Tag Archives: guest blog

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.”

“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 www.kurtkirchmeier.net.

 

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.

 

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!>

Love,

Barbara

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. www.czerneda.com.

 

 

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.

Dinosaurs at the Smithsonian

Dinosaurs at the Smithsonian

by C.S. MacCath

During the 2016 holiday season, I went to Washington DC for a week on business. While there, I toured the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and in particular, an exhibit called The Last American Dinosaurs: Discovering a Lost World, which you can learn more about by visiting the museum’s exhibit page here.
The exhibit is on the second floor, behind a display of Egyptian mummies, near the back of the museum. The first thing I saw when I walked in was a TyrannosaurusRexmassive Triceratops, in particular its horns and huge eye sockets, which were bigger than my fists. Its body nearly ran the length of the wall with a barrel chest, heavy legs, and long tail. But the most impressive display in the exhibit was that of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, all teeth and bone and towering over everything else. It made me feel small and glad I wasn’t a prey animal living in North America during a time when those bones were much more than a display.

If memory serves, all of the displays were recreated from dinosaur skeletons in the Smithsonian’s collection, so I didn’t get to see any actual dinosaur bones, which stands to reason. Those are hard-earned pieces of natural history and quite fragile, so I imagine the museum has them locked away in a temperature-controlled vault. However, there was windowed laboratory at the back of the exhibit where dinosaur researchers were working, so I was able to watch them for awhile. That was really fascinating.

TriceratopsThe educational materials about the dinosaurs were geared toward children. There were descriptions of the skeletons, audiovisual aids, and tactile displays that invited patrons to touch them. All of the children there were excited, and indeed I heard children all over the museum asking to go see the dinosaurs. Clearly, the Smithsonian knows its target audience! That said, there was a real sense of wonder in the exhibit, a “Look here, and here, and here! Aren’t dinosaurs cool?” sensibility that was entirely infectious. I have a great love for the Smithsonian Museum, and this amazing exhibit is just one reason why.

So there. I’ve told you something cool about real dinosaurs, even though there aren’t any real dinosaurs in my story “D is for Duel/One Who Dies as a God Dies,” or at least, no real dinosaurs in the way you might think. But you’ll have to read the story itself if you want to know more than that. 😉

 

C.S. MacCath is a PhD student of Folklore and a writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry whose work has been shortlisted for the Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award, nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and nominated for the Rhysling Award. Her first collection, The Ruin of Beltany Ring, has been called ‘wonderful, thoroughly engaging, always amazing’ and a book of ‘tiny marvels’. Advance reviewers have called her second collection, The Longest Road in the Universe, ‘a vivid, epic and touching journey’, ‘elegant and elegiac’, and ‘packed full of lush worlds, lyrical prose, three-dimensional characters and honest emotions’. She lives in Atlantic Canada, which might just be far enough north for her tastes, unless something opens up in Iceland.


Pre-order your copy of D IS FOR DINOSAUR now and get it for only $0.99!

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The Importance of Slides

C is for Chimera is coming out tomorrow and in honour of that I’d like to share this guest blog from contributor Beth Cato 🙂

The Importance of Slides by Beth Cato

 

The table of contents for C is for Chimera will do a great job of hiding the words attached to the letters that inspired our stories, and I’m going to give away my secret right now: S is for Slide.

My story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world and follows the scamperings of Tiger Boy. He is a boy who is (don’t gasp too loudly in surprise) also part tiger. That chimera mix allowed him to survive when most of civilization did not. He’s not particularly damaged by the experience, though. Tiger Boy is the ultimate unreliable narrator: a child who sees the world through a particular, rather oblivious perspective.

To him, a playground slide means everything. It’s a relic of a past when he was pure Boy, when he had a mother, an apartment, and schooldays. He still plays on the slide, but not in the same way. The world changed. He changed.

