The Winter Woman (A Short Story)

My grandmother always says stories don’t have to be real to be true.

We’re sitting at her table by the fire, eating midnight cookies and drinking hot chocolate.

She takes a sip and tells me, “Real and true, they’re not the same thing.”

“What do you mean, grandma?” I ask.

The fire crackles, and outside, I hear the wind. It moans like it feels sad. Snow started falling while we ate dinner, and it hasn’t stopped. It’s the perfect night for a story, and my grandmother tells the best.

“Do you know about the Winter Woman?” she asks.

I know all about the Winter Woman, and I say so.

“When I was little,” my grandmother says, “they would tell us, over and over, that the woods aren’t safe. Not safe for children, not safe at night, and especially not safe in winter, when the other wild things sleep.”

I know this part, so I add, “She never sleeps.”

“Exactly,” my grandmother says. “Don’t go into the woods. Be afraid of the woods, and most of all, be afraid of the Winter Woman.”

My grandmother lives in the oldest house in town, right on the edge of the woods.

“Have you ever seen her?”

“No,” she says. “But that doesn’t matter.”

I ask why.

“Stories have power,” my grandmother answers, “because we believe in them. They have the power we give them.”

“Where did the Winter Woman come from?”

“Somewhere far away, and old,” says my grandmother.

I ask what she’s even doing here, then.

“She followed us,” my grandmother says.  

I ask who, exactly, she followed, and why, and where from.

“She’s been with us for a very long time,” my grandmother says, “and she’ll stay with us even after you and I are gone.”

“What does she want?”

My grandmother smiles, and picks up my empty plate. “I think it’s time you go to bed,” she tells me.

She does this every time, every story. She tells just enough, just enough that I want more.

“Tell me, please,” I say, drawing out the “please” for as long as I can. “You always stop at this part.”

“What would you want?” she asks me.

I have to think about it. “Maybe something warm to wear,” I say, “if I’m out in the cold all the time.”

“Is that all?”

“Well, if she’s from far away, and everything else in the woods is sleeping, and people don’t want to see her, then I bet she’s lonely,” I say.

My grandmother smiles again, and ushers me out of the room.

“You’re a sweet girl to think of that,” she tells me, as we make our way up the stairs.

“So, I’m right? She wants friends?”

“We all want friends,” my grandmother says.  

She tucks me in and sits by the bed in an old rocking chair. It creaks as she rocks back and forth.

“Will you stay until I fall asleep?”

“Of course,” she says.

“Grandma,” I say, “is the Winter Woman bad?”

“Did I scare you?” she asks.

“No,” I say. “I’m not scared. No one actually believes in the Winter Woman anymore.”

“Is that so?”

I yawn. “Yeah,” I say, and yawn again.

“Then she probably is lonely,” my grandmother says. “Now, go to sleep.”

And lulled by the rhythm of the chair, and the howl of the winter wind, I do.


Thank you for reading! This is the first of twelve stories I’ll write as part of my 2022 Short Story Challenge. Twelve months, twelve stories, and the theme this year is: Folklore

I hope you join me in the challenge! I think it’s going to be a very good year for stories. But just reading is good, too, and I’m glad you’re here. 😊

The next story will be posted at the end of February.

Just writing…

Today it’s cloudy but not snowy, and as of this moment, we still have a hole in our basement wall, and I’m just feeling sort of…blah. It’s been a stressful week. We ran out of propane yesterday, a problem which has since been sorted but was terribly uncomfortable for the better part of the day. And we’ve both been busy and trying to balance work things with the house chaos.

All of that to say – today, I’m just going to write.

I’m just going to write, because aside from reading, it’s the thing that makes me happiest. The writing zone – that spot when you’re really into what you’re creating, and the rest of the world just sort of melts away – that’s one of my very favorite places. I love the feeling of letting everything else go, and just being carried away by words and by story. It’s magic. There’s nothing else quite like it, and no other place I’d rather be right now.

And it comes with the advantage of marking some stuff off of my very long and ever-growing to-do list! I’m working on a script for an upcoming podcast episode, and a longer-form fiction that I have some ambitious plans for, and of course, January’s short story, which I think will be very inspired by the winter season and the quiet, cold time in between Christmas and spring.

So, that’s me. Just writing. And also there’s coffee. As Fridays go, this one’s not so bad. And hopefully by the end of it, I’ll have some good stuff down on the page.

Happy Friday, and if you’re spending time writing today, too, then I hope that it’s fun and rewarding, and that you create something amazing!

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Dumpling Memories Edition

This photo popped up in my memories today.

On this day, which was a Saturday back in 2019, my friend Jessica came over for the weekend and graciously shared her family’s dumpling recipe with me. So, we invited over Graham’s brother and our sister-in-law, and together with Jessica, the five of us sat down and made dumplings.

200 dumplings.

I’d never folded dumplings before, and it was a really fun new skill to learn. And the end result was delicious.

Turns out, 200 dumplings isn’t really all that many when you’ve got five people and an entire weekend to eat them. They were well and truly gone by Sunday evening.

Maybe one day, we’ll all get together and do it again. That would be nice. And tasty, too.

