Dan Alatorre’s Word Weaver Writing Contest
* 4th Place Winners *
Travelling Man by Adele Marie Park and High Desert Plateau by Richard Ewalt
Two very different stories and two very different outcomes.
First, Adele, then Richard. Be sure to read both.
I said I’d have to think up a prize for the 4th place winners because we didn’t really have one when we started. Each will receive copies of signed paperbacks by some of the authors listed below, as well as being featured in an upcoming interview or author profile here on the blog. Maybe a $10 Starbucks gift card just so they can read this post publicly and see if people read over their shoulder and notice it’s about them. CONGRATULATIONS!!
HERE are some of the AMAZING AUTHORS whose books will be in these prize packages
Allison Maruska, The Fourth Descendant, the Project Renovatio trilogy
With over 550 reviews on Amazon, a signed copy of Allison’s runaway bestseller The Fourth Descendant should be part of any book lover’s collection.
Allison’s amazing Project Renovatio trilogy has captivated audiences around the world. You want to win that, too.
Hugh Roberts, Glimpses
28 short stories that will take your mind on a rollercoaster of a ride into worlds that conceal unexpected twists and turns. You REALLY wanna win that!
Is murder, sex, buried bank loot and legends of UFOs your cup of tea? Or maybe a clueless optimist who “ruins a perfectly good hell” Phillip T. Stephens offers crime, dark fantasy, young adult – and a good dose of humor.
Love letters are a nearly lost art form, but they are the easiest and least costly way to show your partner love and romance. Plus, it’s quick to do! I’m a fan of quick!
24 Romantic Date Night Ideas
Jennifer’s beautiful companion book is a terrific way to round out your romantic evening.
Come on, who doesn’t enjoy a fairy story? Plus, it’s set in Florida, a win-win. Then along comes a primeval nymph, who explains young Abby’s true destiny is to protect the nymphs from evil in an ever-changing modern world.
T. A. Henry, Scripting The Truth
Any story that takes place in post-WWII Britain and has the phrase “She’ll try to do it all while trying to keep the seams on her stockings straight” has to be read. You’ll agree.
and of course, ME
A few folks will be selected to receive a signed paperback of my hilarious sexy romp through Italy. It’s not available in stores yet, so these will be hot commodities. Probably.
A few other folks will win my amazing sci fi thriller The Navigators as a signed paperback or an eBook. Don’t even ask me if I’ll sign the eBook. Just. Don’t.
When I post their stories, I will tell you a little about why they won, and more about how tough the decision process was.
Adele Marie Park
Sweat poured down my thighs like a river bursting its banks. Hell, it was hot. Too tropical to be working.
Digging ain’t for ladies but I got my gloves on, protecting my delicate little hands.
I laugh and something echoes round me.
Good time for a pause, so I lean on the handle of the spade and listen.
Damn me, it’s a duck, one of them whistling ducks.
I slide to the ground and wipe my forehead. It’s going to leave dirty marks but whose waiting for me at home?
My Daddy? Oh, yeah he’s going to be waiting for me to hand him his next beer.
He never made any sense even before Mama died. Although he did tell me to stay away from the travelling man. Said he would be no good for me. Damn if he didn’t get that right.
Up on my feet again. Piercing the earth with the blade of the just. Almost done enough, just a few more shovels.
Jesus wept and the heavens rolled with thunder. Don’t get the blues, not now. As good as done Josie, don’t give up now.
By the time I finish the heat of the day has gone to sleep and I welcome the coolness of the night like a lover.
I had a lover. Travelling man you were my lover. Hot and sweaty like noon day when ordinary folk stay inside. You loved me like you were already gone.
I look at the water. Calm now. Like my heart except my hearts empty the river ain’t.
I wade in, clothes and all.
A memory comes when I don’t want any.
Last summer, the dry heat of a dust bowl blew in for little John’s baptism. The preacher ducked him under and everyone there wished it was them so they could cool down.
The water laps around my neck and my hair fans out behind me. A beauty about to drown. No one here to see, what a damn shame.
Under the water I can see shapes darting in and out of the light. I got no interest in them, live on don’t mind me. I got a job to do, then I’ll be gone.
