All posts by R. Parrish

Dark Shadows on the Earth

For this year’s Giftmas blog tour has an advent theme each participant has donated a story — one each day between now and Christmas Eve, with a special surprise on Christmas Day. Not every participant has an active blog, however, and so for those couple who do not it is my pleasure to host them here. Cat Rambo has a blog, but today it is full of announcements about her end of the year sale at her writing academy. If you’re a writer, definitely check that out here –> . So, anyway, since her blog is busy and my blog is not, I get the pleasure of sharing her story here 🙂

Before we get to the story, however, a quick word about the tour, if I may. The purpose of the blog tour is to fundraise for the Edmonton Food Bank. We do that by collecting donations through our Canada Helps page which you can find right here. We use Canada Helps because it’s easy, and also because then you can give with confidence knowing that the money is going exactly where it’s intended — to help struggling people. Also, by using Canada Helps it means Canadian contributors will be able to get a tax receipt. Oh, and American donors? You get some awesome value for your money because donations are all in Canadian dollars so the exchange rate will definitely work in our favour here 😉

Finally, in addition to offering a story a day to everyone who’d like to read them, we like to reward those people who do what they can to help out. However they help out. Whether that be by making an actual donation, helping to boost our signal or just leaving encouraging comments on the stories themselves. They all help. So we’ve got a rafflecopter with tonnes of prizes. You can read the full list here but they include loads of books, critiques, a magazine subscription, dice and more.

Enter to win here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(If the widget doesn’t load for you click here, it will take you to the page so you can enter directly)

And now, without further adieu…

Dark Shadows on the Earth

Cat Rambo

I loved Christmas lights till I knew better. Loved to look out my kitchen window, down the hill, and see the lights twinkling, sparkling, lines going off and on, leading the eye in complicated cuneiform, punctuated with glowing candles and the faces of luminous angels.

When the new guy first moved in, three years ago, that Christmas was downright subdued by the standards he’d come to set, but even then everyone said Gaudy in whispers or sometimes not whispers, conversations on the street or at the bus stop, in the grocery checkout while buying tasteful pine wreaths and poinsettias in red and white and marbled pink.

No one said anything that first year, but in October they started talking about nipping it in the bud, gathering conscripts for a delegation sent the Sunday before Thanksgiving to ask him to tone it down that season. Do something a little more in fitting with the overall atmosphere of the neighborhood.

No one expected someone so dedicated to Christmas cheer to meet them wearing a dilapidated Santa suit with Kevlar showing underneath split seams, bedraggled red velvet. He was hostile, he was obdurate. He shouted, “Atmosphere? Just wait till you’re breathing methane!” And then he laughed and laughed, just before he punched Mr. Takenada from 830 Park Avenue in the face.

He would not explain his ways, let alone change them.

I mentioned something about it to my brother-in-law Arturo in Denver, and he said, “There’s one in every neighborhood, isn’t there? We have one, moved in a couple of years ago, and you wouldn’t believethe problems we’ve had.”

Even then, see, the clues were there. How could I have been such a fool?

I don’t know, but I was — even when Willa at work mentioned her own homeowner’s association having problems.

I wasn’t the only stupid one. You would have thought that someone in a satellite would have noticed the overall patterns. The pictograms formed by the display locations. Even if no one could read them. Even if no one realized they said, Almost ready.

And so we the neighborhood didn’t grasp the larger picture. We took that year’s display as war, not realizing it was literal. He expanded the gnome village, had them all over his lawn and garden, each one carrying a lantern. There were choirs of angels perched on the roof, in the garden, everywhere, even a big golden one next to his mailbox. And five Santas, each in a different location, with herds of reindeer and elves capering around him. Christmas carols blaring whenever it was legally possible. And the lights, all night, bright and twinkling and illuminating his display and the dark shadows it cast on the snow.

This year we thought we were prepared. Takenada had figured out the power lines: exactly where to snip, long enough to get in close and do additional snipping. Cut those wires enough times that he’d take a thousand years to splice them all back, he cackled. Takenada has always been one to hold a grudge. It was a rainy season, and we didn’t even have snow yet, just rhododendrons with leaves curling against the cold and dry leaves scrabbling at the ground as the wind scraped them away.

Rudolph and all the other reindeer had a feral look to them, and the candles the angels were holding looked more like laser pistols. We waited until a half hour before the dark, when the lights would snap on. We figured that was the closest to dark we’d get.

His defense system was in full working order. The gnomes swiveled, the lanterns flickering to life. The angels on the roof peered down and revealed fanged smiles. The Santas let out ear-splitting whoops, a discordant version of Jingle Bells.

We pushed forward, not understanding until it was too late.

They landed when all the lights across the city came on and unleashed the hunting robots. All those other Christmas figures came to life and joined them. By then Takenada had gone down screaming when that big golden angel sliced his throat with a razor-edged wing tip. I barely got away with my life; I was in no shape to resist when a patrol of elves rounded me up with some other resisters.

Did they pick that scheme because they thought we’d be vulnerable, filled with love and the spirit of the season and therefore unable to understand the attack until it was too late? Or was there some special humiliation, a particular way to score points in some enigmatic alien game we had no chance of understanding, scoring points for despoiling our childhood loves and turning the holiday into horror?

I do not know. Nowadays we toil in their factories, under the eyes of wise men and security Santas. Walking home at night, I see the angels swooping overhead, watching us, their lasers in their hands. They glow, the angels, and as they move, they cast dark shadows on the earth, and the shadows make their horrible glow all the stronger.


Originally published at Every Day Fiction, December 30, 2015


Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 150+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld Magazine, and Her short story, “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain,” from her story collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012 and her first novel, Beasts of Tabat, appeared in 2015. She is the current President of SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America). For more about her, as well as links to her fiction, see

Eight Precious Spiced Jewels

For this year’s Giftmas blog tour has an advent theme each participant has donated a story — one each day between now and Christmas Eve, with a special surprise on Christmas Day. Not every participant has an active blog, however, and so for those couple who do not it is my pleasure to host them here. Kevin Cockle is one of those people. I first met Kevin when I accepted his story, “Strange Attractor” for Fire: Demons, Dragons and Djinns. I later got the opportunity to meet him in person to launch that book… and totally forgot to ask him to sign my copy. Because of course I did LOL

Before we get to the story, however, a quick word about the tour, if I may. The purpose of the blog tour is to fundraise for the Edmonton Food Bank. We do that by collecting donations through our Canada Helps page which you can find right here. We use Canada Helps because it’s easy, and also because then you can give with confidence knowing that the money is going exactly where it’s intended — to help struggling people. Also, by using Canada Helps it means Canadian contributors will be able to get a tax receipt. Oh, and American donors? You get some awesome value for your money because donations are all in Canadian dollars so the exchange rate will definitely work in our favour here 😉

Finally, in addition to offering a story a day to everyone who’d like to read them, we like to reward those people who do what they can to help out. However they help out. Whether that be by making an actual donation, helping to boost our signal or just leaving encouraging comments on the stories themselves. They all help. So we’ve got a rafflecopter with tonnes of prizes. You can read the full list here but they include loads of books, critiques, a magazine subscription, dice and more.

Enter to win here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(If the widget doesn’t load for you click here, it will take you to the page so you can enter directly)

And now, without further adieu…

Eight Precious Spiced Jewels

Kevin Cockle

It’s a typical Szechuan restaurant, the Dragon Palace: low overhead in terms of décor; clean, but crippling, teal-coloured booths; tables topped with brown I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Wood surfaces; sizzling hot-plate noises erupting whenever the kitchen doors open; spicy aromas triggering glandular reactions in your mouth.  I love the joint – the neighbourhood’s lucky to have it.  I’ve had one of everything on the menu in the ten years I’ve lived just a few blocks away.  Through a process of Darwinian selection, I’ve whittled the list of edibles down to a few chosen favourites.

