Tag Archives: snow

Wednesday Write-In #63

This week’s words for CAKE.shortandsweet’s Wednesday Write-In were:

hideout  ::  transitory  ::  share  ::  full bodied  ::  problem

Image: blog.kyletunneyphotography.com

Image: blog.kyletunneyphotography.com

Little Girl Lost

‘It’s almost full bodied, isn’t it?’ Becky settled her head on her folded arms as she stared out the reinforced window, her vision getting lost in the howling dark. Nelson cleared his throat, wondering where she was going with this one.

‘How d’you mean, full bodied? Like, curvaceous?’ He licked his lips.

‘Nah, you twit,’ she said, turning to smile at him. In the candlelight, her hair was translucent. ‘I mean, multi-layered. Sort of lovely, if you look at it the right way. Full of hidden depths.’

‘If you say so.’ Nelson settled back into his chair. ‘Just looks like a pile of snow, to me.’

‘Yes. Well. You never did have an eye for beauty.’ She waited for his snort of laughter, but the crackle of the radio interrupted them.

Hideout? We’ve got a problem.’ Becky moved smoothly, on silent feet, to Nelson’s side.

‘Control? Hideout here. What’s up?’ Nelson’s voice was steady, but his fingers weren’t.

It’s the signal. It’s fluctuating,’ came the reply. Becky wasn’t sure who was speaking – the voice was unfamiliar. Control changed radio operators pretty frequently; nobody lasted long, up here.

‘Fluctuating? How can it fluctuate?’ replied Nelson. The set started to squeal, like an animal in pain.

…can’t explain it. It’s strong as ever one second, and gone the next. Have you…’ The rest of the message was lost in a scramble of static. Nelson fiddled with the controls as Becky bit back her urge to tell him to hurry. She clenched her fists and turned back toward the window again, the darkness drawing her eyes like water to a plughole.

Then, something hit the glass. Something small. Something pale.

‘Nelson!’ she said, in a half-hiss. ‘There’s something – ‘

Hideout? Hideout, are you there?’ The radio sputtered. ‘Be advised we’re getting readings… levels of radiation off the…

‘Hello? Control?’ Nelson thumped the set. ‘Dammit! I can’t find the frequency. It’s like something’s bending the waves.’ Becky was only half-listening.

‘Nelson, there’s something out there,’ she said, her voice low. ‘Something alive.’ Nelson sucked his teeth in irritation and bent toward the radio again.

‘Your brain’s got frostbite, darlin’,’ he muttered. ‘Nothin’s able to live out there, Becks! You know that. Come and help me with this, willya?’

A small, pale shape slapped itself against the window pane, and then was gone again. It reminded Becky of a piece of paper caught in the jaws of the wind, a transitory message left unread. A downy feather, floating on a breath of breeze. A flash of sunlight through green leaves. A tiny face with dark eyes, lost.

She’d slipped into her jacket before Nelson even noticed she’d moved from his side.

‘Oi!’ he yelled, as a gust of frozen wind ripped through the hideout, upending equipment and dousing candles. Before he could move, Becky was out the door; by the time he’d suited up and made it to the threshold, she’d been swallowed by the emptiness.

Becky!’ he called, his breath fogging up his visor. ‘For God’s sake! Where are you?’ He took a couple of steps away from the hideout, trying to follow Becky’s tracks. He could only see a few feet, and he was terrified to move too far from the door. You could turn around in weather like this and get so lost you’d never be found, and Nelson knew it.

Already, he was getting tired. It had only been seconds, and his bones were starting to ache. He took two more steps, and then he fell to his knees.

Then, somewhere up ahead, something moved. Nelson’s heart skipped as he struggled to focus on it.

‘Becks?’ he shouted, realising as he did so that he was out of breath. ‘Becky!

A child – a child? – appeared out of the whirling snow. Tiny, white, dark eyes, dressed in rags. Nelson didn’t know her, but that was the least weird thing about her being there. He struggled to understand as his blood turned to slush in his veins. Nelson blinked, and the child was beside him, her cruel teeth bared and her tiny ice-dagger fingers around his neck.

‘Next time you’ll share your warmness and your good stuff, won’t you?’ whispered the child as it stepped over Nelson, its bare feet blue. ‘Next time I won’t have to take what I need, will I?’

The only answer the child received as it closed and sealed the hideout door against the night was the hiss of the radio, still searching for a signal that would never come.