When I became a parent, my own concept of slides changed, too. I was of pretty average physical ability as a kid. I took things like slides for granted. Climb up, climb down. Stand in line if there are other kids. Don’t push. Don’t be the jerk who tries to climb up the slide when other kids are there.

My son has autism. His gross motor skills made climbing slides a precarious act when he was young. I was the hovering mother, there to help him up or catch him if he slipped. The social dynamics, however, were the greatest obstacle. Much of that he had to learn at school. I couldn’t hover. All I could do was try to reinforce his awareness of other people–give others enough personal space, say please, say thank you, slide down and skedaddle out of the way.

I worked part of my son’s experience into my creation of Tiger Boy. When you have physical limitations, the very act of climbing a ladder has new meaning. It makes the view from the top all the sweeter–or the fall all the worse. And Tiger Boy doesn’t have anyone close by to catch him if he slips.

 



Beth Cato
hails from Hanford, California, but currently writes and bakes cookies in a lair west of Phoenix, Arizona. She shares the household with a hockey-loving husband, a numbers-obsessed son, and a cat the size of a canned ham.

She’s the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER (a 2015 Locus Award finalist for First Novel) and THE CLOCKWORK CROWN from Harper Voyager.

Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.


 

Reserve your copy of C is for Chimera now and be among the first to read about Tiger Boy and all the other chimeras in this exciting collection 🙂

Cover art and design by Jonathan C. Parrish

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The Sports Thing

In the spirit of writing as a team sport, Alex Livingston reached out to me about the release of his cyberpunk novella, Glitch Rain. I am excited to help shine a spotlight on the release of Glitch Rain, and also to give Alex a spot to talk about the sports thing 🙂

The Sports Thing

A guest post by Alex Livingston

Can we talk about the sports thing? And how I’m obsessed with fake sports, but can’t stand real ones?

I can’t be the only one who can talk Quidditch strategy but isn’t sure how many players are on a basketball team.  Name three podracers? Easy. Name three NASCAR drivers? Umm….  I don’t remember the names of the characters in BSG, but I remember Pyramid.

You’ll forgive me a little hyperbole; I have a passing familiarity with the more popular sports, and spent a few years actually watching hockey. Like on television and everything. But I’m not going to tell you how many hours I spent playing the quote-unquote minigame Blitzball in Final Fantasy X, managing my team and drafting players with a pragmatism and alacrity I wish I could apply to other parts of my life.

So what’s wrong with me? Here, presented for my entertainment in actual real life, are highly-trained professionals working for teams which have histories far broader and more fascinating than any fictional sport. And yet I’d rather reread the chapters about Welters in The Magicians.*

My best guess is it’s in the presentation. Just as drama is life with the dull bits cut out, Quidditch is hockey/cricket shown to me in mere minutes. No endless droning commentary, no low-scoring games, no sigh-inducing stoppages in play.

Also, we’re all pretty much on the same page when it comes to fictional sports. There’s only so much one can know, unlike actual for-real sports. We’ve got what’s in the books, and that’s it. That well only goes so deep. So no feelings of inferiority for not being able to name anyone from the starting lineup of the 1976 Philadelphia Flyers.

Of course, there’s flying in Quidditch. And magic. And weird words to nerd out about**. And wizards interfering from the stands. And all that good stuff. Maybe if I call the endzone “the grim plain of the Obsidian Windprinces”….

Now Akuba, the main character of my novella Glitch Rain, she lives in a fairly sports-free environment. She knows who the big players are, but only if you define ‘big’ by their status as socialites and party people. She has certainly been hired by the managers of a few players to hack the feeds and make sure no pictures from their A-list escapades end up on instagram. But you won’t find her sitting in the stands of a AAA baseball game any time soon. Unless you’re buying the drinks.

And if you invite me to a AAA baseball game, please don’t be mad when I play Final Fantasy: Record Keeper on my phone.

