Tag Archives: Doug Blakeslee

Giftmas 2017: No Capes!

2017 was very difficult for a lot of people in my world, myself included. Over the past months I’ve occasionally felt like I was floundering in all the bad news, tragedies and crises. The thing that has helped me out of those dark spots was to make a concerted effort to seek out and focus on positive things going in the world — things are are far too often overshadowed by the bad.

WIth that thought at the very forefront of my mind I decided to make the theme for this year’s Giftmas Blog Tour ‘Shining a Light’.

By sharing our stories and raising money to help feed hungry families, my hope is that this blog tour will be a light as well.

Our fundraising goal is $522 (that’s one dollar more than we raised last year!). Because the Edmonton Food Bank can stretch every donated dollar into three meals if we reach our goal we will have contributed 1,566 meals to families this season, but we can’t do it without you.

If you are able, please donate to our fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank. Every dollar counts and, in addition to the warm feeling that comes with helping others, we are also offering a whack of goodies to every person who contributes. You can check out the details and claim your rewards by clicking here but those rewards include ebooks, holiday cards, stickers, Tuckerizations, handicrafts and more!

And here is the most important link in this whole blog tour:

Please donate to our fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank

You’ve heard the saying, “Not every hero wears a cape” or something to that effect, yeah? Well, in the spirit of that and our theme of ‘Shining a Light’ I wanted to spend a portion of this blog tour highlighting those cape-less crusaders whose actions make other people’s holidays just a little bit more special. For this post I asked the blog tour contributors to share a brief story about the time someone did something to make their holidays (or just their day) better.

The story I want to share in response to that happened a long time ago. Dani was very little (2 or 3). I was a single mom, working full time and going to school, and money was very freaking tight. I’d managed to get some presents under the tree, though, and (probably thanks to the food bank, though I’m not 100% on that) there was plenty of food in the house. It was a good Christmas.

Then, when we turned up at my grandmother’s place for the big family Christmas dinner, it turned into a great Christmas. Apparently Santa Claus had made a mistake when it came to addresses and in addition to the Teletubbies he’d left for Dani under our tree, he’d also left something at Grammy’s for her. It was a huge bubblegum pink Barbie van with all sorts of cool features (it even transformed into a stage with working speakers!). Dani, who was all about Barbies then, loved it. And more than the present I loved the fact one of my uncles had gone pretty far out of his way to get a present and credit Santa Claus for it, just to make sure Dani didn’t just have a good Christmas, she had a magical one.

“There are a couple of specific times I can remember when, despite the fact I was working forty-plus hours a week, I was also hungry. Nearly fifteen years ago I was working at a Big Ten university where the pay was above minimum wage, but just barely. I was drowning in debt and trying to pay for grad school as well as work full time. At my lunch break, I went out to my car and tried to scrounge up enough money for a meal. When I got to Taco Bell, I ordered my bean burrito and didn’t have enough for a drink. Something in my face must have told the guy behind the counter just how much I wanted that Dr. Pepper, and that I wasn’t lying when I said I didn’t have the money. That guy, who was probably a college student trying to make ends meet himself, bought my drink for me. Was it a huge expense? No. Would it solve all my problems? No. But just by showing me a little human kindness, that guy shone the light of hope into my day. And when I give to others today, I hope I’m honoring his gift to me.”

Stephanie A. Cain

“This may sound cheesy, but I’m grateful every single day. I say “thank you” more than a dozen times a day, for big things and small, to everyone from my husband to a cashier to my dog, and I really think it helps all of us.”

Laura VanArendonk Baugh

“After working out-of-province for a week, I recently came home to find Christmas lights coruscating outside and the pubs, markets, and row houses of my “Dickens Village” glowing within. One of my best friends had put up the lights, and my daughter arranged the miniature Victorian village. The pulsing jewel tones outside and the gentle colours within warmed my heart and welcomed me home.”

Barbara Tomporowski

“My grandma is like a superhero to me. She adores Christmas. She has never lost that child-like joy for the holiday. She collects Santa Clauses, and squeals with joy when she gets new additions for her collection. One of the major lessons she imparted on me early on is that good things should not be confined to any one time of year. Her favorite Santas stayed on display all the time. Christmas music that you love doesn’t need to wait until after Thanksgiving–if you feel like listening to it in July, crank it up! The same with food. Tuck away favorite holiday treats in the fridge, and enjoy then in April or July. My grandma is in her 90s now, so this lesson of “enjoy now, don’t wait!” is even more important than ever.”

Beth Cato

“Once upon a time, when I was a wee lad, the family would make the pilgrimage from our home in Maryland to New York for the holidays. I respect that my parents for making that slog 2-3 times a year for to visit relatives. During one such trip, where it was pretty much a blizzard, we ended up into a snow bank in the middle of nowhere. Fortune smiled on us pretty hard when a tow truck arrived about 30 minutes later leading a line of cars. It saved us from spending a night there. Saved us from a ruined trip.”