Thinking to Keep Warm

It’s another bitterly cold day today. It’s almost cruel that this type of weather makes everything look so pretty, but has such a negative impact on people’s lives, isn’t it?

My parents had planned to come and visit today, but the weather might prevent them from travelling; this thought makes me very sad indeed. I’m hoping that the newly-risen sun will bring enough warmth with it to clear the roads of ice and make their journey possible. Of course, I know that this is a small problem. This sort of weather always makes me very sympathetic towards people who are homeless, or elderly, or living in sub-standard accommodation, or who can’t afford to heat their homes (increasingly a problem in Ireland.)

Is it me, or does this lady sort of look like HM The Queen? Weird.Image: guardian.co.uk

Is it me, or does this lady sort of look like HM The Queen? Weird.
Image: guardian.co.uk

I’m trying to keep my brain cells alive today by keeping them busy. I’d like to think the more they move around inside my skull, the warmer they’ll be. So far, it’s not meeting with a huge amount of success; I’ll persevere, though. In order to accomplish this goal, I’ve been stretching the grey matter in yet another direction – as well as working on my stories, I’ve also been helping someone with an editing project over the last few days. I can’t explain how much fun this has been. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than correcting errors, particularly when they’re other people’s.

(By the way, thanks to everyone who read my blog yesterday and who chose not to tell me I’d missed a word near the end. Perhaps nobody noticed except me – at least, I hope not! No point going to check it now, either – I’ve fixed it.)

Image: redpenofdoom.com

Image: redpenofdoom.com

Editing, as well as being really satisfying, is also beneficial to me as a writer. It’s gradually helping me to realise that when someone edits the guts out of a piece you’ve lovingly submitted to them, they don’t mean it to hurt your feelings. They really do mean to help you and make your work stronger. I feel I’ve been quite ruthless in my editing of the work that’s been submitted to me – pointing out places where the argument doesn’t make any sense or where the writing gets lost in a froth of style over substance, slashing through misspellings and instances of homophone confusion, clarifying commonly confused words (particularly ‘lose’ and ‘loose’, which is so widespread in Ireland that it should be our national slogan), and, most satisfyingly, putting in apostrophes where apostrophes should be, and ripping them out where they’ve been jammed in without just cause. I know, though, that none of this verbal carnage has been personal or designed to hurt delicate feelings. The person behind the words is immaterial when I’ve got my editing hat on; all I see are the words, and the errors, and the fact that fixing the errors makes the words better.

So, of course, I have to logically assume that when a person edits my work, they feel the same way. They see value in what I have to say, and they feel it’s worth reading through in enough detail to pick out the good bits among the piles of dross and to fix it up until it’s as pretty as it can be. This sounds a lot better than ‘the editor thought this piece was so woefully bad that not one word escaped without being doused in red ink.’ So, I’m choosing to go with the optimistic view.

I’m also planning to work on a story that I started yesterday. It was an experiment with form, and I’m not sure it’s quite worked; certainly, it didn’t have the emotional impact on paper that it had in my head. It can be difficult to write stories (particularly if they’re as short as flash fiction tends to be) which are interesting, unique and innovative. I’ve tried writing pieces composed entirely of dialogue, and a story based around images which are completely impossible. I’ve tried a piece written using nothing but contradictions, which was (as you can imagine) difficult. Yesterday’s effort was based around a funeral notice placed in a newspaper, which would have worked well if I’d managed to tweak it just a bit more. So, perfecting that story is today’s quest, as well as working through some other ideas bubbling in my mind.

Sometimes I worry whether I’m writing stories that are full of clichés and over-used ideas; considering that so many stories are never published in the traditional sense (i.e. in short story collections in books), but only appear on websites or online publications, some of which are entirely unknown to me, it can be hard to keep up with trends. But you can’t spend your whole life reading, either – you’d never get any writing done.

What can you do, though. You’ve just got to write what you’ve got to write. Right?

Anyway. It’s time to get stuck in. The words are waiting, so I’d better start getting them out before my brain ices over completely.

Have a happy Tuesday. Stay warm. Stay safe. Most importantly, stay happy.

