Alone in the dark? Oh, heavens, no. It’s the solstice, and thus dark for everyone in the northern hemisphere… although I guess those below the tropic line will hardly notice.
It being that time of year, I am once again offering a story for Christmas, because it’s something Charles Dickens and M.R. James did; I am weak enough to hope for if not to quite believe in sympathetic magic, and so try to do what they did with an eye to becoming what they were.
…perhaps, now that I think of Dickens’s last days, this is not a great plan.
Anyway, this year’s story is Snowman. The title is a bit of a giveaway; there is a snowman mentioned in it. They’re a staple of kids’ songs and Rankin animations, but the snowman is something of a rarity here in the land of the living skies; we get snow, but it’s usually so dessicated that you can’t form it.
I hope you enjoy reading it, and I also hope you have plenty of people of cuddle up with in this season of long nights and chill winds. The dark is more tolerable when there’s someone to share it with.
The season of incandescent ursine juggling has passed, and I am able to bash out a story in pursuit of the Friday Terribleminds Challenge. The most current item is to be about a tree.
So that’s what I’ve done, and it’s called Sheltered. Like the last time, it’s more fantasy than anything else. I appear to be running all my horror into the novel… and into my reactions to current events, which I will not mention in any further detail.
Well, look at that. I’m holding to a resolution, at least for a second week, and developing a story for the Terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenge again despite huge if unconscious opposition from the non-writing elements of my life. This week’s challenge was a quite simple one: a story about good versus evil.
He who provides the challenge declares that its inspiration was no more than the fact of watching a horror film. I will admit that I allowed a little of current events to colour the small not-quite-steampunk fantasy of Between Good and Evil, Some Grey; there are some things that you just can’t claim neutrality in without at least tacitly supporting one side.
Yes, indeed. While I am still devoting the largest part of my creative energy and time to the novel, I’ve decided that I’m going to make a serious effort at posting some fresh fiction here more than once every… six(ish) months. I am motivated in this by reading the work of other authors.
Particularly, by the blog of Chuck Wendig. He does a regular flash fiction challenge over there, and while spending idle moments at the day job reading through back numbers, I was struck with this thought– a prompted flash fiction is something that I can probably do during these same idle moments, and a prompted flash fiction with a deadline means I might actually put words where people may enjoy them (hopefully) before the projected end of the second draft effort on the novel. Which may, possibly, be done by early December.
So, today we have I Held Your Heart Once. The title comes from the challenge, as do the first and last sentences. I might have been at this sooner, but those three elements were the products of the previous three challenges. You can, therefore, understand me to be blaming a famous and rather good author for keeping me from posting any new writing here for a month.
You can. But I think I’d prefer if you didn’t. I’ve been busy.
Well… not really.
There is the British tradition of creepy stories at this time of year, as exemplified by most of M.R. James’s output, and I can more or less hang Occasional Lapses of Service on that hook. I suspect James would probably chastise me slightly for stepping away from one of his very useful guidelines in the writing of ghost stories, one which I generally cling to pretty firmly– but it’s not really a ghost story either, so I will nod my head in admission of the departure without feeling that I’ve actually strayed from the path.
It is also not a traditional Christmas story in most other senses of the that phrase, even though there is a passing reference to carol singing. It is, however, presented only days ahead of Christmas, and is meant as a gift to the world in general.
And now, as last year, it’s time to get seasonal liver damage through the fat and alcohol content of egg nog, and cuddle my son while we decide if that noise on the roof is a reindeer, a lead-footed squirrel (of which we’ve many in the neighbourhood), or something else entirely. Wæs hæil, everyone!
The last story I presented here was inspired by The Cast of Wonders TriWonders Flash Fiction, and in the post accompanying it I mentioned that it hadn’t been submitted there because it was much too long rather than not being good enough.
I offer a similar item today. I didn’t send Why He Fight along to Cast of Wonders not because it fails to pass muster as a story, but because when I finished it and had my little chuckle of authorial satisfaction at it, the imp on my left shoulder began to suggest that it was perhaps not quite striking the tone sought by the contest. If you look at the announcement, you won’t see a thing about that, but listening to the promos on Pseudopod and Escape Pod, there was a clear suggestion of… spendour, I guess. Or, at least, that’s what the imp said. It said it persuasively enough that I hesitated to submit, until the deadline passed.
Which means I had a perfectly functional little fantasy story without a home. That’s no good! So, here it is, put up in a permanent residence where it can enjoy the rest of its days.
I’m also going to commit publicly to producing a second story before the end of the month. Just before the end of the month, on the year’s great day itself. In keeping with most of the stories here, it will be appropriate to the season. Unlike the others, it will be a true and accurate autobiographical item. Sound like fun? Stay tuned!
The new story, A Reaction to Pollen, is one of the sort which makes authors fall down frothing when asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” For no reason whatever, I had a brief mental image of the way pollen can huff out of a pine tree, and by the end of the next minute, the story was essentially fully formed, just wanting some keyboard time to get out of my head.
I didn’t even have to put aside the bigger story I’m currently hacking from the marble of imagination. A very productive fiction day, yesterday.
One thing that bugs me about the story is that it’s specific to a gender, which it need not be– the person in it could be male or female and the flow of the story would not be affected. Another couple of generations and we may have an English singular pronoun which can be used for humans that doesn’t set gender, given how the matter is currently being examined by society, but for the moment, I had to choose between he or she because it is the wrong sort of creepy. Feel free when reading, if you’re inclined, to think of a different gender whenever a pronoun crops up; I positively encourage it.
The new Current Story is called A Stroll in Breda, and I have a lot of trouble deciding what genre it lies in. It is a very gentle excursion into weird fiction, lacking the brutality of finish that marks horror, and without the overt unreality of fantasy. As you’ll see in the tags, this had led me to stuff its octagonal peg in both a square and a round hole at the same time.
There is an something of authorial personal experience to this piece, but only trace elements. My father does indeed come from Breda (or an immediately adjacent village which has since been absorbed), and I have stood in several of the places mentioned. The Mastbos, for all its trim plantation nature, has the power to be a very eerie place in the right light. The beer is unreasonably good, and not just in the little bar across the street from the old tank.
This weekend, my generally quite North American family will be observing Sinterklaasje (fellow long-time fans of the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast will understand what it means to say that some of the background noise of my childhood was in the Dutch language). Our idiosyncratic approach to the day sees a handing of a single small present to each of the kids in the room after a small clue-driven scavenger hunt, while the adults try not to look meaningfully in the direction of the next clue lest Zwaart Piet appear to steal our rum.
Since I’ve already got a bit of a scavenger hunt going, I’m marking the day here by simply posting a very silly little bit of fiction, the short title of which is Two Natural Oddities. A bit of fun and self-flagellation, in keeping with the season.
I don’t really have a good genesis to share in the introductory blurb for the new Current Story. As is so often the case, “where do your ideas come from?” is no more than a koan to induce despair in the writer’s heart, and this is particularly the case for “Wish Away” because I really have no idea where it sprang from. I suppose if I wanted a clearer notion, I’d contact a psychologist.