Doug Blakeslee

Hands down, one of the nicest things anyone ever did for me was when my husband put Christmas lights on the thirty foot evergreen in front of our new-to-us house. My dad used to light up the evergreens on the farm, and I loved how they welcomed us when we drove up the highway to visit at Christmastime. My husband worked long and hard on our tree, and it looked spectacular. It absolutely made my Christmas that year. It also started the Christmas decorating challenge with our next door neighbours, (which they have won for ten years in a row, darn it anyhow) but that is another story. “

E.C. Bell

“One Christmas, a few years back, my heroes were the staff of Central Middlesex Hospital and The London Ambulance Service. Dad was in hospital over Christmas. Mum and I had been in to see him on the day and had come home again, but the stress of the experience affected my mother’s health. Cue emergency call and a visit from a wonderfully professional but supportive ambulance team, who coped with our needs and the vitriolic abuse of at least one driver, because the presence of an ambulance in our road meant that he had to drive an extra one minute detour. I ended up with both parents in hospital, in separate wards, over Christmas, but all turned out well in the end, as they say.”

J.S. Watts

“The tiniest things can make a normal day extra special. I got a warm fuzzy feeling once when a student of mine gave me a fruit basket, just because. The best thing about this was that she managed to completely surprise me with this, and I love being surprised in a good way. This was in summer, not winter, but it did make my day.”

Alexandra Seidel

“Two years ago, my brother and I were fighting about the cooking for Christmas. I didn’t want to do anything. We argued while putting up our tree and star. And I just wanted to make a simple meal. I was quite unhappy at work. Every Christmas before that had been the same, lonely and without family.  That year was not going to be any different. I returned home from a long day at the clinic and an even longer commute. The house was a mess and I was ranting at my brother, when I went to the bedroom only to find my parents, especially my dad with tears in his eyes, standing behind the door. I leaped on him. It had been the first Christmas in 10 years that my family spent together. Two years later he was gone. So I always cherish that Christmas. He made that decision for some reason to travel to see us for Christmas from Kuwait and it was the best thing he ever did! Heroes don’t wear capes!”

Pamela Q. Fernandez

And now maybe it’s our turn to, if not be a ‘hero’ at least make your holiday a wee bit more special if you win this Rafflecopter. Check out the full list of prizes by clicking here (there are too many to list in this space) and enter. You get one free entry every day and you can earn extra ones by donating to our fundraiser or boosting our signal 🙂

Giftmas 2017 – What I Celebrate

2017 was very difficult for a lot of people in my world, myself included. Over the past months I’ve occasionally felt like I was floundering in all the bad news, tragedies and crises. The thing that has helped me out of those dark spots was to make a concerted effort to seek out and focus on positive things going in the world — things are are far too often overshadowed by the bad.

WIth that thought at the very forefront of my mind I decided to make the theme for this year’s Giftmas Blog Tour ‘Shining a Light’.

By sharing our stories and raising money to help feed hungry families, my hope is that this blog tour will be a light as well.

Our fundraising goal is $522 (that’s one dollar more than we raised last year!). Because the Edmonton Food Bank can stretch every donated dollar into three meals if we reach our goal we will have contributed 1,566 meals to families this season, but we can’t do it without you.

If you are able, please donate to our fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank. Every dollar counts and, in addition to the warm feeling that comes with helping others, we are also offering a whack of goodies to every person who contributes. You can check out the details and claim your rewards by clicking here but those rewards include ebooks, holiday cards, stickers, Tuckerizations, handicrafts and more!

And here is the most important link in this whole blog tour:

Please donate to our fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank

There are as many different ways to celebrate winter holidays as there are families and today I wanted to find out about what some of the blog contributors celebrate. You can join in the conversation by commenting here or using the #Giftmas2017 hashtag on social media — what do you celebrate? How do you celebrate it?

Our family celebrates a secular version of Christmas that I like to call Giftmas, hence the name of this blog tour. One of my favourite family traditions is advent. On December 1st we clear all the clutter off our fireplace mantle and replace it with a new kind of clutter — candle clutter! We put twenty-five candles out. Each night in December we light the number of candles that match the date, hang out together and enjoy a chocolate and some holiday music. Some years we’ve read books aloud, but mostly we just sit in the varying degrees of darkness and talk. It’s a lovely, restful way to count down the days toward Christmas. And not just because there’s chocolate, but also because there’s chocolate 🙂

What do the other participants celebrate? Let’s ask them!

“We don’t really celebrate anything anymore, but when I was a kid, we had a the worst fake tree ever made. We used to strategically place the tinsel to cover the gaps between limbs.”

Jennifer Lee Rossman

“We celebrate Christmas, though in a more secular way. (I grew up in the Church of Christ, and was taught that Christ’s birth was something to be acknowledged all year long.) For me, Christmas is about joy and good food and family and Santa Claus. This is what I’ve tried to impart on my son, too. He’s autistic, and we adapted our traditions for his sensory needs. He has always loved numbers and math, so from an early age, I started getting him advent calendars so he could count down the days to Christmas with chocolate. When I hit post-Christmas sales, I try to find one or two more advent calendars too so we can then do “January and February advent” for his numerical joy. We did a third extra advent one year, but since we live in Arizona, I found that the chocolates became too soft by March and we couldn’t get them out of the plastic!”

