogs, he led them. Paul let out a long sigh and stood up.
The cabin’s old wooden floors creaked under his weight. Although Paul could feel small dips in the wood, there was no sign of structural rot as he paced laps around the open living room and kitchen. Plates would rattle whenever he drew near the hutch with its shelves of blue patterned platters and plates. Paul knew he was going nowhere fast, but he needed to expel the anxiety and stress that had built up inside.
A wooden bolt held the cabin’s only door in place when it had a resident inside. Age and seasons had swollen and shrank the pin and the sleeve. Now a temporary resident was required to wiggle and cajole the wood into place when they wanted the door locked. The same process had to be employed when a vacationer wished to be set free. A sliding latch, also of wood, then had to be set free through a wiggle of the front door to coax it loose.
Paul managed to get himself into the open air after a few seconds of wrestling with the front door. He sat in a nearby chair on the front porch and let the cold air of the late fall flow over his body. The cold breeze seemed to wash away the tension it found as it blew over his body. Paul looked out at the woods and spoke into the woods, “What am I supposed to do? I’m ruined.”
“That sounds a bit dramatic.”
Paul startled. He turned to see a brown bearded man with a broad smile. He was not a large man, Paul guessed around five feet eight inches, maybe five feet nine. His green flannel shirt and dirty jeans gave him the look of an old lumberjack. Without asking permission is sat down next to Paul and reached over and patted Paul’s hand.
Paul wanted to pull his hand back, but for some reason allowed the stranger to continue. Something was comforting and familiar in his touch.
“I’m sorry, do we know each other?” asked Paul.
The stranger looked him straight in the eye. Paul thought his brown eyes looked plain, but they had a twinkle that was hard to miss. The stranger replied, “You know me better than you think. I was just watching you in the cabin. You know, the answers you seek have been in front of you this whole time.”
“You were watching me?” Paul asked in an alarmed voice. A shiver flowed down his spine. “Who are you?”
The stranger responded, “Paul, how have you become so blind? The wood, Paul. It’s all around you.” The stranger swept his arm across and around as he spoke. “Both alive and dead, these trees serve a purpose. When they are alive, they convert CO2 to oxygen so you can breathe. Their beauty gives a sense of peace, and when they are harvested, they provide shelter.”
Paul shook his head, “I don’t understand. So are you saying I’m dying, but I have a purpose?” The question shot a bolt of fear through him. He wondered once more what this stranger’s intentions were.
The stranger’s eyes seemed to suddenly lock Paul’s attention. Paul felt pulled towards this frightening man with no name. The stranger continued, “Paul, stop looking for answers in your mind and look at what you’re seeing. The wood is scarred, it’s going dormant, and one day the leaves will sprout again. The trees will spread their pollen and seeds and not only live but reproduce. Yet, the scars and knots are going to remain. All this dead wood that makes the cabin has rested from its known existence, and yet it provides shelter to troubled travelers looking for peace.”
Paul nodded and scowled as he attempted to respond, “So, you’re saying all the scars I carry on my body, and all this stress and anxiety that are a burden to me have a purpose. Are you saying that even with my weakness and despair my life still has a purpose?”
The bearded stranger smiled, patted Paul’s hand, stood and walked off the porch. He looked back at Paul as he rounded the corner of the house, “Now you understand.” Then the stranger disappeared from view.
Paul pushed himself out of his chair and quickly made his way around the corner of the house. There was nobody there. Paul did laps and could find nobody. The cold seemed to cut through Paul’s body, and he shivered. A Bible verse popped into Paul’s head, “If you seek me you will find me.”
The answer had been there the whole time. Paul knew he was not alone, and he knew what he needed to do. Paul made his way back into the cabin. He tossed another log into the woodstove and returned to his computer. He needed to keep writing because his role in this life had not ended yet.
I’ve started a new livestream series that can also be found recorded on YouTube. If you are a writer or reader, come join me on Tuesdays at 2 pm eastern. I cover topics around the writing process, and share my experiences as a writer. In addition, I sharing what’s going on behind the scenes with my current projects.
Today’s topic is about beta readers. Who are they? Why would you want to use one, or be one? Why does every writer need some?