No Context For You

You probably shouldn’t need any. This is from the current WIP. You won’t know the players, but the situation I think is clear enough:


We made our way through the tangle. Modern steel was one thing; it was blended with carbon and whatnot to be both strengthened and tamed. This was different. Cold cast iron was something else again. It was pure and old and had its own sort of power. No fae enjoyed being in its presence. It wasn’t actually dangerous, but it did tend to dispel glamor and weaken fae magic, two things our kind rely on. But wrought iron? Hand forged iron? That was worst of all. Smiths were the world’s first human magicians, even if most of them never knew it. What they put in the iron when they worked it, our kind recognized immediately even when the smiths did not. Old magic, it was, perhaps even as old as our own.

And the door to the coal mine was sealed with it.

“We’re going in there?” Aednat asked incredulously.

“If we can get it open,” I said.

“Normally, doors and walls are no problem for me. That thing? That’s a problem.” Mera crossed her arms. “Any ideas?”

None came immediately to mind. As for the door itself, ‘that thing,’ as Mera described it, was fairly accurate. It was basically a flat cage, with iron straps two inches wide and probably a good quarter-inch thick. There were massive hinges fastened to the rock and a bolt as thick as a man’s thumb, with a very old padlock binding the bolt to a thick iron ring on the side opposite the hinges, in the usual fashion of a door.

I took a closer look at the lock. It was rusty, of course, and likely hadn’t been open since the colliery had closed down, probably sometime early in the previous century. Fortunately it was of mild steel, not iron and forge slag. Cast iron was recalcitrant. You could break it if you were strong enough, but it would not bend. Steel, by contrast, could be reasoned with, and one couldn’t be a proper trickster without learning a thing or two about locks over the centuries. The Japanese once believed that anything which survived long enough could develop a soul and mind, of sorts. I knew it for a fact. The lock, while made of inanimate steel, was in a sense alive, and as such tended to have opinions.

This one was bored. I could tell.

“They left you all this time with nothing to do but hold onto a door. Hardly seems fair.”

Aednat spoke up behind me. “Nudd, who are you talking to?”

I gave the pair of them a quick glance. “The lock, of course. Please don’t interrupt.”

I could imagine Aednat and Mera giving each other the side eye at the tableau of me talking to a lock. No matter. Just as I wasn’t privy to the inner secrets of either the banshee or nightmare, this was pooka business, pooka understanding, and they could jolly well shut it until I was finished.



FlashCast, Episode 9 Part 3 “Spring”

The new FlashCast is online, available for free from iTunes here, and on The theme word was “spring.” If you want to hear my dulcet tones reading one of my own stories, FlashCast is the only place that’s happening, aside from mike night at Canal Place here in town, where a bunch from the local writer’s group will be doing group readings now and then. We did our first one last Thursday and it went rather well. For FlashCast it’s:

“Predator’s Fortune,” by Richard Parks

“Give Me a Break,” by Peggy Scarano,

“All the Lonely People,” by Sally Madison.

Spring seems a bit far away right now. It’s -8F as I write this with about two feet of snow surrounding and on top of the car. I’ve dug a path to it and with luck will get enough snow cleared to get it free by tomorrow, as I have appointments to keep. Technically it only snowed about a foot, but we’ve had high winds during and after the snowfall, so the drifts are the real problem. Next year I think I may have to “spring” for a real snowblower. Sciatica and shoveling snow don’t mix very well.

I’ve finally gotten a little traction on the new project, though I’m still uncertain as to whether it’s going to be a novel or novella. That’s one problem with being a pantser instead of a plotter—you’re never completely (or even slightly) in control. When it works, and it usually does, it’s the best. When it crashes and burns, it tends to do so spectacularly.

Taking Sides

For all of my voting life, I’ve been a registered Independent, because I’ve always had problems with both parties (and don’t even mention the Greens; that’s another can of worms entirely). While I’ve usually leaned toward the Democrats, I’ve voted for Republicans a few times in my life. The old, idealistic, “best person for the job” approach.