Beth Cato

“I celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus Christ. Not that he was born on December 25, of course; the Roman calendar at that time was a hot mess (leap months, seriously?), even if anyone had bothered to record the date at the time. But December 25 is as good a date as any other to acknowledge and honor the day. We exchange gifts because gifts are a nominal cultural remembrance of the gifts of the Magi to the newborn Jesus or a Christian rebranding of Saturnalia gifts—but mostly because it’s fun.”

Laura VanArendonk Baugh

“We have a very traditional Advent and then a long 12-day Christmas season until Epiphany. So we start from the 2nd of December lighting a candle on the wreath, we start creating the crib sowing the grass and hay, we soak our fruits in rum for Christmas cake and then start making sweets for the office. The kids all start doing the one-kind-deed-a-day decoration chains and we pull out the decorations. In addition to that, we start caroling at various places, work on the Church star and crib with the community, organize gift bags for the poor, make a retreat and confession. Finally, by Christmas week, the cake is baked, the decorations and lights go on and the merrymaking starts on Christmas day after midnight mass right till Epiphany.”

Pamela Q. Fernandez

“As an atheist, I celebrate my cultural roots: I celebrate that there is glühwein (mulled wine) again and that it’s the time of the year to make feuerzangenbowle (a very German thing), which contains wine, rum, and fire as the main ingredients. Since it is the end of the year and the very tipping point of the dark season, I do have the sense of a coming together with those you hold dear (because drinking glühwein alone is just sad), of reflecting on the past year and setting out to tackle the new one, of a sense of quiet.”

Alexandra Seidel

“I’m not really in the Christmas spirit right now—I’m in the Advent spirit. Advent is a Christian season of hopeful anticipation, of waiting, of expectation. It’s a time to reflect on the darkness in the world and to look forward to the coming of a savior, a messiah who will show us the right way to live and lift us out of the darkness. I think in that way, it has a lot in common with the Winter Solstice—and maybe that’s part of why the early Christian church decided to place Christmas so near to the solstice. Over the past several years, I’ve made an effort to place emphasis on Advent until Christmas Eve—the day my parents and I have always held our own private celebration of Christmas.”

Stephanie A. Cain

“My family has always celebrated Christmas. At least we call it that, but it is really a secular celebration, rather than a religious festival. At times, I have somewhat flippantly been known to draw on the mid-winter and Roman heritage of my home country (I’m British) and offer felicitations for the festival day of the risen god, Sol Invictus.”

J.S. Watts

“My holiday traditions are a muddle! We go Yule singing door-to-door in the days leading up to Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we sing carols and go to church. We open gifts on Christmas morning, and eat a supper that includes a cake shaped like a Yule log. Next, we celebrate the changing face of Janus on December 31st by ushering out the old year and welcoming the new. Lastly, I celebrate Imbolc on February 1st, lighting candles and lanterns to welcome the coming of spring. ”

Barbara Tomporowski

“Not a holiday sort of dude. I like the excuse to give presents or hang out with people, but there’s no one holiday that I adhere to. Again, the cynic in me grumbles, but stays quiet for the most part during the month of December. I like the cold, the lights, and the mountain of baked goods that accompany this time of the year. It’s the only chance to watch my favorite version of “Christmas Carol” with Alastair Sims.”

Doug Blakeslee

We celebrate a secular version of Christmas. I was raised on a farm, and that definitely coloured how I celebrate the season. We baked multitudes of fantastic cakes and cookies. We went to the back forty and cut down our own Christmas tree. Then we decorated it and the rest of the house. It was wonderful. But one of the big events that signalled (to me at least) that Christmas had really truly arrived was watching Alastair Sim’s version of “A Christmas Carol” on CBC on Christmas Eve. Now, in my own house, we decorate a tree (sadly, we have moved to artificial, but digging it out of its box and putting it together is just as good as slogging through the snow to cut down a real one. Right?), and bake a bunch of different cookies for the season, but I have developed a variation of “the movie before Christmas.” Now, we watch the “25 movies of Christmas.” We start with “Die Hard” on December 1st, and watch (at least) one movie with some sort of a Christmas theme an evening until Christmas Eve. That’s reserved for… (if you guessed Alastair Sim’s “A Christmas Carol,” you’d be wrong!) “Love Actually.” Because my husband gets to pick movies too, and this is one of his favourites.”

E.C. Bell

Another Giftmas tradition I enjoy is exchanging gifts and it really is true what they say about giving being better than receiving — I love a good gift, don’t get me wrong, but I really love the feeling that comes with finding and giving someone else that perfect something.

Which is an elegant little segue to the fact that if you love books or art I might have the perfect gift for you. Two people will win awesome prizes from this Rafflecopter right here. There are honestly too many prizes for me to list them all here, but you can check out the list by clicking here.