That’s my style: experiment at the start, then settle in for the long haul.

“That guy is SO not into her,” Anne says, cutting her eyes to a couple directly across the room from us.  I glance: learn nothing.  They seem perfectly happy: he a balding, fortyish, be-sweatered university prof type; she a grey haired, be-braided force of nature type, doing most of the talking.  They’re in a window-booth: large, soft flakes of snow drift down in backdrop to the scene.  “He’s thinking of some hottie in his Middle English survey course,” Anne continues, mock scandalized.  “Ooh, Tom, you’d love her – this hottie – second row, three chairs in.  She’s totally your type.”

“He’s at the university?” I smile.  See, you don’t have to be psychic to read people.  I got that one all on my own.

“Yep.”  Her green eyes flicker from table to table like hummingbirds: sampling, eavesdropping.  I’m used to it: you can’t expect to hold Annie’s attention – not with everything she’s got coming in.  She leans forward over her dumplings, clicking her chopsticks together as she watches.

It’s easy to block her – been doing it for years – ever since we met at university.  Once I knew what she was doing, there’s a Heisenberg principle involved: the thing under observation changes and becomes opaque to her.  You just need to narrate to yourself – be aware of your own thoughts and state them to yourself as though you were addressing someone else.  She can only think-in on you if you free-wheel up there, let yourself ramble because you think nobody can hear; because you believe yourself to be omniscient within your own confines.  Omniscience is like a neon ‘welcome’ mat to Annie – practically an invitation to come on in and rummage around.

Suun brings the dishes: Homestyle Fish; Eight Precious Spiced Jewels; Hot and Spicy Soup; rice bucket for two.  Anne smiles up at Suun and thanks her: only I know that Annie’s nabbing some secret or other, just because she can.  It’s like having an opposable thumb to her: go ahead and turn that doorknob, or manipulate that tool – that’s what thumbs are for.

I remember how we met – thinking at the time that this was easily the most forward chick I’d ever seen.  I was sitting in the university smoking lounge – a kind of time-capsule holdover from the seventies, complete with black vinyl mod chairs and a sunken fire pit/chimney deal.  I’m reading my Organic Chemistry text and suddenly, this body flops down into the chair beside me – the person practically leaning over into my ear.  I look up and there she is – still glowing from a swim and a steam, dressed in green sweatshirt and black dance pants, smelling faintly of strawberries.  And grinning like she’s getting ready to unleash her favourite joke on me.

I’ve seen her around, I do recognize her face.  If you’re a young hetero lad at university, and you see a girl like Annie bounce past, you make a point of remembering her.  She’s way out of my league, although university had seen some appreciation of my value over the nervy drought years of high school.  “You wanna know a secret?”  She says – I mean – she opens with The Secret.  She hits me with a ten on the Richter scale – right then and there, before I even know her name.

“You’ve been watching me,” she says, smirking with certainty.  I could have sworn I hadn’t been caught.  “Relax.  I take it as a compliment.  From you, anyway.  It matters, you know – who’s doing the looking.  I don’t appreciate stares from everyone.”

“Thanks,” I manage.  Heart.  Pounding.  This sort of thing really doesn’t happen to me, but I’m determined to play it as James-freaking-Bond as I possibly can.  “I’m flattered.”

“I know.”

“Oh, you do?  You really should work on this low self-esteem thing of yours.”

“So.  Do you?”

“Do I what?”

“Wanna know a secret?”

“Who doesn’t?”

“I can read minds.”

“You can read minds.  I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to prove that one.”

“Oh Tom,” she says, as though she’s known me forever, “it’ll be my pleasure.”  That smile of hers: I feel an honest-to-God tremor run up and down my spine at the sight of it.  Oddly enough, it’s the same quiver I get every time I hear La Marsellaise sung in Casablanca.

She goes ahead and proves up her claim with a few embarrassing revelations I’d prefer to forget.

The world tilts.  Everything that’s not bolted down tumbles figuratively onto one wall of the room.

And that was it – I mean, there was more talking and introducing, so on and so forth – but basically, after The Secret, I was reeling and not processing many of the subsequent details.  It probably took me a month to fall in love with her, and I was proud of myself for holding out that long.  But scared of her?  I was scared seconds in, and haven’t really ever shaken the chill.  That’s one of Annie’s favourite paradoxes: it’s the fear she counts on, she says, because that lets her know the love is genuine.

I’ve come to understand that she told me her secret because she’d read me and knew that I wouldn’t tell anyone else if I promised not to.  And she knew I’d promise.  And she also knew that once I knew, she wouldn’t be able to drop in on me anytime she wanted, and she knew she’d be able to trust me anyway.

I take a moment to look at her working her curious left-handed grip on the chopsticks – fumbling with a piece of baby-corn.  Long bottle-blonde hair with dark roots: makes me think of casinos, late nights, bright lights.  “Obsession” perfume: on her, it smells like chocolate.  Large, expressive eyes and delicate, arching brows.  High, prominent cheekbones and a too-cute nose: I used to tease her about technically being “cute” rather than “beautiful” – at 5’3” she’s always railing about her lack of length.  True, she lacks elegance, but her curves could warp time.  I never, ever get used to the way she looks for some reason – can never completely get past the wonder of her.

She looks up, catches me staring.  She smiles.  “Happy anniversary,” she says.

We’re not married, although we do co-habitate, and we’re not into formalitites: the anniversary dinner at our favourite joint was my idea, but there won’t be a big deal made otherwise.  I buy her something the month-of her birthday, not the day-of.  Christmas is right around the corner: we may pool funds and go somewhere.  Probably won’t shop for each other, unless whimsy strikes.

Because, the truth is, she’s not around much.  Her job – which has no title other than “consultant” – takes her around the country.  She’s like a professional networker –  again, this is essentially an opposable-thumb effect.  What else would she do?  She’s a brilliant communicator and fixer, putting people together and achieving unheard of synergies.  She works only as hard as she wants to – which winds up being somewhere in the low six figures – and the rest of the time she plays.  But don’t kid yourself: she’s not playing with me during her downtime.  She’s still got that Caribbean tan from her last adventure – a trip with someone she can think-in on, and do things to she’s chosen not do to with me.

I should be grateful I guess: Annie plays hard and she plays for keeps.  There’s that side of her that she closed off to me in the moment of honesty that defined us at the start, but it’s still a big part of her – a part I can’t access.  It’s who she is in the most fundamental sense of the concept.  And yet, I know who she is, and as far as I know, I’m the only one she’s ever told.  “We need to shut each other out,” she’ll often tease, “if we’re ever gonna have a chance to really connect.”

She loves her paradoxes, Annie does.  All part of her charm.

“Hey,” I say, suddenly tuning into a thought I’ve never had before concerning her.  Which is weird, because I thought I’d gone over and over all of them.  “Not reading me: does that mean you fear me?  I mean, not because of what I might do, but just because you can’t read me.  You’ve chosen not to.  Is that part of it?”

She smiles: thin lips; cute.  But she doesn’t answer.

Something’s off with the Eight Precious Spiced Jewels.  Not bad per-se, but different.  Like they hit it with the wrong shaker in the back.  It’s fine – really it is – but when you’ve been having the same thing for a decade, you know right away when something’s awry, and this place doesn’t miss often.

“Something’s off with this,” Anne says, frowning slightly, smacking her lips as though multiple smacks just might identify the problem.

