Brevity is the Soul of Something

Ah, winter in New York State. Two whole degrees this morning, a heating pipe coupling keeps coming un-coupled, and the plumber can’t get here until tomorrow. Last week when the temperature hit fifty-three degrees only to fall quickly, it left a quarter-inch sheet of ice under the snow. Can’t open our back gate, can’t get into the shed, and have to get to the mailbox through the garage. Really good for sledding, though. Our neighbors have been having a blast.

I’ve sold the third story in my Daoist series, working—and probably final—title is “An Account of the Madness of the Magistrate, Chengdhu Village.” It should be up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies sometime this year and of course I’ll post updates as they occur.

Confession time: I’ve never been a huge fan of flash fiction. I always considered it something between a parlor trick and Short Attention Span Theater. Since I’ve joined the local writers’ group, however, I’ve come to appreciate the form a bit more, as we have to write one every week. It does require focus to distill any decent story down to 500 words or so and still have a decent story, with a beginning, middle, and end. It’s also good editing practice, as I tend to go over and have to whittle down the word count without losing the narrative. It’s never going to be my favorite form, but at least I can see the virtues in it now.

Speaking of which, I have one due on Wednesday. Better get cracking.

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Let it Snow

We’re having our first snow of the season as I write this. Technically we got a “dusting” about three days ago, but I’m not counting that. It was more of a seasonal equipment check than an actual snow. Today, it’s snowing. I will grant you, it is a tentative, gentle sort of snow. Falling straight down, steady but not aggressive, starting to fill up the hillside behind our house but politely melting off the driveways and road so as not to be too much of a bother.

This will not last.

I mean, the snowfall itself may or may not stick around for long, but this attitude? Very transient. Winter will soon be feeling its oats and this “tentative, gentle sort of snow” will be gone, replaced by the sort more typical of the winters here. It will fall hard and heavy. It will pile up. It will swirl and rise into drifts, millions of snowflakes gathered in one place to talk smack about me and my wimpy shovel. In collusion with the wind, it will snow sideways just to show us it can. It will not melt of its own free will unless certain very specific conditions are met. I will have to shovel down to bare asphalt to give the sun a chance to work, on the days when there is sun. You’ll see it occasionally, but most of the time? Out of here. On vacation. Not my season bub, you’re on your own.

Which is perfectly all right. I’ve come to appreciate winters here in a way I never did when I was down South. Down there, they were simply the pause between heats. Here, winters are decidedly their own thing. Here, I remember that spring and summer and fall exist, too, and have their own stories to tell. Until then, winter and I understand each other—think snow tires—and will get along just fine.

In other news, I’ve joined a local writer’s group, or at least we’re trying each other out for now. They specialize in flash fiction, which is new to me, or rather not new in that I’ve done it before, but new in the sense of concentrating on it within group. Frankly, I’d always regarded flash fiction as something between a sonnet and a parlor trick. Here’s it’s everything from thinly-veiled personal experience to vast sagas told in 500 word scenes. I’m going to stick to my own understanding for now, which means I have to tell a complete story in 500 words. Which makes it more like a sonnet and a good parlor trick—both rather hard to pull off successfully. We’ll see how it goes.

 

Quick Story Time Reminder: “Beach Bum and the Drowned Girl” goes away on Wednesday. I haven’t yet decided what replaces it.