Everyone gets one free entry each day and you can earn more by helping us signal boost this tour and fundraiser, or by donating.

Thank you, and good luck!

Giftmas 2017 – Why I Give

2017 was very difficult for a lot of people in my world, myself included. Over the past months I’ve occasionally felt like I was floundering in all the bad news, tragedies and crises. The thing that has helped me out of those dark spots was to make a concerted effort to seek out and focus on positive things going in the world — things are are far too often overshadowed by the bad.

WIth that thought at the very forefront of my mind I decided to make the theme for this year’s Giftmas Blog Tour ‘Shining a Light’.

By sharing our stories and raising money to help feed hungry families, my hope is that this blog tour will be a light as well.

Our fundraising goal is $522 (that’s one dollar more than we raised last year!). Because the Edmonton Food Bank can stretch every donated dollar into three meals if we reach our goal we will have contributed 1,566 meals to families this season, but we can’t do it without you.

If you are able, please donate to our fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank. Every dollar counts and, in addition to the warm feeling that comes with helping others, we are also offering a whack of goodies to every person who contributes. You can check out the details and claim your rewards by clicking here but those rewards include ebooks, holiday cards, stickers, Tuckerizations, handicrafts and more!

And here is the most important link in this whole blog tour:

Please donate to our fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank

For today’s post I asked the contributors to talk about why they give, and I intentionally left the question of what they give completely open because I wanted to see how each individual would interpret the question. Because we all give in some form or another — we give money, or time, objects or of ourselves. What motivates that giving?

Personally, I want to talk specifically about why I give to the Food Bank — why that is the cause I choose to support with this blog tour. The answer is very simple, really. I give to the Food Bank because the Food Banks have given to me. I live a privileged life these days and we never struggle to put food on the table but that wasn’t always the case. When I was younger and my mom was a struggling single mother of three we didn’t go hungry but the local Food Bank’s Christmas hampers were a huge factor in our Christmas celebrations. Without them our season would have been far less bright. And when Dani was a toddler and I was the single mom a Christmas hamper meant I didn’t have to pick between having a holiday feast or putting a great present under the tree for her. Supporting the food bank now that I am financially able makes sense to me and it feels good too.

As for why some of the other contributors give? Let’s ask them:

“Last year was the first time I took part in the Giftmas tour hosted by Rhonda. And I honestly didn’t think much of it until we met and surpassed the 500$ mark and I was amazed at the generosity of fans. We’ve been blessed abundantly in a way that we can write, share stories and become a part of people’s thoughts long after they’ve finished a book. It feels wonderful to be able to share with others who’re finding the going tough. If there is something that we can do to help others have a better Christmas it would be awesome. ”

Pamela Q. Fernandez

“I support the Giftmas Blog Tour because our friends, families, and community members should not go hungry in this great country.”

Barbara Tomporowski

“I give because I can, and because I hope that it will give the gift of happiness, no matter how brief, to someone else who needs it. I also think that if we all acted kinder and more giving toward one another and the other beings sharing this planet with us, we would find more happiness ourselves.”

Alexandra Seidel

“I give my time and energy because I don’t feel like I’ve done enough to “earn” the good things in my life.”

Jennifer Lee Rossman

“I give for a lot of reasons—first and foremost because I’m a follower of the Jesus way, and one important tenet of that way is to give to others, to love other people as much as I love myself. I won’t get all preachy on you, but I’m a firm believer that every gift I give to another person is also a gift I offer to Jesus. For another reason, my forty-one years have been a roller coaster of both need and plenty. There have been times I’ve had a thousand dollars in my checking account and had plenty to give someone in need. There have also been times I’ve just bounced a check and needed someone’s help to buy groceries. I know what need feels like. I know how crippling and shameful it can be to have to ask someone for help in a culture that seems to idolize self-reliance. And I know just how big a tiny gift can feel.”

Stephanie A. Cain

“I’m cynical by nature. Slow to trust or warm up to people. It’s part of my past that I work to get past. One of the ways I do that is support things that I do believe in. As a kid I devoured science fiction of all types. Science was my passion and while I didn’t go that route, it’s something I believe in. It gives us hope that there’s something better or we can become something better. When I got the offer for the blog tour, I took up the cause, because it’s passing along a bit of hope. A recent sci-fi anthology just arrived and it’s full of stories that embody the hope that sci-fi brings to me. That’s why I’m offering it to the blog tour. Maybe it’ll kindle someone else’s hope.”

Doug Blakeslee

“To paraphrase 1 John, “We give because he first gave to us.” I participate in this blog-hopping fundraiser because it’s a fun way to simultaneously connect with colleagues and support a cause outside of my local sphere of influence. I support a number of local non-profits, but here are two charities which work around the world and which you can support from anywhere:

IJM (International Justice Mission) fights slavery—not “I’ve got student loans” but real, chattel slavery which still exists in much of the world and probably touching you. (It’s why I highlight fair-trade chocolate when I blog about chocolate.) Several of my writing projects feature slave characters, but I want to be sure I don’t romanticize this concept, and I’ve used books as fundraisers to support IJM and will again.

