A Traditional Holiday Story

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!

Rather Light, Mildly Fantastic

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!

Memories of Springtime

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.

Taking a Constitutional

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.

A Tiny Present

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.

The Power of Positive Thinking

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.

Quivering, he steps into the light.

This exercise should not be as intimidating as I’m letting it be.  I have, after all, been keeping a blog long enough to run out of original thoughts.

Wait.  That may not be the right tone.  Pressing onward!

This is a somewhat different prospect than my long-standing effort to increase the amount of stream-of-consciousness nonsense cluttering up the servers of the world.  This is an effort to present myself as an author, someone who doesn’t just tip words out of his head, but who puts some time and effort into lining up what pitches out of that hole in his head, arranging it into pleasing, amusing, and even possibly-effective shapes.

Since the aforementioned running-out, I’ve been keeping the followers of my thoughts on the strange and arresting world of fountain pens and other outdated concepts up to date on my efforts to create short stories.  I have also, a couple of times, mentioned submitting these stories to publishers.  Thus far, no success, and I am informed that a part of my failure to impress is that I don’t already have a presence as an author in the world.  There is that blog, which is as fine an un-revised heap of mis-spelled words and poorly-braced sentences as one could hope to find.  It’s not, for want of a better word, polished.  There’s also the informational website I keep and intermittently add to, but that’s non-fiction (mostly).

A very little of my writing, the fun, carefully-handled fictional stuff I actually dignify with that term, has shown up on that earlier blog, placed as an penance offering to the followers there (I am mindful of your patience, folks).  That same material is, initially, what will show up here.  This is by way of priming the pump– once I have this thing’s engine running smoothly, the original material will start to flow.  Expect fresh things to appear by the end of this week, in fact.

Before presenting any of that writing, I’ll add an admission familiar to followers of my other blog: I am terrible at self-promotion.  The quivering mentioned above is not just from the prospect of dragging my tender tales out into the searing light of public scrutiny, but at the audacity of hoping people might actually pay to look at them.  Not just “some people”, the nebulous personification of editors and a greater reading public, but actual, discrete people– I’ve gone and set myself up on Patreon, hoping that some small bonuses for becoming a patron will move folks who enjoy the kind of writing I do to encourage me to keep at it.  If you’re that kind of people, pop on down that link.  The very least you will get out of it is an expression of gratitude.

Enough of that, though.  You’re not here for this, you’re here for stories.  The current story is “The Notes of Erich Zann,” which I chose as the inaugural entry here for a couple of reasons.  First, it is very nearly a fan-fiction, to the point that I wouldn’t think of submitting it to any publisher who wasn’t specifically calling for works picking up where something H.P. Lovecraft had done left off.  Second, it’s relatively big, and if I’m not putting something brand new out to test this new forum of mine, I should at least offer something meaty.

You will also find a few things in The Back Files, a few previously submitted or presented objects to keep it from being a yawning void while this enterprise if getting up to steam.  Because I do want to get off to a bang, “The Notes of Erich Zann” will be rotating into The Back Files in about a week, and a story never publicly presented before will take over the place of prominence.

I hope you’re as excited as I am, if not quite as nervous.