Would I Be Worth It

Would I Be Worth It

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Jamaican Grace

Do you write with music on?  I MUST.  It’s the way I operate, get in my character’s head, and keep my voice, tone, and mood.

So I started thinking – what about the other way around?  What if I listened to a song first, and it dictated what I wrote?

I asked readers, on my author page (if you haven’t joined my Facebook author page now, you should, because I post there far more frequently about my books and writing, and it’s lots of fun, I hope!), to post a link to a song they love or find interesting, and I would write a flash piece on the spot after only listening to it once!  😀

The second winner was Laura Pol with MercyMe’s “Grace Got You”!

The following short fiction piece was written in 15 minutes on the spot while listening to this specific song!  😀

I highly recommend you listen to it while reading my piece below, which is a gift to Laura that I hope she enjoys!  🙂

If YOU like flash fiction, and think you can write an emotionally moving piece in under 1000 words and want to win ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS, my contest is still open!

 

JAMAICAN GRACE

 

Solomon “Jamaica” Barnes sat under the cement bridge, bopping his head to the hidden tune that only he could hear from the pounding of vehicles over his head.  The rhythm reverberated all the way down to his fingers, which tapped against his side happily.  He closed his eyes, his grin splitting his chapped lips.  Popping another peanut into his mouth, he dropped a handful at his feet.

Down on the cement, a tiny New York city squirrel wrapped itself around his ankles, scrambling for the peanuts.

“Dis be d’life, eh, Crunkle?” he murmured, reaching two fingers down to gently stroke the furry back of the small animal.

Crunkle’s rapid crunching was his only reply.

“Ho, Jamaica,” a voice muttered from behind him.

The dark-skinned man lazily turned his head to welcome a grungy, gray-bearded hobo pushing a loaded shopping cart around the far corner of the bridge.  “Jimmy!  Mon, how you be?” Jamaica waved his hands, the squirrel skittering away at lightning speed. “You comin’ to hang?”

The man shook his scruffy head, his eyes on the ground, sandaled feet scuffling forward slowly. “I’s be tryin’ to get to Central Park b’fore dark.”

“Sure, but I could use d’company.  Any time, mon.” Jamaica squinted at his friend, watching the man roll by him.

“I know, Jamaica.  I know. But I hate sittin’ on cement these days.  My war-torn backside ain’t what it used to be.” The old man’s coat had bird dung and dirt encrusted on the hem.

Jamaica watched him carefully. “You and d’war, Jimmy.  When ya gonna let dat go, mon?”

“When I be dead,” came the murmur as the shopping cart creaked around the opposite corner of the bridge, and the sound of cars covered anything else Jimmy might have added.  The echo of the word “dead” reverberated around the hollow underside of the bridge.

Jamaica frowned, but only for a second.  “Crunkle?”

The squirrel reappeared, a tiny little nose twitching above the black canvas bag behind Jamaica.

“Come ‘ere, ya lil’ beggar.”

The squirrel ignored him, sniffing the bag for more hidden food.

Jamaica scratched a spot on his foot that shouldn’t itch.  Pulling up his pant leg, he checked over the prosthetic.  “Jimmy and d’war… that mon wasn’t da only one who saw bloodshed.”

Crunkle made an angry squirrel noise, halfway between a chitter and a tiny cough.

“I’s be all outta peanuts, beggar.” He picked at his holey pant leg. “If we want somethin’ more dan dat, we’s a hafta go to Letitia’s, an’ I canna afford dat wit my pride.”

The squirrel gave him the nastiest stare a rodent was capable of giving.

Jamaica laughed loudly, his guffaws rumbling around him, adding a chorus to the car thumps above his head. “If squirrels coulda give d’evil eye, you’da killed me dere.”  He leaned back against the cement, pulling the bag forward to use as a makeshift pillow.  Folding his arms above his head, the little squirrel clambered onto his chest. He sighed, staring at a spot of graffiti on the bridge ceiling above him. “Wonder how dose dumb kids got up dat high to paint up dere,” he mumbled.

The squirrel stretched out a leg, all taut and tight, and then relaxed and went limp, tucking its head into its tail, its body a neat little circle.

