This is NOT an Anniversary Present

Today is my wedding anniversary (my wife’s as well, by happy coincidence!). It is purest chance that I’m putting forth a story today.  Especially one that takes the theme of vengeance as its seed-crystal, once again at the suggestion of this guy who writes somewhat more than I do.

No, the anniversary present involves going out to a nice sushi restaurant, son in tow, and eating until we’ve all got That Innsmouth Look. This because we like sushi, we don’t have use for any more china (which is what “tradition” has as appropriate for this year) and watching my son eat “exotic” food gives me strange joy. But while we’re off doing that, there’s no reason that people who aren’t us can’t enjoy a short story about revenge, which is precisely what Dig Two Graves is about.

A small semi-spoiler of a note to go with it, which I will go down a couple of lines to reveal:

 

Almost…

 

OK. Here it is:

 

I am not specific about the offense at the bottom of the vendetta. I was intending to be less so, to the point that I chose the name “Felix” as being reasonably close in meaning to “Fortunato” without actually lifting from Poe. That I then give a sense that there is some actual reason behind the plot beyond a possibly-imaginary “thousand injuries” is probably a tacit admission that I’m perhaps not quite as good at this writing wheeze as was Poe… but you may also ponder just how culpable Felix is

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It’s in the Trees!

That’s a line from Night of the Demon, the excellent 1957 film adaptation of M.R. James’s “Casting the Runes” and I seriously recommend giving an evening over to watching it.

But that has nothing to do with this post.  I ran into something on Twitter that gave me a spasm of creativity, and I thought I might as well preserve it here, for my own future amusement at least. First of all, here’s the triggering image:

Twitter screen capture: Unusual 65ft-tall beech tree found in the Balkan mountains (photo: Deyan Kossev) over a photo of a tree which has somehow come to look like human with arms upraised.

And here’s what fell out of my head:

Twitter screen capture: The mad old woman had gold, as they had said. It jingled in his pouch as be ran from her cabin. When he got back to town, he would buy all the lads at the tavern a drink. He would embellish the story, of course. Something about a vast guardian demon...

Twitter screen capture: Suddenly, she was in front of him. Too surprised to shove her aside, he threw his arms up to hold his balance as he skidded to a stop. They stayed up. He felt the blood going cold and thin inside him, felt the inverse of pain as roots drove down out of his feet.

Twitter screen capture: She looked into his remaining eye, sinking into its socket of wood. "The theft," she said, "I might have forgiven; there is always more gold. But to do that to a harmless old cat... for that, you may stand there and lament your fate until the woodsmen come for you."

Twitter screen capture: For long ages, he felt insects and birds at work on his flesh. As he grew to join their canopy, he learned the language of the trees; they insulted him daily. Once, a person stopped in front of him and took a picture. He could not call out the them, his mouth long grown over.

Oh, Me of Little Faith

Yesterday, I was concerned for having gotten people all stirred up about my upcoming story at Pseudopod, as there was apparently a delay.

It turns out the delay could have been, from the time of my posting, measured in minutes without being inconvenient to the measurer.

This morning, then, I sit in a state of radiant giddiness, having just listened to Free Balloons for All Good Children read by a rather good narrator, Rish Outfield.  Not only that, host Alasdair Stuart said some things in the following notes which brought such a state of happiness to me that I can hardly breathe at the mere memory of them.  The words “Lovecraft with all his ridiculous toxic nonsense stripped away” said in conjunction with something I’m responsible for…

Sorry.  Had to go lie down for a moment. I suspect this state I’m in, feet well clear of the floor, will persist for some time.

This also brings about a rather unusual state of affairs in the sidebar; two Current Stories.  I don’t think this will persist beyond the time that “Free Balloons for All Good Children” is the top of Pseudopod’s roll, because even as swollen as it currently is, my ego is still governable.  But, for now, my Current Story is a two-headed freak.

And I love it, in all it’s alien wrongness.

I Promise You, It’s True

All right, it’s time for that BIG ANNOUNCEMENT, so I hope you’re all either sitting comfortably or have a firm grip on your hat and/or wig.  I should also suggest monocles be safely stowed elsewhere for a moment.