A Silly Snow Poem

…for a day when my brain is just fried. Good news – we found a food Gatsby will eat! Bad news – it smells absolutely, nose-numbingly terrible. What can you do? Drink coffee and write silly poetry, that’s what!

I think the universe should know
that I would like to see some snow.
Though I don’t mind a winter rain,
I’d like some flakes to fall again.
I love a warm and breezy day,
but it’s a while ‘til June and May.
So sometime between now and then,
let’s get some winter on again
and satisfy those folks rarest
who love the cold and snow the best.

Sunday Supper #6: Podcasting, Plumbing, and a Very Hungry Gatsby Cat

Y’all. You guys. It’s been some kind of weekend. Where do I even start?


Let’s start here. After a hiatus of several months, the Better Friendships podcast is finally back and posting episodes! My co-host (and very dear friend) and I are so happy to be back at work on it, researching and writing episodes and planning for a very good second season. And of course a strong finish to our first season. You can find our latest episode – which features a fun interview with my mother-in-law, who was a flight attendant in the 1960s – here:

So, that’s the good.

The bad? Well, Friday night, we discovered that our upstairs shower was backing up into our basement sink, because that is totally a thing that can actually happen. We called in a plumber yesterday, and he couldn’t fix the issue. So, we called in a different plumber today. He discovered that, just like we anticipated, the pipes in our house are part of a serpentine labyrinth that makes no sense at all. But after moving our basement wet bar and cutting a hole in the wall behind it…

…he found the issue, and thankfully, it looks like it’s fixed. We just need to deal with a hole in the wall and a displaced wet bar. Luckily, this particular plumbing company has people on deck to handle all of that. So now, we wait until they can make it out here to do the work. Which, I mean, things could be so much worse, right?

To top it all off, Gatsby’s favorite food is out of stock. Everywhere. So he’s a very unhappy, grumpy, hangry little big cat right now. Don’t worry – he has food. It’s just not the food he wants, and so he won’t eat it. At least not until he’s good and hungry. Kind of like when your mom cooks you a healthy, nutritious, made-from-scratch dinner but you wanted pizza.

Speaking of dinner…er, supper…and of pizza, what’s on tonight? Leftover pizza. I don’t have the mental energy right now for anything else. And also, ice cream. Because it’s just been the kind of weekend that makes me want ice cream.

Cheers to a hopefully better week!

My 2022 Reading Goal

I fear it might be a bit ambitious, but this year, I aspire to read two books every week – one fiction and one non-fiction. I’m off to a great start, I think, in that I’ve read ten books already, but I know it’s going to be a challenge to keep up the pace, and y’all, I’m going to need your help. Send me your favorites!

And, in case you’re looking for something good to read, I highly recommend:

Jade Fire Gold by June C.L. Tan

Or, if you’re looking for something a little different, this one’s next up for me:

The Heroine with 1001 Faces by Maria Tatar

I’ve said I think 2022 is going to be a good year for stories, and that includes reading them, as well as writing them. I can’t wait to see what ends up on my reading list this year!

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Cute Neighbors Edition

We’ve had a lot more snow so far this month than I thought we would, and it’s been so nice. Graham’s been out in the yard snapping pictures (including the little bird from my last post), and I just had to share this one.

This family of deer lives in the woods behind our house, and they’re…not the best neighbors. They eat pretty much everything, including the blossoms from our fruit trees, and they often get stuck behind fences. We’ve had to rescue them more than once. But, be that as it may, they sure are cute, aren’t they?

Winter Bird (A Poem)

Little one,
the time is now
to sing your winter song.
From your ice-covered perch,
let it carry and fly –
over snow-covered fields
and windswept hills,
deep into the meadows and valleys.
Let the cold wind sweep it
far and wide.
Remind us all that
beauty lives
in frost and bloom alike.

Found Friday #41: Another for the (accidental) collection!

I haven’t written a Found Friday in a while, but I picked up a few vintage and antique items over the holidays, and I wanted to share one of them today.

So, I mentioned in a previous Found Friday post that I seem to have accidentally started a collection of antique and vintage ashtrays. Now, I am not a smoker. I never have been. But you know what ashtrays are good for these days? Holding crystals.

Or jewelry, or dried petals, or other various and sundries. Which, honestly, I’ve got a lot of. And I figure it’s much better to repurpose an old ashtray than to see it thrown out, if it’s generally sturdy, nice-looking, and worth a few extra dollars. I like the idea of taking something associated with a bad habit and giving it a better purpose. I’m really not fond of this new culture of quick construction and disposability that we’ve found ourselves in lately, and I love a piece with a story.

Cut to a random Thursday in December, just before Christmas, and I came across this little curiosity in a shop run by a friend of mine:

It’s cheeky, right? With the cigarette holder in the middle, and the leaf and vine embellishments. It was sitting on a shelf, sort of hidden, and I just happened to spot it. So of course I bought it and brought it home.

The friend who owns the shop suggested that it could be a good paintbrush holder, which I can definitely see. But unfortunately, I don’t paint, so I’m not quite sure yet what it’s use will be. That’s okay, though. I’m not quite sure what my use is some days, either.