Beatrix Potter meets Stephen King…

Those of you who’ve checked out my pages on Amazon or Goodreads know that my bio there lists a rather eclectic grouping of influences — all the way from Beatrix Potter to Stephen King. So what might a story look like if it combined some of the tones and styles and subject matter of those two authors?

Maybe something like this…

How Mother Rabbit Lost Her Name

(Warning: Most definitely not a children’s story, unless perhaps you’re the type of parent who reads the original versions of Grimm’s fairy tales to the little ones before tucking them into bed without a nightlight.)

The inspiration for “Mother Rabbit” actually came from Nickelodeon’s children’s show Peter Rabbit (which I love, by the way). In one episode, the character Lily announces to her friends that she’s moving, because her parents just don’t feel like the Lake District is a safe place for the family to live.

At that point, I cracked up. Well, no, I guess it’s not safe, considering that you have at least two neighbors who actually want to eat your children! Like, literally cook them in a big pot and eat them. Yeah, I don’t really blame Lily’s parents — I’d want to move my kid, too.

And then I started thinking about all the storybooks with predator and prey species mixed, and how there’s kind of a potentially dark undertone there. How civilized do these creatures get by putting them in waistcoats? It took a while to figure out exactly what sort of story I wanted to tell from that notion, but in the end it became this dark bit of flash.

Apologies to Beatrix. And thanks.

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Fictionvale Episode 1!

fictionvale-ep-1There’s always something kind of special about having the chance to be in a publication’s first issue, and this one’s no exception. Fictionvale, a new short story magazine, debuts today, and I’m proud to say it includes my story “The Claw in Her Heart.”

“Claw” is something of a dark take on the ‘portal fantasy’ genre (Narnia, etc.). But in this particular fantasy world, a brother and sister find out that those talking animals might not be telling them everything — and all their magical adventures might hide a darker purpose.

Fictionvale is a digital magazine, with each episode (or issue, in less imaginative terms) published as an ebook. You can get the Kindle version direct from Amazon, or you can buy epub, Kindle, and PDF versions direct from the Fictionvale site (using PayPal). This first episode is a genre free-for-all, but future ones will narrow things down to one or two. Episode 2 will be devoted to science fiction and Westerns (and mashups thereof), and Episode 3 will be alternate history.

(Want to know more about Fictionvale and those behind it? Check out “Who Are We?” And to find out more about the people behind those names on the cover, Meet the Episode 1 Authors! Because we’re awesome.)

Flash fiction: “Cat’s Light”

teacupIn honor of Halloween, here’s a bit of flash fiction for those who like their treats dark…

 

Cat’s Light

by Renee Carter Hall

 

Come in, come in, you’re half frozen! Those storms are no joke, and they keep getting worse. Only good thing’s the snow; plenty of water to boil. Glad I’ve so much wood stocked up. My husband did that when he was still alive. Filled both of the back bedrooms. Move that chair a little closer, get good and warm. Just nudge Sebastian with your foot if he’s in your way; he’ll move. The cats do love a good fire.

Care for a cup of tea? Got plenty of sugar. Used to put milk in it, when there was still milk. My goodness–fresh milk, running water, electric lights. The new good old days. Back when we used to measure snow in inches instead of feet.

Got some cookies if you want. They’re just a little stale. Been saving them for company.

I’d ask how it is out there, but I don’t think I want to know. You shouldn’t be traveling alone. So many desperate people out there. I don’t go out anymore. Don’t let the cats out either; they’d never come back. No, it takes a certain kind of person to survive in a world like this. Hard, you know. Dangerous. I know what they’ve always said, but those aren’t the meek out there, I’ll tell you that.

Oh, but it’s good to have someone to talk to. The cats just aren’t the same. Sometimes I talk to the pictures, you know, on the bookshelf there, but after a while you start to feel silly, or crazy, and I don’t care for either. That one there’s my husband, of course. A doctor, and a good one. Just retired when all this started, and sure enough he got dragged back in. Worked himself to death for those poor people, for all the good it did.

Here’s another cup for you. Don’t scrimp on the sugar, now; there’s plenty. I’ll get the lamp lit. It gets dark so fast anymore… You know they used to call this the cat’s light, just coming on dark like this. Used to let Sebastian and the others out every night about this time, let ’em prowl all over till dawn. I guess you could say that’s what we’re in now. The cat’s light of the world. Everything winding down, getting dark.

Oh, no, no, I understand. You need your rest. I hope you’ll stay on a few days, get your strength up. Got plenty of canned stuff you’re welcome to. I’ll just go get the bed turned down. You lie back there and rest. Don’t try to stay awake on my account. We can talk more in the morning.

Yes, Sebastian, all right, I’ll feed you! Nice bit of luck, isn’t it, with the last one almost gone? Maybe some handy things in that knapsack, too.

Yes, yes… Takes a certain kind of person to survive in a world like this.