“You read my mind,” I quip.

In university, even though she couldn’t think-in on me, Anne would do things to unnerve me.  Like the way she’d write essays.  The first time I saw this, we were in the library, sharing a table for six between the two of us.  I was hung over and didn’t need to be suffering the harsh fluorescent glare of the overhead lights, but Annie wanted company, so that was that.  She counted out ten pages of ruled 8X11 paper, all blank, onto the table.  And then – little brow furrowed, tongue pink between her lips – she flipped three pages in and wrote a word somewhere in the middle of the page.  Then she flipped back to the front and jotted down a punctuation mark, then skipped to the back to plug in a word.  On and on like that – left hand clutching weirdly and too tightly at her pen, eyes never looking up from the paper – she composed this perfectly cogent ten page argument like she was taking dictation.  No re-writes.  And when she was done, she glanced up at me with this look, knowing she’d just shared another secret with me; gauging  my reaction with relish.

I don’t know what the hell to call this ability of hers – it’s not mind reading – it’s like a tracing of how her mind is wired, and it’s not wired like yours and mine.  It’s way beyond thumbs.  It’s like a whole extra hand, growing out of her neck.

It’s hard sometimes, because my friends do not, repeat do NOT like Anne, and the more vocal among them haven’t been shy about expressing that fact.  “Jesus, Tom,” Mary O’Connor almost always gets around to saying to me, at some point in our monthly coffee get-togethers, “what are you still doing with her?”

I usually shrug or something – give a sheepish smile.  There’s nothing I can say.  To them, it looks like I’m wrapped around Annie’s little finger, quietly cuckolded, and too afraid to leave. Partially true, let’s be honest.  But we also have something unique that I can’t let go of, which my friends would understand, IF I could tell them.  And in her own way, Anne needs me – my lack of threat; my unvarying routines; my unreasoning faithfulness.  She’s the most dangerous woman in the world, hooked up with – as she’ll sometimes label me – Mr. Slippers.  Yes, I do get cold feet for some reason, and no, it’s not psychological.

Then there’s the matter of protecting my friends, which always makes me nervous.  I cringe every time one of my friends is “nice” to Anne, thinking that they’re putting one over on her.  Especially Mary, I mean – Christ – you don’t have to be a mind reader to know what she thinks of Anne.  Naturally, I try to do my visiting when Annie’s out of town, because really – who knows what the hell she’d do, if she got in the mood to do something?  If she ever had it in for you – you’d hurt.  You’d hurt in ways you never dreamed possible, from wounds that would never heal.

Suun comes to collect the dishes, asking how everything was.

“Hen Hao,” I say putting 50% of my Mandarin vocabulary out there like I’m laying a full house down on a table in Vegas.  I get a little thrill from speaking Chinese – it’s hard to explain.  “But you know,” I continue, “there was something a little different about the Spiced Jewels.”

“Whaaat?  No good?”

“No no – perfectly good,” I nod at Anne to get her agreement: she nods back.  “But it was really different – have you changed the dish at all, or…?”

“New cook,” Suun says, lips pursing like it’s just become “former cook” and I immediately regret bringing it up at all.  “I speak to him.”

“Well, but – it was good Suun…”  Too late, she’s off to the kitchen.  Seconds later we hear a burst of Cantonese like machine gun fire, and I wince.  We’re regulars – we’ve got a lot of power here.  I should’ve been more careful, but right away, I come up with a plan to fix things.

Suun comes back, finishes cleaning up: “Anything else for you folks?”

“You know,” I say, “how about two Baileys?  Annie?”

Anne looks confused.  Ten years I’ve been coming here and never ordered anything other than green tea.  “It’s Christmas,” I shrug, “or near enough, anyway.”

That’s good enough for Annie.  “Yes, Suun, that would be great.”

Suun nods, leaves.  Anne wriggles her nose: “Look at you, all unpredictable.”

“There’s a method to my madness,” I say, putting my mysterious face on.  Anne smiles because she doesn’t know what I’m thinking and she’s intrigued.

“What do you mean?” She asks, narrowing her eyes.

“You’ll see.”

Anne glances across to a foursome, smirks: I see that tell-tale light in her eyes as she picks up on somebody’s porn proclivity, or criminal alter-ego, or wife-beating temper.  Opposable thumb effect: Anne never judges anything she reads – nothing bothers her.  I’ve come to believe that’s part and parcel with the ability: if you did care, you wouldn’t – you couldn’t – have the power.  It’s either/or.  It’s another indication of how she’s wired, that lack of empathy.  She’s not psychotic, I mean, you wouldn’t call a leopard psychotic exactly, but it’s certainly right up there with that essay-writing trick of hers for eeriness.  Does it keep me up nights, when she’s asleep beside me, and I think about that aspect of her?  Of course it does.  Every once in a while.

I should leave her – even Annie knows that – though it’s one of the few things she refuses to discuss.  I know my friends are right – not for the reasons they think, but for reasons just as valid.  Another ten years and it’ll be too late for another grand romance.  The kind of romance where you’re still able to say things you’ve never said before, maybe still able to feel things you’ve never felt.  The kind of romance where you’re not only surprising the other person, but you’re surprising yourself as well.  Another ten years, and she’ll have gotten it all – all I have to give.

If I leave right now, it’s still not too late.

Did she tell me her secret, because she knows I won’t leave?

Or did she tell me her secret, because she knows I might?

Suun brings the drinks, inclining her head, smiling.  I lift my glass and gently tink it against Anne’s.  I can never get used to the sight of her.  Her green eyes hold my blue-eyed gaze and we sit in comfortable silence for a moment.

“The drinks,” I saw with a prestidigitator’s flare, “will be on the house.”

“How do you know?” Anne says, grin revealing those small, perfect, chemically-whitened teeth.

“I can predict the future,” I say.  “I’m like a human fortune cookie.”

When Suun brings the bill, Annie reaches for it and scans the list.  Sure enough the drinks have been comped.  I didn’t order the drinks for us: I ordered them for Suun, knowing she needed the opportunity to make up for the misfire on the Spiced Jewels.

Anne is absolutely delighted.  I’ve done what she could have done, only I did it blindfolded, drawing on ten years of experience and familiarity with this place.  Drawing on the empathy she lacks, and maybe needs in some curious way.  And I did it for her, as well as for Suun, and that matters to Anne.

“You’re spooky, boy,” Annie chuckles – almost a purr.

“You have no idea,” I bluff, knowing I’ve got nothing else up my sleeve tonight.

Originally published: On Spec Magazine, Winter 2006, #67, vol 18, no. 4.


Kevin Cockle is a Calgary based, Aurora-nominated, speculative-fiction author of over thirty short stories, whose work has appeared in a variety of genre-related magazines and anthologies. In addition to screenplays, boxing-related articles and various technical writing credits, Kevin’s debut novel “Spawning Ground” was published by Tyche Books in 2016. “Knuckleball”, a feature-film for which Kevin shares the writing credit, is in theatres now and on-demand.


The blog tour continues tomorrow at Cat Rambo’s website with her story, “Dark Shadows on the Earth”, and in case you missed it, yesterday’s story was “Never Too Late” by Cassandra Weir.

