#amwriting,  The Answer is 42

On the other side of our long, dark winter

Note: This is part 2 of this post series. Read Part 1, “Writing through a pandemic,” here.

All the weeks and months of anxious mulling over the Ullr story hadn’t changed my mind about which party and which character I’d center it on. I still loved the opening lines, but I knew the happy-jolly fun romp tone was gone. And that was okay. I didn’t need to write a fun story. I just needed to write a story with a party in it.

If there’s anything that I’ve learned as a writer, it’s that as a discovery writer, I need to trust my process. I’m not the type of person who can just sit around brainstorming stuff and have a story form out of the nether. Nope. I need to sit my ass down, open up a document or pull out a notepad or whatever, and just start writing. The process of writing is when the discovery happens, and the story forms, and my subconscious creative brain screams, “See, I told you so! TRUST THE PROCESS!!! Shut up and WRITE!”

So I did. I thought about the many quintessential mountain towns I’ve visited, and I painted Moraine Valley as an amalgamation of everything I loved about them. It might’ve been the middle of July 2020, with temperatures hovering in the high 80s to mid-90s, but by God, I wanted snow. I wanted winter, and I wanted to snowboard, and I wanted it now–especially since our last skiing season had been cut short by the pandemic.

By the time I figured out what Moraine Valley looked like, and placed Scotty in the midst of it, the story had taken on a new tone and a new direction. I’d fallen so deep into my longing, I could taste the snowflakes melting on my tongue and feel the swish of powder underneath my board. And that longing, I realized, was a part of grief–a small piece of the feelings of loss we were all going through, as the pandemic kept coming, and coming, and coming. (By July, Salt Lake City was experiencing another spike in new cases.)

It wasn’t just skiing and snow that I missed, of course. It was everything–our old lives, our old normal. I grieved for the carefree way we used to walk inside buildings and mingle with strangers and give out hugs and call up friends and ask, “Hey, wanna go get a drink… you know, INSIDE a BAR?” All of that was gone, and we didn’t know when–or IF–we were ever going to get that back. And I hadn’t figured out for myself how to process that grief yet… which is why I hadn’t written a damn word of new storytelling in months.

So my grief became Scotty’s grief, and my longing became her longing. And, in the end, her long walk down Main Street became my walk, and her journey became my journey… and, I suspect, a lot of ours. A journey toward accepting that there won’t be a new normal, because “normal” is in an ever-constant state of flux. Toward accepting that we are living through a historic transformation, one that will birth a new world and a new way of life. One in which we’ll all have to figure out how to not only survive, but thrive.

Finishing that story was cathartic, in so many more ways than simply writing “###” at the end of another piece. It helped me make peace with the past several months of creative struggle, and helped me remember that it’s right now–right booking now–when we need stories the most, to remind us that there is, even in the darkest of times, still much to celebrate. And, if nothing else, we can still party outdoors.

So, without further ado, I’m very happy to share with you Scotty’s story in “On the Other Side of Winter,” as part of Uncollected Anthology’s Supernatural Soirees collection.

Happy upcoming winter solstice, everyone. Here’s to new beginnings, to turning the corner and hurtling toward 2021, and to seeing every single frickin’ lovely one of you on the other side of this long, dark winter.

Cheers. 🙂

Image art copyright ©lightsource/Depositphotos

C.H. Hung grew up among the musty book stacks of public libraries, where she found a lifelong love for good stories and lost 20/20 vision for good. Her stories have appeared in Analog SF&F, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and khōréō magazines, as well as anthologies edited by Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, among others. She was a third-place winner of the Baen Fantasy Adventure Award in 2023.