(P.S. Don’t get me started about fictional games (as opposed to sports). Sabaac vs. Pazaak? 3D chess? The deck of cards used in Wicked Grace? Whatever that board game is in DA: Inquisition? Settle in. This is gonna be a long one.)

*Headcanon: the kings and queens of Fillory play Welters while they’re there, living out old rivalries and trying their skills against the magical beasts. Eliot tries to convince a giant to join his team at one of their month-long tourneys, but Janet threatens to show the court an accurate picture of how Eliot dressed first year and the king relents.

**The quaffle is leather without any seams? How is that possible? OH WAIT MAGIC.

GLITCH RAIN

Glitch Rain
This high-speed cyberpunk novella is sure to be an adventure you don’t want to miss.
Akuba is a low-level hacker for the city’s wealthy, making just enough to keep her bills paid and her booze flowing. Her job is to scrub the social feeds for faces who don’t want to be seen, hanging out at parties to guard the elite from errant social media statuses and incriminating photo posts. Not the most glamorous job, but she’s getting by. When an old debt comes due early suddenly she is the one who needs to keep her face out of the drones’ omnipresent eyes. Thrown into the high-stakes world of international cybercrime, Akuba will have to have to outmaneuver unlimited surveillance, high-tech con artists, and an international hacker kingpin if she wants to survive. Every identity has a price in Glitch Rain.

Night of Promises

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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!

Night of Promises

by Fred Warren

Beneath soul-crushing darkness, a chill, silent shroud blankets the earth
We are alone, shivering, hungry, stalked by ravening despair among the barren trees
We glance upward and notice the stars, distant gems scattered across the inky abyss
One stands out, brighter than the rest—there, in the east!
And we remember an ancient promise that night will have its end

We hasten to fill our dwelling with brave little motes of light
Candles and lamps, shouting against the darkness, tiny echoes of the celestial vision
They flicker and dance, shimmer and shine
We feel a bit braver now, watching them
And we remember an ancient promise that winter’s death-grip will not endure

We wrestle a gnarled oaken burl from our meager woodpile and set it ablaze
Warmth overflows the hearth, searing cheeks, thawing fingers, toasting toes
Huddling around the fire, absorbing the heat of its growling, spitting defiance
We wonder why we ever feared the cold
And we remember an ancient promise that the frozen earth will live again

We raid the cellars, larders, and pantries for a feast–we will not stint!
Aromas fill the air, sweet and savory, cinnamon and nutmeg, sage and rosemary
They enfold us as we eat, drink, and laugh in fellowship generous and loud
We banish hunger from our midst this night
And, once more, we remember an ancient promise that we will not be abandoned

We gather close together–family, friends, and the wanderers among us
Sharing gifts of love, gaily wrapped, freely given, gratefully received
See here! Look at this! Thank you! How wonderful!
We feel our loneliness overwhelmed, melting away; we share a song of joy
And we wonder at promises made and promises kept

Afterward, tired and happy, we drift off into sleep
Caressed by candlelight’s soft glow, safe and warm, comforted, wrapped in love
Yes, on this night, of all nights, we will not despair
For we are here, all of us, together
And we remember

Fred Warren writes science fiction and fantasy, with over thirty published works of short fiction. His first novel, The Muse, debuted in November 2009 from Splashdown Books, followed by a collection of his short stories, Odd Little Miracles, in July 2011, and The Seer, a sequel to The Muse, in October 2011. He works as a military contractor in eastern Kansas, where he lives with his wife and three children. He’s probably shoveling snow by starlight right now. You can find him online at http://frederation.wordpress.com.
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Christmas: Written

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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!

Christmas: Written

by J.S. Watts

My first post in this Giftmas Blog Tour took a peek at my personal, real life memories and experiences of Christmas. This second post goes one snow encrusted footstep further and considers how those experiences have infiltrated my writing.