I tied the stone to the shovel on dry land and it was heavy until I got into deep water. I let it sink. It’ll lie there until green widow weeds cover it like a shroud.
The water spurts up around me as I surface and I feel like a phoenix reborn from the flames and chains of slavery. I shake my head and water flies around me like diamonds.
When I climb out the night strokes my flesh with goose bump fingers.
Hurry, Josie, lest you catch cold.
That voice always sounds like my grandma. The only one who cared or noticed me.
Mama was too sick and daddy was always a drunk. With that home life I was fodder for the travelling man, fresh fruit to snack on as he ran on his way.
The hidden suitcase, the dry clothes and the watch. Later I can look over the treasures, right now I need to get warm.
I hesitated over taking mama’s Sunday coat but now as I feel the softness against my cold skin I almost break down.
I can smell her. She must’ve looked so good in this coat. The buttons are big and my fingers stumble on them but I won’t be beat. I’ve come this far.
My fingernails are still painted red. I went to him like a sacrifice, laid my chest open so he could see my heart beating and it beat faster as he touched me.
Tidy up now, everything in the case, don’t think, just do.
Grandma’s back again. Love you old woman. I saw the photos that mama kept. You were a prize. Milk chocolate, velvet skin, hair curling round your face like temptation.
My heart shivers. No tears, not now. It’s done.
I walk away from the river leaving a shell of myself behind.
The trees thin out and I’m going to emerge on the other side of town. No one will know I’m gone but, I made sure their tongues were wagging.
Walked around with him like I was his bride. They saw and they digested their own viciousness. Long as it’s happening to someone else, they feel safe.
The plan. I struggle to remember when I felt the first tendrils of it run through my brain. Lucky I got grandma’s brains. The feeble strings built up into a tapestry that whispered to me then roared a battle cry in my ears. That was after.
Love was fine, it made parts of me speed up and throb that I’d only thought about. Our skin slid with the juices of our love and he told me I was too good for this town. Well, I already knew that. He knew it too when I took the knife across his throat.
One last kiss, one last sinful coupling before you go. I made myself look weak and powerless. He took the bait like a fox after a chicken dinner.
How did I ever think his ugly face was handsome. Love is blind after all.
No one will find him but if they do, they won’t care. I made sure they’ll think I left with him to travel with him. A whore after all they’ll say.
A rumbling comes and I look up at the sky it but it’s clear. Then I see the yellow eyes getting closer. It’s my ticket to freedom.
The night bus rolls along on the back roads. The ghost bus that only runaways and outlaws ride. Well, I’m both and I got the dirty loot in my pocket to get to that town called freedom.
He had money to burn, so I saved it from dying in the flames of hell and damnation. It’s going to go a long way in freedom town.
Oh, daddy you were so wrong. The travelling man set me free of you and this town of memories and spit.
Put your foot down Mr. bus driver, I’m in a hurry to start living.
Why did it win? What spoke to me?
I was intrigued by sweaty thighs (and hoping they were a woman’s thighs and a not a fat hairy guy’s) and had to read on – but I DID NOT SEE THAT TWIST COMING, and when you smoke one by me, I have to tip my hat.
Again the story was full of questions I wanted to know the answers to, and the ending was a happy surprise.
High Desert Plateau
During my college years, I went on frequent road trips between my home in California and my home-away-from-home in Colorado. I loved to drive by myself, to watch the scenery of the desolate West fly past. These trips afforded me the opportunity to reflect, to philosophize about life and love and the universe and my place in it all.
These were the late eighties and early nineties of the tail end of the twentieth century. It was a great time to be alive, to be a young man. Unattached. No responsibilities. The open panorama of the high desert inviting me to explore the unknown future. Basically, for me at that time it was the closest I felt I could come to having an adventure—there being no orcs ready to hand.
My beverage of preference on these trips was the much beloved (at least by college students) Jolt Cola. Its catchy, no-nonsense tagline, which flew in the face of the health-conscious consumers of the time, was this … Jolt Cola! All the sugar and twice the caffeine! I loved that stuff, mostly because of that tagline and how it made me feel defiant and young.
