by Pat Cunningham
Savanna’s after me to blog about my most recent story sale, so here goes. The story was written about four years ago, so this is the best I remember it. (The long interval was because it spent a horrendous amount of time on editorial desks – at least a year at one place, over a year and a half at another. And that’s just for a story. I feel for your novelists out there.)
Anyway. I know it started with a pun. I don’t know why I was thinking of the phrase "snake in the grass," but my pun muscle went into action. One altered letter later, I had a story title. That was the easy part.
The plot required a bit more thought. What kind of a glass was it, and how did the snake get in there? Why was the snake in there? I remember years ago places like Spencer Gifts used to carry glass globes/paperweights with things like scorpions and tarantulas in them. Maybe baby rattlesnakes too. So that answered the glass question, but it still didn’t give me a plot.
Luckily the subconscious mind is a wonderful ally. Pester it long enough and it’ll give you answers just to shut you up. The snake turned out to be a spirit creature, half of a shapechanger’s soul. A magician split the shapechanger in two and imprisoned his animal half in the globe. The globe was stolen by a peddler, Marchand, who tried to sell it to a witch. And then the shapechanger’s human half showed up on her doorstep, looking for the rest of him. Now we’re cooking!
Any good story needs a dollop of conflict, and I found it in the witch, Therese. A survivor of a purge that wiped out most of the magic-users in her world, she’s become adept at hiding out and keeping her head down. She never had much to do with shapechangers. Now she’s stuck with a dying one asking her for help. She can leave him to waste away, or risk exposure by helping him track down his snake-self. And she doesn’t even like snakes.
Since I’m a seat-of-the-pants type of writer, I tend to dive in and see where the story goes, discovering things as I blunder along. This method can lead up a lot of blind alleys, but sometimes you’re rewarded with pleasant surprises. The opening scene between Therese and Marchand flowed out of my pen on its own and survived basically intact from first draft to final submission. The character Yves started out as a name tossed off in dialogue and morphed into a major player. I was halfway through the story before I realized Marchand was a dwarf. I don’t know why the characters all have French names; it just seemed to fit. That tricky subconscious at work again.
And that’s where stories come from. A little wordplay and voila.
Too bad this wasn’t a romance. Imagine a love scene involving a man who can change into a python at will. I think I’ll leave that one to the erotica writers.
Snake in the Glass will be in an upcoming issue of the ezine ~
Beneath Ceaseless Skies ~ http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com ~ is a new online magazine of literary adventure fantasy, and will release its debut issue on Thursday, October 9.
The cover art for the Beneath Ceaseless Skies website before our premiere issue is "King of Ruins" by Mats Minnhagen.
Mats Minnhagen is a digital artist living in Sweden. He has worked as Concept Artist on EA Dice and currently freelances with role-playing-game, book, and popular science illustrations.
Note: Okay, once again, synchronicity strikes like *dare I say it* a rattlesnake. The baby rattler that was sunning himself on my bedroom window sill less than a week ago. So, if I were penning this blog it could be titled ~ Snake Not In the Grass...but near the glass...okay, bad, but, there ya go...my mind isn’t always snappy happy with creativity.
p.s. The pic used above is just for show, and is not related to the blog or the ezine.