World Vision provides education, resources, supplies, and support in all kinds of conditions and needs. They have a great record of using donations directly to aid, rather than diluting in marketing, fundraising, salaries, slush. They also have a child sponsorship program, if you want to connect personally.”

Laura VanArendonk Baugh

“I give to this fundraiser and other causes because I know what it’s like to need. My family often struggled as I was growing up. There were a few months where we got by on a bare minimum of ramen noodles, cereal, and milk. We didn’t get assistance from a food bank, though our plight would have warranted it. And even though we didn’t have much, we always gave.  My mom encouraged me to donate to food or toy or pet-supply drives, emphasizing that there were always people who need help. Those lessons have stayed with me.”

Beth Cato

Short answer? Because I have been incredibly lucky most of my life, and this blog tour is one way I can give back. It’s not the only thing I do, but it is special to me, because it happens at Christmas time. I love the trappings, and the baking, and the lights, and the food, and the celebrations I can join around the city if I choose—and did I mention the food? That’s the biggest reason why this blog tour is close to my heart. Food is the lynch pin of all my celebrations around this season, and I can’t imagine not being able to afford it. (Actually, I can, because I wasn’t always lucky. And that’s another reason why I give.)”

E.C. Bell

“I fall into the category of cash-strapped writer. I don’t have the money to donate to heaps of good causes, as much as I might like to. I do, however, have my writing and performance skills. When a good cause comes along that enables me to volunteer my time and my skills, I jump at it. It’s my way of giving back.”

J.S. Watts

One of the themes I see running through those answers is ‘I give because I can’. Related to that is the Rafflecopter you see right here.

Though we really want to use this blog tour to raise money for the Food Bank we recognize that not everyone can contribute financially and that’s okay. You can still help by spreading the word, by boosting our signal. And if you can’t do that… well, everyone deserves a chance at some holiday goodies. So in addition to giving you extra entries for boosting our signal we’re also giving everyone one free entry each day.

You can check out the full prize list for the Rafflecopter by clicking here but suffice to say it includes books, original art, books, Tuckerizations (that’s when someone names a character after you!), books, critiques, and did I mention books? There are a lot of books!

Enter to win now, and good luck!

And don’t forget to support our fundraiser to benefit the Edmonton Food Bank if you can. It’ll give you some extra entries into the Rafflecopter, let you claim some awesome rewards and put a smile on your face. That’s pretty tough to beat!

Winter In Words


All month long I’m going to be hosting the posts of other people as part of my 2015 Giftmas Blog Tour. All the guest bloggers are welcome to write about anything they’d like so long as their post touched on a December holiday in some way, no matter how tangentially. The blog tour extends beyond my blog as well, and I will do my best to link to each external post from the here and share them on social media using the hashtag #GiftmasTour.

But wait! There’s more!

We’re also giving away a whole whack of prizes (check out the list here) which you can enter to win using the Rafflecoper code below. Whatever December holiday you celebrate (or don’t) winning a stack of books will make it better!

Winter in Words

A Guest Post by Doug Blakeslee

I wrote a novella, Fire and Frost, featuring a character associated with winter and related elements. I’ll admit have a character that embodies Fire and one associated with Cold is a cliché. In my defense, the story started with a superhero theme and changed along the way. Alexia grew from a background character to being a strong partner of the main character over the four or five revisions that I made to the story. She’s appeared in a couple of short stories, plays a major role in my current novel project, and mentioned in passing in related stories. Scenes have been rewritten to include her or shift to her point of view. She’s one of my top picks if I’m writing urban fantasy and the story requires female voice.

Alexia is the daughter of Yellusia [a Fae] and Alfonso [a mortal occultist]. They made a bargain, which resulted in a child whom the mother left in care of the father. She’s smart and well-educated thanks to her father’s teaching. Her looks and strong ties to winter come from her mother. I wanted her to be an equal to the main character of the novella. Truth be told, it took the last two revisions to bring her to that point. Alexia does get kidnapped, but she’s not the quiet prisoner, assists in her own escape, and takes control of situations when her expertise is required. She’s not a bystander and will not allow herself to be shunted to the side.

Her mother’s domain is, as one might guess, referred to as the Winter Realm. Vast plains of ice and snow with frozen rivers running through them. Stands of evergreens dot the landscape and provide shelter from the near constant wind that whistle down from the mountains. Rare is the day where snow doesn’t fall. Alp-like peaks surround the realm to form an impervious barrier to the other realms. The Winter Queen likes her privacy. Her fortress sits in the middle of the realm, rising out a frozen lake with minarets of ice. The blue-skinned elves that serve as her army aren’t the cheery kind that makes toys and there’s no jolly fat man in a red suit. Snow faeries, yeti, ogres, along with wolves, rabbits, and reindeer inhabit the “wilds” of the realm. Yellusia’s rule is lax for one of the Fae, owing to her association to mortals for the past few centuries.

