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.
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!
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!
The new story, Inner Voice, is another example of me giving into a long-standing stupid notion. At least ten years ago, while I was out walking in the glories of a prairie summer, I got a picture of a composite movie PI in my head, a blending of Humphrey Bogart, Darren McGavin, Robert Montgomery… and a few others, at any rate, involved in a very short scene.
“But what,” said I of a decade past, “can I make of this? Where might it go? I can’t keep that sort of thing up for any length!”
And there it lay at the bottom of my mental pond, until the cement around its feet loosened. I doesn’t have to go anywhere, in this brave world of flash-fiction. It could, I finally realized, go only so far, live out its life as a simple vignette, and bring some joy to others.
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.
I’m sure you’re aware of it by now, too. There’s a lot of advertising money being spent to explain that fact to you, coincidentally attached to suggestions regarding repair. Women are, I discover from these informative commercials, even more broken than men, despite the evident stupidity and incompetence of fathers who blunder into kitchens.
Since human breakage is a nice place to go for horror, the new flash story Exciting New Designer Jeans follows this notion into the exotic lands of reductio as absurdum. It started life as just a product name, popping into my head from wherever these intrusions spawn, and the story is an attempt to exorcise it.
…and it’s not that different from what went before. This first post-alteration-of-policy story is a shorty, as promised or threatened. Human Endurance is a horror story without a supernatural element, which is a little unusual for me, but it does stick to my preference for implication rather than flaunting.
I also want to mention that this is likely to hold for some time the record for “story held only in the mind,” as the basic images in it have been drifting around in my head for at least six years but I never before got around to as much as writing down a single note to fix it in the world before actually writing the thing. This is, I think, a poor practice, and I’m going to try to avoid it in the future.
The new Current Story, which like the one it replaces is a flash, is offset in season. I had expected, when getting my batting order sorted out, that the December/January transition would find much of North America wriggling in the grip of tyrant Winter and we’d all like a vicarious excursion into summer.
Mild temperatures, however, seem to be the norm this year, although there have been some odd extremities of wind and snow in some locations. The Mermaid Parade remains the new story, though, because however wanting in chill it is, there’s still a bleakness to winter that I don’t mind being distracted from for a moment.
I’ll also mention that the genesis of the story was from merely reading the phrase “Mermaid Parade” in a state of profound ignorance as to how the actual item (which there is one of; if this is news to you as it was to me, here’s the straight goods on it) was conducted. After some giggling at the more whimsical mental images, this story is what fell out of my head. As with most stuff that drops from that chamber, it has little to do with the real world, and I hope anyone who has a deep and abiding fondness for the actual parade will forgive the excursion I took.