|My breath froze my zipper.|
It's February, and it might be the shortest month of the year, but wow, it feels like it just goes on forever. Especially up here in Canada, where the sun might be returning but it's sure taking its time, and there seem to be endless days of minus-you-must-be-kidding degrees outside, which is full of endless white stuff that isn't white hot chocolate.
At our house, we jokingly (but not so jokingly) refer to January-February as one long month, which we've renamed Suckuary.
Suckuary can really...well, suck.
So what do I do when it's dark, and cold, and even working up my usual levels of enthusiasm feels like too much work?
First, I check in on how I'm really feeling. There's a real stigma with discussing mental health, and I'm pretty forward about my own. I've been medicated before, and I am absolutely willing to be medicated again if I need it. My brain isn't always up to the task of producing the right chemicals, and it can go a bit off the rails when it's Suckuary.
But if it's not time to visit my doctor, sometimes it's just time to practice some self-care.
That's something else that has a bit of a stigma to it. It goes hand-in-hand, frankly, with mental health stigma, as far as I'm concerned. If we take time out to recharge, it's often seen as self-indulgent. We feel guilty over things we could be accomplishing—never mind that we can't accomplish anything on a flat mental or emotional battery. In theory, we're supposed to just "get over it" and "pull ourselves together" and any number of other completely useless and tactless phrases that don't actually help in the slightest.
So what do I do? Honestly, in the short days, with the short light, in the shortest month...
I go short.
I read a lot when I'm struggling to keep my chin up. Throughout January and February, I'm far, far more likely to read short fiction and novellas than any other time of the year other than maybe December (and, hey, December doesn't have a lot of light, either, no?)
Now, I'm a huge fan of shorter fiction already, and I read it quite a bit, but it's almost all I read these months. I love short fiction on its own merit, and I adore the tightness of a well-written piece of shorter fiction. I don't think of short fiction as "lesser" in any way other than word count. They're different animals than novels, and that's a good thing. You can do things with short fiction that you can't pull off with different formats. The same goes for novellas—done well, they run lean, and they can tell different stories than novels.
Shorter fiction can get a bad rap. I think part of that is so often most readers are really only exposed to shorter fiction through classes in High School and University and... okay, I did a Lit degree, and can we just admit that a tonne of assigned reading is... uh...
Help me out here. I need another word for "mind-numbingly dry."
Okay, that's unfair, and I read some amazing stuff in university, but you get my point. It's Suckuary. I want fun, light, happy-ever-after, or super-smexy and scorching, or funny—or all of the above—and I want it in small, compartmentalized doses because I'm tired, cold, and grumpy and no one has brought me another white hot chocolate yet.
And as silly as this may sound, the sense of accomplishment and joy of reading a story isn't reduced by the length of the piece I've read. Every single one I finish and mark as read on my little tracker has me grinning to myself and thinking, Take that Suckuary!
I get to visit new worlds, I get to watch people fall in love, and I get to do it quickly. We all win.
So, when it's dim and cold and I'm trying to get things done when all I really want to do is find a blanket and (another) cup of white hot chocolate, I can give myself a dose of happiness with something short. Maybe that's a collection of short fiction from an author I love (right now, that's Trebor Healey's Eros and Dust), or maybe it's by diving into a novella series (which, most recently, was our own Kayleigh Malcolm's fantastic Craving His Love, the forty-seventh (!) in the Black Hills Wolves series), or maybe it's taking a chance with an anthology and potentially meeting a tonne of new-to-me or just-plain-new authors to love (I love the Best Gay Romance series for this very reason).
Whatever form it takes, short can be awesome.
White hot chocolate, on the other hand?
Go for tall.
Speaking of short stories... I have one that's near and dear to my heart. This short erotica story turned out to be only the first to use the characters that would end up with four more stories and two novels to follow. It's called Three.
During the full moon, the vampires gather to renew their bonds. It takes three, and those in groups have total power over those who aren’t. For Luc, alone since he was created, the full moon is his only opportunity.
Seeking blood to satiate him for the month ahead, Luc finds a rival instead: Anders, a demon just as alone, who’s also on the hunt.
They choose the same prey: Curtis, a handsome young man resistant to their supernatural charms. When neither a vampire’s glamour nor demon’s passion work on him, it becomes clear their only chance of success lies in the unthinkable: working together.