Thursday, February 25, 2016

# Post # Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday: My First Writing Award

On select Thursdays, I like to share a throwback to past writing, trailers, or randomness.

(Writing Wednesdays will begin next month, when I am back on the correct weekly schedule.)

When I first started writing, I never dreamed of penning a full-length novel. I was all about short fiction, and I managed to get a few stories published in magazines and online webzines. One of these, The Christmas Present, won a short story contest on (the now defunct) back in 2004. I was over the moon! As part of the prize, I was invited as a guest on an Internet radio show to give a reading of the tale.
Back when I thought I would be writing mysteries and horror, The Christmas Present veered away into the land of romance and urban fantasy. I'd been fascinated with snow globes since I was a child, and a chance conversation about them sparked the idea for a tale about a snow globe with magical properties that transforms a man's life.

Here's an excerpt from The Christmas Present:

A loud pop startled Ted awake. Logs in the fireplace sizzled and crackled in protest over the roaring flames. Flames? The thought sat him straight up. He hadn’t started a fire. He’d barely gotten home to gift wrap the globe. . .  
            The globe that was now missing, along with the rest of his living room. In its place was a cozy, wood-paneled cabin he had never seen before. Bed springs groaned beneath him as he pushed aside a colorful quilt and got to his feet. Where am I? he wondered silently. Am I dreaming?
            No, youre not dreaming, boomed a friendly voice. A short slip of a man with laughing eyes and ebony hair regarded him from an armchair across the room.
            H-how did you know what I was thinking?
            The other man shrugged. Didnt. But they all say it.
            Ted strode to the center of the room. Who are you?
            The stranger set down a newspaper on the table beside him and rose. From the bottom of his sole to the tip of his knit cap he stood not an inch taller than five-foot-two.
            Phineas C. Cottle, Ted. Folks just call me Finn.
            You know my name?
            Finn chuckled. Oh yes, and a great deal more, friend. Its all here, plain as plaid. He handed Ted the newspaper hed been reading.
            His eyes widened. Hey, thats me! His picture was on the front page. And the next. And the one after that. In fact, the entire paper appeared to be a detailed history of his life: parents, school, jobs, everything.
            This is nuts. This, he waved the paper at Finn, is not real. And neither are you.
            The other nodded, a gesture that caused his chin to rub against his cherry red sweater. Yes, fine. All a dream, if you want. That done and said, lets get on with it.
            Get on with what?
            Your Christmas present, of course.
            Teds thoughts buzzed in a tangled mess, like too many fireflies trapped in a jar. Yes, trapped. He had to get out. Whatever was happening to him, he should fight it. 
            Im leaving.
            He burst through the cabin door and headed for . . . he wasnt sure. He just wanted to get away. So bent was he on the thought of escape that hed taken several steps before realizing the ground under him was crunching and giving way.
            Snow? Now I know this isnt real; it never snows here, he declared to the empty winter air. Guess I have gone nuts.
            He headed across the blanketed landscape away from town, his steps growing increasingly difficult from deepening snow. Ted soon regretted his hasty exit from the cabin. His feet, burning with numb cold, competed for attention with stiff fingers and a chapped face. Pine tree after pine tree drew in behind him as he walked for miles, it seemed, until he finally saw a change in the scenery. Footprints! Familiar footprints . . . his heart sank. He’d been going in circles. But hadn’t he struck straight out from town?
            Cant get any farther.
            Ted jumped and discovered that Finn had managed to catch up. Heavy clouds of breath hung in the air in front of him, betraying the strain of his exertions. Finn, on the other hand, looked as warm and dry as when they met in the cabin.
            He crossed his arms in front of him, tucking hands under armpits. Look, assuming I buy into this delusion, what is it you want from me?
            Im a guide, Ted. Or part of your dream, whichever you believe. I want nothing and give nothing. What you must give, youll give to yourself.
            Eyes rolled. Gee, thanks for not clearing that up. And what am I giving me? No, let me guess . . . my Christmas present.
       Well, the chance to regain your Christmas present.
            You read the inscription on the globe, yes?
            “The snowglobe? What’s that got to do with
            Declinatio Temporis, Finn cut him off. Or, in the Latin, to turn aside time.
            He rubbed the bulbous nose, setting glasses askew. “You’re being given a chance to alter your Christmas present . . . by turning aside the past. One chance.”
            Turn aside the past? You mean, change things?
            Indeed. The globe gives those it chooses one chance to alter destiny. A most precious gift, Id say.
            Ted frowned. Where am I?
            Dont you recognize it? The old man gave a sweeping gesture. Truly a wonder, wouldnt you say?
            He looked back the way theyd come. Dotted pine trees; a snowman; tiny buildings.           And suspended above it all, a giant star glistened.
          “I’m . . . inside the snowglobe?”
            That was it, then. Eight years of misery and guilt had stolen his sanity. He waited for panic at this realization to shoot up from his abdomen. Instead, there was an odd sense of calm. Funny, he thought. Still, changing the past . . . if he had to suffer hallucinations, there could definitely be worse ones.
            He turned to face his guide and sighed. What do I do?

            Finn let out a hoot. Right then! First, lets get inside. Need clothes a bit more fitting for the weather here.

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