As you may have gathered from my previous post, I like Christmas, but I’m not really an uber-Christmassy sort of person: moderation in all things is my motto. I have fond, rosy-glow firelight and Christmas tree fairy-lights memories of childhood Christmases. I am quite content, however, for those memories to remain in the past and for current-day Christmases to be firmly curtailed by the monthly boundary of December. I inevitably look forward to the peace after the Christmas frenzy. It has come as something of a surprise, therefore, to realise just how often my writing has touched on the subject of Christmas.

In case you don’t know, I write poetry, short stories and novels: much, but not all of them, influenced by speculative fiction themes (SF, fantasy, magic-realism, horror).

If I review my back catalogue of poems, I find just four that deal directly with the subject of Christmas or the mid-Winter Solstice and one of those is more about a werewolf than anything else (it’s in my collection, Cats and Other Myths, should you be interested). The other three take a more traditional view of Christmas, based firmly around those childhood memories of mine. Not so many, you might think, but if I consider all the poems that contain Christmas or Winter Festival imagery, the total rises to over eleven. Still not many, you might reiterate, but compare that to just one poem dealing with Firework Night, two that touch upon Halloween and none in relation to Easter.

When I look at my short stories, the developing Christmas theme becomes even more deep and crisp and even. I have, to date, written three ostensibly Christmas stories: Christmas Traditions (originally published in Ethereal Tales) – a humorous and somewhat ribald take (with added fairies and boggarts) on the possible causes of a number of accepted Christmas traditions; A Christmas Story – For The Children – is a prose poem/flash fiction hybrid, due out from Three Drops From a Cauldron this month, which brings a note of historical horror to the Christmas story; and there is A Christmas Tail – a cat’s eye perspective on a sort of version of A Christmas Carol. Like the original story by Dickens, it is a mixture of dark and light. Once again, three tales may not seem like a big deal to you, but it’s three more than any other annual festival gets in my short story portfolio.

Witchlight SmallerAs far as I can recall, Christmas does not get a look-in in my first novel, A Darker Moon. The book is just too dark and mythic (having said that, if anyone who has read it does come across a festive reference I’ve forgotten, feel free to let me know). The timeline of my paranormal novel, Witchlight, however, cuts right across the Christmas period, so there is a whole chapter in the book dedicated to Christmas.

The Christmas that Holly, the novel’s main character, and her nearest and dearest experience is very much based on my contemporary view of Christmas, rather than the shimmering tinsel memories of my childhood. To be direct, it’s not the happiest festive season ever, as the stresses and strains surrounding Holly’s newly discovered and alarmingly developing magic powers begin to take their toll. Work and family commitments conspire to make it a difficult domestic Christmas for Holly in the first place. The fact that the Winter Solstice has special “significance to witchery in general and Old Magic in particular” just serves to create further difficulties for Holly in terms of her fairy godfather and her witch of a mother. The tensions ramped up over the Winter Holiday are going to result in some dramatic and life-changing developments in the New Year.

All in all, it would seem that there’s a fair bit of Christmas sprinkled throughout my writing and the two blog posts I have written for the Giftmas Blog Tour have just added to my Christmas canon. The festive season has clearly been an influence on me. It’s not just the primary coloured and sparkly Christmas of childhood that has left its mark, though. The darker notes of my Christmas experiences also echo in my work, which, I feel, is right and proper. However special Christmas is for you, it’s also a part of real life with its inevitable ups and downs.

I hope your Christmas, Winter Solstice, Saturnalia, Giftmas, Mid-Winter Festival, call-it-what-you-will, when it comes, is mostly ups, but downs have their role to play too, because that’s life.