My short story, Winter’s Daughter, is set in a “remote” area of the realm. It seems obvious now, but the connection wasn’t intentional as I wrote. This does mean I can use the two protagonists as they’re now connected to my fictional world. The realm also features in my current novel where I fill out more details of the realm, Alexia, and her mother. Winter’s going to remain a theme in my stories for the near future. I might even try to work in Santa, Krampus, and an animated snowman in future stories.

Here are a couple excerpts from stories featuring Alexia:

This is from my novella, ”Fire and Frost”. Theo and Alexia along with allies are trying to stop a minor incursion of Fae into the real world.

The noise rose as the surface tension of the large bubbling mass broke. Three, frog-like heads bobbed in the air on long necks that rose from a tank-like body. A toad, grown to twice the size of a killer whale. It waddle-hopped on all fours, letting out a thunderous croak, spitting out a mass of water and slime that drenched the first of the invaders and the priest. He shouted something unintelligible in the din of noise.

“That’s a big-ass frog,” Squire Greene said.

“Hydra,” I replied. Gold and white lettering traced down the gun barrel. Enchanted pistols, another trick for the modern age. The fairy tales tell of magical swords and daggers. They give weight to the legends and that means power. Modern times require modern methods.

“One of them anyways,” added Alexia. Her training shown through. She spoke and wrote in a dozen languages and carried an encyclopedic range of magical lore in her sharp mind. Poised and precise, a voice of reason and deliberate thought to my impulsive nature. My uptown girl.

“One of them?” His voice rose a bit.

“Welcome to Mythology 101. Don’t always believe popular fiction. They miss on many of the details. That’s why Theo keeps me around.” She gave me a smirk and a wink.

This is from “Here There Be Dragons”, a short story. Theo and Alexia are taking a room at an inn.

“Ye youngin’s heading towards the market? It is to be a grand thing.” Her tread on the stairs reminded me of bowling balls slammed together.

“We are,” I said. She led us up two flights of stairs and down a tiled hallway. “How long does the coach ride take?”

“A month of Sundays and an hour,” she said, pulling out a ring of keys, then pushed open a door. “Room with a bath. No sharing of facilities for ye kids.”

The chamber’s interior resembled the finest suite of a four star hotel. Wall to wall carpeting, king sized bed, and a bathroom complete with a hot-tub. Theo whistled at the sight.

“Leave the clothing on the hamper for the house elves, a complementary service. No room service, but meals are always available. We have our own grandmother in the kitchen.”

“It’s wonderful. Please, take your pick of a gift for the hospitality of this fine inn.” I fished out a leather cloth from the pack and unrolled it on the side table.

Her eyes narrowed at the array of objects. A silver hand mirror sans the reflective surface. Dreamcatcher of silk, gossamer, and the hair of a madman. Three strands of uncooked spaghetti wrapped by black thread, sealed with a drop of red wax, then wrapped around a spindle. The diary of a young girl, pierced by a paring knife. A vial of boiling sand. Her hand fell upon the last item.

This will suffice. A pleasure to do business with those that respect the traditional way.”

“We’ll be down shortly for a meal,” I said.

She winked at Theo, then closed the door.

“I don’t remember you packing those.” He dumped the pack on the floor and began to strip.

I paused to watch, admiring the toned body. He worked hard to keep fit and it paid dividends in eye candy. “They don’t take credit cards or cash here. You were too busy with the guns and camping gear.”

This is from “Strings of the Dead”, a short story. Alexia is investigating a cursed lyre and its connection to a murder.

Small rooms lined the hallway, large enough for a bed and nightstand. At the end of the hallway, two shared bathrooms with iron tubs and stand-alone sinks. Relics of the time when the saloon was first built. Alexia opened the door to room six and took a step back. Screams of ethereal energy infused the room, spewing forth to twirl and spiral across the walls and ceiling. Colored ribbons writhed as they danced to a tune that only they could hear. The source lay on the bed; a lyre of oak and vines resting on a velvet lining inside an open instrument case.

She felt a cool touch run across her neck, the light brushing of ethereal fingertips. “Spirit, please show yourself.”

Her breath fogged in the air as a swirling mass drifted down the hallway and coalesced into the hazy figure of a thin man. His eyes reflected a great fear, his mouth turned down in profound sadness.

“Go. Flee,” he whispered.

“Explain,” Alexia said.

“It hates you.” The spirit’s eye morphed between bright points of light and deep wells of darkness.


“You threaten it and the shade that follows. They’ll be your doom,” the ghost whispered, “a revenant of misfortune and greed and hubris.”

“Thank you, spirit,” she said.

“Run, girl. Run.” The old man’s face melted, ectoplasm streaming away in wisps, fading to nothing.

Alexia whirled around, taking the stairs two at the time, and skidded to a halt half way across the ground floor. Beyond the storefront window, an ethereal scarecrow-like figure stood on the sidewalk. A featureless face stared at her, radiating streams of envy and hatred. A void opened where the things mouth should have been and a soul-rending scream echoed up and down the street.