That doesn’t work anymore, if indeed it ever did. While trying to get coherent policy out of the Democrats is worse than herding cats, the Republicans had other problems—the few at the top made decisions, and everyone else fell in line. So it didn’t really matter who the “best person for the job” was. With a few very rare and sporadic exceptions, they vote and support what they’re told. Then in the wake of the Voting Rights Act, the GOP learned that it was easy to stir up support by dog-whistle and relatively subtle racism and religious bigotry. These days it isn’t even subtle any more. Rep. Steve King asks “When did white nationalism become offensive?” and mostly what you hear on the GOP side are platitudes and crickets. If there are any actual consequences I’ll be amazed.

And then there’s the “President.” If I have to say more than that, you’re not paying attention.

Regardless, last week I changed my voter registration to Democrat. At least that way I can vote in the primaries. We need not just more Democrats, but better ones. I think they’re out there; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shows there are at least some. I’m hoping for more like her, with actual fresh ideas and the passion to get something done. Maybe it’s impossible, but the thing about impossible is that history is full of “impossibles” which suddenly weren’t.

A guy can dream.

I recognize that by taking sides I may lose some readers. Actions have consequences, and I get that. Sorry to see you go. Not at all sorry for why. For those who are left, next week I promise to get back to writing matters. I may even talk about the current project.

Writing Time

I know I’ve mentioned schedules before. I also know how often writers complain about their day jobs and how much they’d get done in only they didn’t owe so much time to something else. Having now been on both sides of that equation, I’m here to tell you something.

It ain’t necessarily so.

Something always fills the time. Something always demands it. If it’s not the day job, it’s something else. I’m not going to be specific here because those “somethings” are going to be different for everyone. The point is, writing time always was and always will be time you’ve made for yourself. Odds are no one’s going to give it to you. I personally found that having a day job forced me to be very careful about how I budgeted my time and encouraged me to use what I had wisely. All that went out the window and for a while now I admit I’ve been flailing, thinking I had all the time in the world when that simply wasn’t true.

Took me a while, but I finally get it. I still haven’t totally worked out what I’m going to do about it, but I have some ideas I’m trying out now. One of them might even work. We’ll see. At least I’ve finally recognized the problem, which is the same one any mortal has, day job or no.


Muddling Along on New Year’s Eve

People complain about years, and I’m tempted myself. The problem is most things we complain about have nothing to do with the year. It’s just another way to shift blame to something outside and beyond our control. We’ve got to stop doing that.

Don’t get me wrong. 2018 has been a rocky year, for reasons anyone paying attention already knows: the effects of climate change, a political system not so much rudderless as corrupt and anti-democratic and reveling in the fact, the rise of fascism (again) across the globe, and bigotry running rampant. Yet all that has nothing to do with the year. That’s just what we’ve agreed to call one of earth’s orbital periods.

The problem isn’t the year. Not last year or even(shudder) the one before.  The problem is people, and I’m one of those. Maybe we can all do better, but right now it’s my blog and I’m talking about me. I’m not making any New Year’s resolutions because that never works with me. Instead I’m going to concentrate on what I would like to do in the new year, and by that I do not mean obligations. I mean things that would really help my attitude and perhaps make me, as a person, more pleasant to be around.

I’ve written a good deal this year. I haven’t written nearly as much as I can and would like to. I haven’t written nearly enough about the things I want to write about.  As always, it will require a shuffling of priorities to make that happen. I’m going to try.

I’ve read a fair bit this year. I would like to read more. There are a lot of good books out now by people whose work I enjoy and admire. I’d like to make room for them, because a writer who doesn’t read isn’t a writer at all, or at least not an interesting one. Reading isn’t water but it does help to refill the well. More like seeding the clouds and catching the rain.

So I’ll say good-bye to 2018 with no insults, nothing derogatory at all. It was a year. Good things did happen along with the bad. 2019 might be better or worse, but either way, it’s on us.

Happy New Year!