The 2020 Reading List: December

Since one of my writing goals for 2020 was also to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read in 2020 to keep me honest, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.

In 2020 I decided to be a little more systematic about my reading plans. I started putting an actual to-read pile to stack on the nightstand and limited the stack to five books, which seemed doable for the month. Occasionally comics and graphic novels or roleplaying games jump the queue, but I typically tried to get through the pile in the order I stacked them. I also used this strategy to try and diversify my reading. The goal was for each to-read pile to contain at least one book by a BIPOC or LGBTQ2S+ author, one book by a woman, one non-fiction book, and one book by an author I know personally.

Here’s what was on the to-read stack in December!

December’s to-read pile: The Green Room by De La Mare, The Signalman by Dickens, Christmas Eve on a Haunted Hulk by Cowper, Silence of the Grave by Indriðason, Revenge by Ogawa, Armed in Her Fashion by Heartfield, The Skeleton Crew by Halper, Krampus by Brom.

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa: A short story collection in translation. The characters seem connected by threads, which made me change my reading strategy from jumping around between reading a story or two here and there and reading the book as a whole item, even though that’s not my preferred method of consuming short stories. This was a fantastic read; one of my favourites of the year! Not gory, not scary, but definitely unsettling; full of small horrors. Would absolutely read more by this author.

Krampus the Yule Lord by Brom: A fun little holiday tale. Not so little, really. The hardcover edition feels weighty, even if it’s not overly long. I’m always down for Krampus content. I also appreciated all the ties to Norse mythology. I primarily know Brom from his Dungeons & Dragons inspired art, but I’ve enjoyed his illustrated novels too, especially The Plucker and The Devil’s Rose. Brom did some gorgeous colour plates of a lot of the characters in Krampus the Yule Lord as well, which are included in the book, and black and white illustrations to kick off each chapter. Story-wise it reminded me of something I might read by Joe R. Lansdale, but Brom’s prose isn’t quite on Lansdale’s level (but then, for me, few people’s prose is).

The Signalman by Charles Dickens: Another in the Haunted Bookshelf series of novellas featuring classic ghost stories for Christmas. Like The Green Room, The Signalman had nothing to do with the holidays, although this one worked a bit better for me. It was a little shorter, and I was able to consume it in a sitting, which helped with the growing suspense. Honestly not sure I’ve ever actually read any Dickens before this, and while The Signalman hardly seems to be a representative work, I did enjoy it. Despite, that, I’m not likely to rush out to read more Dickens, contemporary fiction just speaks to me more.

Armed in Her Fashion by Kate Heartfield: Super embarrassed not to have gotten to this by now as Kate is a phenomenal writer and great person. I loved this book so much! The characters of Margriet and Claude especially spoke to me, but it was wonderful the entire way through. Kate was caught up in the CZP fiasco as was I, and sadly Armed in Her Fashion is now out of print, but I’m sure it’ll find a new home eventually. It’s too good not to.

The Skeleton Crew by Deborah Halber: My non-fiction read of this stack. Halber covers how the internet has led to a rise in amateur sleuths attempting to solve cold cases. A pretty interesting read. I liked how she used a couple cases as through lines running across the entire book.

Christmas Eve on a Haunted Hulk by Frank Cowper: The last of my Haunted Bookshelf ghost stories for Christmas, and the last book left on my to-read stack. I think I enjoyed this one the most of the three, possibly because it’s actually set during Christmas, which was something I’d hoped for from the others, and because the setting evokes something from a recent short story I sold: a spooky abandoned boat. I’ll definitely look into picking up more of these novellas for next December.

Since I cleared the to-read stack, I decided to indulge in a couple of comfort nostalgia rereads I picked up from my friends at local bookseller, Whodunnit.

Elfshadow by Elaine Cunningham: The first in Cunningham’s stories of Arilyn Moonblade and Danilo Thann, and Cunningham’s first published novel. I made it through Elfshadow, but didn’t finish Thornhold until after the new year rang in, so you’ll have to wait on that one. I found Elfshadow a little rough in places, but I still enjoyed it. The familiarity was just what I needed after a long year.

Here’s what I read in January.

Here’s what I read in February.

Here’s what I read in March.

Here’s what I read in April.

Here’s what I read in May.

Here’s what I read in June.

Here’s what I read in July.

Here’s what I read in August.

Here’s what I read in September.

Here’s what I read in October.

Here’s what I read in November.

Giftmas 2018: December 3rd

Edmonton has been good to me. In addition to being full of friends, and one of my favourite cities to visit, the hero of my first novel is from there, and most of my third is set there. And so I was thrilled to donate a story to Rhonda Parrish’s fundraiser in support of the Edmonton Food Bank. This year we’re trying to raise $750, which could translate into 2250 meals.

If you missed S.G. Wong’s story on December 1st, or Alexandra Seidel’s story yesterday, you can read S.G. Wong’s story here, and Alexandra Seidel’s here. You’ll find information about the other Giftmas contributors at the end of this blog.

Please read, and enjoy, and if you can, please donate to our cause. There is also a Rafflecopter giveaway full of prizes. Check them out at Rhonda’s website!

My story, The Gift that Keeps on Giving, started its life as a holiday challenge to my writing group for our December meeting many moons ago. It has since appeared on this website as a gift to my readers, but it’s been a while since I’ve shared it, so here we go again, and happy reading!

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 can be granted. He sighed ruefully. 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.

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.

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

It was a rule he often broke.

“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.”

Art by S.M. Beiko.

The next post can be found on Michael Tager’s site, here.

Check out the rest of the participants, and when to expect them below. If you enjoyed my story and want to support #Giftmas2018 please share this story, and those of my fellow authors.

Happy Holidays! Enjoy “Go Tell It On The Mountain” A Thunder Road Story

Well, 2015 was a great, but hectic year for me (more on that later). In the meantime, I hope you’ll all enjoy the continuing (mis)adventures of Yule Lad Sheep Cote Clod.

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“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks” A Thunder Road Holiday Story

I posted this story last year as a holiday gift for my readers. I’m reposting today with the promise of a new Thunder Road holiday story tomorrow.

My readers have been very good to me. Some of you Thunder Road fans have had images from my work tattooed on your bodies, some of you have taken my work and made art of your own (Like Kevin Madison’s illustration below). You’ve also emailed or tweeted or messaged me to say you’ve enjoyed the stories I have to tell. This has meant the world to me.

So I hope you’ll enjoy “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks” a second time.


Art by Kevin Madison

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Happy Holidays! Have a Thunder Road Short Story!

My readers have been very good to me. Some of you Thunder Road fans have had images from my work tattooed on your bodies, some of you have taken my work and made art of your own. You’ve also emailed or tweeted or messaged me to say you’ve enjoyed the stories I have to tell. This has meant the world to me.

As a thank you, I wrote you this story for the holidays.

I considered calling it “Merry Christmas, I Don’t Want to Fight” but decided to go with something more traditional. I hope you’ll enjoy “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks” with my compliments.

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