Boulder Lake Back Country: A Winter Solstice Day

BackcountryA few weeks ago, I experienced a Winter Solstice day. And no it didn’t involve time travel; rather it reminded me of Rosamunde Pilcher‘s wonderful novel Winter Solstice, in which the setting became a character.

As in Ms. Pilcher’s Scotland, snow dominated our day, falling in big, fluffy flakes. Our setting–the logging roads and two-tracks off Boulder Lake Road near McCall, Idaho–took my husband Keith and me through deep woods and up ridges to one of our favorite back-county skiing areas. A snowshoe hare hid behind a log, its black eyes staring at us, and we made lazy turns through about six inches of untracked snow.

But it was what happened when we pulled into the parking area that really evoked Ms. Pilcher’s novel. As we removed our skis from the bed of our truck, a sleigh pulled by the shaggiest horses I’ve ever seen glided down the street. It was such a surprise–like going back in time, complete with a duster-wearing sleigh driver, and certainly something Ms. Pilcher would have included in her novel. Our setting had become a character–I could almost hear the snow falling, the mountains breathing, and the trees shifting in our direction.

And it ended back in McCall with Keith’s delicious crock-pot dinner of Southwestern chicken over rice–the perfect compliment to a “Winter Solstice” day. I think Ms. Pilcher would have approved.

Monday Markets Again on Tuesday and a Small Magazine with Big Ambitions

Amazon’s Literary Journal Day One is Seeking Submissions

Inky Path -  “Bring us your hyperlink fiction, your parser-based games, your funky interactive art. We want interactive fiction that draws readers in, captivates their attention, maybe even teaches something.”

Now for something a little different: ABC Productions Seeking Screenwriters for the 2014 Talent Showcase

And finally the small magazine with large ambitions: Brevity.

 

Monday Markets on Tuesday: Fantasy Scroll, Pithead Chapel, and more

Fantasy Scroll Press Announces The Launch of a New Short Story Market - “Fantasy Scroll Press, a small independent publisher, announced the launch of Fantasy Scroll Magazine, a new short fiction publication created for readers who love fantasy, science fiction, horror, and paranormal stories.”

Pithead Chapel – “Pithead Chapel is a small, independent and volunteer-run literary journal and small press out of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We publish gutsy narratives every month.”

Horror Tree - “Gothic Blue Book Vol 4: Original Gothic Blue Books typically took place in either a monastery, convent or castle. In years past we have asked for short stories that take place in one of these locations, or a modern day location such as a morgue, haunted house or cemetery. This year, we have added a new entry – legend, folklore or myth of the Americas.”

T. Gene Davis’s Speculative Blog – “Payment of $50 for horror, fantasy and science fiction stories. T. Gene Davis’s Speculative Blog releases a family-friendly speculative story every Monday, mostly by guest authors.”

 

 

 

Exploring the Woods for Undiscovered Creatures: How Nature Influences the Imagination

Lake EmmaThe following essay first appeared in Whisper in the Woods Kimberli Bindschatel’s gorgeous nature magazine that ran from 2004-2008.

I began to notice the figure from about 100 feet away. It rose out of a snowdrift like an ancient statue—northern Michigan’s answer to Easter Island. I clomped forward, my snowshoes sinking into the snow, and saw that it was a crudely carved lumberjack, standing about 7 feet tall. He held a hatchet between his fingers, and his carved hair was gathered at the nape of his neck.

Snow fell in fluffy flakes and the sun hid behind a bank of gray clouds. Shadows hovered beneath towering pines. The day took on an eerie feeling, as if someone watched me from the woods, and I hesitated.

“I’m being silly,” I said. The sound of my voice gave me a burst of confidence, and I took another step. Why was I letting this strange carving scare me? Had I somehow regressed about 30 years, back to my fanciful youth?

Still, the carved giant was unnerving. His uneven eyes seemed to glare, warning me off the two-tracks I was exploring. And I hurried away, thinking about the times where my thoughts have gotten the best of me.

Over the years, my imagination has converted a cluster of turkey vultures leaning over a carcass into a coven of witches. Or once, while on a trail run, a crow seemed to follow me, flying ahead and then landing on nearby branches. I imagined that the bird was not what it seemed. Was something else trapped inside the crow’s body? Would it transform?

I’ve often been amazed at where nature takes my mind. It allows us to think beyond ourselves, to feel how small we are compared to a vast forest or lake. For some, like myself, our thoughts turn to the fantastical, probing the woods for undiscovered creatures. As a writer, I turn these mental ramblings into stories, like in my short-story collection, The Curse of Blackhawk Bay (Sam’s Dot Publishing, December 2008).

Yet, at times, I also find my imagination shifting to a more spiritual path. Although my father has been gone now for almost 20 years, my mind brings him back. I can almost see him at my side, hiking or mountain biking and remarking on the blue sky or a loon’s call. I close my eyes and hear his voice.

And this, I think, among all the gifts that nature gives us is perhaps the greatest. It grants us the space and quiet to allow our minds to wander, whether it be inventing an alternate world existing within the forest or remembering loved ones. I believe these mental gymnastics keep us young, pushing at our minds, allowing them to explore and invent

So on the day I encountered the hatchet man, I quickly left him behind, wondering how he might appear in my next short story. Soon, though, the spooky feeling subsided. A ray of sunshine split through the mass of gray clouds and I struggled to the top of a steep hill. My snowshoes slid backward with each step, and I thought about my father, how much he would have enjoyed the day—the sense of adventure and exploration. I felt his presence and allowed it to fill my mind.

The wind whispered through the pines as I trudged back down the hill toward home. A deer blind, hidden by a log, lurched on the left and animal tracks scampered across the snow. Somewhere a bird called, almost a wail, and immediately my imagination was off again, pushing at its boundaries, wondering what waited in the woods, what stories I could create.

The Beauty in Brevity: When writing short is more than enough

Many authors dream about writing the great American novel, but the following post from Claire Guyton reminds us that “No, You Do NOT Have To Write A Novel.” It’s time to celebrate the short story and the short story writer! Click here to read what she has to say. And while you’re at it, check out her blog, Daily Shorty.

Monday Markets: Bloomsbury Spark and Every Day Fiction

Every Day Fiction: “… looking for very short (flash) fiction, of up to 1000 words. There’s no such thing as too short — if you can do the job in 50 words, have at it! — but our readers prefer pieces that tell or at least hint at a complete story (some sort of action or tension rising to a moment of climax, and at least a clue toward a resolution, though it doesn’t have to be all spelled out).”

Bloomsbury Spark:  “… a one-of-a-kind, global, digital imprint from Bloomsbury Publishing dedicated to publishing a wide array of exciting fiction eBooks to teen, YA and new adult readers.”