She pressed against a nearby column, seeking cover behind the wooden beam as the windows shattered, spraying shards of glass inwards. A piece lacerated her arm, sending a thin stream of blood splattering onto the floor. She dug into the side pocket of the courier bag, ignoring the stinging pain. Her fingers wrapped around a copper disk.

“Signs of old, strength of old. Ward and guard, bend and mold.” The patina on the copper disk flaked away, exposing the bare metal and the intricate engravings along the edge. Glamour pulsed out with her words, a white tinged flow of energy.

She heard another wail, laced with fear from behind her, then the rustle of cloth. Silence. Alexia glanced around the corner of the post. Car alarms whooped and wailed on the street. No sign of the malevolent spirit.

*  *  *

In real life, Doug buys games for a living and eat. His free time is spent writing to get the voices out of his head and playing RPGs. He’s managed to sell a number of short stories and working on his first novel. He can be found on Facebook, Blogspot [The Simms Project], and Twitter [@simms_doug].

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Niteblade #29: Porcelain Doll

Cover_Sept2014_noissnIssue #29 of Niteblade is out!

I can’t hardly believe it, to be honest. When I started Niteblade I don’t think I ever would have imagined how it has grown. I’m so incredibly proud of it, and what it’s become.

This issue is entitled Porcelain Doll and the artwork, as always, is by Marge Simon 🙂

Table of Contents:

St. Winifred Medical Center, Abandoned by Joshua Gage
Shelba’s Brood by M.E. Garber
The Gate of Horn by Megan Arkenberg
Dancing with the Departed by Anna Zumbro
Porcelain Doll by J.A. Grier
There She Stands by Nathaniel W. Phillips
Awakened by Sandi Leibowitz
Lena’s Confession by Kristi Brooks
Valediction for the Dungeon Master by Mark Jones
The Crew by Doug Blakeslee

Over on her blog, poetry editor Alexandra Seidel took a look at each poem individually, offering some insight, excerpts or just talking about what drew her to them. She compared it to guided reading, and I’m pretty sure she hit the nail on the head there.

You can preview all the stories and poems at our website — Niteblade #29: Porcelain Doll and if that intrigues you, pick up a downloadable copy at the Niteblade Store (which means we don’t have to pay anyone commissions) or, if you prefer, at the following third party websites:

Porcelain Doll at Smashwords
Porcelain Doll at Amazon
Porcelain Doll at Kobo

Protip — you can read the beginning of each piece on our website -and- if you go to the Smashwords site you can read the first 10% of the entire issue (the first poem and most of the first story) for free as well.

Three Things I Write & Three Things I Don’t

I didn’t know what picture to put in this blog, so I went with this dude. These are photographs I took a few weeks ago of a ghost magpie. They aren’t great but in my defense the magpie didn’t stick around long enough for me to get any awesome angles LoL Though these leucistic magpies have been spotted all over, Edmonton seems to have the largest concentration of them, and some people call it the “capital of the world” for ghost magpies. I love them. I love corvids of all types, of course, but these imperfect albino magpies are so beautiful… Also, because they are much more rare than their ‘normal’ brethren, it always, always, always makes me incredibly happy to see one. You feel… privileged. It’s almost like rarity adds value or something 😉

Anyway, I love them so much that I’ve been stalking them with my camera for a couple years now (and only have these two photographs to show for it so far — they seem a bit camera shy), and I even wrote one into the YA horror novel I’m working on, Hollow. And *that* is the connection between these photographs and this blog post, because this blog post is about three things I write and three things I don’t 🙂

Cory Cone tagged me in this blog hop and promised to be patient if I took a wee bit longer than I should to participate. Since Cory made his post back in May and I’m just doing mine now, I would say he’s been more than patient! I met Cory through Niteblade, when he sent me one of my favourite zombie stories ever, Compassion, During and After the Fall. Cory is also contributing to both A is for Apocalypse and B is for Broken and his work has been published in plenty of other places too. Because he’s awesome.

Anyway, Cory tagged me in this hop so I’m supposed to talk about three things I do write, and three things I don’t.

Three Things I Don’t Write:

I’m struggling with this one. I really am. I write a lot of things across all sorts of genres and styles… I was going to say ‘I don’t write mysteries’ but I do, I just wrap them up in a fantasy setting first. Or ‘I don’t write MG’ but I used to… and still do on occasion to give as gifts to nieces and nephews… Tricky!

I don’t write… oh my gawd. This is really *hard*!

I was going to say I don’t write 2nd person point of view, but then I remembered the website I made on Geocities way back when that was a choose your own adventure page “You find yourself in a giant library…” and so I couldn’t go with that. Then I was going to talk about how I don’t write the kind of fiction my daughter likes to read but even though it wasn’t meant to, that just sounded all self-pitying… so… what don’t I write?

Uh… I’m going to come back to this.

Three Things I Write:

I write poetry.