Advent Ghosts 2018

Every year I participate in Loren Eaton’s Advent Ghosts event. In short, he encourages people to continue the Victorian tradition of telling scary stories at Christmastime. Ideally each contributor is meant to write a drabble — a story that is exactly 100 words long. I’ve written plenty of drabbles but so far I have never managed to hit that goal for my Advent Ghosts story. However, this year’s tale is my shortest to date, so maybe someday I’ll pull it off. Someday…

After you read my story, pop over to Loren’s website where he’ll have links to all the other participant’s stories 🙂


And the Dog Smiled

“Listen buddy,” Carl raised his hands, palms facing the gun-wielding lunatic in the Santa costume. King’s leash dangled loosely from his wrist and, ears back and teeth bared, the dog was facing the stranger and growling low in his throat. Angry, but not pulling. “I don’t know anything about any Christmas gremlins. How about you put the gun down and we–”

“Enough,” Santa snarled, shifting his attention away from Carl and onto King.

Carl had seen enough movies to know what that meant and a white hot fury replaced the fear that filled him since he’d first seen the gun. “This is the part where you shoot my dog to show me what a badass you are, then?” he demanded. “I don’t think so, buddy–”

The sound of the gunshot echoed through the alley. A burst of red blossomed on the grey brick wall behind Carl’s head and he slumped, lifeless, into a pile of trash that had spilled out of a dumpster.

King fell silent.

“No, this is the part where I kill you to show him I mean business,” Santa said. He wiped a gloved hand through his unkempt beard and turned his attention to King. “Isn’t that right, ye shapeshiftin’ bastard?”

Dear Santa,

For the past few years (OMG it’s been seven. Seven years! O_O) I’ve written a letter to Santa and shared it on my blog. This year’s is the shortest so far, and yet…

Dear Santa,

My 2016 and my 2017 letters to you began with me talking about how tough the year had been… I mean… Maybe let’s just not focus on that LOL Instead, let’s focus on the fact I was pretty damn good this year, Santa. I mean, I always aim to be kind to those around me, but this year I made an extra big effort to do that. And I vaguebooked far less than I did last year. And I whined… okay, so maybe I still whined a fair bit, and I definitely still swear more than my grandmother would like, but surely that is a small thing in the grand scheme of things?

This year I would really, really like a whole week (okay, that’s greedy. Maybe five days? Five days.) five consecutive days when I don’t need to do anything work related or leave the house (except to walk to the corner store to catch Pokemons and get a pop). I will spend those days staying up too late, sleeping in too long, playing ridiculous amounts of video games, reading whatever I want and snuggling on the couch with Jo.

Oh, and also? Remember those baseboard and transition things I asked for back in 2011? I could still use those.

What? Don’t judge.

Merry Giftmas, Santa.




Souls on Display

For this year’s Giftmas blog tour has an advent theme each participant has donated a story — one each day between now and Christmas Eve, with a special surprise on Christmas Day. Not every participant has an active blog, however, and so for those couple who do not it is my pleasure to host them here. Kurt Kirchmeier is one of those people. I first met Kurt waaaay back in the day when I had the pleasure of including one of his stories in Niteblade, so it’s a joy to share this one with you here.

Before we get to the story, however, a quick word about the tour, if I may. The purpose of the blog tour is to fundraise for the Edmonton Food Bank. We do that by collecting donations through our Canada Helps page which you can find right here. We use Canada Helps because it’s easy, and also because then you can give with confidence knowing that the money is going exactly where it’s intended — to help struggling people. Also, by using Canada Helps it means Canadian contributors will be able to get a tax receipt. Oh, and American donors? You get some awesome value for your money because donations are all in Canadian dollars so the exchange rate will definitely work in our favour here 😉

Finally, in addition to offering a story a day to everyone who’d like to read them, we like to reward those people who do what they can to help out. However they help out. Whether that be by making an actual donation, helping to boost our signal or just leaving encouraging comments on the stories themselves. They all help. So we’ve got a rafflecopter with tonnes and tonnes of prizes. You can read the full list here but they include loads of books, critiques, a magazine subscription, dice and more.

Enter to win here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(If the widget doesn’t load for you click here, it will take you to the page so you can enter directly)

And now, without further adieu…

Souls on Display

Kurt Kirchmeier

We were playing road hockey when I broke Mr. Mandoka’s soul. It had been hanging in his living room window, strung from the curtain rod as though it were a sun-catcher. Which, I suppose, it sort of was; it certainly shattered like glass.

I’d known it was there, of course; we all did. In fact, we often joked about accidentally breaking it, about how bad we would feel if we did—robbing him of the afterlife and all. Still, I never imagined it would actually happen. Hard as my slap shots were, they were generally pretty accurate.

My friends just stared in the seconds that followed, their eyes wide with disbelief. Billy’s mouth dropped open, his huge wad of gum falling to the street. Billy was always chewing gum, and never just one piece, either. It was the whole pack or none at all.

“Old Man Mandoka’s gonna kill you,” he said. Chris and Evan nodded sagely behind him, the graphite shafts of their hockey sticks gleaming under the cold winter sun.

“Old Man Mandoka couldn’t kill a fly,” Evan’s little brother piped in. “He can hardly even walk.”

It was true; Mr. Mandoka was pretty old. However, having seen the size of the head on his cane, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit anxious. Jenna—the only girl on the block brave enough to play with us—shook her head. “Stupid,” she remarked. “Why’d he have it hanging in the window anyway?”

It was a question we’d been asking both each other and ourselves for as long as I could remember. Why would anyone hang their soul in their window? Not only was it risky in the extreme but scandalous as well.

Everyone knew that.

Well, everyone but Mr. Mandoka, it seemed.

I left the others to ponder the question and ambled on up the driveway, unable to avert my gaze from the small bit of soul still hanging from the rod, spinning around and around on its string like the broken tip of a Christmas bulb.

Mr. Mandoka wasn’t home; we’d paused our game about a half-hour before to let his Caddy through. Nevertheless, my stomach sank as I sidled up to the window and peered in.

It was worse than I’d feared.

The soul (what was left of it) was scattered all across the living room floor, some in chunks the size of my fist, others in fragments no bigger than a marble—roughly the size that the entire thing would have been at birth, or so my mother often told me. I hated when she said that. The last image I wanted was that of my soul covered in afterbirth. I pushed the thought away and continued surveying the damage.

Though I’d seen it in its entirety many times, albeit from a distance, I’d never realized just how pretty Mr. Mandoka’s soul had been, color-wise, I mean: frosted lilac. Mine was green, and a putrid shade at that. I’d always hated it.

Fat Sam (he was actually a bean-pole) joined me at the window, followed immediately thereafter by the others. Jenna whistled low, and then loudly smacked her gum (Billy had a crush on her, so sometimes he would share).

“What’re you gonna do?” asked Shamus, who was the oldest of our crew.

I shrugged. Given the circumstances, I was pretty sure a simple “I’m sorry” wasn’t going to cut it.

“Wait, I guess,” I replied. What else was I supposed to do, run? It wasn’t as if I’d stolen a crab apple from the guy’s tree (that was the day before); I’d broken his soul for crying out loud, his one and only connection to the afterlife, his boarding ticket to paradise. The least I could do was stick around and explain to him how it happened, that it wasn’t on purpose.

“We still gonna play hockey?” Evan asked after a moment of awkward silence.

Jenna gave him a shove and called him an idiot, then stood there shaking her head. Evan had never been the sharpest knife in the drawer. More like a spoon, actually.

The eight of us milled around for a while on the snow-dusted lawn, none of us really knowing what to say. I could sense that the others wanted to leave but didn’t have the heart to let me take the blame alone.

“It’s okay guys,” I finally said, tossing them a bone. “You can go. I’m the one who broke it.”

“You sure?” asked Billy. I nodded. He shrugged, then immediately turned to Jenna, sensing an opportunity now that his afternoon had just freed up. “Wanna come over for hot chocolate?” he asked her.

She moved her head from side to side, as though weighing her options.

