Writing Collaboration: Zombie at the Barnyard Disco

January 12, 2009

My friend, Daniel, and I have started writing a story, length undetermined, as a collaborative effort.  We’re doing a trade with the story, bouncing back and forth with a goal of 250 words per turn, but no specified maximum limit. It’s been interesting so far. I was commenting to Jambrea that it’s difficult to tell where his parts end and mine begin when I go back and read the story. Right now, we’re in first draft mode and have not done any editing, so the excerpt I’m about to post (yes, I know) is raw, unedited, and from mind to screen.  We set up the document on http://docs.google.com and created sharing permissions so we can both access the file in a central location. When one of us is done, we tag the other and wait.

Here’s the excerpt:

He answered the phone, “Its about time.  I’ve been waiting all night for you to call me back.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Reynolds replied.  “This stuff takes a little planning.  Its not like running to the grocery to pick up some eggs.”  Aren knew he was right.  Eggs never made him this anxious and unnerved.

Reynolds blurted, “So, where ya at?”

He considered giving him his home address, but Aren wasn’t quite sure he wanted a guy like Reynolds to know where he lived quite yet.  This whole scenario was still very new to him.  There have already been a slew of second thoughts racing though his mind.  Aren was hoping that something fell through and he’d never call.  He had actually considered calling her back and cancelling all of this.  But he couldn’t, he had to go through with this.  All this waiting, well, it was just enough time for his conscience to play more games in his head.

The thought apparently lasted longer than he’d thought because the voice on the other end echoed, “So, where ya at?”

Aren continued depositing coins into the machine, thinking with each clink and clank as they fell into the capture bucket.  “I’m not at home.  I’m doing the washing.  You know the laundromat just behind Jimmy’s Pizza, over by the zoo?  I just finished two wash loads, and I’m getting ready to put them in the dryer.  I have at least an hour or so here.  Where are you, and can you meet me here?”

“Damn you, Aren.  I’m nowhere friggen near there.  It will take me at least twenty minutes to get across town to that shit hole dive you call a laundromat.  I need you to come to me, and it’s going to have to be at least an hour from now.  I got this thing to take care of before I can do business with you.”

“Well, I guess you better start movin’.  Listen.  Ariel set this up, and I aim to do right by what I told her, so don’t fuckin’ be late.  I’m staying here until these clothes are dry, and then your window is closed.  I don’t care how dangerous you think you are, or how scared you expect me to be, but this is not up for God-damned debate.  Do you want my help or not?”  Aren pressed the “HH” button and watched the spirals twist as his Kit-Kat bar made its way to the edge before dropping into the retrieval tray.

Aren was surprised with his own words.  Strong-arming a man like Reynolds was something most didn’t do and live to tell about it.  But they were both in this because of Ariel and as odd as it may seem, Reynolds needed Aren more than Aren needed Reynolds.

Reynolds growled back into the phone, “Fine!  I’ll pick you up in ninety minutes.”

“Well, me and my laundry.  You have room in your trunk?”  There was a little playfulness creeping back into his voice now.

Aren smiled and he knew that as Reynolds ended the call, a smile crept onto his face as well.  Taking a bite of the Kit-Kat, he walked back over to his clothes and dumped them in a row of dryers.  Ninety minutes would be cutting it close, luckily Aren never folded his clothes so he would be ready when Reynolds showed up.


Rites of Romance Reviews: Sanguine Moons

January 11, 2009

Sanguine Moons has received its second review, and I have to say that 4.5/5 is a high honor. Rites of Romance Reviews got a hold of Weston and Morris this time, and Katherine Petersen had this to say:

While it stands well on its own as a short story, this piece would work well as a chapter—whether the first or not—of a novel. I look forward to reading more of Owens’s work.



Scenes from a Hat: Vinyl

January 9, 2009

Scenes from a Hat: Vinyl

by Anthony Owens
Editor: M. E. Ellis

The dark, purple glow emanated from a long, tube light bulb. Next to the black light, noble gas raced around the enclosed glass track, and electricity sparked it to life, casting a shameful and pallid blanket of bright orange light on patrons sitting in plush chairs, their knees spread wide.

Neon. Number ten. 1s2 2s2 2p6.

Other glass tubes adorned the room, racing around a raised stage with what Brodie expected were faux brass rails. Two vertical poles extended from the shiny, smooth wood floor of the stage up to the black dropped ceiling tiles. He contemplated the other tubes, and his recall slipped, but he knew that some of them contained other noble gases, and the ones that didn’t were probably colored fluorescent bulbs.

Fucking chemistry.

One of the most annoying voices ever possessed by a human rolled out through the club’s sound system. “Tonight, we have a special guest from a local band, DirectiveNine. The singer is here, and these are his songs. Hope you enjoy them!”

Are you kidding me? Can’t I just watch these girls in peace? That band broke up, like, four years ago. I swear, instead of tipping you to play them, I’m going to tip you not to next time. Dick.

Brodie realized that he’d not been paying any attention at all to the girl who delicately descended the stairs to the stage, a drunken swagger jiggling her in most of the right places, and a few that made him wince a bit. The girl’s head bore the curse of owning the most soulless and lifeless eyes of any stripper, ever. Or, maybe she was just drunk and stoned.

I wonder if she’s holdin’.

She finished the three-stair journey, and a sweet guitar melody filled the small dive with a sonorous joy that still—even after four years—sent tremors up his neck, stood his hair on end, and ran chills through the course of his body.

God damn you, Saul. Why’d you have to quit? You wrote such good songs.

He sat in misery and neglect, since no dancers had been by in at least three songs to say hi or shake their almost-covered asses in his lap for a dollar. The decline of DirectiveNine weighed on him still, but he’d never made songs like the ones he and Saul did. His desperate desolation drained in a siphoning snap as soon as she entered the main room.

Who the fuck is the new girl? Oh my god.

He sat upright, puffed his chest forward, adjusted his septum ring, and put on his cool look. It took everything in him not to sing along with the words he’d written. The melody possessed him, and though he didn’t project a voice, his lips moved in sync with the song. He scoured the woman now climbing the stairs to the stage, thoughts of the last dancer dissipating like a ghost on meth. Crystal blue eyes, icy and burning, looked down on him and her persuasive motion clutched him into stillness.

Breathe. Just breathe. Seriously. BREATHE!

Long, raven locks, pulled and twisted into twin braids swung with the rhythm of the music, his music, and her gaze embraced him against time, handcuffed to a stare that teased to throw away the key. Shiny, smooth, and black, her outfit knew just how to make her, and she knew even better how to wear it. Her curves only continued where the restraint of the vinyl costume ceased, and her undulations served only to raise his interests.

All the cool flew away, and Brodie’s jaw slacked, his breath drew quick and shallow, and the memory of the last time he’d blinked his eyes no longer registered. In a jolting second, she dropped to the floor on hands and knees and crawled to the edge of the stage. Index finger extended, she pointed at Brodie and crooked it back only to extend it again.

“Come here.”

Brodie, without missing a beat, purred, “Yes, ma’am.”


SfaH Voting Results

January 9, 2009

Well, there’s a dead tie between “Rejection” and “Flagellation” which each received 4 votes. I’ll start writing long versions of both. Jambrea will have to help me pull the name of the contest winners from a hat tonight. One will get the gift certificate, and the other winner gets to help me make a supporting character for the long version story.

Thanks to everyone for voting! The new Scene from a Hat should be published today, and it’s a bit different from the rest, or at least I think it is. I hope to have it up around 1:00 PM EST.

In other SfaH news, Jaime Samms has submitted a short for Scenes from a Hat and we’ll likely be putting that up next Friday! I really enjoy having guest authors for Scenes from a Hat, so if you’re interested in contributing, let me know. I’ll give you three words, you can pick from one, and then drop 500-700 words on it!


Scenes from a Hat Contest

December 19, 2008

Okay, friends. I think that I have a couple of regular readers now, and since I have about a whole month’s worth of Scenes from a Hat installments you, I thought that maybe it was time to do a contest and shake things up a bit. Some of these scenes have done very well regarding comments and page views, but sadly, the best was not even one I wrote. I don’t know what that says.

Anyhow, here’s the deal. Post a comment here to vote for your favorite Scene from a Hat that I authored, and I’ll take that scene and turn it into a story of at least 10k words. From the winning Scene, I’ll randomly choose one of the people who voted for that scene. You get to have a character in the story, and some say in what he or she does. On top of that, I’ll be giving away a $10 gift certificate to a store to be chosen later.

You will have until January 8 to place your vote here, and these are your available choices:

If you haven’t read them, please do, and place your vote as a comment here. The personalized story winner will be chosen at random from all the names who voted for that Scene from a Hat, and the gift certificate winner will be chosen at random from all entries.

Thank you, and have a Happy Holidays!


Scenes from a Hat: Flagellation

December 19, 2008

Scenes from a Hat: Flagellation

by Anthony Owens
Editor: M. E. Ellis

A wide, tall candle, coated with hours of habitual use stood in isolation on a cold, stone altar. Brother Iska knelt in prayer before it, numb to his surroundings, and caught deep within a self-induced, altered state. His troubled mind, plagued with dilemma, raced over the complexity of simple things and the simplicity of things grander than understanding would ever reach.

Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that in the hour of our death we may be refreshed by Thy holy Sacraments and delivered from all guilt, and so deserve to be received with joy into the arms of Thy mercy. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.”