One week from today, a story of mine called “Free Balloons for All Good Children” will be released by Pseudopod.

…which is amazing to me.  Not only is it a sale at professional pay rates, which means I can start pretending to be a professional author… in fact, “not only” is too strong, because sweet jumping catfish, have you seen the sort of company this thrusts me into?  Honestly, use that link and flip through the amazing bunch of talented folks they’ve presented over the years.  I can feel myself glowing from the mere inclusion on such a list.  The money is nice, but it’s very much secondary.  Imposter Syndrome is in what I hope will be a long period of remission.

What you won’t find there, currently, is any mention of my story, yet. So why am I announcing it now?  Because I want to make sure everyone has time to get their Eyetunes or other etheric transmission interceptors set to the correct co-ordinates to listen in. Also, there’s more than a decade of other stories that you might want to hear or read as well, if you’ve somehow been missing out on the dark splendour of it all.  So turn your selectors to Pseudopod, and stand by for emanation!

Outright Theft

Something that troubled me in my tender years, when idea of writing as something I might do first surfaced, can be articulated thus: All the good titles have been used. Back then, I thought that the title was sacrosanct, and since H.G. Wells had used The Star then neither I nor any other person could title a story with those two words.

I then went back to pushing a small plastic Luke Skywalker around the floor in a Kenner-made Landspeeder while enjoying Saturday morning cartoons.  My view of the world was a little naive for a very good reason.

I now know that this is not the case, and that the same title can grace diverse works of literature, and even films!  Still, childhood notions are sticky, so I sometimes baulk at a title that I know hangs on something else.  I’m hoping the latest flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig has burnt some of that idea out of me, because he’s instructed people to take a title from a Stephen King novel– just grab it and use it!

And so I have.  My little tiny Bag of Bones has nothing whatever to do with King’s fat bundle of words, bar the fact that it has the same three words stuck to the front.  I’ve slightly exceeded the word limit for flash, but since I’m on very good terms with the editor here, I’m not getting in trouble for it.

And while I’m here, I’m going to tease– stand by for a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT next week!  I’m so giddy about it I could burst, but I’m also quite good at keeping secrets.  See you then, I hope.

…ALSO also, I’ll also point out the newly-minted donation button, for those who incline that way, in the left side-bar, which looks rather like this one:
Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Vacation Time

Boy, that sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it.  This winter, the living skies have been more than usually lively, and have offered freezing rains followed by the kind of temperatures only Antarctic explorers look upon as acceptable, screeching winds, and the usual crop of parhelions (which I understand some places treat as a rare source of wonder).

I mention this for two reasons.  First, I am still labouring along on The Novel, from which no vacation is allowed if it is ever to be finished.  Second, there has been another flash-fiction prompt from Chuck Wendig, on the topic of travel woes, which I thought I should pursue to remind myself that something other than The Novel exists.

Thus, Getting There is Half the Fun.  Yes, a well worn title.  I know.  My brain is riddled with the cracks of temperature stress.

Tossin’ and Turnin’

I was listening to a fellow speaking of human sleep arrangements lately, and on the way to his main point, he mentioned some people from the Solomon Islands objecting to what their London hosts thought was lavish treatment, a separate hotel room for each one of their party.  “What,” I’m told they asked, “if one of us has a nightmare?”

Dreams are funny things.  I can see how people can come around to the notion that they present a window on an actual separate reality, since there is sometimes such a wealth of detail in unfamiliar settings that it is very hard to credit the subconscious with such inventive powers.

…but then there are the dreams in which things are so deeply wrong that you really, really hope there’s nothing at all to that notion, because the partitions between the wings of the multiverse are just not thick enough if that stuff is on the far side.

Guess which sort I’m going to recount for you?  I have been battering away at the novel and a story for an anthology I’d quite like to get into, and so haven’t been able to run up stories for this enterprise in a while, but last night’s vision of global, possibly universal, destruction was so affecting, I thought I should at least try to squeeze some of it out of my head for presentation here.  So, if you ever wondered idly to yourself, “What sort of nonsense is running around inside the heads of writers,” I offer a small but vibrant sample.  Be careful to not get any on you, it is almost certain to stain your clothes.

Have a Little Consideration

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.

A Proper Upbringing

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!