New Year’s Eve

Happy New Year’s Eve!

Some many (many) moons ago, I set out on New Year’s Eve with a group of new friends who would become best friends. We drank enough that we forgot the words to Auld Lang Syne, and so instead, at midnight, we sang the theme song to the Spider-Man cartoon.

You know who you are and I will be seeing most of you tonight!

In the mean time, while you’re all counting the minutes until you trade your water for whiskey, enjoy some Tom Waits and remember to play safe out there, kids.

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In The Spirit of Christmas, Have A Free Story

A few years ago, I extended a challenge to my writing group for our December meeting: write a 500 word Christmas-themed fantasy story. That meeting was mostly going to be a potluck anyway, so we agreed to read the stories aloud rather than critiquing them. Most of us played along, and it was a lot of fun (if you like stories about Christmas slashers and wishes gone wrong–apparently we had some issues with The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.).

So here is my contribution, which remains the first (and only) piece of flash fiction that I’ve written:

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Nicholas stepped nimbly over the coals, still smoldering, within the fireplace. He had years of practice, and nary an ash clung to his polished, gleaming black boot.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall. He smiled at the old joke. Practice.

But in all those years, this was something new. It was new, and that bothered him. He pulled the long parchment list from within his heavy coat. Checking it once, he didn’t like what he saw.

He checked it twice.

But there was no disputing it. This house wasn’t on his list. Nicholas shouldn’t have stopped here. There was no longer a reason for him to have stopped here. That poor little girl. He shook his head. There had been nothing he could have done. Not all wishes, he sighed ruefully, can be granted. And not all pains can be soothed with toys. It had broken his heart, what she had wished for, but it just wasn’t within his power to grant.

There were no decorations in this house. No tree. No garland. No mistletoe. Framed photographs lined the mantle of the fireplace, but no stockings dangled beneath the images of a once happy family.

Nicholas turned his back on the unhappy dwelling and started back towards the chimney. A creak on the stairs stopped him in his boots. It was a soft noise, followed by the shuffle of fabric over hardwood.

A child’s slippers.

“Santa?” a weak voice rasped from the stairs.

He couldn’t be seen, unless he chose to be. That was the one rule that governed, and protected him. Him, and the magic of Christmas both.

He often chose to be seen.

“Yes, my child,” Nicholas answered as he turned; ready to flash the hundred watt smile that would bring a rosy cheeked, dimpled grin to the girl’s face. Perhaps the list was mistaken?

The smile died as he saw her, now practically on top of him. She’d crossed the intervening distance between them in a flash. Her breath, coppery and rank, wafted over him, and her grip upon his mittened hand was too firm to shake.

“You didn’t bring me what I asked for last year,” she said petulantly as she pressed her tongue to an oversized canine. A bead of black blood welled up slowly from the small wound. “But someone did.”

Nicholas screamed as she jerked his head down by his snowy white beard. Blood sprayed across the girl’s little face.

His blood.

She lapped at the arterial spray, like an animal. Her face was a vision of ecstasy. His eyes stopped focusing as she whispered in his ear.

“Now every child in the whole world will get my wish.”

#

Later, in every house that still believed in such things – and there were many – children left out plates of homemade cookies, and tumblers of milk, beading with condensation. Wherever they had succumbed to slumber a voice whispered through teeth that glinted like knives, and a stained rusty beard.

“I never drink…milk.”

Fin

Chilling Tales And Apparitions Too…err 2

I just donated to Michael Kelly’s Apparitions 2 on Indiegogo.

Much like with my Kickstarter addiction, I am quite fond of this, the Canadian equivalent, and am hopeful that my streak of endorsing winners continues. I had a chance to interview Michael a while back, in fact, it was my first ever story for Prairie Books Now (it was also a lot of fun). I finally had a chance to Meet Michael in November during the 2012 World Fantasy Con. We also shared a table of contents in Tesseracts 16, and I can tell you, Michael is one hell of an author–and one hell of an editor.

Chilling Tales, also edited by Michael, was in my mind the strongest Canadian anthology of speculative fiction to come be released in 2011, and any number of its stories deserved a place on a year’s best list. If you’re into horror and crowdsourcing, Michael Kelly’s new anthology is definitely worth funding.