I write a fair amount of poetry, actually. And I’ve been paid more for and received far more recognition for my poetry than I have my prose, and yet I still don’t have the confidence to call myself a poet or to talk about my poetry in the same way as I do my prose. It’s because poetry is intimidating, dudes (I wrote a guest column about that a couple years ago). It’s scary. Scary in a way prose just isn’t. I don’t write super deep poems, and maybe that’s part of it, and (don’t tell anyone but) sometimes when I read poetry that other people love, it totally goes over my head. So maybe that’s the thing, it’s so much more subjective than prose? I don’t know…

And that has turned into a bit of a ramble, but the point is, I write poems. I’ve had a lot of them published (I think my zombie poems might be the most popular ones) and even had two nominated for awards. So there’s that.

I’ll even share one here. I submitted this one to one market and they said they’d publish it… except that they were closing their doors >_< Sadly, I haven’t been able to find another suitable place to send it, so I’ll post it here instead 🙂

She enjoys her petty power
clings to it tooth and claw,
terrified of what she’d be without it.

A wall of pride protects
her soft heart, deep insecurities,
camouflages her unique flavour of crazy.

My cat. Myself.

Ghost Magpie - Photograph by Rhonda ParrishI Write Fantasy (Mostly Dark)

This covers the bulk of what I write. Even most of my poems fall into the fantasy genre. Usually my work is on the dark side of the spectrum, but still fantasy. It’s tough, sometimes, to figure out where the line between dark fantasy and horror is and I suspect some of my stuff straddles that line while other stories stomp on it. I seem to especially love giving sentience to things that usually lack it. Fun!

I Write Horror (Including Zombies)

I don’t seem to write the sort of straight-up horror I grew up on (I wrote a book report on Stephen King’s book Christine when I was in grade three. Have I mentioned that my mother never censored what I read? LOL) but as I said above, a lot of my work falls on the dark side of the speculative spectrum (heh, spec spec) and some slips over the line between fantasy and horror. It’s not goretastic horror though. I enjoy reading that from time to time, but I don’t seem to write it much. Even when I’m dealing with zombies there isn’t very many entrails spilling from guts like slippery eels or blood spurting fountain-like from severed limbs. Sometimes… but not much.

Which, I suppose, I ought to have put under


Three Things I Don’t Write:

I Don’t Write A Lot Of Gore

Now, I may have to re-read my shelved zombie novel, Deadmonton (set, you guessed it, in Edmonton. Because I’m just that clever :-p) to be sure I’m not lying here… but I don’t write a whole lot of gore. I’m not averse to reading or watching it but it’s not something that makes its way into my work very often. It’s not a conscious decision, it’s just kind of how things have worked out.

I Don’t Write Science Fiction

I often feel like this is a bit of a waste, really. After all, I’m married to a freaking scientist, but I don’t write science fiction. What’s up with that? Somewhat like the poetry thing, I think I find writing science fiction intimidating. The details are SO important, and if you’re going to use real science there’s no real room for error. It’s kinda scary… So that’s probably the biggest reason I don’t write it… though I also doing think I have many sci-fi ideas, really. If I did have a fantastic story to tell that could best be told as science fiction I’d like to think I’d be brave enough to give it a shot, but so far that situation hasn’t come up.

I Don’t Write Book Reviews

I know, this one is a bit of a cop-out, but I’m going with it anyway. I don’t write book reviews. Not really. I’ve tried in the past and it’s just not a skill I have. On the surface it’s like, “C’mon, how hard can it be? You say what the book is about and then what you thought of it.” but really it’s much more complex than that. I’m not very good at it. So though on Goodreads I will occasionally give my opinion of a book I’ve just finished, I wouldn’t ever really call myself a book reviewer. Because I’m not.


Yay! I found three things I don’t write and I managed to refrain from posting more than three things that I do. I’m going to call that a victory 🙂

Now, to end this blog hop I get to tag some more people to participate. All my tagees (which should totally be a word) volunteered for this when I put a call out on Twitter 🙂

First up is Doug Blakeslee who wasn’t sure exactly what he was getting himself into, but was a good enough sport to volunteer anyway 😉

The lovely Ms. Alexis A. Hunter also said she’d participate. I met Alexis through Niteblade as well, when she sent us a great apocalyptic story. Later she came on staff as a slush reader (and a great one at that!) and we became friends through that and social media.

I met Warren C. Bennett on Twitter, where he has shown himself to be clever, friendly and a huge fan of tacos. What more could you possibly want?

Last, but certainly not least (and possibly ironically since she was the first to volunteer), Stephanie Faris has offered to participate in this blog hop. I met Stephanie during this years Blogging From A to Z Challenge and found her to be one of the most amazing people and bloggers. She’s the kind of blogger who even though she gets dozens of comments on every one of her posts still finds time to visit her commenter’s blogs and leave intelligent, insightful comments. My hat’s off…

Do be sure to check out their blogs over the coming weeks as they’ll each be writing about Three Things They Write and Three Things They Don’t. (Why did I capitalize those words? And perhaps more importantly, why am I writing this out rather than just going back and un-capitalizing them? #ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmm )