Running

A few weeks ago, I decided I was going to start trying to stay in shape. This was brought on when I realized my mortality and weaknesses after playing on the trampoline with the kids for about ten minutes.

Aches. Pains. Shortness of breath. It wasn’t like this two years ago.

So I started doing little mini workouts. And I also decided that I was going to try to get back into something I swore I would never do: run.

I haven’t yet broken past that mythical threshold that seasoned runners say I need to break through in order to enjoy it. I really don’t think it exists. I will say this, though…the early morning runs to tend to give me a boost of energy and put in a better mood than I typically am at 6:00 in the morning.

Anyway, after this morning’s run I realized too late that I did not stretch before or after the run. And the pain that followed reminded me of this piece of flash fiction I wrote about 7 years ago. It was originally published in an online magazine called 52 Stitches.

Here it is, in all of it’s short running-inspired bloody glory:

 

THE MANNERISMS OF RUNNERS

It started off as an exercise thing, but now he has no idea why he runs. His leg muscles are toned and immune to shin splints. His ankles work like the hinges of a medieval drawbridge.

There is a rhythm to the wind against his face, to the pounding of his feet on asphalt like the heartbeat of a ghost. He runs and he runs and he has no idea where he is going. Three days ago he tasted salt in the air, the perspiration of the Pacific at his back. Today he smells manure and diesel. A large tractor trailer with a milk company logo barrels by like a big silver bullet looking for a werewolf that isn’t there.

He has no idea why he is still running.

There are blisters on his feet and he is certain that both socks are filled with blood. He can feel the broken flaps of skin that were once the balls of his feet rubbing against the blood soaked fabric. His eyes, lips and the insides of his nostrils are dry. His lungs are burning and there is the sensation of a weight that has sat upon his chest for so long that it has started to absorb into his skin, through his breastbone and into his heart.

Sometimes when the milk trucks go racing past, he thinks about jumping in front of one. Then maybe the running would stop and his muscles would get a rest in the ensuing explosion of calcium and Penzoil and New Balance.

He has been running for thirty weeks. He does not sleep. He only watches the world as it slumbers around him, clouds rising and falling and sprinkling stars like salt along the way. The night sky should represent rest, but it only urges him on. Run faster, it says. There is a maniac behind you.

Maybe that is why he runs; the maniac is surely still on his heels, the maniac he encountered on the corner three blocks from his home. The maniac had worn a sheet of black that covered his entire body, standing outside a bakery at 5 a.m. among the smells of baking bread and dawn. He had looked like a shadow. The man had reached out and touched him.

Tripped him.

Joined him.

Is that why he runs?

Four days ago, he coughed out his tongue.

His calves are burning. The sun exchanges skies with the moon and another day begins. He keeps running. He tastes blood in the back of his mouth. His breath sounds like sandpaper dragging across shattered glass. A car passes and beeps its horn.

He raises his hand to wave and sees the decay on the underside of his forearm. There is no blood, only mottled gray splotches. It looks like mold on bread. This brings to mind the bakery and he peeks behind him to see if he is being followed.

The maniac is back there, gliding like a rogue shadow running from the sun. It runs without feet and points him onward. It then sinks into the road and leaves only the deserted Missouri highway (or was it Kansas or Connecticut or Calvary?) to show him where to go.

The laces of his shoes bounce up and down like the ears of a mauled rabbit. This scene looks familiar. He has been here before.

God, his feet hurt.

He coughs out his tongue; two days pass. A milk truck passes him, like a silver bullet looking for…

A car passes, beeps its horn.

He has run through this place before–always running, breathing electric pain, listening to the squishing sounds from his blistered feet in his soggy red socks.

He tastes the salt of the Pacific for several days. This is soon replaced by the wafting scent of manure and pastures.

He looks back and sees his companion, always pointing forward, always robed in black–a shadow cast not by light but by the absence of it.

He hears the approaching grumble of a milk truck as he brings his left foot up, right foot down, left foot up, right foot down…

He runs on and on.

Soon he will cough and his tongue will fall out. Then a car will pass, beeping its weak little horn.

He has been here before.

And no matter how hard he runs, he will never be faster than the shadow behind him or the truth it carries.

The Blood-Soaked Mess of Making Christian Fiction and Horror Work Together

(Note: Portions of this entry were previously included in another post from a few years ago…)

I knew pretty much right away that Bound was going to end up being my first real attempt at Christian horror. Making this decision was difficult because if we’re being honest, the vast majority of Christian horror is terrible. If I’m being overly honest, I’ll take it one step further and say that in my unwarranted opinion, most Christian entertainment in general is pretty awful.

This is due to Christian creatives taking the “worldly edge” off of things. The edges can’t be rough and abrasive…they need to be finely polished as not to scratch anyone. When this is done for an audience that is already often at odds over the interpretations of scripture and other image-scarring stereotypes, it harms the finished product. This seems to be the Christian creative way of thinking, unfortunately.

That’s also one of the reasons why I, as a Christ follower, still read traditional horror. Stephen King’s It remains my favorite novel (and yes, I will be first in line when the movie is released). I am currently reading Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock and finding it some of the best horror I’ve read in quite a long time. I’m a fiction junkie…and very little Christian fiction has been able to hold my interest.

Now, while I will firmly stand my ground on my opinion that the vast majority of Christian horror is flimsy, I’m not making the sweeping statement that all Christian entertainment is wretched. But in my experience, about 90% of all of the Christian horror I have read has been painful to get through. Of course, this is all work that is categorized as Christian fiction in genre. Whether the public really understands it, there are tons of Christian-themed horror works out there that are not Christian fiction but still pack a heavy dose of Christian themes and, in some cases, even promotes Christ.

Hear me out…

King’s The Stand is absolutely not a Christian novel. Some would say it is one of the ultimate stories of good vs. evil, though. But we can’t look beyond the very thick lines drawn around the fact that Flagg is the representation of Satan and that, in the end, he is destroyed by the literal Hand of God. This, plus the countless religious metaphors within the book make it something of a faith-centered story, much thanks to Frannie’s doubts and Stu’s restrained efforts to trust in Mother Abigail with nothing more than blind faith.

Another example…The Exorcist is not a Christian horror story but a great deal of the Catholic faith is discussed within it. In some respects, it is seen to even cause the demons pain and suffering and we see its response to the name of Christ and the faith (or lack thereof) of the priests performing the rites. Furthermore, William Freidkin, the director, recognizes that its more of a religious tale than anything else. He once told the Hollywood Reporter:   “I did a movie about the mystery of faith. We never thought we were doing a horror film.” (interview snippet taken from Mike Duran’s wonderful book, Christian Horror). William Peter Blatty, the author of the book, has also gone on record stating as much.

But that’s a whole different discussion.

BoundMy forthcoming novel, Bound, is something of an exorcism story, too…but with a twist and from a Christian slant that has the edges still all there, waiting to scratch and maim. As a fairly unapologetic Christian, I have seen Christian entertainment that broaches the darker side of life fail miserably and only offer the simple solution of “I’m no good and I need Jesus.” (Sadly, this quote is taken almost verbatim from the climax of one of the most popular Christian horror novels out there).

So I wanted to write something dark and pretty brutal that not only explored the darker side of life with a Christian lens, but also a story that laid out the whole good vs. evil perspective with an honest Christian view…while still scaring the pants off of the reader. How? Well, through the internal thoughts that go through the minds of believers when confronted with evil. It’s not all praying and praising and trusting that Christ will overcome. If true Christians are honest, when faced with darkness, there are doubts and there is real terror. These are the harsh edges that Christian entertainment looks beyond and ignores completely out of fear of offending fellow Christians. It’s all swept under a very large rug and we are expected to just blindly step over the lumps that are starting to accumulate.

Way back when, as I tested the self-publishing waters with Bound, I almost instantly received grief from one fellow Christian on Facebook…a Christian that had not even read the book. he claimed Bound was a disgrace, claiming that far too much entertainment “promotes the Enemy.” And while his comment was misguided and overarching, there is some truth to it.

Full disclosure (and at the risk of losing some readers, I’m sure): Yes, I believe there is a thing called spiritual warfare and, believer or not, it affects most everyone. I have experienced it firsthand, both emotionally and physically. Bound is, in part, all about that, only I did NOT write it with a solely Christian audience in mind. I wanted to write a Christian horror novel that was horror first and foremost. The Christian themes and some of the faith-based dialogue came next, and only when I was sure that they enriched the story. Even as a Christ follower, I will never write a faith-based story just to write something centered on my faith. That would be cheap. It has to be true to the plot, the gospel, the characters, and the inspirations behind it first.

Regardless of the genre, from Christian fiction to steampunk romance and all things in between…the story is what matters when it comes to story-telling. The platform is only the thing upon which the story stands. I respect my readers and know that the majority of them likely don’t share my faith, they respect story-tellers that tell good stories. As such, I will never write a book that beats anyone over the head with the Bible or claims that one particular system of beliefs is more grounded than another, since this is one of the huge downfalls of most Christian entertainment.

I read fiction because I want to be entertained…not preached to or lectured. And I think even in Christian fiction, that’s something authors should be aware of.

When all is said and done, Bound will be available in June. I believe it is one of the scariest things I’ve written and am quite proud of it. Would most people classify it as Christian horror? Probably. But the most important question is whether or not it is honest and shows the value I find in telling a story…and if it makes you hesitant to turn out the lights at night.

And the answer to those, I think, is an unequivocal yes.

Dust and Bones…and more to come

promoThe adventures of Cooper M. Reid now span three books. And there is more to come.

Pick up all of Cooper’s adventures for Kindle today. Paperback and other platforms coming soon.

