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.


February Snow

It’s a seasonal thing. I’m getting a later start on this blog because, well, it snowed last night. Not an unsual thing here in central NY state in February, but when it snows there’s snow, to state the obvious. Snow covering the path to the garage, snow covering the steps and sidewalk, snow covering the car and driveway. It has to be, as they say, “dealt with.” So I spent part of the morning shoveling and pushing snow from where it was to where it needed to be. Then a break for lunch and, now that the car and driveway were cleared, a trip to the store for supplies before the next round of snow hits. It’s sort of a recurring theme.

Another recurring theme this time of year is that it’s 1099 time, which means publishers that paid you for work last year send the proof. Not quite as good a reminder that you really are a writer as the original checks, but in the same vein. Considering that I only published two original stories last year* (not counting the originals that went up during Story Time) , it was a bit of surprise to discover that both “In Memory of Jianhong, Snake Devil” and “On the Road to the Hell of Hungry Ghosts,” published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies last year made the Locus Recommended Reading List in the short story category. That was a pleasant surprise. Not a huge deal but still a lot better than a poke in the eye.

More snow is predicted for tomorrow night. Best to make sure one knows where one’s shovel is.

* Edited to Add: Actually, there were three. The third was “The Cat of Five Virtues” in Tales of the Sunrise Lands. Amazing how much trouble I have keeping track.

Story Time: The White Bone Fan

Today’s Story Time is “The White Bone Fan,” Originally published in Japanese Dreams: Fantasies, Fictions,& Fairytales, Lethe Press, 2009. The story is a stand-alone excerpt from what eventually became the novel  All the Gates of Hell published in 2013. This is the kind of thing I was working on when I was also working on the Yamada series. One sort of fed into the other, and vice versa.

As always, “The White Bone Fan” will remain online only until Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018. Next year.

Pentatonic Minor Thoughts

It’s snowing as I write this. I almost wrote “snowing outside,” but then realized what a silly thing that was to say. Of course it’s snowing outside. If it was snowing inside, that would be either remarkable or a serious problem, possibly both. What is somewhat notable is that it wasn’t supposed to snow today. Or at least that was the prediction yesterday. But then friends and relations from down south have been posting snow pictures for the last few days, snow from Texas to Georgia. It was snowing in MS back when it wasn’t snowing here, only about eighty miles from the Canadian border. I was starting to feel left out, which is another silly notion. When they have enough snow that the local hardware stores start stocking snow shovels, then we’ll talk.

In addition to the guitar (no segue for you), I’ve added a couple more instruments to my “can’t play this worth a flip” category: pennywhistle and native style flute. By most accounts, the pennywhistle has only been around since the late 18th century. The native flute, by contrast, can be traced back for a few thousand years, and if you throw in the Neolithic bone flutes, a lot longer. Modern examples, whether of the five or six-hole variety, are tuned primarily to the pentatonic minor scale in different keys, though an advanced player can play other scales on the same flute; the older flutes (a few intact examples survive) were apparently tuned to the ear of whoever made it. Rather like how guitars can be relative tuned so that the notes and chords sound fine together until you try to jam with another guitar in standard tuning, where the differences suddenly become relevant. One gets the impression that the original native flute was a solitary instrument unless everyone in the group was playing an example made by or tuned to the same maker.

Yes, I know. But I’m just learning this stuff and now so will you. I’m mostly trying to be clear about my own understanding of a given subject, and I tend to do that by writing it down. As I’m doing here.

One interesting facet of learning the native flute is the order of learning. Once you have a handle on how to sound the notes and play the scale cleanly, the next order of business isn’t learning songs. No, the next order of business is: improvise. As long as you’re in the scale there’s no such thing as a wrong note. Try playing them in different orders, learn trills and (note) slurs and even bending notes. Odds are you’ll have made up your own songs even before you learn anyone else’s. And you’ll be ready to do that, if you want.

I do. I’ve even heard “Stairway to Heaven” on native flute, though it’ll probably be a while before I tackle that. Maybe “Silent Night.” After all, ‘tis the season.


Story Time: Take a Long Step

Have you ever noticed, lying along the road, one sad, discarded shoe? Or maybe a boot? Now and then a cap, or work glove, but most often shoes. Rather, one shoe. I think I have seen an actual pair of shoes, once in my life. Mostly, just the one. There are a lot of theories about why this tends to happen, though we probably don’t need any other than simple human carelessness. We lose things. It’s our nature. For instance, First Reader asked me about this story just a few days ago (Didn’t you write a story about the missing shoe?) and I thought it would make a good Wednesday story. Then I couldn’t find it, and thought I had lost the file, until I remembered that I wasn’t working in MS Weird at the time, and expanded my search to include the extension of the word processor I used back then. Still miss that one, but I digress.

Story Time for this week is “Take a Long Step,” and it first appeared in Realms of Fantasy for April, 1999. This was my attempt to give at least one alternative explanation for the case of the missing shoe. Or the found shoe. It’s all a matter of perspective.

“Take a Long Step” will be available until next Wednesday, November 22nd. Then it’s something else. You know the drill.