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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Prelude To A Scream - Erratic Cycles

I recently posted the full audio version of my short story "Erratic Cycles" in my Prelude To A Scream podcast. It appears in Episode 15. You can subscribe to the podcast for free via iTunes and all the other regular places.

"Erratic Cycles" is the story of a lawyer stranded on a lonely stretch of Highway 144 in Northern Ontario at nightfall. Stuck with nothing but memories of his childhood and thoughts about how his life has become one big recurring monotonous routine, he is forced to face a long-buried childhood fear of the dark and being alone. That, and deal with the fact he is convinced someone or something is watching him from the dark woods.

It was originally published in 1999 and was nominated for an Aurora Award in 2000 in the category of Best Short-Form English. Within the podcast I talk about how the story had evolved from first draft, through many different re-writes, including some critical re-writes based upon editorial suggestions from editors who had rejected it.  This highlights, to me, how important a role an editor can play, even when the editor isn't the one who ended up buying your story.

You can listen to the full story online or download the mps, but I thought I'd offer a quicker teaser to the opening of the story here.

Erratic Cycles
By
Mark Leslie
(Originally published in Parsec Magazine, 1999)
(Reprinted in One Hand Screaming, 2004)

Charles Dean Webster, attorney at law, sat very still in his '89 Toyota Tercel, frustrated over his predicament. Something -- he had no idea what -- had happened to his car. First there had been smoking and hissing and then the car had stopped running. That was the extent of his knowledge about what was wrong with his car. He was a lawyer, not a mechanic.

Dammit Jim, I'm a lawyer, not a mechanic.

He looked at his watch, taking his eyes off of the forest for only a very short time. It was a quarter past nine. As he lifted his head to look down the barren stretch of Highway 144, he caught the glare of the setting sun in his rearview mirror.

"Damn!"

He slammed a fist against the dash and then sat back once more and stared out the bug splattered windshield at the deserted highway.

Why my? he asked, and was quick to find an answer.

Why not you?

This was going to be your big case, your first major success, your big break. This was going to be the case that not only brought you a handsome sum but spread your name across the country. After winning this one, you were finally going to be someone.

So why not you? If you continue to believe such stupid glorified dreams, then why not you? Face the facts, schmuck: This is just another case.

And, being just another case, it had been nothing but a pain in the ass from day one. Getting stranged on a lonely highway somewhere between Sudbury and Timmmins was just par for the course.

He looked at his watch again, but only a minute had passed since he'd last checked it. His eyes quickly returned to the wall of forest which ran never-ending along both sides of the highway. He couldn't shake the feeling that something was watching him from the forest.

No, not something, he corrected himself.

The Bush People.

(Excerpt from "Erratic Cycles" © 2004 Mark Leslie Lefebvre - you can listen to the entire story for free here, or get the story (and the whole rest of the book One Hand Screaming as an ebook for a mere $0.99 in a variety of convenient formats, for Sony Reader, iBook, Kobo)  If you prefer physical copies, the paperback is still available and retails for $12.95 through all the usual places)

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