Because No One Cares and I Have Changed

Hey, have you noticed I am not writing here much anymore. Like, not at all.

That’s because I am of the opinion that no one reads blogs anymore…and certainly not the blog of a writer that’s not selling tons of books.

However, times are changing. Not for blogs. I think they’re pretty much going the way of the dinosaur. But this website/blog is going to change pretty soon because I have changed over the last few years.

I look back to those posts from that younger hungry writer that had just sent The Bleeding Room to agents and publishers and while I can recognize him, he and I have agreed that I am a different writer now. 2015-2016 were years of changes and 2017 is going to be the year to realize those changes through a lens of writing.

Most of those changes, you’ll get to see here in a few different ways. Not here, in this post but here, on this site.

Some are coming soon. Some are already hinted at here and there if you know where to look.

Here’s to continued changes.

See you on the other side of the cocoon.

Limbo and Backup Plans

Not much to speak of us of late. A few quick blips, though…if for nothing more than just to keep the blog active.

First, the 15-minute novel experiment is forging on. The novel now rests at 5,097 words.

I’m currently waiting to hear back from an agent on a novel. Tom Petty was right…the waiting is the hardest part. I have already decided that if she passes, the book will be self-published right away. But in the meantime, here’s to hoping she won’t pass…

I landed a great ghostwriting job last week. It’s an MG book that is already being planned as a series. Its keeping my schedule packed but has been a tremendous amount of fun.

Lastly, I discovered this amazing ambient album on Bandcamp and have been listening to it a lot (when not listening to the new Deftones album or The Black Queen on repeat). It’s called Lost Here, by an artist called ProtoU. Check it out if you get the chance.

‘Til next time…

The 15-Minute Novel Experiment

I have yet to reach the point where I can live solely on the sales of my own writing. That’s why I work as a ghostwriter by day, a career that has, over the past few years, become much more lucrative and rewarding than I could have ever hoped.

Because much of my writing time is taken up by work/ghostwriting, free time to write my own stuff is sometimes hard to come by. On most days, I allow myself at least 20 minutes to work on my own writing. Here and there, usually on weekends or the occasional rare weeknight, I can manage to sneak in an hour and a half or so. Sure, I’d like more time to work on my own material but the family needs to eat, so work comes first.

Believe it or not, those 20 minute sessions are usually pretty productive. I’m writing with the knowledge that time is short and I need to get the words out ASAP. Some of my best writing of the last year or so has come from those sessions.

Lately, better ghostwriting jobs have allowed me to not drown myself to get by and is allowing a bit more time to work on my own writing. And before I get carried away and make the mistake of getting way behind in work while I figure out ways to work on my own stuff more and more, I came up with an idea

Rather than go overboard and try something irrational like allowing an hour or two a day on my own stuff, I’m only going to give myself an extra 15 minutes. I know that I won’t have the luxury of those 15 minutes every day, but I’m going to try to allow it. And within that 15 minutes, I’ll be working on the same book. So, essentially, I’m going to attempt writing a book in 15-minute increments.

The book has been outlined (it was a book that I wanted to start writing last year and never got the chance) and is basically ready to go. I’ll start today, setting a timer on my phone for 15 minutes.

Never one to guesstimate a word count before I start writing, I have no idea how long this book will be. Based on the plot, it shouldn’t be too awful long, as it takes place over the course of a single night.

So let’s give this a try. I’ll post regular updates here on the progress of the book. Any guesses as to how long this will take?

All the Roads

From time to time, you’ll hear a writer say  “now is the best time in history to be a writer.” While I won’t go quite that far with such a statement, I think it is pretty close. Because of self-publishing, something that still continues to gain a lot of steam and respect, there are more avenues open to aspiring writers than ever before and not just for the obvious reasons.

I currently find myself in a situation I have never been in over the course of my writing career (if it can be called that). I am extremely fortunate to find that I currently have a car in each of those avenues. How? Well…

As of two weeks ago, I have a full manuscript being considered by an agency. This has been a goal of mine since I started writing and even in a world where self publishing allows authors more control, I think it’s still a crucial aspect of the writing industry.

I am also currently writing a novel for a small press. And although that book likely won’t see the light of day until the end of 2016 or even early 2017, it’s a book I’ll be writing off and on this year, knowing that it already has a home.

I am also actively working on a large book that may or may not end up being a trilogy…the same trilogy I’ve been working on for the last two years or so. The current plan is to self-publish it.

Three projects, three different approaches. So maybe it is the greatest time in history to be a writer. Just don’t get me started on which of those avenues is the best way to go. So far, my small press earnings are about the same as my self-publishing earnings and when you put them all together, I’m still not making enough to quit the day job (which, being ghostwriting, is I guess yet another avenue a writer could take these days).

A lot of writers and industry insiders will also tell you that one avenue is by far the most advantageous. And while they may have personal data and facts to back that up, I still think it’s a writer’s best bet to keep your feet or tires or whatever in every road you can.