“Okay,” she finally agreed. I think Billy was beginning to win her over.

The others took their leave shortly thereafter, wishing me luck before filing away one by one. Fat Sam was the last to go. He gave me a reassuring punch on the shoulder and told me he would look on eBay when he got home.

I nodded and smiled, knowing that we could never afford to buy Mr. Mandoka a new one. Besides, there was really no proof that someone else’s soul—even if they’d willingly signed it over—could grant you passage to the afterlife. The general consensus was that it wouldn’t. Fat Sam, of course, knew all this himself; he was just trying to make me feel better. He stopped at the end of the drive and looked back over his shoulder.

“Chin up,” he said. Fat Sam always said that. I smiled again. I really was lucky to have such good friends.

Mr. Mandoka arrived home a short time later, his freshly washed Caddy shining brilliantly as it meandered up the drive. I swallowed hard and got up from the step, my hands shaking, my knees weak.

He sat there in his car for a moment, giving me a suspicious look. Then, as though he’d sensed it rather than seen it, his gaze shifted to the shattered living room window, where it remained for several long seconds. Finally he got out of the car, leaning on his cane as he stood.

“It was an accident,” I quickly said and motioned toward the net on the curb. “We were playing hockey and, well, I kinda missed.” I was speaking fast, sort of a half stutter.

He stood staring at the window. “Missed, huh?”

I immediately regretted my choice of words. I looked down at my shoes, my cheeks burning in spite of the wintry air. “I’ll pay for it,” I finally said. “The window, I mean.” It was a poor excuse for restitution, I knew, but I didn’t really have anything else to offer.

Mr. Mandoka nodded, jowls bouncing like miniature saddlebags. He joined me at the bottom of the steps, his face expressionless. “You know how to use a staple-gun?” he said.

A staple-gun? Confusion tied my tongue in a temporary knot, so I merely nodded like the idiot I felt.

“Well, c’mon then,” he replied, motioning for me to follow.

He led me down to his basement and, after a short search through a cluttered storage room, handed me a roll of clear plastic wrap, the sort often used to cut down on draft. He then set me to work, saying not a word about his soul.

Plastic wrap for the inside, quarter-inch plywood for the outside: my fingers were freezing by the time I finished, my gloves offering little in the way of insulation against the cold steel of the staple-gun. Mr. Mandoka inspected my work with wordless scrutiny.

Apparently satisfied that it would stand the test, he invited me back inside. He’d taken a shop-vac to the living room carpet while I was working, sucking up his soul as though it were soil from an overturned plant. He sat me down at his kitchen table in front of a steaming mug of hot cocoa, which I immediately wrapped my hands around.

“I appreciate you sticking around like you did,” he said as he took a chair opposite me. “Most boys would’ve run off.”

I smiled somewhat guiltily, for it wasn’t like I hadn’t thought about it, albeit only briefly. “You probably would have found out anyway.”

“Even so,” he said, “it shows responsibility. You’ve a heck of a work ethic, too.” He gestured vaguely toward the living room.

“I help my dad in the shop sometimes.”

“Is that so?” he said and looked at me strangely then, as if struck by a sudden thought. His eyes narrowed in silent appraisal, though what exactly he might be appraising me for, I hadn’t the faintest idea. I shifted uncomfortably in my chair, pretending like I didn’t notice.

“So is there anything else I can do?” I asked him. The one simple task he’d set before me, while not at all pleasant, did little to assuage my guilt. And the fact that the old man was being so nice to me didn’t help, either. Part of me wanted him to rage, to get it all out in one shot and have done with it.

That’s what my dad would have done.

“Hmm,” he said, again with the hard look of consideration. “Perhaps there is. Tell me, have you ever had a job?”

“I had a paper route once,” I said. “Does that count?”

“I’d say so,” he replied. “Did you like it?”

I shrugged. “It was okay, I guess.”

He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Well, what would you say if I offered you a different sort of job?” He held up his cane. “Can’t move around like I used to. Could use me an assistant.”

“Assistant?” I said. “For what?”

He smiled. “C’mon, I’ll show you.”

I followed him out the back door, inwardly reeling at the strange turn of events. I’d just broken his soul, and now he was offering me a job?

We stopped at the side of his garage, whereupon he drew a giant set of keys from his pocket and fumbled through them one by one, mumbling all the while about how they all looked the same.

“Here we are,” he finally said. “Get ready now, this might seem a little odd at first glance.” That said, he opened the door and then reached around the corner to turn on a light.

“Odd” could not have been more of an understatement.

The entire side of the far wall was covered with souls in sizes ranging from baseballs to breadboxes. They were hanging from hooks and sitting on shelves. A couple of them, the bigger ones, were dangling from the rafters above. The shapes and colors were as varied as the sizes. Some of them were round and blue, some triangular and fiery red. Others were similar to my
own: bulbous and misshapen, like pillow lava hardened beneath the sea. There was one in the corner so dark a purple it looked almost black.

I stood gaping on the threshold.

Mr. Mandoka chuckled. “It isn’t what you think,” he said and motioned towards the souls with his chin. “I made these. They’re replicas.”


“Indeed,” he said, and then with a wink, “and so was the one you broke, so you needn’t fret about it any longer. I regret to say that my real one’s been gone for quite some time. Took a tumble down the stairs, must have been, oh, twenty years back now.”

I stared at him, unblinking, stunned, and relieved all at once.

“But how?” I finally managed. “What’re they made of?”

“Glass,” Mr. Mandoka said.

I took a step inside, only then noticing the furnace in the corner, along with all the tools strewn about the place, most of which in no way resembled anything I’d ever seen my dad use. I glanced at Mr. Mandoka, who was now standing in the center of the workshop, leaning on his cane.

“What do you do with them?” I asked.

“Sell them,” he said. “Most of the time, anyway. Some are just practice pieces.”

“Sell them to who?”

He shrugged. “People like myself. Those who’ve broken their own. Happens more often than you think, you know. Broken souls, I mean. You just don’t hear about it is all. Heck, there’s probably a half-dozen on this street alone.”

I raised an eyebrow in surprise. I often eavesdropped on my mother and her friends as they gossiped over tea, so I was always up on things as far as the neighborhood was concerned. I couldn’t recall anyone having ever mentioned a broken soul before, much less a half dozen.

“But why?” I asked. “What good is a fake one?”

“Peace of mind,” he replied. “You ever been to a funeral?”

I nodded. “My aunt Mary died two months ago.”

“So you saw her soul, then, at the front of the church?”

Barring wishes to the contrary, a soul was always displayed during a funeral and then placed in the coffin just prior to burial, where it would continue to shrink until finally there was no trace of it whatsoever. Only then would the spirit have fully moved on.

I nodded again. I remembered my aunt’s soul well. It looked like something out of a Picasso painting.

“And was it her real soul, or just a replica?”

I made as if to speak, but then stopped myself. “Beats me,” I said after a momentary pause. “I never really thought about it.”

“Exactly,” Mr. Mandoka replied. “Most people wouldn’t. That’s why I sell them, so families don’t end up worrying needlessly. Like I said, peace of mind.”

“So they don’t tell their families? About them being broken?”

Mr. Mandoka shook his head. “Not usually, no.”

“Isn’t that dishonest, letting them think that they’re going to heaven when they’re not?”

“How do you know they don’t go to heaven?”

“How could they?”

Mr. Mandoka smiled. I got the distinct impression that he’d had this conversation before.

“What do you think heaven is?” he said.

“I don’t know. Whatever I want it to be, I guess.”

“Precisely,” he said. “Whatever you want it to be. Now let’s assume that your best friend. . . .” He waited for me to fill in the name.