“It’s gonna be Thanksgivin’ soon.” Jamaica frowned.  The grafitti read “Girls.” He put a hand over his eyes to block it out. “Wonder if my lil’ girl, Letitia, woulda be stark shocked t’see me show up for Thanksgivin’.” He tucked his chin to peek at the sleeping squirrel. “Think she’d be too ‘shamed to see us, huh, Crunkle?  Think she’d forgive her old dad now dat I be clean?”

A pipe from a motorcycle above popped, and Jamaica jumped. “It’s a hard world for us vets.”  Heroin had been an easy out.  He could block out the memories.  All that blood.  Men doing things he had never imagined, let alone wanted to experience.  All those faces, gone and dead.  And then he had come back home, missing a leg, his wife and strangers to him and his pain.

He had come to America at the tender age of ten, and becoming a US citizen was the highly of his life.  When World War II broke out, he had been excited to do his duty to this great country.  But no had prepared him for what life was like coming home.

Marge had wanted nothing to do with him when he wasn’t the man she had married any more, and he couldn’t stand the judgment on his oldest daughter Lucy’s face when she had chosen to turn her back on him and take her mama’s side.  That last day he had seen her, his vision blurred from his last fix, she had linked her arm through her mother’s, standing on the edge of the bed of the moving truck.  Her face was as steel as granite, even at the tender age of fourteen.

But little Letitia had turned around.  When Marge took her hand to lead her to the car, his second ten-year-old daughter had given him one last hopeful glance, those eyes open and still trusting.  There was love still in her heart, he had been sure of it.

It had been a decade and a half since then, and supposedly Letitia was married and back in New York, a brand newlywed. Her husband was a newspaper man or something like that. The last time Jamaica had visited his elderly father at the nursing home, before the nurses had shooed him out, their noses pinched, their hands shaking with anxiety, he had seen the letter from her.  After all these years.  Letitia had written to him, hoping her grandfather would pass her words on.  She wanted to reconnect.  She wanted to know her dad, to give him a chance.  She wrote about Jesus.

He had carried the wrinkled letter in the bottom of his bag for a while now – her address written clearly on the outside of it.  But he hadn’t need to – the address was seared into his memory.

Sure he had been clean for a year now, but time had passed him by.  He had no money and ability to do anything but beg.  Shelters were for those harder up than him.  Old Jamaica Barnes – he could tough it out, adopt baby squirrels, turn highway noises into songs in his mind, and keep up his cheer.

Until he thought about his baby girl reaching out.  Dangnabbit, she was brave.

He pulled out the envelope for the thousandth time and stared at it.

“I’ll go,” he said, and suddenly he knew that’s what he had always and ever wanted.

Thanksgiving was coming.

Autographed Books and Paypal Link

I have a personal Paypal link now! If you want autographed copies of A Bottle of Glass Hearts, Gem, or Lucent Sylph, you can send me $10 per book with a note saying which you want.
Or you can support my caffeine addiction that helps me write. 😛 😀 Seriously! People actually used to tip my computer geek husband through his personal website and Reddit and “support his caffeine need.” Haha! Stranger things have happened!
 
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Alien Exchange Program

Do you write with music on?  I MUST.  It’s the way I operate, get in my character’s head, and keep my voice, tone, and mood.

So I started thinking – what about the other way around?  What if I listened to a song first, and it dictated what I wrote?

I asked readers, on my author page (if you haven’t joined my Facebook author page now, you should, because I post there far more frequently about my books and writing, and it’s lots of fun, I hope!), to post a link to a song they love or find interesting, and I would write a flash piece on the spot after only listening to it once!  😀

After a random roll of digital dice, Elizabeth Liberty Lewis’s song, “Many Words” by DROELOE won!

The following flash fiction piece (under 1000 words) was written in 15-20 minutes on the spot while listening to this specific song!  😀

I highly recommend you listen to it while reading my piece below, which is a gift to Elizabeth that I hope she enjoys!  🙂

Next up with be one for Laura Pol.  Stay tuned!

If YOU like flash fiction, and think you can write an emotionally moving piece in under 1000 words and want to win ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS, my contest is still open!

 

ALIEN EXCHANGE PROGRAM

 

The little alien stumbled and fell in the deep, rich, wet dirt.

