Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

It was a small thing, the kind of thing that might be overlooked amidst the flurry of of year-end activities.  But it does deserve a mention, the “extra” gift I received on Christmas.  The thing is the mail gets delivered late here, at the end of the route, and often these days comes after dark.  No big deal, really — mornings I go out on the front porch for some deep breathing exercises I do, and if there’s mail waiting, I bring it in then along with the newspaper.

So it was Christmas morning (though without a paper) where, with a few other items, there was a smallish package.  A return address identified it as my author’s copy of PLANET SCUMM (see December 14, et al.), and so I dropped it onto the pile of received Christmas loot, and proceeded to have my breakfast, give the Goth Cat Triana her brunch, and do whatever else I had planned for the morning.  And then at last gift opening time came — a few clothing items (including a pair of much needed gloves), a book from my youngest niece, treats for Triana, and . . . PLANET SCUMM with my name even spelled right on the cover (see December 16) and including my story, “Holly Jolly.”  A leisurely read for later that p.m. with carols on the TV in the background, and all in all a pleasant surprise.

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Brought to my attention by Joan Hawkins, whom we’ve met in conjunction with the Bloomington Writers Guild, along with reader, poet, and artist Marge Simon, “Have a Creepy Little Christmas with These Unsettling Victorian Cards” by Allison Meier — and two of which are in our own local Lilly Library! — via HYPERALLERGIC.COM.  Anthropomorphic cats, murderous frogs, and insects dancing by the moonlight aren’t exactly part of our Christmas card tradition today.  However back in the 19th century, Victorians thought nothing unusual about sending their loved ones a grim image of a dead robin with the words “May yours be a joyful Christmas.”
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Many of these strange Victorian Christmas cards are making the rounds on social media this holiday season (@HorribleSanity has shared some especially disturbing ones, like the scene of a frog-on-frog stabbing, and Saint Nicholas stuffing a kid in a sack).  But where do these visuals come from, and what do they mean?  Some of that significance is now lost to history, yet it’s important to consider that Christmas wasn’t widely celebrated in the early 1800s.  So over the 19th century, the iconography of the pre-Santa Saint Nicholas, the trees, the presents, the snow, evolved gradually.
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And so, some with explanations (a frozen robin might remind us to be generous to the poor, especially the helpless children), some not, and with varying degrees of the bizarre, click here, look, read, and enjoy!
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(Triana especially likes the ones with cats in them.)

To celebrate the tradition of Christmas ghost stories, here are 20 ghost and horror stories to sink your teeth into this holiday season.  Some you can read, others you can listen to, but best of all, they’re available free-of-charge.  So, venture forth, if you dare. . .

So begins “20 Ghost and Horror Stories for Christmas” by Michael David Wilson, via LITREACTOR.COM, a treat that screams to be shared.  But including Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum” (number 9)?  Well, as compiler Wilson explains, the story’s original publication was in THE GIFT:  A CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR’S PRESENT FOR 1843.  Other than that, though, the other offerings have themes or settings more Christmas-like too, and what a selection, again all with links to texts and/or podcasts!  Algernon Blackwood’s “The Kit Bag.”  “Christmas Present” by Ramsey Campbell.  M.R. James, “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad.”  And sixteen more, contemporary as well as classics, which can be savored by pressing here.

Merry Christmas to all!

Yesterday afternoon HUMANAGERIE (cf. October 28, 3, et al.) arrived in the Computer Cave Mailbox, all the way from the United Kingdom, with “Crow and Rat” nestled toward the bottom of the first page of contents.  It’s a very handsome book, moreso than society throwaways like the aforementioned duo are used to, so be sure that they’re on their best behavior.  Moreover, should it be of interest, the world they inhabit is that of my novel-in-stories TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH.  To see more for oneself the anthology can be ordered in both hardbound and softcover editions directly from the publisher, Eibonvale Press, by pressing here.

Then those gimlet-eyed enough may have noticed on Friday’s post, for December 14, a misspelling of my name on the cover of PLANET SCUMM pictured.  A missing first letter, “D,” to be exact.  I’m assured however that the picture is of a preliminary test cover from the printer, that had to be used for advertising on their website, and that the actual finished issues sent to subscribers, etc., have been corrected.

Thus the banner beneath the first few paragraphs of my story, “Holly Jolly,” for a look at which one may click here.  Yes, it’s issue 6 of PLANET SCUMM (cf. November 14, 6, September 7), the “O Scumm All Ye Faithful” issue and mine is the cover story they’ve chosen to excerpt.  While as for the issue as a whole. . . .  The wailing of wind through barren trees.  Black ice on an unlit backroad.  A baker’s dozen of snowmen in your yard — they sprung up overnight.  Halloween may be the season of tricks and treats, but on Planet Scumm the dead of winter is for horror.
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Inside, we have a skin-stealing witch snuggled up next to a lost traveler — he says he came through the payphone.  There’s a businessman, too, over there by the fire.  He’s hiding from his employers, or so he says to the ghostly woman sitting across the room.  Poor fool can’t tell she’s just a hologram.
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And what’s that jingling on the roof?  Why, it must be the festive stars of our cover story, James Dorr’s Holly Jolly.  Don’t remember Ol’ Kris Kringle needing quite so many elves.  And certainly not with all those weapons. . . . 
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Or as they say, There’s more Scumm Where That Came From, Reader, for more on which one may press here.

