SPOTLIGHT ON SARAH L. CROWDER
Ellowrites is pleased to showcase Sarah L. Crowder.
Below is a brief bio, two selections of her work, and links to additional work here on Ello and on her personal website.
Follow Sarah @codenamesarah and comment on her work!
A writer since childhood, Sarah L. Crowder’s homage to classic pulp horror, “Street Lamp,” was published in the short story collection "Hidden Dimensions" in 1996. Her literary critique of the gothic classic, “Feminist Symbolism in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper,'” was published in “Composite: Volume 5,” the 1998 edition of the writing manual for students at North Harris College. Her first collection of poetry, a chapbook entitled "The Turnip Made Me Do It," came out in July 2003. She co-edited the zine “Zombies & Kittens” with writer E. K. Keith in 2004.
She was also a board member from 2005 – 2008 for Panhandler Publishing, a non-profit poetry foundation that published The Panhandler Quarterly.
Ms. Crowder’s early adulthood was devoted to stage work. During this time, she performed in over twenty plays and trained as a classical singer. She went on to direct several plays with fellow artist Sunday Luna, including “Les Liaisons Dangereuse,” for The School of Love, Blood, and Rhetoric. She was featured as the primary voice actress for the Radio Theatre Project on KPFT 90.1 FM, where she was also a contributing writer for the show. Her musical spoof “In the City” (produced by and co-starring Otis MacLay) was named a finalist for the 2005 Golden Reel Award, and received a Special Merit Award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters.
In July 2010, she launched Vacation Necronomicon School, an interactive web course on the works of H. P. Lovecraft.
Ms. Crowder lives with her partner in Houston, Texas, where she continues to write short fiction with an emphasis on surreal, horrific, or comedic elements, and a series of romantic novels.
First selected writing
It always began with a maddening sound, at the edge of her hearing: a whisper of feathers against air. It always ended with a golden claw tapped against the pulse point in her neck: a promise, a threat.
Between, she learned again and again that creatures other than birds -- or angels -- had whisper soft wings.
No one in the village scoffed at the old ways. They barred their doors when the stars aligned, as had every generation before them. Strange sigils adorned their barns and stranger charms hung in the eaves above their beds and cradles.
It was easy to respect the old ways when the disbelievers disappeared so quickly.
Some say it started with an incident in a discotheque in Stuttgart, but experts couldn’t say for sure. All they knew was that there was no known cure. Cannier amateurs had been correctly interpreting the warning signs for years, but no one heeded their warnings until it was too late, and the world fell silent.
Gregory hated how the flowers turned fresh petals to the sun as they loosed yellow havoc into the breeze. The pressure in his sinuses never eased up, even though he spent all day indoors, hunched over his fluorescent-lit desk.
Until one spring day when he slipped a carefully prepared canister into his briefcase, and smiled.
One ill-chosen real estate bargain can ruin everything.
Ghostly raps against walls and phantom footsteps can be tolerated. One can even make allowances for shadowy figures or transparent ladies in white. But ask a spirit board a foolish question, and you may well regret the answer you find scrawled across the mirror in human blood.
There were too many to count. The creatures hung from the rafters and crowded around the tiny attic window, as though absorbing nourishment from the moonlight, but turned when they heard the key grating in the lock. Shirley pressed against the door and gasped as thousands of tiny, sharp teeth smiled in greeting...or farewell.
“Land whale,” they taunted at school. “Pig, cow, hippo, cunt!” This time, each word cut as efficiently as a surgeon’s blade, whittling her away -- better than any diet she’d tried. At first only the globular yellow tissue she hated most disappeared, but eventually she grew altogether hazy.
Still, invisibility seemed a small price to pay.
If they smell the grave on her, they never seem to care. And it’s easy enough to take prey this way -- a quick bite as they come, when they’re mindless -- but it’s also easy to lose yourself in the moment, and make the little death a large one.
Vampirism is often a sexually transmitted disease.
Dante got it wrong. It’s not icy cold. There aren’t rings, levels, or pits of flaming tar, but there is eternal torment. It’s a lot like sitting on the veranda of a house built in a swamp. You swat demonic mosquitos and complain that it’s not the heat, but the humidity that really gets you.
Their son seemingly changed overnight. They called this newly odd child their “changeling,” but the family said it fondly, and loved him all the same. They might have felt differently if they had known that their own boy -- their true child -- now lived beneath the fairy mound, and his sunny laughter now charmed the Fae.