As the speeder raced away into the sky, the taillights shrinking rapidly in his vision, his throat clamped shut. The faint smell of diesel filled his nose and time slowed, as if to stamp an important moment on his mind.

He had been abandoned.

His mother, pinch-lipped and silent, her three eyes focused straight ahead, had refused to even glance his way during the duration of the space travel.  He had tugged on her arm at first, but had given up.  He had hoped against hope for a fun vacation spot, like on Krypton’s moon, but his mother’s clenched paw had told him otherwise, her eyes stalks decidedly pointed in the opposite direction.

Now here he sat, alone on a new planet, speeder-like lights surrounding him as if eyes were watching.  In the dark of night. With only lit-up buildings to guide him, the ground wet from fresh rain, the mud squishing between his back flipper feet, he stumbled forward, a sob rising in his swollen throat.

There, straight down the muddy grassy lawn, he saw a smaller shop, the lettering illegible for his three alien eyes.  On the dimly lit sign a drawing of two creatures that looked like the two halves of himself sat and stared at him.  One was green with two bulgy eyes and webbed feet, the other had paws and fur and floppy ears. It was as if they had put both of his parents on one sign: his mother who had just left, taking his heart with her, and his adventurous father who had died so long ago.  A human creature with a stethoscope stood next to them. This had to be the alien welcome center.  Possibly he could find a new home.  The thought seared his heart with pain, but he was glad to have some place to start.

“What is this?” came the screech from the front desk when he entered, pushing his way through the heavy glass door.

He let out a garbled “Ribbit!”

The fleshy, pink, extremely tall creature rose up on it back legs and pushed black wire and glassy things up around her small eyes. “Joe!  Look at this!” it said, and he found he could understand it.  Thank his mother for teaching him alien languages – or had she been planning on abandoning him here all along?

A tall fleshy creature with a single patch of black fur on the very top of its head came around the corner and broke into a giant smile.  “I had one of these once!  A large furred toad!  They’re thought to be extinct!”

The first creature’s red mouth twisted in what was obvious disgust to him, even if he wasn’t used to its oddly hairless pink face. “You had one of these as a pet?  Where did it come from?”

The one called Joe was still smiling, and it was a peaceful, happy expression that tickled the young alien from his head to his webbed toes.  “Yes!  There have only been three in existence that were ever reported.  I had the third.  Maybe it was one of his family, and another had the intelligence to come looking!”

The first one with the metal and glass around its eyes looked skeptical. “Seriously?”

“I think they don’t come from earth, but that can be our little secret.” Joe winked at the other one and then reached those huge, pink hands down for the alien.  “Come here, little buddy.  Did you know my guy Marcus?”

Of course the name did not ring a bell.  It was human earthling talk.  But the hands were warm, and soon the little alien was snuggled against the large cloth-covered chest.

“I bet you did, little buddy.  Before he left, I told him my house was always open to his kind.  And I’m pretty sure, in his alien head, he knew it was time to go home, raise a family, and tell the next generation about earth.” Joe pet his head, and it calmed him to his very core. “I’m so glad you’re here, little buddy.  Let’s start the next chapter of this foreign exchange program, shall we?”

 

Copyright: RJ Conte 2018

 

“I’m so very ‘umble” – Uriah Heep, Jennifer Lawrence, and You

220px-jennifer_lawrence_sdcc_2015_x-menI happened across an interview with Jennifer Lawrence the other day where she was asked, “Do you believe there’s an afterlife?”

 

Her answer was, “No.  That’s a reaction to innate narcissism.  To think that we don’t have to cease to exist.”

This year I’ve done a lot of thinking about what I’m going to call the Uriah Heep Mentality.

Uriah Heep is one of my favorite, creepy villains of all time.  Charles Dickens created him to be the thorn in David’s side in David Copperfield.

[Heep’s face] was quite as cadaverous as it had looked in the window, though in the grain of it there was that tinge of red which is sometimes to be observed in the skins

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Artwork by Chris Riddell

of red-haired people. It belonged to a red-haired person—a youth of fifteen, as I take it now, but looking much older—whose hair was cropped as close as the closest stubble; who had hardly any eyebrows, and no eyelashes, and eyes of a red-brown, so unsheltered and unshaded, that I remember wondering how he went to sleep. He was high-shouldered and bony; dressed in decent black, with a white wisp of a neckcloth; buttoned up to the throat; and had a long, lank, skeleton hand, which particularly attracted my attention, as he stood at the pony’s head, rubbing his chin with it, and looking up at us in the chaise.

