Those stories, by the way, are "That Old Silk Hat They Found" and "Ides of March" -- the former was inspired by my reflecting on the whole 'Frosty the Snowman' concept and the latter was written after I had heard a radio report of a man being shot in the process of someone trying to steal the snowman from his front yard.
So when Rebecca Moesta was editing an anthology and was looking for stories that involved teenage heroes/heroines in the midst of a darkness using creativity and heart (an inner 'spark') to overcome adversity, the last thing I imagined I would write would be another snowman story.
I wanted to tackle the important issues of not fitting in, of the dangers of a viral-image sharing culture, of cyber-bullying and teen suicide.
Wow. Tough material, indeed. The question is, how could I possibly work my previous adoration for snowman tales into this story and provide a spark?
I was quite satisfied with the answer to that question in my tale "Impressions in the Snow." Apparently, so was the editor, as Rebecca ended up buying it for Fiction River: Sparks, which was published at the very end of March 2016.
Sparks is part of the Fiction River anthology series that Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith publish and are series editors for.
I was even quite delighted that my name made it onto the cover.
As a teaser, here's the opening to that story as it appears in Sparks.
The snowman's smile saved Karen's life.
The feeling came over her quite suddenly. One moment she was standing on the edge of the weather-worn bridge, contemplating the rapidly flowing waters twenty feet below, and the next she was staring at the snowman at the other side of the river bank, trying to figure out why she felt an overwhelming sense of recognition while gazing at it.
Karen and the snowman looked at one another, both of them silent sentinels standing very still at their respective posts, dark silhouettes barely lit by the full moon peeking out from behind the clouds, yet still casting enough light to reflect off of the recently fallen snow. The bridge she stood on and the deciduous and evergreen trees were covered with a quarter inch of the fluffy powder on the tops of the branches and the boughs. But the snowman, like Karen, didn't have any of the freshly fallen snow on the brim of the black top hat crested on its head -- it was as if it, like Karen, had only recently arrived in the forest from some other place.
As if it had, perhaps, been following her.
In the midst of something that led to her darkest moments, I had my story's hero, Karen, trying to emulate the sexy antics of a mega controversial pop star who rode naked on top of a wrecking-ball and licked a hammer. But instead of using real names in my story, I created Kylie Miles, a former wholesome child-star who performed under the name Suzanna Utah, but then completely changed her image with her latest pop hit and video: "Smash my Heart to Dust." (I mean, nobody would ever guess who I might have been thinking about when I invented this pop star -- right?)
This was a fun story to write. And Karen personifies so much about what I admire in giving and caring young people -- and so much of what I worry about in those kind-hearted and giving souls who leave themselves open to ridicule, particularly before the people around them mature to their level. That can be such a hard time for young people.
Karen's story is fantasy of course, but it speaks of karma, of pushing love out into the world, and, despite the element of suicide, there is a positive message in it. It's a story that I'm quite proud of.
And, it quite effectively shows that I'm not done with writing snowman stories. That and when I write a snowman story I can move beyond my normal comfort range of dark humour. And I have Rebecca Moesta, Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith to thank for that. Had I not participated in the Fiction River workshop I might have never discovered that about myself.