I just finished writing this short story, which is a hip, modern version of “The Snow Queen” set in Los Angeles. I started it three years ago, but got interrupted by Paris and writing Mr. Wicker. Isn’t it funny that it’s in Paris that I’d finish it? It was blustery and chilly outside our Paris apartment today, so we stayed indoors. I wrote.
I had a dream about “Cold Hands, Cold Heart” two nights before. It was just after I’d gotten some similar feedback on two of my latest stories from editors I respect very much. Despite the positive qualities the editors listed, it seems I’ve been trying to write shorter stories so that they can be published, but the story always suffers from some missing element. I know that, by necessity, the stories have to take longer breaths, longer walks, or else they lose something vital. This means, however, that fewer magazines will publish them. I’ve been fighting it. And losing.
When I first started writing, I never thought this was a problem. I read a great deal of Clive Barker who has many a brilliant 5,000+ short story. So, it never occurred to me that 7,500 was unpublishable. And it isn’t; of the two stories published last year, one was over 8,000 and the other around 7,200. But it’s a damned hard sell in a shrinking market where everyone, especially my favorite markets, strongly prefers stories under 5,000 words or even under 4,000. With these requirements, it can take years to find a publisher above and beyond the usual maturity period and search.
And then the dream: I was visiting my grandmother. I never knew my real grandmothers, and this grandmother was a woman with a generous waist, an ash blonde beehive and spectacles. She rubbed her eye under the specs as she spoke. She said, “You have to buy a house with me in the country. The EM is up. It’s the highest it’s ever been. You have to buy now.”
I said, “Grandma, that makes no sense. If I buy a house in the country, how can I get to work? It’s too far. I can’t make a living.”
She continued rubbing her eye. “It doesn’t matter. The EM is high. You have to buy now!”
I pictured the house in the country and despaired. Beautiful, but so far away.
Yesterday I was telling the dream to my boyfriend as we rode the Metro to his friend’s apartment in outer Paris for a birthday party. As I told him the dream, I realized what it meant. “Em” is the nickname of Miranda, one of the characters in “Cold Hands, Cold Heart.” The grandmother in my dreams is usually my wise self. My crone goddess, if you will. “Buying a house in the country” is the longer story that tells what it should, rather than the apartment in the city that’s “close to work.” So, I decided that, instead of pinching and pinning the hems of my stories, I would write the way I used to, let my stories take the time they need, not the time I need.
“Cold Hands, Cold Heart” weighs in at 6,473 words. It might take a while for anyone will see it, but I have a feeling it will be worth the wait.