This interview originally appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of Prairie books NOW.

chilling-tales

Chilling Tales Evil Did I Dwell; Lewd Did I Live

Michael Kelly, Editor

Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy

$14.95 pb, 224 pages

ISBN: 978-1-894063-52-4

Underneath that cool Canadian reserve, a dark heart beats, believes Michael Kelly, editor of Chilling Tales: Evil Did I Dwell; Lewd I Did Live.

Chilling Tales features stories from Canadian horror fiction mainstays Brett Alexander Savory, Sandra Kasturi, and Nancy Kilpatrick, as well as some of the nation’s brightest (or should that be darkest) up and comers such as Gemma Files. Robert J. Wiersema, best known for his literary fiction, leads off the collection with a honky-tonk infused ghost story.

Kelly sensed a distinctly Canadian worldview, a “tangible loneliness” and “disquieting solitude” permeating the stories of his collection. But he feels Canadian writers are “merely doing what comes naturally—in this vast, sprawling land of ice and prairies, of wind and rock and water, of major urban centres encroaching on the barrens with spreading tendrils—exploring the other, that vastness.”

Anthologies such as Chilling Tales have been something of a rarity, although Don Hutchinson’s Northern Frights series left “an indelible impression” upon Kelly.

“There’s no easy answer,” he says, of the dearth of all-Canadian horror collections. “Part of it, I surmise, might be that Canadian genre writing is somewhat marginalized by the bigger publishing houses.”

It’s no surprise to Kelly that the two most recent such volumes were published by Chilling Tales’s publisher, Brian Hades at Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy. “It is the smaller houses with an indie spirit that will take a chance on a project like this.”

Kelly felt it was time to showcase Canada’s dark heart. There was no open call for submissions; instead he went hunting for authors that “shared that strange dark worldview” he was conjuring.

“I also mentioned that they could recommend some authors to me, as well. It was a bit of word-of-mouth and also me soliciting authors I admired.”

A writer himself, the Pickering, Ontario-based, Shirley Jackson Award-nominated Kelly enjoyed the challenge of editing the collection.

“There’s a certain order to the stories, a flow, whether you’re moving from something short and shocking, to something literary and poetic, to something prosaic. It’s a balancing act,” he says. “When I’m writing fiction, I just want to tell a story. I’m writing for me, though, no one else. When I’m editing a commercial anthology, I’m cognizant of the reader.”

The result? An eminently readable, page turning collection, tales that leap from the page, burrowing into you. It is as if the authors are kids around a campfire, each trying to one up the other with the imaginatively macabre. From ghosts, to issues of faith, to the very unusual skin condition in David Nickle’s “Looker”, Chilling Tales has a velocity that keeps its reader huddled up for just one more story.

“I’m hoping this first volume will act as a benchmark for future volumes,” says Kelly. “I wanted to show that Canadian writers can be as literate, entertaining, edifying, and as scary as their contemporaries. Of course, I already knew that. Now, everyone will know.”

Cleared The Deck In Time To Deck The Halls

I find myself in the curious position of not actually having a pressing writing deadline.

This week I turned in Tombstone Blues to Turnstone. Completed the edits on my short story “A Taste of the Other Side” for Jennifer Brozek’s Gears and Growls anthology and wrote an article on my favourite place in Winnipeg for the Winnipeg Free Press.

The timing for this lack of deadlines couldn’t be better as I find the holiday season extremely exhausting. Exhausting being my measured term for the two month period (I work retail, my holiday season is much longer than yours, and brother, it’s no holiday) when I turn into an utter Grinch.

If, instead of stealing presents, the Grinch tried to make the sun explode and consume the entire solar system (what? I grew up reading comics and I have the heart of a super-villain. Also, go big or go home). There are friends who come in to the store not just to shop, but to see my “Christmas Face”, as they put it (It’s a very Yul Brynner sort of quiet menace, calculated to keep people from asking me questions so that I can actually, you know, get things done–or so I imagine the look to be. It doesn’t work nearly as well as I’d like).

Yul Brynner

Perhaps if I wore the hat?

Yes.

Hats make the man, and if I wore that hat to work, I think customers would avoid me.

Hmmmm.

I guess I’ll have to add it to my Christmas list.

In the mean time, my writing tasks may be done, but I’m not done writing.

Write on.