If you've been keeping up with my fiction thus far - you probably have noticed a consistent theme of redemption. Characters who face incredible traumas are able to find beauty in the chaos. Every single one of those stories has a special place in my heart.
And then there's this one story that imagines a universe with a cold, angry God.
I have a Master's in Quaker Studies, and a graduate certificate in Anabaptist Studies, and one of the most overwhelmingly glaring issues in reading theology from the colonial era is how bonkers it comes across. The Puritans believed in the existence of werewolves, for instance. They executed and hung Quakers (and others) based on accusations of heresy and witchcraft. If we took the God of that era of theology and believed it to a lot of its natural conclusions, then God looks nothing like what is seen in Jesus. The point is, I don't think it's a good idea to be glorifying theology from that era.
I read colonial-era theology, and thought to myself: "What if the craziest thing I read about God in these early journals and sermons was right? What would the world actually look like?"
About two or three years later, I wrote down the journal section of "The Journal of Mary Gurney." And then, when I grew in skill more, I wrote in the rest of the story. I took Quaker ideas about a God of love and justice, and then blended it together with angry Puritan ideas about how God punishes people - just to show readers perhaps a glimpse into what it would actually look like if God was as cruel as he was taught back then.
All of that being said... the fiction market truly is a wonderful, unpredictable place. I thought this story was unmarketable.
For context, I've been submitting a piece around about an adult child of an addict processing the sudden violent death of his drug dealing father. My writing coach called it my "breakout piece." It's made three people cry who have read it. I cried while writing it and I didn't even live the story. As of this writing, it has been rejected fourteen times.
The horror market also has toned down over the years. They're no longer into violence, profanity, etc... which was a challenge for me because the early Quakers were absolutely persecuted and tortured for their testimonies. While I wasn't graphic, I wanted to accurately paint a picture of what it was like for the early Friends in the colonies as they went against the status quo of the day. According to at least half of the horror market, this story wouldn't pass. This is a big ol' frowny face.
So I made two versions of the story - one that was very toned down and one that didn't hold back, or some scenes changed outright. I submitted it around... and it was only rejected three times. And the version that was accepted? It was the version that I didn't expect to get accepted.
I've accepted powerlessness over what's published and what's not. In that acceptance, I see that I don't know what I'm doing and that's what makes it fun.
It was fun writing this story. Not going to lie. It has so many elements from movies and shows I enjoyed as a kid, and continue to enjoy. There's something about the horror genre that still speaks to people, and I hope, if nothing else, that folks enjoy the weirdness of it all.
Give it a read here if you're into horror stuff... and I won't be the least bit offended if you skip this one.