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J.S.Watts websiteJ.S.Watts is a British writer. Her poetry, short stories and book reviews appear in a wide variety of publications in Britain, Canada, Australia and the States including Acumen, Mslexia and Popshot and have been broadcast on BBC and Independent Radio. J.S. has been Poetry Reviews Editor for Open Wide Magazine and Poetry Editor for Ethereal Tales. Her debut poetry collection, Cats and Other Myths, is published by Lapwing Publications, as is a subsequent, multi-award nominated poetry pamphlet, Songs of Steelyard Sue. Her novels, A Darker Moon – dark literary fiction and Witchlight – paranormal with a touch of romance, are published in the US and UK by Vagabondage Press.  She has a new poetry collection, Years Ago You Coloured Me, due out from Lapwing in 2016. For further details see her website: www.jswatts.co.uk

 

Giftmas 2015 Giveaway:

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The Magick of Yule

This month on my blog I’m sharing holiday traditions, mine and other people’s as well. This is the second of those posts, you can find the first, entitled Giftmas Cards (and subsequent ones) by visiting the main page, here. Happy Ho Ho!

The Magick of Yule

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner

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“What do you mean you don’t celebrate Christmas? Christmas is an American holiday for everyone.”

I get this a lot. No I don’t hate Christmas. It’s just not part of my faith. I know plenty of Atheists, Hindus, and Jewish people who go along with their own customs and the majority’s holiday in addition, but that’s not for me. Honestly, I support whatever makes people happiest this time of year. As a Wiccan I love honoring Yule.

“Yule? What’s that? That’s Christmas right?” …Wrong. Yule is the Solstice Celebration to honor the Gods. It has historic links to Christmas being that people have honored the changing of the seasons for thousands of years. Christmas took on a lot of customs to celebrate winter as it evolved through the ages. Yes these two holidays are similar, but not the same.

My husband and I are raising two little witches who are budding with respect for nature and love of the human race. Every year on the Winter Solstice we cast a circle around our Alter and perform a ritual in appreciation of the turning of the year, along with all of the gifts that the new season brings. We don’t often do spellwork because it is not to be taken lightly and we want our daughters to understand that using your personal energies to create change has serious effects. I cook a typical holiday feast: ham, potatoes, veggie casserole, rolls, corn, pie and cookies. Being a bit of a kitchen witch myself, I love making everything from scratch. To me there is no better compliment than my family enjoying my food and I often can’t help but pour my positive, loving energies into the dishes that I create.

We have a tree that we decorate in the backyard, much like a Christmas tree, but ours gets to keep its roots and continue to grow throughout the years. The four of us circle around it and sing. My oldest loves “Jingle Bells.” We actually have a playlist that I call my wintery mix. It has the 10 most popular songs that are typically considered “Christmas Songs” but don’t mention any of the specific religious aspects and are really just about winter and togetherness. We play that when we come inside all cold and ready to open a few gifts. My husband and I limit presents to try and keep the focus on the meaning of our holiday. No more than 3 gifts per person.

The extended family celebration is a bit different. My mom is Catholic, my sister is Atheist, and my dad was raised Lutheran. My parents are divorced and remarried so get togethers are always interesting. I usually host an all day event where one set of parents comes for lunch and the other for dinner so my sis and our families can stay in one place and not drag the kids all over. It is Christmas and Yule. If my sister or I had married a Jewish man it would be Hanukah too because we love and respect each other. In truth semantics don’t matter much because we just want to enjoy our holidays together and have a good time. That is not to say that we don’t have issues.

I have had to have many talks with my girls about different religions and customs. They are beginning to understand. It’s not always easy. My eldest is actually concerned about the fact that her friends’ parents lie to them and teach these unsuspecting children that Santa Claus is a real being. My husband and I have had to explain that St. Nicholas was a real person, that his spirit can be considered the spirit of giving, and that some parents wish to keep this spirit alive by pretending that he is still a physical presence. Teaching a young mind to respect that others have different beliefs and that we each have our own path to walk can be difficult.

This concept inspired me to write my first children’s book. “My Family Is Different,” is the story of a young Wiccan girl who realizes that her family celebrates a different faith than most. She questions her friends about their beliefs and learns that they all have their own religions. This teaches her that we are all different and that makes her feel good. My illustrator Laura Winship-Fanaei brought this tale to life with her colorful, imaginative, pictures and THG StarDragon Publishing released our story of acceptance and diversity this past September. It is available through amazon and can be ordered in any bookstore.

I’m just happy to have another teaching tool that gives my children, and maybe others, a simplified idea of how wonderful it is to be connected with a variety of ideas. Our society prides itself on our diverse culture, and this is the best time of year to really let it shine. Happy Holidays!

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Bio: Jessica is addicted to the written word. She has previously published stories on QuantummuseHellfire Crossroads, and is to have a tale in issue #61 of Blood Moon Rising Magazine. In addition to fiction, Ms. Baumgartner’s articles and essays have been featured by The Witches’ Voice, Circle Magazine, the St. Louis Examiner, and Spirit One Magazine. Her children’s book about religious diversity and acceptance, “My Family Is Different,” was released by THG StarDragon Publishing this past September and has received much enthusiasm. You can find her blog here: jessicamariebaumgartner.wordpress.com

No Time Like December 6 To Polish Your Boots

This month on my blog I’m sharing holiday traditions, mine and other people’s as well. This is the second of those posts, you can find the first, entitled Giftmas Cards (and subsequent ones) by visiting the main page, here. Happy Ho Ho!

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No Time Like December 6 To Polish Your Boots–Nikolaustag in Germany

By Alexandra Seidel

You know how the Christmas season always creeps up on you and is suddenly just here, real unexpectedly? Yeah, happened again this year, and now it’s just a little over three weeks to Giftmas.

But perhaps sharing a little culture and tradition with everyone can make the time seem longer, or at least make one take notice of it more. So here goes.

I want to share a German tradition with you (no, there are no pickled tree ornaments, like, at all over here). I’m talking about “Nikolaustag” (St. Nick’s Day) which is celebrated on December 6. And how do you celebrate? Well, I suppose there are a lot of older customs, but really the bones of it are these: the night before December 6, you have to clean your boots, get them all shiny and tidy, put them just outside your door, and then the next morning, St. Nick will have left something in those boots, most traditionally oranges and nuts, but nowadays it’s more likely toys and chocolate.

I do suppose it’s a little bit like a test run for Christmas. Being a kid, it sure is nice to be given gifts twice in December.

St. Nick’s Day is more widely celebrated in this part of Europe, but also in Denmark, and I think Sweden, too. As with Christmas, it might go back to a much older pagan festival, but I cannot provide any specific information. What I can provide is a regional quirk within Germany of which not even many Germans are aware.

I grew up in the north of Hesse, which is the state pretty much in the center of Germany. Here, we actually did celebrate December 6 in a special way. Kids will put on masks (those used to be predominantly Santa Claus masks, but really anything will do nowadays) and costumes and go from door to door on the evening of December 6, reciting poems or little rhymes to then collect candy (or in some cases a few coins) for their troubles. There is even a special name for that evening: “Glowesnacht” or “Glowesabend” (or also “Klobes-” or “Clobes-” instead of the “Glowes-” used here.) According to the internet, “Glowes-” and its alternate forms are all vernacular forms of the name ‘Klaus,’ as in Nikolaus, the notorious gift-giver whose cultural roots may go back to pagan times for all I know. After asking a few relatives and some more internet research, it seems that this tradition is also known in the Hamelin area (home of the Grimms’ pied piper fairy tale) as well as the Bremen area (which we also know from the Grimms’ The Town Musicians of Bremen.)

Glowesabend is pretty much like Halloween actually, but again, where that tradition comes from exactly and why it is only observed in part of the country while everyone else doesn’t even seem to know about it, I cannot tell you. I do know that it was also common, at least until a generation ago, that older teens would go from door to door and get schnapps instead of candy, at least in smaller villages. I suspect–again, with no proof–that this can be connected to Krampus, a darker and more rowdy expression of the saintly gift-giver, most certainly with pagan roots.

Wherever those traditions come from, what they all have in common is an emphasis on community and on bringing some more light and good spirits into an otherwise dark and cold season. And there is nothing wrong with that, especially if you can combine it all with some mulled wine, laughter, and friends.

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Alexa Seidel edits poetry for Niteblade. She also writes things that get published every now and then in such places as Strange Horizons, Mythic Delirium, Lackington’s Magazine, and elsewhere. Alexa has a great fondness for the cold and dark season because it makes you find the warmest and brightest places (where there is mulled wine.) If you are so inclined, have a look at her blog www.tigerinthematchstickbox.blogspot.com or follow her on Twitter @Alexa_Seidel.

Christmas in South Africa

This month on my blog I’m sharing holiday traditions, mine and other people’s as well. This is the second of those posts, you can find the first, entitled Giftmas Cards (and subsequent ones) by visiting the main page, here. Happy Ho Ho!

~*~

Christmas in South Africa

by Suzanne van Rooyen

Sitting in dark and snowy Helsinki about to move to equally dark though slightly less snowy Stockholm, it’s hard to believe that as a kid I spent my Christmases trying to avoid sunburn, playing garden cricket and swimming in the pool!

To be honest, as a kid, Christmas was a strange and somewhat disappointing time of the year. All the Christmas songs we sang at school were about reindeer and sleighs, chestnuts roasting on open fires, and this mysterious white stuff called snow. Despite asking Father Christmas (never Santa Claus) for snow several years in a row and waiting anxiously for it to arrive, it never did. It wasn’t until I was 18 and spent December in Switzerland that I experienced a white Christmas and saw proper snow for the first time. Now I’m not quite sick of snow at Christmas time, but the novelty has certainly started to wear off.

In South Africa, the Christmas season kicked off for my family on December 16th – a public holiday in South Africa and the day the Christmas tree goes up. We had a real tree once or twice, but they inevitably died in the sweltering December heat so we stuck with a plastic tree after that, replete with balls of cotton wool in imitation of the ever elusive snow. After a while even that seemed silly so my brother, father, and I built a tree out of wire and wrapped it in tinsel. This happened about ten years ago and that same tree is still in use today back in my parents’ home in South Africa. Despite now living in the land of pine trees, the wire Christmas tree tradition has persisted so that my husband and I have a touch of ‘Africa’ up here in the north with our wire and tinsel construction.

Some of my fondest childhood Christmas memories involve my large, extended family hanging out in the garden and playing Marco Polo in the pool while Christmas dinner cooked on the braai (the South African version of a grill or barbecue). The best gifts were pool noodles and inflatable lilos. Christmas for me was never a stuffed turkey and vegetable casserole, but rather boerewors and salad. My mom attempted a traditional Christmas roast a few times but eventually gave up when the mercury climbed into the thirties (that’s well into the eighties, Fahrenheit) and no one wanted to eat a hot meal anyway.

In South Africa, Christmas Eve usually involved a light supper and laying out the presents. For a while, I left milk and cookies for Father Christmas but that eventually became beer and biltong – that was a year or two before I realised my dad was the one sneaking into the lounge to leave the last of the gifts. Our family, like most in SA, opened presents on Christmas morning before the big day of family and feasting commenced, which actually didn’t stop until after December 26th. It has taken me a while to get used to the more typical Finnish tradition of opening presents on Christmas Eve. Eating too much this time of year seems to be an international phenomenon though.

While I do sometimes miss the sun and warmth of a summery festive season, I’ve got to say that there is something extremely special about a snowy, cold, dark December. And at least all the Christmas songs now make sense!

 

SuzanneAbout the Author:

Suzanne is a tattooed story-teller and peanut-butter addict from South Africa. She currently lives in Finland and finds the cold, dark forests nothing if not inspiring. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When not writing you can find her teaching dance and music to middle-schoolers or playing in the snow with her shiba inu. She is rep’d by Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Agency.

 

Author Links: Website – http://suzannevanrooyen.com

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Suzanne_Writer

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Suzanne-van-Rooyen/304965232847874

Pinterest – http://pinterest.com/SuzanneAuthor/

 

In Defense of the Crappy Zombie Movie

I volunteered to host a guest blog to go along with this year’s Winter of Zombie. And here it is. Jay Wilburn talking about the allure of the crappy zombie movie:

In Defense of the Crappy Zombie Movie

by Jay Wilburn

me (1)There is comradery between zombie fans centered around terrible zombie movies. From video stores into the age of Netflix, the choices of badly shot, badly written, and badly executed zombie films has grown and grown. There are some great, even epic, zombie movies, but they just serve to emphasize the very low bar that other films reach. Some of them don’t even bother to reach, but they provide painful bonding experiences to fans all over the world. The fifth season premiere of The Walking Dead set the record for the series to date with over seventeen million viewers. There are films that will be classics and enjoyed for generations. These are not the ones I’m talking about.

Horror films are quick go-to’s for amateur, aspiring directors. The special effects that used to be mysteries are easier to replicate using information available online and software has expanded exponentially what can be done with visuals in editing. There are some high quality movies made on relatively low budgets. I’m not really talking about those either.

The zombie movie made with a cheap camera and bad make-up: Here is where life-long friendships are forged. There is nothing like a movie that has you bowing and shaking your head part way through. Other genre of film do the same thing, but those are likely to be turned off at that point. Zombie fans will sometimes let them run. They will let the pain continue. If others are with them, they can hold on together in the misery.

There is nothing nearly as character building as surviving the poor recreation of the zombie apocalypse and telling others what you have learned. These are the moments where an adult man looks into his soul and asks himself what a grown man is doing watching something like this. Worse, what is he doing watching another one and then another one.

Some of these films have titles that give full warning that there is a terrible experience ahead – titles that are offensive to one or more groups – puns that are so awfully conceived that they make porn look intellectually sophisticated – stories that are so monumentally terrible that no amount of nudity will ever make it worth the journey even in fast forward. These are the trials the separate zombie fans from others that demand quality in their entertainment.

I realize some of you have had enough. You are done with the terrible, independent zombie film. You are rightfully tired of the badly constructed zombie books and you value your time too much to subject yourself to it any longer. I respect that. You are still a fan and if the genre ever rises to meet its true potential, it will be because you demanded it. I will be no help, however. I do strive to make more of my books and stories, but a secretly (maybe not so secretly now) I love the terrible zombie film. I want more.

I challenge myself to sit through another and then another. I see a zombie film with Danny Trejo above the title and I am sold. I look at the terrible title and the worse artwork and I’m itching to hit play. I know what I am in for and I let it happen. I can’t wait to post about how such a thing still managed to drop below my worst expectations.

Occasionally, these forays of self-abuse surprise me by revealing a better than average story or film. This is my rare reward for being willing to dive into the fray again and again. The real reward is seeing the terrible joy the filmmakers had in putting together something they knew was awful, but they saw it through until the end anyway. There is also a forbid fascination with the projects where it becomes clearer and clearer with every minute that they have no idea how bad this was. It’s like watching a train wreck for an hour and twenty-seven minutes.

This brand of torture may not be for you. You can still enjoy the stories of those who endured the terrible stories. It is part of what makes zombie fans strong. It is the element of the genre that makes the fans so appreciative when something truly amazing happens. Set the bar high, but know that if you don’t, I will still be watching.

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The stench of frozen rotted meat is in the air! Welcome to the Winter of Zombie Blog Tour 2014, with 10 of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of November.

Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don’t miss an interview, guest post or teaser… and pick up some great swag as well! Giveaways galore from most of the authors as well as interaction with them! #WinterZombie2014

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