The reason I drank Jolt on these trips was because the distance between start and finish was right on the borderline between a one-day or two-day drive. Less adventurous souls would sleepover halfway through, often in the windswept town of Windover, Utah. But not me. Armed with a twelve pack of Jolt, I would drive straight through—usually taking about twenty hours end to end. When I finally arrived (always in the dark), I would be so sleepy and wired at the same time that I would basically just pass out and sleep for half of the following day.
Well, on one of these trips, I had an experience that has stuck with me throughout all the subsequent years. I like to call it my epiphany. It was the one time I thought that God himself (I tended to be more religious in those days than I’ve since become) actually spoke to me. Not audibly. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t have a vision, and there was nothing supernatural about the experience. However, in a strange, backward sort of way, that made it all the more meaningful and powerful. To put it cryptically … its complete lack of any supernatural quality MADE IT feel supernatural tome, more than I imagine an actual supernatural experience would feel.
Of course, that could be the caffeine talking. I don’t deny that at all.
This particular road trip must have been in the early nineties. Either ’92 or ’93. It was summer, or possibly spring break. In any case, there was no snow on the ground as I drove, but the mountains still sported snow-covered peaks.
For those who don’t know, Nevada and Utah are the two states that lie between California and Colorado. This intervening region is a high desert plateau, which connects the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada Mountains with the western reaches of the much more regal Rocky Mountains. It’s considered a desert because it gets very little annual precipitation. However, it’s a cold desert due to its altitude. The entire breadth of the plateau can be blanketed in snow for much of the winter and into the spring.
On these trips, I normally drove along Interstate 80, from San Francisco to Reno, then across Nevada and half of Utah to get to Salt Lake City. After that I’d continue into Wyoming all the way to its capital, Cheyenne, where I’d turn south toward Denver on Interstate 25. On this trip, however, I drove a slightly different route because I was heading for Grand Junction, not Denver. I turned off the main road in Salt Lake City and headed south instead, toward Provo on Interstate 15. From there, I turned off the freeway system to follow a smaller road which ran southeast though the mountains. My epiphany took place in this mountainous region between Provo and Grand Junction, an atypically beautiful area in the middle of an otherwise featureless desert. Who knew that Utah had such great skiing!
This time period in America was very different from what we’re used to today. In retrospect, I see it as an interregnum of sorts. You might even call it a high desert plateau of time that connected the glory days of the 1980s with the dawn of the Internet age, which began in earnest in the late 90s. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know this. The term “world wide web” was still two or three years away from its sudden and ubiquitous domination of the vocabulary of the nation. Heck, I don’t think I even had a cell phone back then, although that technology had largely spread itself throughout the populace. I was always a late adopter of new gadgets, preferring the tried and true over the trendy.
So, there I was. Driving alone through unfamiliar territory. Essentially cut off from the rest of the world. In those days, if your car broke down in the middle of nowhere, you couldn’t just tap on the triple-A app on your smart phone and have a tow truck show up in twenty minutes. There were no smart phones, and even those with cell phones often found themselves in dead zones without any service. The only thing to do was to wait on the side of the road for another car to drive by and hope that it would stop and help you. If nothing else, you could get a ride to the nearest town to use a pay phone.
And yet, I had no worries. I loved being out there. Today we might call it being off the grid. The feeling of freedom predominated, and, as I said earlier, it put me into a philosophical mood. I may have been listening to music, although I don’t recall. More likely I was simply driving and thinking. Plotting out the novel I was working on. Or,nerd that I was, parsing Greek verbs in my head. At some point, I started truly noticing and admiring the scenery. The fact is that it caught me off guard. I wasn’t expecting to find anything so magnificent, so majestic. Since I’d never driven on this road before, I guess I’d simply expected more of the same. More desolation, more empty desert. What I found instead was a scene straight out of a picture postcard. Breathtaking mountain vistas. Snow-covered slopes that seemed to come right down to the edge of the road I was driving on.
