It’s almost the beginning of winter. But the Solstice is actually the beginning of spring, because it’s the shortest day of the year. After the Solstice, the days begin to get longer. But it’s actually right smack dab in the middle of the cold weather. But….
Kind of confusing.
ANYWAY, my new short story collection has not one but two stories set in winter, “At the Turning of the Year” and “The Warmth of Midwinter.” That’s because I was writing a story to submit to GIFT OF THE MAGI, an anthology of winter stories; I was almost done with “At the Turning of the Year” when I read the guidelines again and saw they wanted something upbeat and featuring an established character. So I wrote “The Warmth of Midwinter” and sent that, instead, and they accepted it.
Here’s a bit from each:
excerpt from “At the Turning of the Year”
by Marian Allen
Frayce awakened next to the cold body of Sharina, after days of the maiden’s coughing and wheezing. Frayce crept from the bed, afraid she would be accused of hastening the death
She curled herself into the triangular space between the bed closet and the clothes closet, her arms wrapped around her knees, wishing she could will herself back to the home she barely remembered, back to the days when she was person among people, not a pet in the strange place called Nishi. She remembered an open land of green, then a trip on a boat of red and white over a turquoise sea to this world of high white stone buildings, white stone pavements, white stone everything. She remembered being in a cage with other boys and girls, most of
them red-haired and blue-eyed, as she was. She remembered being picked out by a man who gave her as a pet — as if she were a cat or a dog or a rabbit — to his own little girl, Sharina.
Sharina, who lay dead.
Yeah, upbeat, not so much.
excerpt from “The Warmth of Midwinter”
by Marian Allen
On the bank of the Fiddlewood River, not far from a bridge, in a little stone cottage, lived a very old man and his grandmother. Don’t laugh, my children, for even very old men have grandmothers, you know. She didn’t quite live with him, for she had a place of her own nearby, but she popped in to visit often enough to be both welcome and familiar.
We will call this old man Andrin, my children, and his grandmother will be Verrina. He has a chicken, as well — didn’t I tell you? A hen, in fact. We’ll call her Chandler.
The day had been glum and chill, with miserly flourings of tiny snowflakes to add to the crust on the ground. The night had been calm, with only the grunting cough of some benighted animal breaking the silence.
Morning came, signaled by the increasingly irritated pecking of Chandler at the wooden floor.
Andrin woke, stretched, and said, “Now, how do you know? With no windows in the cottage, how do you know it’s
morning? It could be the middle of the night.”
Chandler answered with a saucy cluck, and Andrin got up and let her out, leaving the door open to the fresh, damp, icy air.
An agitated squawk and clucking told him Chandler had found something to displease her. When the noise continued, he dressed in trews, boots, and tunic, wrapped a blanket around himself, and went out to see what small outrage had upset her.
Whether you’ve read Marian Allen’s SAGE trilogy (The Fall of Onagros, Bargain With Fate, Silver and Iron) or not, you can dive right into these stories set in the same world. Some feature settings and characters from the trilogy, some explore lands and people only hinted at in the novels, but all are filled with strong characters and fantasy.
Per Bastet Publications invites you to savor this baker’s dozen of stories from the world of SAGE.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Write about the middle of winter, using any definition of “middle of winter” you like.