The last month of the year and a new “First Sunday Prose Reading & Open Mic” (cf. November 4, et al.), presented by the Bloomington Writers Guild at the Thomas Gallery, featured local activists Bill and Glenda Breeden and long-time participant Antonia Matthew (see, e.g., May 6).  Glenda led off with three personal essays on bumper stickers, visiting prisoners, and . . . um . . . the down side of not watching one’s step around dogs.  She was followed by Tonia with a sad “fictional memoir” inspired by a writers workshop prompt, to write about a marvelous person, but with a serious defect.  Then rounding it out, Bill, who is also a retired Unitarian Universalist minister, offered two humorous memoirs about growing up as a preacher’s son in 1950s and ’60s Indiana.

After the break there were only three open mike offerings this time of which mine was second, previewing my recently sold science fiction Christmas saga “Holly Jolly” (see November 14, 6, September 7) of an alien invasion that failed (and another that didn’t), soon to be out in the Winter issue of PLANET SCUMM.

Well, the bio to be of me as author, of course, with the story in question “Holly Jolly,” a saga of cosplay and STAR TREK and Christmastide elves (cf. November 6, September 27).  Not to mention the big guy himself, Santa.  But, of me, the request came today from PLANET SCUMM editor Tyler Wonanin:  Could I get your author bio? Something written in third person between 80 and 150 words would work best.  And so back it has gone at something just under 135 words.

PLANET SCUMM, incidentally, is now open for post-Christmas issue submissions for those interested.  It’s semi-pro, paying $30 plus some profit sharing for up to 3000 words — not riches, but it looks kind of fun — with guidelines available by pressing here.

Yes, it’s “Holly Jolly” (cf.  September 27), chugging along on schedule for a Christmas-ish release in the Winter 2019 issue of PLANET SCUMM.  Late yesterday I received suggested editorial changes, mostly somewhat condensing the story but keeping the plot points, which I went over today and, with a few corrections, sent back this afternoon.  “Holly Jolly,” we may recall, is the tale of a Christmas elf – or was that a cosplay “Mr. Spock”? – and the fate of planets, or at least this one.  Now all to be revealed before your eyes when the issue comes out, more on which will be posted here as it becomes known.

The story concerned a somewhat slightly built, skinny alien with pointed ears who, disguised as a cosplay Mr. Spock, has been gaining intelligence at STAR TREK conventions in preparation for the invasion.  But Earth, he learns, is preparing for an annual celebration, affecting virtually every nation, offering an opportunity for him and his fellows disguised this time as Christmas elves to infiltrate department store “Santa’s Villages” in nearly every city of any size on the planet, to start the conquest on Christmas Eve.  The story’s title was “Holly Jolly” but somehow calls for invasion stories, with horrific endings, revolving around department store Santas seemed strangely sparse.  And so the story languished.

Until. . . .

The call was from a magazine I was unfamiliar with, PLANET SCUMM, but for information on which one may press hereA horror issue?  In winter?  Not, perhaps, the season you think of when it comes to frights and ghosties and things that go bump in the night, eh?  Then again, perhaps your favorite intergalactic editors forgot to send out the submission call in time, and are now one cycle behind on their theme issues?  Hmm, yes.  Perhaps, perhaps.  And [i]f your story plays off the “winter” theme — literally or not — even better.  Most of our normal submission stipulations still apply here. Ideally, submissions should be both horror AND have a speculative/sci-fi element — a slasher cutting through skiers with an ice-pick (while fun) won’t cut it.

And Christmas is winter, yes?

The rest is history.  Came the reply this afternoon:  Scummy is . . . pleased with your science fiction offering.  We’d like to publish “Holly Jolly” in our Winter 2019 issue of PLANET SCUMM.  A contract was offered which went back today (a little bit of money up front, perhaps a royalty).  So buy an issue when it comes out.  And look for more information here, or maybe at the link above, as it becomes known.

You read about Smashwords annual March ebook sale just two posts down (see March 5), as regards Smart Rhino Publications.  Now Jay Hartman of Untreed Reads adds that Untreed Reads books are part of the sale as well, but only books with prices over 99 cents with discount added, and no short stories.  But on the Untreed Reads site itself, [t]hrough March 10th, we’ll also be running the Read an Ebook Sale in our own store. . . .  Readers get 40% off when they enter coupon code EBOOK during checkout.  This includes every title published by Untreed Reads, including short stories.
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I would note this includes three short story chapbooks by me, New England set steampunk/mystery VANITAS, Christmas/horror tale I’M DREAMING OF A. . . , and near future science fiction novelette PEDS, plus a New Year’s Eve anthology YEAR’S END:  14 TALES OF HOLIDAY HORROR with my lead story “Appointment in Time.”  To check these out, one may press here (from which, if one wishes, one may also navigate to the Untreed Reads store main pages).



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