This beauty startled me. Utah in my mind was a flat dusty plain filled with actual salt mines. It was the place paleontologists went to dig up dinosaur bones. It’s possible that I’d recently watched Jurassic Park, although that may have come later. Some corner of my mind had a vague memory of people talking about skiing in Utah, but it hadn’t taken hold in any significant way in the conscious overlay of my known world.I felt a great welling up in my soul, and I began talking with God in my mind. Not praying. I wasn’t asking for anything. Just chitchatting. I’d grown up in a very laid back religious tradition where having a mental conversation with God would have been considered normal. Of course it was a one-sided conversation. I talked, or rather I thought thoughts. And God, well, pretty much just listened and nodded in agreement at the appropriate moments.
Except this time, something different happened. I remember very clearly the line of thought I was on. I was feeling overwhelmed by the beauty, the transcendence of the mountains as I drove through them. For several minutes it was as though I were partially hypnotized. Except instead of staring at a dangling, shiny pocket watch, I was staring at the contours and crevices on the surfaces of the mountain slopes. The dappled snow catching the sunlight in random arcs of color and sparkles.
Thinking back, I was probably lucky I didn’t run the car off the road. But I guess my conscious mind was driving while my subconscious, or possibly superconscious, mind was deep in the throes of wonder. I’d always known that the natural world could transport you into a transcendent realm, but this was the first time I’d experienced it to any significant degree. And this is when my epiphany happened. This is when God answered me.
I was thinking along these lines. These mountains are incredible! I’ve never seen anything so beautiful. I didn’t even know this place existed. It all seems so unreal and real at the same time. And then I asked God a question in my mind. In amazement I wanted to know how all this beauty had come about, by what means God had created it all. The words I thought were: How do you do it?
Before the question had even completely exited my frontal lobe, while it was still on the tip of my mental tongue, as it were, I heard—thought—the answer. It was so immediate and seemed to intrude into my stream of consciousness, as if from the outside. As if the thought were not my thought but rather was God, or the universe, answering my question. One very loud and powerful word filled my brain. Erosion!
That stopped me dead in my mental tracks. All other thought ceased. I was mentally dumbstruck. Of course! How obvious! And yet how subtle! It was the perfect answer, and I instantly knew the perfect application of that knowledge.
For the truth was that I wasn’t really asking about mountains and the beauty of nature. I was really asking about myself. I wanted to know what the future might hold for my life. I was on the cusp of full-fledged adulthood, and I was traveling through a high desert plateau of my life. Through the period between youth and full maturity. My life was being shaped, or I was shaping my life. Sometimes it seemed to be an active process, sometimes a passive one. But the point was that I didn’t know what lay ahead. An adventure through an unknown country. And I desperately wanted something to guide me, some map to follow or some torch to help light my way.
Without realizing it, I had asked for help with my life, and I had been given one thing, one thought, a single word. Erosion. And I was ecstatic! It was the deep, philosophical mooring point that I needed. There was no doubt of its fundamental truth. Of course, I had no clear idea what it meant in relation to my life, although even then I had the inklings of how it might play itself out.
Some people go out into the wilderness to seek their spirit guide, hopped up on peyote. A good friend of mine went all the way to Peru to learn the deeper meaning of life from a shaman in the high Andes. Me? I drove through Utah, buzzing on Jolt Cola, and high on nature. And I found the answer to one of the most fundamental questions of all time. Where does beauty come from? What is the origin of transcendence? How does creation actually happen? Turns out it’s quite simple and obvious. Erosion.
It has been my pleasure to showcase these amazing writers. Look for interviews and more on them in the upcoming weeks.
Why did it win? What spoke to me?
This was one of the very first stories I read, and it just seemed to have an energy I enjoyed. As I read other stories, this one kept staying in my head as one that would probably place well overall in the contest. It stuck with me, and that’s a good sign.
It had a real feel to it, and even though I’m not one to push religion in my stories, this had an even keeled balance of human experience to it that I found refreshing.
If you liked these stories, please share it on StumbleUpon and other social media so our winners can get the recognition they deserve.
Tomorrow, the 5th place winner in the Word Weaver Writing Contest:
The Last Letter by Maribel C. Pagan
Destination Seoul Tokyo By Heather Hackett
Trip Of A Lifetime by Carrie Ann Alexis
If you would like to sponsor our July 2017 Word Weaver Writing Contest and get this kind of exposure for your book or a product or service beneficial to authors, please contact me.