There Are Five Lines

As I’ve mentioned before, not terribly long after I moved north I joined a local writer’s group. I’ve belonged to a few before, and while the experience hasn’t always been a complete success, usually the presence of other writers and the sharing of works supplies a boost of motivation to get my own work done, and that’s something we all need now and again. The difference this time is that this group specializes in flash fiction, which is new(ish) for me and under the aegis of the local library, with links to the wider community.

In short, the library and a local theater group leader are collaborating to turn some of the work from the flash fiction group into podcasts. There are grants involved and other official stuff, but mostly it will involve the members reading their own work, either as part of audio anthologies or even single author audio collections. A lot of this hasn’t been worked out yet, but it appears promising. In preparation we were asked to list some of our favorite lines from the flash pieces we’d done within group.

I mean, sure, I’m doing it, but I have to admit these sort of listings make me a little uncomfortable. First, in any unified (I hope) work, a single sentence out of context loses…well, context. Some of my favorite sentences make absolutely no sense if separated from the sentences around them, so I had to take that into account. Then again, I’m reminded of Damon Knight’s opinion of “killer” first lines, in that the problem with those is that you spend the rest of the time trying to justify the line rather than just telling the F%%%#G STORY. So my openings tend not to be so killer, just, I hope, grabbing enough to get you to the next line, and the next, and so on until the end. So I couldn’t just pull out opening lines…except sometimes. Hey, no one’s perfect.

Regardless, and with all the caveats listed or implied above, here are the five lines I’ve chosen:

Sentence 1:

“There’s a crow’s nest in the crow’s nest, sir.”

Sentence 2:

“I wasn’t sure what a secret was, but apparently it was some sort of dangerous animal that needed confining.”

Sentence 3:

“I’m going to tell you three stories, only two of which are true.”

Sentence 4:

“Everyone dances…sooner or later.”

Sentence 5:

“Right, of course it was—all I had to do was tell the Queen of bloody Elfland to sod off and everything would have been jolly.”

 

 

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Story Time: Keeping Lalande Station

Today’s Story Time is something a little different–an actual science fiction story, “Keeping Lalande Station,” originally published in Future Orbits #2, back in 2001. I wish I had something relative to say about the story. I remember the process of writing it, but the genesis? No clue. Then again, it’s a story about illusion and reality, so whatever I think about it might not be relevant. I wrote it, I know that much. After that, it all gets a little fuzzy, not unlike my protagonist’s mental state.

 

Standard Note: “Keeping Lalande Station” will stay online until next Wednesday, February 28th, when it will be replaced by…something.

Story Time: The Last Romantic

In honor of Valentine’s Day, this week’s Story Time is a love story…sort of. “The Last Romantic” originally appeared in MIke Allen’s MYTHIC #1 back in 2006. It was written long before that, a reminder that sometimes a story stays in your files because the right venue for it does not exist…yet. I’m not sure if patience really is a virtue, but it sure is necessary.

 

Standard Disclaimer: “The Last Romantic” will remain online until next Wednesday, February 21st. Then it won’t be.

Story Time: Doing Time in the Wild Hunt

Today’s Story Time is “Doing Time in the Wild Hunt.”  It was originally sold to an anthology to be titled Splatterfaires from the first incarnation of Pulphouse Publishing, which went under before the book was published. From there it found its way into my first collection, The Ogre’s Wife: Fairy Tales for Grownups.

Here’s what I wrote about the story for the afterwards in the second (Kindle) Edition. I don’t think I have anything to add now.

 

“Happily Ever After” is the most difficult and dangerous part of the story, and yet it’s the part you almost never hear about. There’s a reason for that — marriage is complicated. Slaying a dragon by comparison is simple. Not easy, mind, but simple. Consider: A dragon is between you and your Fated One and you’re a hero/heroine in love. What do you do? Duh. Now cut to this scene after the fairytale wedding, because sooner or later it’s going to happen. Your love is pensive, unhappy. You ask what’s wrong and they say, “Nothing.” When pressed they will explain: “If you don’t know what you did, I’m not going to tell you!”

What’s the plan now, hero?

I was driving to work one morning in 1994 and saw a white doe in the woods near the Natchez Trace. Far from blending into the trees and brush nearby, the deer was about as hidden as a neon sign. It seemed odd to me how it had managed to survive so long against all the odds but here it was standing there, watching me drive by. A miracle. Or maybe the deer was just doing what it had to do and, with a little luck and care, getting along. Maybe that’s the miracle. I don’t know. I just wrote this story because, once upon a time at the beginning of my ordinary day, I saw a white doe. My wife told me that, of all the stories I’ve ever done, this was the only one that made her cry. Discarding the other possible explanations, I take that as a sign I got the story right.

Take that, dragon.

 

Usual Disclaimer: “Doing Time in the Wild Hunt” will stay up until next Wednesday, February 14. At which time I might be too preoccupied to take it down, but don’t count on it.

Story Time: Beach Bum and the Drowned Girl

Today’s  Story Time is “Beach Bum and the Drowned Girl,” which first appeared in Mike Allen’s Clockwork Phoenix #4 back in 2013. It’s either a meditation on the nature of urban legends or a story about the birth and possible transcendence of a pair of gods. Or something else entirely, which is definitely the nature of stories. Urban legends and gods? I’m still working on that.

While I was going through my files something happened that happens, apparently, to everyone after a while–I found the beginning to a story that I do not remember writing. I know I did it because the style is totally mine, but otherwise?  It’s not unusual for stories to be started and then abandoned. Either they weren’t working, or we weren’t ready to write them, either by not being good enough yet or the story refusing to reveal itself or…well, there are a lot of reasons. Usually when I stumble across a story like that I can tell immediately why I stopped, and congratulate myself on getting out while the getting was good. Not this time. This one made me want to read the next bit to find out what was going on, only I don’t have a clue as to what that is. Probably why I stopped. I hope I can figure this one out, since I really would like to know.