“Billy,” I provided.

“Okay. Now let’s assume that Billy ends up breaking his soul and that you don’t; so you carry on up to heaven, and he goes to . . . wherever it is he goes to. If heaven really is whatever you want it to be, then wouldn’t you want Billy to be there with you?”

I turned the notion over a few times before replying. “I never thought about it like that before.”

“Not many people do,” Mr. Mandoka replied. “Not many people do.”

“So it doesn’t matter?” I asked. “Whether it gets broken?” It pretty much went against everything I’d ever been taught, both in church as well as school. Strangely enough, though, it made sense. At least to me it did.

Mr. Mandoka shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps we’re just born with them so that we know that something else exists. Something to base our faith on, I guess you could say. Then again, perhaps it’s just God’s way of telling us that life is fragile and that we should make the best of it while we have it.” He shrugged again. “It’s a mystery. The way I figure it, as long as you’ve lived a moral life, and as long as you’ve got people around who want you by their side after it ends, you’ll always have a place in heaven. It just might not be your own.”

I began my apprenticeship three days later, starting with the easy stuff: sorting cullet (raw glass), heating pipes, making newspaper pads, and preparing tools. Mr. Mandoka, meanwhile, explained to me the various techniques and finer points of the trade. Glass blowing, some might have called it, but Mr. Mandoka referred to it as “soul-forging.”

By and large, the work was tedious. I often spent hours on end with the customers beforehand, meticulously reconstructing their souls from whatever fragments and shards he or she had brought with them to the shop—can’t very well make a replica without seeing the original, after all.

It was during this time that Mr. Mandoka usually imparted his philosophy regarding the afterlife to the clients: “The Many Heavens Theory,” as he called it. I soon discovered he was as much a counsellor as he was a journeyman.

I also discovered why he’d had his own soul hanging in the window. It was a calling card of sorts, a mark of the trade. Only a privileged few knew of its meaning, and it was they who directed others to the shop. I continued playing hockey with the gang on the weekends, attributing my evening absences to a restoration project that Mr. Mandoka had me helping him with in restitution for my blunder. I told them the old man and I were rebuilding a Model-T roadster. None of them were the wiser. Not at first, at least.

It was only months later, after Fat Sam confided to me that he had accidentally shattered his own soul while taking it down from his closet, that I began to let my friends in on my secret. By this time, I had graduated from general shop duties and was learning about some of the more advanced aspects of the job, such as thread-wrapping and color application.

In light of my newfound skills, I took it upon myself to make Fat Sam’s my first solo project. Mr. Mandoka coached me, of course, but only by verbal means. As far as hands-on labor was concerned, it was all me. When I presented the finished creation to Sam a couple weeks later, he couldn’t even tell the difference.

Nor, for that matter, could Billy, several weeks after that.

He arrived on my doorstep on a sunny Sunday morning, garbage bag in hand, chagrin on his face.

“What happened?” I said.

He looked embarrassed at the thought of relating the tale.

Nevertheless, after persistent prodding on my part, he finally coughed it up.

“I dropped it in the bathtub,” he said.

I narrowed my eyes. “Why did you have it in the bathtub?”

He shrugged. “I was cleaning it.”

“Why?” Although I dusted my own from time to time, I’d never really given any consideration to actually scrubbing it spotless. Why bother? It wasn’t like I ever showed it to anyone. Billy looked the other way, his cheeks flushed. It was then that it hit me.

“You dog!” I said. “You were gonna show it to Jenna, weren’t you?”

They had become an item during the initial phase of my apprenticeship and had since been making the rest of us sick with all their “honey” this and “sweetie” that. I was happy for them, though—perhaps even a little bit jealous.

“I gotta know,” he replied. “You know?”

I nodded and left it at that. We’d all heard stories about soul mates.

Billy’s soul proved quite a challenge, one that I couldn’t help but laugh over. I might have guessed it would resemble a giant wad of well chewed bubblegum.

In the months and years that followed—fulfilling ones, for the most part—Mr. Mandoka became somewhat of a second father to me, so when he finally passed away—just days after my high school graduation—I found myself left with not only a cozy little bungalow and garage/soul-forge but also a profound sense of sadness. Long since estranged from whatever family he had left in the world (the reason, I’ll never know), Mr. Mandoka had bequeathed almost all of his worldly possessions to me, his only stipulation being that I continue with the work.

And so I did.

By the time I turned twenty-eight, I had replaced not only Fat Sam’s and Billy’s souls but also my own. I still worry from time to time, but then I find myself surrounded by those I love and can’t help but believe that we’ll all have our place in heaven. It just might not be our own.

In the meantime, I’ve got my new soul hanging in my window, strung from the curtain rod as though it were a sun-catcher.


“Souls on Display” originally appeared in GlassFire Anthology (PegLeg Publishing) in December 2007 and was later reprinted in Triangulation: Dark Glass (Parsec Ink.) in July 2009.

Kurt Kirchmeier lives and writes in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. His stories and poems have appeared in Abyss & Apex, Shimmer, Tesseracts 15, Weird Tales, and elsewhere. Keep an eye out for his debut novel, THE ABSENCE OF SPARROWS, which will be hitting bookshelves in May, 2019, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Visit Kurt online at


The blog tour continues tomorrow at Tiffany Michelle Brown‘s website with her story, “Anything But Plain”, and in case you missed it, yesterday’s story was “The Last” by Premee Mohamed.


Pay What You’d Like For Mrs. Claus!

Tis the season for Mrs. Claus to shine once more 🙂

This anthology came out last year and though can pick up a copy from all the usual suspects I am excited to tell you that for a very limited time you can also pay what you want for a copy. And not just of my Christmas anthology, but up to nine other Christmas books as well!

Here’s the deal. Mrs. Claus is a part of a StoryBundle. That means you can pay whatever you’d like to receive these four books:

But if you spent $15 or more you won’t just get those four titles, but these six as well:

Pretty sweet, right?

You can click here right now to go to the Story Bundle page.

There you will not only be able to learn more about each of the books, check out some reviews, and even some excerpts. The excerpt for Mrs. Claus is from Laura VanArendonk Baugh’s story, “Wight Christmas” in which Mrs. Claus is a Valkyrie. Go check that out even if you don’t pick up the book. The story begins with a fight scene that will amuse you 🙂

Dear John

For this year’s Giftmas blog tour has an advent theme each participant has donated a story — one each day between now and Christmas Eve, with a special surprise on Christmas Day. Not every participant has an active blog, however, and so for those couple who do not it is my pleasure to host them here. Julie E. Czerneda is one of those people, and so it is my honour to share her story here on my blog.

Before we get to the story, however, a quick word about the tour, if I may. The purpose of the blog tour is to fundraise for the Edmonton Food Bank. We do that by collecting donations through our Canada Helps page which you can find right here. We use Canada Helps because it’s easy, and also because then you can give with confidence knowing that the money is going exactly where it’s intended — to help struggling people. Also, by using Canada Helps it means Canadian contributors will be able to get a tax receipt. Oh, and American donors? You get some awesome value for your money because donations are all in Canadian dollars so the exchange rate will definitely work in our favour here 😉

Finally, in addition to offering a story a day to everyone who’d like to read them, we like to reward those people who do what they can to help out. However they help out. Whether that be by making an actual donation, helping to boost our signal or just leaving encouraging comments on the stories themselves. They all help. So we’ve got a rafflecopter with tonnes and tonnes of prizes. You can read the full list here but they include loads of books, critiques, a magazine subscription, dice and more.