She’d counted his conversational transgressions -- each swear word, each vulgar insinuation -- and stabbed him once for all 47 of them. He’d never offend her dainty ears again, or any other delicately bred lady, and although her solution was perhaps a touch forceful, she could not believe it to be as coarse as the man’s language.
You always think you know what you want -- at least until you have it. So mark out those runes on dry parchment, and sit inside a chalk circle chanting until you’ve bound their will to your own. They’ll never leave you, it’s true -- but only too late will you understand what a responsibility that is.
Time passed beyond time, and the last people rattled about a landscape parched beyond redemption. They kept the fires bright at night until the bitter end, because strange creatures lurked just beyond the light.
Until one by one the stars blinked out of the sky, never to return, and no earthly fire could keep darkness at bay.
You can read all of Sarah’s nanofiction by clicking #tvsmnb
Second selected writing
Visiting the Ruins
I could just see the shimmer of the force field at the edges of the hole in the ceiling, and the green-tinged sky above that. My eyes were drawn again and again to that crumbled corner, and the rainbow haze at the edge of the stone.
The museum seemed a hastily assembled place. Columns were propped up rather than reconstructed, the crude bracing apparatus foreign against the ancient smooth stone. Everywhere around me technology mixed with decay – even the artifacts housed in rows of clear, controlled glass display cases had cards of explanation that looked rushed and unbelievably old fashioned. They looked like samples of text I had seen in a typewriter exhibit when I was a small child, in some other forgotten museum back on Earth.
I wandered through the displays, occasionally catching a glimpse of Franco at the end of a corridor, or somewhere across the great room with its ruined edge and that glimpse of odd, green sky above. We had agreed to go our separate ways, so we each toured the ruins at our own pace, though my route was random in a calculated way.
I was avoiding him.
I studied a clay object far longer than was necessary, just to waste time. I couldn’t make out its use, and its given description was useless. It was an offertory, the card said, or a common household object. I realized that the archaeologists here had no way to gauge the accuracy of their suppositions — they were simply making it up as they went along.
Suddenly this last museum tour seemed more appropriate.
Weren’t Franco and I just making it up as we went along? Weren’t we all?
The thought was oddly comforting, even so far from home.
I made my way through to the end of the exhibit, only slightly less confused than when I entered. I took one last glance at the opening in the roof and at the alien sky, and wondered suddenly how much it cost to maintain that barrier and the oxygen rich atmosphere inside. I suddenly wondered how quickly the oxygen would dissipate if that little membrane failed, and shivered.
We weren’t supposed to be there. We should never have come to this place.
I found Franco at the little gift shop near the exit.
I picked up a small black object from the shelf nearest me, just to feel its smooth weight against my palm. It was a perfect replica of one of the displays inside; I wondered how it had been cast in such an exact way, how all of the markings had been so precisely rendered. Turning it again and again in my hand, I had the strangest feeling that everything here was cursed somehow.
“Come on,” Franco said. “We’ll miss our shuttle.”
I put the little artifact back on the shelf, and smiled wistfully at the cashier. “Maybe next time,” I said, knowing that I would never come back.
It’s easy enough to lie. I should know.
We were alone again in the shuttle. It seemed to me that our seats were too close together, or maybe the air was pressurizing too quickly.
Franco looked like a stranger in the low light of the cabin, as strange and unknown as the object I had left behind in the souvenir shop. Before I knew what I was doing, I impulsively reached out and traced the side of his jaw with my fingertip, just gliding along the edge and down the side of his neck, following the pulse within.
“Don’t,” he whispered. “Just don’t. It makes it so much harder.”
“To leave? Or to go back home?” I asked.
Franco closed his eyes and turned away as the shuttle began to vibrate beneath us. Our departure was announced in an automated monotone, and I felt the old lurch in my stomach as the planet dropped away below.
I touched the screen in front of my seat and slid my finger through the menu until I found the view I wanted. There, just below us, growing smaller by the second, were the alien structures – the pyramids like a mountain range behind the great hall we had just visited. The rift in the roof was clear even at this height. It seemed almost to grow as the building diminished into the landscape.
The rift was so, so much larger than it seemed.
Read more of Sarah’s work on Ello
“Apollo at 4 a.m.”
“Kitty and Mimmy”
“Requiem for a Record Player”
Read even more of Sarah’s work at her website.