The Christmas story is done. I’ve sent out all the postcards (save for the one in the pocket of the blazer I forgot to wear to church last week), I’ve fixed up the .pdf, and I’ve done all the hoping I can that Pendleton Ward won’t sue my beard off. The fact is, 2013 is over.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
I won’t turn this into a New Year’s post and talk about all the things I did in 2013, except one: I wrote a new Christmas story. It was a bit of a challenge, as I wanted to wait until after Thanksgiving to get started, per my aversion to ECF (Early Christmas Frenzy), a dangerous condition affecting millions of Americans every Halloween, but God met me in my weakness and gave me the whole pile of plot one night in the shower.
Skellan and Boxter is part of a much larger story, much of which is still formless, but I thought it would be fun to explore their eventual universe with a short story to give away at Christmas.
My two major acknowledgements are to Troy Sherk, who endured my barking orders for hours until he designed a much better cover than I ever could have; and Pendleton Ward, creator of Adventure Time, which was a massive inspiration for Skellan and Boxter. And by “massive inspiration,” I mean, “I hope I don’t get sued.”
But Adventure Time mostly reminded me to have fun again. My current novel project takes place in the same universe as this story, but has a much more mature, serious feel. It might be rated R for “thematic content.” It was great to step away from the furrowed brows of a heavy, adult-aimed novel and dump some cream soda all over everything.
So I hope you enjoy Skellan and Boxter and the Christmas Troll. I had a blast writing it, and hope to see more of these questing goofballs in the future.
Find the .pdf here.
You may also enjoy last year’s story, Wenceslas, which you can find on Smashwords.
Your hands sink into the very foam of the wheel. You want to claw your fingers into the willing life, to embrace it, to crush it against you. Your eyes would clamp shut from the shudder if you didn’t need them open to negotiate the corner, and to consume the vastness of a thousand acres of breathing Iowa countryside, sailing high just over the crest of the bluff.
There is a moment, there, just beyond Tree Corner, when the laughter and the joy you’ve been firing off in full, round volleys since you left the track marshall suddenly crash back in on you like great waves filling a weak and temporary vacancy below.
But it’s too much, too dense and wide to fit in your stomach, in the car. Too delicious for the confines of your palate. For though it bears the character and color of the signal you sent, it has been textured and sharpened, because this is the laughter, the joy of God.
A man, a father, has great rapture in creating, but how much greater in watching his creation create? Peals of jovial thunder erupt from God as he tunes his senses to his children painting new apexes, composing downshift chorales, sculpting a slipstream for the angels who strain to draft.
You caught all this today, out on Tree Corner. Your manifolds stretched into their joints, your tread softened and gathered stones. And you thought the compression would end you, that you’d detonate into a million steel shards, leave a long, blood-black streak on the fissured asphalt and roll to a silent stop.
But you didn’t. Because though you’ve known this joy seldom enough to forget it with the very first Monday to wander across your path, you were built for this. You were designed to take it, to open to all the fire and octane and oxygen the whole of the atmos could feed you- and exult in it. You were forged for speed and laughter.
Recently I’ve been admiring the work of French artist Gustave Dore (1832-1883). He worked mostly in woodcuts, which means he was limited to just a pair of colors, yet he was able to convey such scope, such a distant horizon in almost all of his prominent works.
It’s an art I want to try to master as a writer. We only have words in our arsenal, but I want to convey a similar degree of mystery, of unanswered questions, of what lands those distant, monochrome clouds overshadow.
Yet, as with the Dore pieces, this sense of the unknown cannot steal attention from the story in the foreground. Here, for example, the focus is on Arthur and Camelot, with the dramatic cloudscape only serving to deepen their characters.
I’m working on a short story right now that takes place in the universe of my novel. It should make an excellent laboratory for these experiments.
I want to wrap
my heart in a map
until all the rivers and highways flow into my veins
and I fall asleep on the rooftops of slow moving trains.
I don’t mind the rain.
I want to see
just who I can be.
I want to leave skin on the clifftops and cold mountain peaks.
I want to wade three hundred miles along rock bottom creeks.
You kiss my cheek.
Will you ride with me into a Texas storm?
Can we swim to that island?
It’s where I find myself, and where I find my Lord.
Will I find you there, on the edge of the sword?
I want to drive
like I am alive.
I want to whip sideways at sixty between evergreens.
I want to push barriers and boundaries that we’ve never seen.
Are you with me?
There’s so much of Him to discover. I’d rather have you by my side.
I was listening to alot of John Mark McMillan when I wrote that. If I could sing or write music like him, I might record it.
The other day, the hilarious Jon Acuff posted a new entry on his blog, Stuff Christians Like. The title? “Already being behind on your read the Bible in a year plan.” Acuff spends several paragraphs detailing how funny we can be with this every year, and why we tend to fail (“Leviticus…This book will break you.”)
The humor hit home, as I’ve recently started with the Android app YouVersion a 90 day Bible reading plan, informally deemed “B90x.” It boils down to about sixteen chapters a day, and today I hit the dreaded Leviticus.
So why do we do it? Why do Christians bust out the cardio this time of year when it comes to reading the Bible? It’s such a massive document, so we’re probably not going to memorize the whole thing. Doesn’t poring over all the Old Testament genealogies and temple regulations make us a little crazy?
It does seem silly at first. And on the second day. And on the seventeenth. The best thing I can compare it to, though, is working out. Deuteronomy is the equivalent of jogging on Black Friday. (I say Deuteronomy because it’s a repetition of Leviticus.) Of course you don’t want to do it. But when you admit to yourself that it isn’t actually a holiday, that you’re not feeling sick, and that, yes, the gym is open, you jog anyway. And you don’t really regret it afterward. You probably haven’t lost six pounds during your run, but you remember that it’s part of a process.
The main reason to read it so aggressively is that it’s the Word of God. Remember all those times you wish God would just answer you? He probably already has. Think about the last time you read a good novel. When you were done, you probably could imagine what each of the characters would do in any given situation. Draco Malfoy would try to weasel his way out of that parking ticket. Sam Gamgee would say, “There’s nothing for it,” and leave the party early to study for the test. Jack Ryan would jump into the deep end to save the chubby little kid who has overestimated his swimming abilities.
When you read the whole Bible, you start to understand the comprehensive character of God. You get answers to your questions based on who He is. The trouble is, it’s also a historical document, and a systematic teaching, and (at times) a collection of anecdotal advice and poetry. And it’s long. It’s extremely long. So to get your well rounded picture of who God is, you need to have a good plan to read the whole Bible. That’s where the marathon reading schedules come in.
Psalm 119 and John 1 explain it nicely. David valued the scriptures so highly he wrote the longest chapter in the Bible- about the Bible. We find out why in John’s Gospel- Jesus is the Word made flesh. If you want to know Jesus more, read the Bible.
It seems crazy at first, but according to David and John, it’s very wise indeed.