Enter to win here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(If the widget doesn’t load for you click here, it will take you to the page so you can enter directly)

And now, without further adieu…

Dear John

Julie E. Czerneda

Dear John:

<as the opening line to a letter destined for a being of indeterminate sex and nomenclature, it would likely tickle his sense of the ridiculous. Still one should follow customary form in these matters…>

Dear John:

<definitely should scratch that, however traditional. Haven’t covered formal or informal modes of address – stylized or otherwise. And what kind of name is “John” to identify a 3 metre animated piece of chitinous tupperware…>

I am writing this to say…

<nix that line too. Who writes these days? By the time this vocalization makes it through the translator, it will consist of quantified photons and resonances with an occasional catchy rhythm…>

I’ve met someone else…

<technically? Well, now’s not the time for details…>

This someone can satisfy me in ways, frankly, you can’t…

<not being equipped by nature or imagination, dear…>

It’s best that I leave…

<we’ll ignore the fact that you’ve already flown the coop. The saucer-like, quaint, crater your ship left in my yard will generate enough tourist dollars for my retirement, thank you very much…>

It’s been fun…

<except for the incident with my mother. You really never grasped our prohibition against consuming ancestors, did you?>

And while I wish we could have been together always…

<actually, while I can imagine a dimension in which you – or I – were less relatively ugly, in truth, we both know that’s unlikely…>

We both realize forever can never be…

<though I do have concerns about those glowing pods in my cellar. They seem new, John. Have you left something behind?>

I will carry your memory in my heart always…

<right above the 16 stitches you gave me before we both realized that taking our relationship to the, ahem, next level, could be a fatal mistake at this – or any – time…>

So, I wish you the best in your future, John…

<a feeling not shared by the rest of the inhabitants of my planet, unfortunately, given the regrettable results following your experiments with those harmless-looking gnats>

And hope you can find it in your heart to understand and forgive me…

<and if you ever show up here again, buster, have I got a bug-spray for you!>



P.S. Just kidding about the pods. I can assure you they aren’t yours…

<strike that. Not a nice thing to bring up – which could be truer than I’d like to think.>

An original SF story by Julie E. Czerneda first published in Odyssey Magazine Volume 6, 1998, London.


For over twenty years, Canadian author/ former biologist Julie E. Czerneda has shared her curiosity about living things through her science fiction, published by DAW Books. Julie writes fantasy too, her Night’s Edge novels (DAW) A Turn of Light and A Play of Shadow, winning consecutive Aurora Awards (Canada’s Hugo). Her Clan Chronicles series concluded in To Guard Against the Dark, Julie’s latest SF is Search Image, #1 of The Web Shifter’s Library. Next out is Clan Chronicles: Tales from Plexis. This winter she’ll be busy with her new fantasy standalone, The Gossamer Mage, out August 2019.



The blog tour continues tomorrow at Steve Toase’s website with his story, “Seeing with Pollen”, and in case you missed it, yesterday’s story was “The Fool and the Wise Men” by JB Riley.

Giftmas 2018

Each year I organize a blog tour to benefit the Edmonton Food Bank. This year’s blog tour has an Advent theme. That means twenty-four participants each sharing a story with you for the next twenty-four days. With a special surprise on Christmas Day. Check out this lineup!

These stories are not all happy. They’re not all holiday-themed. They’re not even all speculative. But they have all been donated by generous writers to help draw attention to our fundraiser for the Food Bank.

The stories will mostly be hosted at the blogs of the people who’ve written and donated them, so we’ll be spreading the love around. I will be sharing those URLs on my social media (Twitter and Facebook mostly) but once a week I’ll have an update here to share all the URLs and make sure even those of you who don’t follow me on social media won’t miss out 🙂

Most of the bloggers will be kind of subtle about the ‘passing of the hat’ portion of their blog posts, but not me. This is the one time of the year I am absolutely shameless about asking for your money. Because I’m not asking for myself, I’m asking for people who could use a little help. And every single dollar counts.

Because of their bulk buying power and community connections, each dollar donated to the food bank can buy three meals.

Our goal this year is $750

That means if we reach our goal we will have helped provide 2,250 meals to hungry people. And that, my friends, ain’t nothin’.

But we can’t do it without you, and every dollar counts.


You’ll notice that link doesn’t go to a PayPal account or anything like that. None of this money comes to me. It all goes to the Edmonton Food Bank via Canada Helps. That means you can donate with confidence, knowing there is no chance your money won’t go where it’s intended. Also, Canadian donors can get a tax receipt and American donors can get crazy value for your money because those donations are in Canadian dollars. So every US dollar is worth about $1.25 Canadian!

But wait! There’s more!

While donating to the food bank is guaranteed to make you you feel good, we’re offering even more than that warm and fuzzy feeling in exchange for your donation.

Every person who donates to the fundraiser will receive a Giftmas card from me. However, the first five people to donate will find a custom poem (about a subject of their choice) included in that card along with some brand new ‘Writing is a Team Sport’ swag (in the form of a magnet) and for any of those donations which are $25 or more I will also include a special custom Corvidae die.

Also, every single person who donates $1 or more to the fundraiser will receive an electronic copy of Brandy Ackerley’s book, Fated.

Oh, but also? There’s still more 🙂 We have a Rafflecopter, and you don’t even need to donate in order to enter.

Because we know that money can be awfully tight around the holidays, so we’ve made it easy for you to support the fundraiser without spending any money — by signal boosting it. Check out the prizes that you can win. There are three prize packs, one which is open to anyone. One for the US only and one for Canadians.

First Prize

JB Riley — 5,000 word proofread

Beth Cato — Tuckerization within her current WIP novel. Her first ever!

Stephanie Lorée — 5,000 word editorial critique (first chapter, short story, whatever)

Jamie Wyman Reddy — 5,000 word editorial critique

JM Landels — One year e-subscription to Pulp Literature

Jennifer Lee Rossman — Signed copy of Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic Freakshow

Alexandra Seidel — 5,000 word short story critique (horror or sff preferred)

L.S. Johnson — Signed copy of both Harkworth Hall and Leviathan

E.C. Bell — Signed copy of Hearing Voices

Rhonda Parrish — Signed copy of Equus

Stephanie A. Cain — Set of Circle City Magic paperbacks with signed bookplates (US & Canada only)

Julie E. Czerneda — The Web Shifters Trilogy, in trade paperback, (US & Canada destination)

Julie E. Czerneda — Audiobook of Search Image (Web Shifter’s Library series)

US Only Prize:

Ashley R. Carlson — signed copies of the first two books in The Charismatics series

Rhonda Parrish — Paperback copy of E is for Evil

Michael B. Tager — Paperback of your choice from Mason Jar Press

Canada Only Prize:

Kurt KirchmeierChronicles of Narnia

E.C. Bell — Signed copy of Hearing Voices

Rhonda Parrish — Corvidae Dice


a Rafflecopter giveaway

(Or, if that widget doesn’t load for you click here to go directly to the page)

I’ll draw winners for the Rafflecopter on Boxing Day. Winners will have three days to respond to my email or I’ll draw a new name — so check your email over the holidays LOL Once winners have been contacted and finalized I will announce them here on my blog and on social media.

To claim your Giftmas card from me and/or copy of Fated, email me at Include your snail mail address (for the card) and your preference of .mobi or .epub (for the book) and if you were one of the first five donors I will contact you about the subject matter for your poem. If you donated anonymously, please also tell me the time and amount of your donation so I can match them up.

And, in case you’ve forgotten how to donate (because this is a long blog post), I’ve got you covered. Check it out:


Thank you! Enjoy the stories, the warm feeling of supporting this fundraiser, and good luck winning some of the goodies!

