Out on the soggy trails near my home a couple of days ago, I fell into conversation with a man walking his dogs. Discovering he was a visitor to the area, I wished him better weather before he left. When he replied that there’s no life without rain, I was ready to play my part in a climate-change script. So I was surprised, and somewhat disappointed, when he said he’d tell me something that had been kept from people since the beginning of time.
“Who or what are you?” he asked. Of course, I told him I was a writer. All those lovely people who hosted my recent guest posts on the writer’s identity would have me drummed from the blogosphere had I let fear hold me back. “Sell me a thousand copies of all three titles!” the man did not say. Instead he promised his secret would make me a better writer and asked me to answer his question again in a different way.
Like a character murdered at the end of the first chapter, the man exits my story at this point, and I his. Much as I like to learn, I’m through with being taught, unless I’ve signed up for the course. Besides, I prefer to be alone with my thoughts when out walking, so I thanked him and moved on.
When I set up my website, I was a published and prize-winning short story writer. A few years later, I was a blogger too. I also began hosting Q&As with debut novelists and, soon after, a book blogger, and then novelist added another layer. I’d be the last to suggest we can’t have more than one identity, but some roles and characteristics define us more than others.
The end of the month usually means a post on reading, but November’s been different and I’m piggybacking on Shiny New Books’ Christmas Special, where I make a couple of recommendations in advance of my Books of the Year post (which I’m holding in drafts to give December’s reads a fair chance). But I can give you a resume of the reviews I’ve posted this month, featuring changing zeitgeists; cloistered Christian communities; bridging; where we came from and where we are now; and the aftermath of war.
Carrot Ranch took a break from flash fiction last week which, although for Thanksgiving rather than my launch, chimed well with my own commitments. Now I’m itching to leave promo behind and lose myself in fiction, yet this week’s prompt didn’t initially appeal. Ordinarily, I don’t need much encouragement to explore the darkness, but, right now, I’m grateful for the light.
Then I recalled the walk with which I introduced this post, and the photo I took on that grey morning that didn’t have an obvious home. I remembered the story that concludes my anthology, partly inspired by the former coalfields near where I live. Below, you can watch me read the opening of “The Witch’s Funeral”, while my flash retells part of that story from a new point of view.
When wood meets soil, only Barry’s left holding the rope. Even the undertaker scowls, throws him that look reserved for outsiders and lily-livered pansies with clean hands.
As a boy, Barry feared the cage that delivered working men into the dark. When they arose, skin stained with sweat and coal dust, it seemed a temporary reprieve.
Of course he’s glad his mother pushed him away, to a safer job on the surface of things. But it severed the tie to his dad, to the community that raised him. Now, his father crated forever in his coffin, it’s too late.