His hands are always wet, cold, and clammy, like a dead fish, and his catch phrase is calling himself “humble” (or ‘umble) over and over again while being a sycophant to everyone around him.

He’s the type of guy you might feel sorry for except that he overdoes the false humility, and later you find out he’s been sneaking around behind everyone’s back to make sure they come to ruin so that he can own them all in the end.  His hypocrisy is deceptively sneaky and takes a suspicious David and a wise Mr. Micawber to figure out the years of ingratiation, lies, and manipulation that went into his scheme.

The sad thing is, I’ve met Christians with Uriah Heep Mentality.

Christians, who, like Jennifer Lawrence pretend to be “so very ‘umble” by saying that God doesn’t love them, God doesn’t want them, they’re worthless, they’re wretched sinners, and they deserve to be trampled upon and have nothing good happen to them their entire lives.  Maybe you don’t realize it in the beginning, but you realize it was false humility all along when they show you how they really think.

These Christians can also find themselves the most sensitive at the slightest perceived “attack.”  Because how dare others criticize when I am trying so hard and am doing so much better than everyone else. The obsequiousness is often sneaky arrogance disguised under a clammy, skeleton costume.

Don’t get me wrong.  Yes, we are wretched sinners.  Yes, we do nothing to earn our salvation.  Yes, we deserve nothing but hell. Yes, we should bow on our faces before a great and powerful God.  (1 Tim. 1:15, Rom. 6:23, 14:11)

But God.

He does not choose to leave us there.  Uriah Heep Mentality forgets all the other verses that talk about us being inheritors with Christ Jesus, a little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor, that the Lord delights over us with singing, that we are bought and redeemed with all of His blood, and that heaven and the kingdom is our inheritance!  (Rom. 8:14-17, Heb. 2:7-9, Zeph. 3:17, Is. 44:22, Luke 12:32)

Does the Christ who died to pay for us want us to go around wringing our hands calling curses down upon ourselves and feeling like bruised victims waiting to assume the worst about everyone and everything because crushing ourselves makes us feel better?  Maybe this isn’t your motivation, or maybe when you peel back the skeleton costume, you reveal that it is.  ❤

It’s actually really super ‘umbling to stop and say, I’m loved by the King of Kings.  I’m His princess or prince.  I am made in His image, the greatest part of His creation, His masterpiece.  Jesus calls me His brother or sister and His friend.  I have His same power in me. Nothing can stop me from receiving God’s love.”  (Deut. 10:17, Ps. 86:5, 36:7, John 15:9-17,  Rom. 8:37-39, Gen. 1:27, Eph. 1:19-20, 2:10)

Do those things make you squirm?  They shouldn’t.  They’re taken directly from Scripture.  See all those verses above.

Why do they make you squirm?  Is it because you’ve been bullied and rejected and downtrodden all your life, and you’re afraid to believe in the Sovereign God’s love for you?  Can I recommend Because He Loves Me by Elyse Fitzpatrick for that, just to sit and seep in the beauty and boosting love of the gospel?  He would have died just for YOU, Christian.  If you had been the only human being on earth. ❤ (Matthew 18:12)

Or is it because you actually believe in a works religion, where you have to keep maiming yourself and brow-beating yourself until you’re “holy enough” that the Lord God will accept you, and it pains you to see other Christians happy and rejoicing in their salvation and inheritance and greatness in Christ? (1 Kings 18:27-29, Phil. 1:14-17, Mt. 23:1-4, Lk 18:10-14, Rom. 14, 

Believe.  Doing comes after.  Believe that it’s nothing of you.  That you could never follow all the rules.  That you could never be perfect.  That you have been lifted up out of that mud that you like to throw yourself into.  That your sins are forgiven, and God doesn’t even see them any more.  That Christ’s blood is all He sees, and you are hidden in Christ.  That He will sanctify those stubborn sins step by step and you don’t have to go on hating yourself to make Him like you better.

