Just a little ephemeral thing I did that I want to preserve… at least for a while:
Just a little ephemeral thing I did that I want to preserve… at least for a while:
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!
I’m offering a story today, Remarkable Value, Unbeatable Location, for which I had to look backward in my own life to get some of the details. I’m currently living the North American dream, revelling in my status as owner-occupier of a fully detached single dwelling. Apart from not having anyone but myself to complain to when the drains get clogged, it’s pretty good stuff. I have previously rented, as the last story indicated, and before that I lived in a variety of apartment situations (although the vertical four-plex in Korea was apparently called a ‘villa’, despite the Korean trouble with the letter V, to distinguish it from one of units in the vast thousand-person blocks). It’s the apartment life that the current story is founded in.
Anyone who has lived in an apartment setting will have a story or two about inconsiderate neighbours– it may be over-egging to call it a common horror, but if you think of is as an induced inability to relax in your own home… well, that’s pretty horrible. The Romans were onto something, calling apartment buildings insulae— like shipwreck survivors washed onto the shores of an island, the people living in a block find themselves sharing accommodation with a bunch of strangers. Even if there aren’t cannibals and tigers, things can get a bit tense because none of them have quite the same idea of correct conduct.
I’m very very very proud to announce that I have a story appearing on Trigger Warning: Short Fiction with Pictures. I’m so proud, in fact, that I’ve de-linked the same story from this site for the moment, so if you want to read it, you’ll have to go over there.
I’m proud of this because it’s my first story to be published. More or less. During a recent spate of auto-Googling– because, occasionally, one does like to see how much attention the internet is paying– I found a couple of references to an article which was printed in Dragon, the monthly organ of, at the time, TSR Gaming (long since taken up by Wizards of the Coast). This was not a huge surprise, since it was a high-circulation magazine, even before the dawn of the Nerd Age we currently live in.
More surprising was to find my name popping up on the Internet Science Fiction Database. I entirely remember the story– the surprise is that anyone else took any notice of it. It appeared in the ‘zine emitted irregularly and briefly by Regina Speculative Fiction Society, and when I use the contraction, I am speaking of the old version; a physical object, composed of pieces of paper passed through a photocopier and hand-collated (as photocopiers of the day had trouble with that sort of thing) before being stapled together and handed to subscribers. It was not quite first-generation, as the editors had access to computer printing and so didn’t have to tape together bits of type-written material. But there was tape involved in the paste-up.
It is a non-professional credit, to be sure, since The Spintrian barely managed to mail out any copies with the available budget. While this more recent presentation of my work is not by the technical definition applied by the Horror Writers Association or the SWFA appearing in a professional market either, it is actually bringing in some payment. Semi-pro, we might say. A step on the path to greater things.
Apart from shouting “Hey, everyone! LOOKIT WHAT I DONE!” I’m making this post to underline something we all occasionally forget– what we did in the past can be very hard to bury. Alas, the original file of the story is locked up in Applewriter II formated 5.25-inch floppy discs which I may or may not still have in the house, so I can’t offer a glimpse at that old work of mine. This is probably a good thing. I seem to remember using some phonetic dialogue, and we all know how embarrassing that sort of thing can be.
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.
Another flash story to prove I still care about this enterprise while I’m typing my fingers the very bone working on possibly-saleable works. Today’s presentation, Valuable Role, stems from a writing prompt mentioned by a friend on a pretty good little story he posted only a couple of days ago. It is about the sort of support a person of exceptional capacities should expect from those around them, and it is lightly horrifying.
The thought process was almost exactly this, in fact: “Pretty good. But not the one I’d write.” Well, isn’t that just like a writer? I’m sure others will check into both our stories, have exactly the same thought, and will produce completely different results. Which is also just like a writer. To continue on the theme, I rather ignored the word limit of the exercise my friend was writing to, because I am very in love with my own voice (and want my readers to feel they have has a satisfying serving, too).
The barrage of submission and rejection continues, by the way. I’m sure I’ll get something over the walls eventually!
I am a fan of Star Wars. It’s something I will freely admit, although the qualifiers necessitated by Episodes I, II, and III, (Dumb, Dumber, and Not Enough and Too Late, respectively) are still called for. I was a huge fan in childhood, I was a nostalgic but not avid fan until the idiot trilogy appeared, I was the kind of fan that harboured some enmity towards Lucas from 1999 until last year, and I’m a happy, nostalgic lightly-scarred fan in the wake of last Christmas’s return to form.
However– the whole “Star Wars Day” thing? That didn’t present itself to me until the period of the Great Embitterment. May 4th? “Run along, sonny,” was my response, “Star Wars is a summer film, not a spring one.” This year, the first May 4th since the cloud lifted, I find that I don’t snarl the way I did, but I still can’t embrace the idea.
However, it being mentioned constantly all that day did get some thoughts passing through my head, and those thoughts were sufficient foundation for the new flash fiction, The Suspension of Disbelief.
It may, I fear, be more of a flash than ever. I realized, as I poked the final period of the story, that the foundation of the last paragraph stands on some slightly soft intellectual property ground. I’m not entirely comfortable that “fair dealing” provides me with full protection in making such long references to Star Wars in a work of fiction (that’s “fair use” to you folks in the US). Probably… but not definitely; it’s a grey area to me. I therefore urge you to glance at it while you may; I well bend like the supple grass should a Disney lawyer as much as clear a Bar-accepted throat in my direction.