Iska’s trembling hands, young, yet hard and worn, wrapped and clenched around a heavy, dark wool hood and pulled it up to cover a gaunt and pale face, revealing only a small scribble of blonde facial hair. Despite the hood’s concealing nature, tropic blue irises pushed away the darkness as beacons of life and light. Brother Iska stared at the candle, amazed at the beauty of the small flame, transfixed and engaged by the slow, predictable chaos of the expended wax. His gaze flowed past the flickering flame, and the mirror on the cold, stone wall behind the altar returned a guilty visage.

His coarse robe sleeves slid across his arm toward his shoulder with uncanny ease and he pinched the flame from the candle. Pain, small but real, relished and feared, flickered dim and brief on the pads of his fingers, and a knowing smile sunk into his lips.

“Brother, the darkness is here. Have you come for my penance? “

Though the cold stone of the temple was dark and lifeless, a salient energy pulsed with every beat of Iska’s heart, and his sight spread through the black air in brilliant flashes. Dust and stale air swirled in a cotton candy vortex replaced with the nibble of a warm, fresh burst. Someone opened the door, but in the nadir of the day, light held still and captive from even seeking eyes.

Thump. Thump.

Iska’s third eye blinked, unsure of what it saw.

Thump. Thump.

With each heartbeat, life energy raged against the stone confines of the prayer chamber and begged for escape, but the door closed, and they shared penitent solitude. Rough skin met the supple form of his cheek, and Iska turned his head in consent. Two strong hands grabbed his wrists with tender command, and Iska surrendered his body to the flat, firm muscle born from years of manual work and neglect for vanity. Despite the darkness, his open eyes scanned the room for a glimpse of the one in front of him. Iska failed to identify his temporary savior.

“Brother, will you absolve me of my sin?”

Needy hands explored him, and expectation surged through his skin; excitement and blind passion consumed him. Thin, demanding lips pressed hard against his own, and he savored the joy of painful stubble scratching against his face like he’d appreciated the glimpse of fire from the candle. His brother forced his hand to rest at waist height, palm up, and Iska’s jaw clenched, his right eyelid quavered and closed halfway, and his body shivered with anticipation.


The straps, resembling skin, but immensely different, begged to be touched, and Iska rolled the end straps of the leather whip between his fingertips. Absolution lay in his hand.

A deep, husky, and hushed voice filled the small room as his absolver prayed, “Misereátur tui omnípotens Deus, et, dimíssis peccátis tuis, perdúcat te ad vitam ætérnam. May Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you your sins, and bring you to life everlasting.”

Iska let his robes drop to the floor, and in the chill of the small, stone-walled room, he closed his eyes and replied, “Amen.”


Scenes from a Hat: Rainbow

December 12, 2008

Scenes from a Hat: Rainbow

by Anthony Owens
Editor: M. E. Ellis

I stare now at the children playing in the water. It’s not so long ago that I can’t recall what it was like, but long enough that I cannot imagine the cool kiss of the water on my skin. Though my years add up like a Fibonacci sequence, I would not call myself old. Nor would I call myself young. I’m nestled right in the middle where maybe tomorrow I would be old, and I think I was young yesterday.

I remember portions of my life with stunning clarity and sentience, but other parts are ripped from me in their entirety. I know that something makes me feel like it’s not my fault they’re gone, but I have no proof that anyone took them from me.

Still, the children play.

I couldn’t tell you when or where I met her, but there’s a woman in my bed, just now. I think she’s still breathing. I honestly don’t care. She is—and it’s with great sadness that I say this—one of those bits that was torn from me by forces I cannot confirm nor dismiss. Parts of her are familiar, but I don’t know if it’s because I’ve supplanted memories by the telling of tales, or I’ve incorporated my recent knowing, or whether some portion of the veil has been lifted.

A child rests somewhere in the house. He may have crawled into the bed with her. He may be tightly wound in blankets of vibrant red, blue, and yellow. He certainly has a small stuffed toy with him. Who knows whether he entered slumber in the night with his dog, Sebastian, his cat, Two, or perhaps a plush version of his television favorite who lives in a pineapple under the sea.

One child outside holds the hose and sprays water on the others.

This stasis of thought is more cumbersome than I expected it to be. I am neither ashamed nor proud of what I’ve done in this house. I would pray for some result, if only I believed in prayer. I keep telling myself that the only way to move on is to actually move on. The window is cool. I imagine it is the water of the children outside, and the sun catches a chamfered corner of the pane so that a small, spectral beam punishes the floor with its multi-faceted truth.

The child with the hose has capped the end with his thumb, and, just like the pane of chiseled glass, the water spray creates a rainbow, but this one is free and unburdened by the floor.

I push against the glass with my hand, and the once molten sand gives way to my will. The bubble surrounding me grows with astounding force, and I can see the shimmering iridescence of its shell rippling through the air. I close my eyes and push hard as I walk through the wall and the prismatic field grows to envelop the children playing.