Christ would love you even if your sins didn’t change.  

(Phil. 1:6, John 10:28-29, Deut 7:7-10, Is. 54:4-8, Hos 14:4-7, 1 Tim. 1:15-16)

Does that feel like heresy?

It’s not.  Scripture says so.  And if His love was dependent on your sins, then you would have some control over your own salvation.  The life on earth is but a breath.  You are saved – you have eternity in heaven.  His love is everlasting, and it doesn’t disappear in this life-breath when you fail. (Jer. 31:3, Ps. 144:4)

And His love doesn’t lessen AFTER salvation, when you keep messing up.  If He loves you when you did nothing to deserve it, why should you somehow change it like a lever later based on the speed or efficiency of your sanctification?

You should want to quit sinning just because you love Him so much that you want to obey Him with all your heart, not because you think you can force your own holiness and bring yourself into better standing with God.  We are supposed to strive for holiness, but we don’t do that on our own.  We do that leaning on and resting in and being with and enjoying God.  Otherwise, we fail. (John 14:15, Mt. 11:28-29, Ps. 37:4, Eph. 1:19-20, Rom. 8:11, Gal. 5:16)

It’s arrogance to assume you can control any part of Him, and that you can affect the Almighty God’s love for you – that you can control it with your own works and life.  His love is steady like the sun, and its existence nothing to do with you.  It IS and it changes you merely because it is His good pleasure to do so.  It will never change, never stop, never lessen, and never disappear.  David’s wife Michal was chastised for stopping David from dancing and rejoicing in the Lord in what is the ultimate story of Uriah Heep Mentality. (2 Samuel 6:14-23)  It is not narcissistic to rejoice that you are an eternal, spiritual being as well as a physical one, to look forward to eternity and to your glorification in a righteous body, seated up with God in the heavens. His blood has paid for your place there, and He wants you to live like you know it! (Eph. 2:6, Ps. 63:3, Hk. 3:17-18, 

BASK in that.  Enjoy that. Be happy and rejoice. Put your tiara on your head and dance around in it like you would the sunshine on a summer day.  It’s your gift, and instead of shoving the gift away, you can live in the light of that glory.

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Photo by ЗДОРОВЬЕ ЧЕЛОВЕКА

God’s love and kindness
    will shine upon us
like the sun that rises
    in the sky.
On us who live
in the dark shadow
    of death
this light will shine
to guide us
    into a life of peace.

Luke 1:78-79

 

FINALIST!

Finalist!Just got really good news! I got what’s technically 5th place in a contest!! Lucent Sylph made “Finalist” in the Reader’s Favorite Award Contest!!

Readers’ Favorite recognizes “Lucent Sylph” in its annual international book award contest, currently available at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B012LWE1AY.

The Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest featured thousands of contestants from over a dozen countries, ranging from new independent authors to NYT best-sellers and celebrities.

Readers’ Favorite is one of the largest book review and award contest sites on the Internet. They have earned the respect of renowned publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the “Best Websites for Authors” and “Honoring Excellence” awards from the Association of Independent Authors. They are also fully accredited by the BBB (A+ rating), which is a rarity among Book Review and Book Award Contest companies.

We receive thousands of entries from all over the world. Because of these large submission numbers, we are able to break down our contest into 140+ genres, and each genre is judged separately, ensuring that books only compete against books of their same genre for a fairer and more accurate competition. We receive submissions from independent authors, small publishers, and publishing giants such as Random House, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, with contestants that range from the first-time, self-published author to New York Times bestsellers like J.A. Jance, James Rollins, and #1 best-selling author Daniel Silva, as well as celebrity authors like Jim Carrey (Bruce Almighty), Henry Winkler (Happy Days), and Eriq La Salle (E.R., Coming to America).

“When the right books are picked as winners we pay attention. We will be spreading the word about Readers’ Favorite.” –Karen A., Editor for Penguin Random House

Readers’ Favorite is proud to announce that “Lucent Sylph” by RJ Conte won the Finalist Award in the Fiction – Short Story/Novela category.

You can learn more about RJ Conte and “Lucent Sylph” at https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/lucent-sylph where you can read reviews and the author’s biography, as well as connect with the author directly or through their website and social media pages.