Inktober 2019 – Enchanted

I lost the path hours ago, and sunset is upon me. The woods are certainly deep, and they grow darker by the moment, but I no longer think they’re lovely. I wonder, not for the first time today, how many idiots like me Robert Frost has sent to their doom

I think I hear something, away to the right, and freeze, straining to listen. The last thing I need now is to stumble in front of a bear.

Definitely a sound, but not the crunch of stealthy paw on leaves, nor a warning growl. I’d almost swear it’s someone humming a tune. I’d cry with relief if I was sure of what I’m hearing. I turn my head one way and the other until I’m sure of the direction.

I find myself standing in… well, not a clearing, exactly. It would be a clearing, if not for the gigantic tree in the middle of it. I don’t remember seeing any other oaks during my wandering today; I guess this one used up the whole oak budget. It has to be more than eight feet across at the base, and I can’t begin to guess how high.

A moment after I come into the clearing, the source of the tune appears. A young woman is dancing around getting the tree, and before I even get a clear look at her, I feel elation, because I can any least get directions to town.

But now I have had a clear look at her, and which way to town? is not the first question that I want to ask. I realize that there’s more light in this clearing than there was outside, and I wonder why I can’t make out any lamps up in the tree. There’s just a pervasive illumination, a little greener and bluer than daylight, as if the clearing is slightly underwater.

And I also wonder whether it’s the light or the length of time since I last had some water that’s making my vision go funny, because with this much light around, I should be able to tell what she’s wearing. I blink, and then I rub, trying to clear the problem, but it’s still there. Her face is clear enough, clear enough that I can see how striking her eyes are, wide and hazel, as she returns my stare, and I can see the small bright teeth shown as she smiles at me.

And so I don’t know why I can’t tell what she’s wearing. A part of me is trying to suggest that she’s not wearing anything, which is ridiculous, because it’s too cold for that, and because no one is going to be so completely unembarrassed to be naked in front of a stranger, and because I have seen a naked woman before and I know what one looks like and she doesn’t look like that. For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on.

But she has a very nice smile, and when she starts singing I think it’s about the nicest thing I’ve ever heard. She sings to the tree, but that makes sense. The words are a language the tree knows. I sure don’t.

It would be a shame to interrupt, though, so I withdraw to the edge of the clearing, to wait for her to finish her song. The mossy ground looks comfortable enough, once I kick a couple of these skulls aside, and I settle down cross-legged to wait.

Such a pretty song. I sort of hope it doesn’t end too soon.

“Inktober 2019 – Enchanted” ©2019 Dirck de Lint.

Soft Launch

Let me tell you a brief true story. In the fall of 2016, I had a story accepted by a long-running publication called AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review. This was within a fortnight of “The Third Act” being taken up by Trigger Warning, so as you can imagine I was absolutely overwhelmed by a sense of artistic achievement.

But the world does not like too much joy in it. Thus, some grudge-bearing (I assume) terrestrial tetrapod did the hacking equivalent of putting a shotgun to the back  of the head of AE‘s online facility. The site went down so soon after I sent back the edits that I thought I might have been to blame for it, and they weren’t able to even explain to the world what happened for weeks. That explanation was the beginning of a very long road to getting back online.

The return has been accomplished– a soft launch, at the moment, which I assume means “Sound the trumpets! Release the doves!” major official re-launch is in the near future… but I can’t wait for that because I’ve been waiting almost two years to say aloud that I have had a story published by AE!

As I did with my last external publication, I’m going to put a link in the sidebar for… a while… to make sure it’s accessible. I will also, as with the Pseudopod announcement last spring, express how amazed I am to find myself one of such a company of writers. There’s some very good writing there, and I urge anyone who goes there from here to linger, to wander through the stacks, and examine some of the other work, because your time will be rewarded with enrichment.

For my part, I’m going to have a long lie-down. All this jumping up and down, squealing with unalloyed glee, is rather tiring.

Fallout of Friday the 13th

This is not the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT I said would be coming this week.  It is still coming.  Never fear.

This is an announcement of merely average dimensions, to let you know that a new story has been added to the heap here.  Lucky Day is an outcome of yet another of the Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Friday challenges, and since it fell on the 13th last week, the challenge was something to do with luck.

Luck was with me, and I finished briskly, so there will be the two announcements this week.  Hopefully, you will feel that this is also a stroke of luck (“Oh, boy!  Extra words, and all of them free!).

The challenge was not concerned with what flavour of luck was involved.  I decided, because the world needs more of it, to go with good luck.  Of course, me being me, there’s a particular slant to the interpretation of “good luck.”

(Not) Alone in the Dark

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.

Something Short About a Tree

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.

Picking a Side

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.

What? New Content?

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.

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!