Giftmas 2018 — Advent Schedule


  1. SG Wong — “The Fix
  2. Alexandra Seidel — “Hans & Gretel
  3. Chadwick Ginther — “The Gift That Keeps on Giving
  4. Michael B. Tager — “Where the Dead Go To Disco
  5. Stephanie A. Cain — “Gift of the Werewolf
  6. Pamela Fernandes — “Letters from Bidbid
  7. J.S. Watts — “Christmas Traditions
  8. A.J. Wells — “The Feast of the Wolf King
  9. Randi Perrin — “Invisible
  10. JB Riley — “The Fool and the Wise Men
  11. Julie E. Czerneda — “Dear John
  12. Steve Toase — “Seeing With Pollen
  13. Premee Mohamed — “The Last
  14. Kurt Kirchmeier — “Souls on Display
  15. Tiffany Michelle Brown — “Anything But Plain
  16. E.C. Bell — “Oslo’s Wish
  17. Laura VanArendonk Baugh — “Cocoa
  18. Beth Cato — “Rootless
  19. Jennifer Lee Rossman — “Spider
  20. Amanda C. Davis — “Things That Matter
  21. Lizz Donnelly — “Eggscellent
  22. Cassandra Weir — “Never Too Late
  23. Kevin Cockle — “Eight Precious Spiced Jewels
  24. Cat Rambo — “Dark Shadows on the Earth
  25. [Top Sekkrit Surprise]

Aphanasian Stories on Sale

Aphanasian Stories by Rhonda Parrish

Three of Rhonda Parrish’s beloved Aphanasian stories brought together in one collection for the first time!

A Love Story: Z’thandra, a swamp elf living with the Reptar, discovers a human near the village. When she falls in love with him, she faces the most difficult choice of her life, a decision that will affect the Reptar for generations.

Lost and Found: Xavier, the escaped subject of a madman’s experiments, and Colby, a young lady on a mission to save her brother, must combine their efforts to elude capture and recover the magical artifact that will save Colby’s brother before it’s too late.

Sister Margaret: A vampire hunter and a half-incubus swordsman are hired by a priestess to kill the undead pimp that is extorting, torturing and murdering vulnerable girls.

Okay, I admit it. The title is less than inspiring, but the stories are good 🙂

Aphanasian Stories are on sale for this weekend only–because Black Friday. You can pick up your copy now for less than a dollar… and the timing is great because I’ll be releasing a new Aphanasian story next year, so this will introduce you to the world and the characters just in time to pick that one up and dive in 🙂

Available Now

Amazon (US) (CA) (UK)





But wait! There’s more 🙂

Because of course there is, it’s Black Friday.

Aphanasian Stories is on sale as a part of a larger sale.

Click here to check out dozens of titles in all sorts of genres that have been marked down to $1 for this long weekend 🙂

Good news, everyone!

“Good news everyone! I think I’ve invented a plague that will destroy all life on Azeroth!”

~Professor Putricide

Sorry, sorry… I just couldn’t help myself, I have had that line stuck on repeat in my head ever since I woke up. Because I knew I wanted to start this blog post with the first three words. Hopefully, you will be more excited about my news than about that very old news from Ice Crown Citadel.

Good news, everyone! For the next few days only, the electronic version of Fire: Demons, Dragons and Djinns will be on sale for $0.99!

The ability for people to control (to some extent at least) fire has long been held as one of the major events that contributed to human evolution, but when fire eludes or escapes our control it is also one of the most destructive forces on earth. Associated with passion, power, transformation and purification, fire is a ferocious element with an unquenchable appetite.

Discover the power of Fire and the creatures that thrive on it in these twenty-one stories, including: the true inspiration behind Jim Morrison’s songs; a special weapon used in World War II; the secret in the depths of a mortuary furnace; a fantastical card game; and a necromancer out on what may be his last job.

Featuring: Blake Jessop; Kevin Cockle; Lizbeth Ashton; Dusty Thorne; V.F. LeSann; K.T. Ivanrest; Hal J. Friesen; Laura VanArendonk Baugh; Krista D. Ball; Mara Malins; Claude Lalumière; Susan MacGregor; JB Riley; Damascus Mincemeyer; Heather M. O’Connor; Gabrielle Harbowy; R. W. Hodgson; Chadwick Ginther; Wendy Nikel; Annie Neugebauer; and J.G. Formato.

Available Now:

Direct from the Publisher

Electronic: Amazon Kobo | B&N

Paperback: B&N | Amazon

“Rhonda Parrish’s fascination with all aspects of fire and fantasy has resulted in a gift to readers: Fire: Demons, Dragons, and Djinns is an incredibly eclectic and carefully curated collection of short stories. The theme is exactly as the title says – a stunningly original array of tales involving fire. There isn’t a clinker in the stack… The authors who have enriched this anthology are among the most imaginative storytellers I have ever read. ”

~Melanie S. Amazon Review

If you haven’t already, please consider checking it out. For less than a buck I guarantee you can’t go wrong!

Help Me Choose My NovPAD Theme

ETA: Voting has closed and that’s the winner right there ^ Chancer’s Inn. Thank you to everyone who helped me pick the theme for this year’s poetry challenge. Now I better get my butt in gear and write the poems 🙂

The original post is below for archivey/context purposes 😉




Whaaat? Two blog posts in one day?!


I have a bit of a problem… it’s an affection for pre-made book covers. I love them. The problem is, I buy the cover and then I have to find the time and inspiration to write the stories to go with them, and sometimes that’s a pretty big challenge.

Several weeks ago I held a flash editing sale on social media. The idea was that if enough people bought in for me to pay for the pre-made covers I had my eye on I would buy them and write the stories to go with them. Well, lots of people supported my sale, more than enough to pay for the covers, but when I went to buy them they’d already been sold! *sad face*

Since I couldn’t get those covers I said I would pick a selection of other pre-mades and let Twitter and Facebook decide which one of them I would buy and write something for.

But then there was this sale and I spontaneously bought premade covers for a trilogy. And added those to the other trilogy I haven’t written yet but have covers for. I was forced to admit that I had a bit of a problem. A wee bit of a backlog. I still wanted to let Twitter and Facebook vote on a cover for me to write for but it was pretty obvious that I could not commit to a full-length novel for that.

And then today my November Poem-A-Day partner in crime, Beth Cato, sent me a message and said, “Are you doing NovPAD this year?” and I was like, “Yes. But I wonder what my theme is going to be.”

And then EUREKA! It struck me.

I could let you vote on a pre-made cover and use that cover to determine my NovPAD 2018 theme. And then, eventually, use that cover to publish the resulting poems. Perfect.

Except that NovPad begins tomorrow, so there’s a huge time crunch on this. >_<

Here are the covers:

Two things to remember while looking at these:

  • That is dummy text. It’s just there to show off the typography and will be replaced with my name, title, etc. when the time comes. In other words, those titles are not staying 😉
  • My interpretation of the theme based on the cover may not match the text at all. (ie: Just because it says ‘Horror novella’ doesn’t mean my poems will be horror-themed). It also may not match your interpretation or expectations.  


To vote, drop me a line however you prefer (Tweet, Facebook comment, Blog post comment, email, whatever) and tell me the dummy title for the cover you want me to use (ie: ‘The Road of Lost Souls’ or ‘Frozen’ or whatever).

I will total up all the votes that are in when it’s time for me to start working on my poem for tomorrow (probably around noon Mountain time), purchase the winning cover, announce it here and on social media and then get to work.

Thank you for taking the time to help me decide on my NovPAD theme. I look forward to discovering what it will be!