 

As the World Falls Down…

I woke this morning and noticed something strange about the light. Through the slats of our Venetian blind, the world seemed brighter than it should be. The reason for that was, of course…

...this had happened.Image: rte.ie

…this had happened.
Image: rte.ie

We’re not talking the Arctic wastes here or anything – in fact, the snow isn’t even deep enough to cover the grass in our garden. Nevertheless, there have been accidents on the roads, it’s a headline news story, and myself and my husband have instantly turned into two old worrywarts. ‘I wonder will it stay?’ ‘Sure, how do I know?’ ‘Will we look up the weather forecast and see?’ ‘Those lads don’t have a clue. No point in asking them!’ ‘Right so. You know better than the weatherman, of course.’ ‘I hope it doesn’t stick, the whole country will grind to a halt.’ ‘Do you think I don’t know that?’ (I’ll leave it up to your imagination which speaker is which in this not-entirely-fictionalised exchange!)

Luckily, my husband has a day off from work today, so he doesn’t have to go anywhere. Tomorrow, however, he’s facing a long journey. So, I sincerely hope the snow doesn’t stay. It looks pretty and all, but after the winters we had here a few years ago I feel somewhat allergic to the sight of whiteness coating the world. I feel like those terrible, heart-freezing winters of 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 took away all my childlike joy when it comes to snow. It wasn’t fun to be stuck on a bus trying to get home from work while watching the snow fall outside so thickly that nobody – including the driver – could see more than two feet ahead; it wasn’t fun trying to skid my way to the train station on treacherous streets made entirely of ice.

I’m looking out at our garden now and the sunlight is pouring into it, making everything look absolutely beautiful. But I’m not fooled. Avast, white stuff!

In other news, I had a busy – but rewarding – weekend. I did a lot of writing and rewriting, playing around with four stories that I’m tweaking for submission. Some of them are quite dark – we’re talking murder and totalitarian states and abusive families here – but some have touches of black comedy at their heart. It’s a tough balancing act at times, writing the sort of stories you want to write while also remembering that you need to place them with a magazine or journal willing to publish them. As well as being your best work, they sometimes need to fit a certain ‘ethos’, too. Sometimes, of course, writing with a particular focus in mind can help you to create. As I’m learning, putting parameters on your work can sometimes bring fantastic results. It almost seems counter-intuitive, but so far it has worked very well for me. Restricted word-counts, restricted themes, using prompts – they’re all worth a try.

Sometimes, though, the problem I have is not finding a starting point – it’s finding a finishing point.

On Saturday evening I was quite tired, and trying to work out the ending of a story. I’d got it to a certain point, and then I hit a wall. I really liked the story idea, and the character’s voice, and I knew I wanted to finish it, but I’d written myself into a dead-end. I was bleary eyed. I could barely see the laptop. Eventually, I had to close the computer down, but there was no rest for my brain. For the rest of the night – even into my dreams – potential endings for this story popped, with metronomic regularity, into my frazzled mind. Some of them were patently ridiculous, and others were clichéd or just, somehow, inauthentic. Finally, I came up with an ending I liked, one I could ‘see’ in my mind’s eye. (Of course, I was supposed to be sleeping peacefully at the time. But that’s just details, right? Right.) My poor husband had been attempting all evening to get me to see sense and stop working, and I did try. Just not successfully. As a result, I woke up even more tired the following day. And, the story is still not finished.

I have learned two things from this. ‘Exhaustion kills inspiration’, and ‘listen to your husband.’

In an attempt to give my brain a rest, I also started to read a biography of Mrs. Beeton, the most famous homemaker/cookery writer (arguably) in the world. I had a notion that she lived to a great age and was the matriarch of a huge, bustling family; you’d need to be an imposing figure to achieve the sort of reputation she has, wouldn’t you? In fact, though, I’ve learned she died in childbirth at the age of 28, and her reputation was largely concocted by her husband and publishers. I sort of lost a bit of my faith in the world when I found this out. However, the book is excellent – impeccably researched and really interesting, particularly if you’re a fan of Victorian era-Britain. It’s so rich with detail and atmosphere that you feel like you’re walking the streets along with the people being described.

Image: books.google.com

Image: books.google.com

I recommend it, despite the fact I’m not finished it yet. It’s a large tome, so I’m only about one-third of the way through it at the moment.

And, as well as all that, something wonderful happened. Are you ready? Here we go, then.

I am going to have a story published in a literary magazine.

I’m not saying which one yet, because the editor isn’t sure when the story will be published, but as soon as I have the details, I’ll be shouting about it here. Needless to say, I am a very happy person.

I hope all your weekends were fun, relaxing and full of good things, and I hope your Monday looks bright.