Eleanor Merry Presents: “Dark X-Mas” Anthology Now Available for Pre-Order

dark xmas

Promotional image for the anthology of drabbles “Dark X-Mas.”

Not the news I had hoped to deliver by now, but I just found out that “Eleanor Merry Presents: Dark X-Mas is now available to pre-order both at Amazon US and Canada for delivery on your Kindle device December 1, 2019.

Here’s the “blurbs” again for the two drabbles I have featured within its virtual pages:

Christmas Feast

For centuries, the innocent belief of children breathed life into Santa Claus, bringing him into the homes of millions every December 24th, laden with gifts for precious cherubs. But the world changed and children changed, and finally there was too little faith left to keep the old elf going and he expired.

But this year, Santa’s chief servant Alabaster found ten wee ones he could spirit away from their cozy beds at the stroke of midnight in order to supplicate themselves at the grave of St. Nicholas. These children desperately want Santa back, but what horrible sacrifice will they be expected to make to resurrect a very different Santa from what the world has ever known?

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Two of My Tales to be Published in “Dark X-Mas Drabbles Anthology”

dark xmas

Promotional image for the soon-to-be published anthology of drabbles “Dark X-Mas.”

Not one but two of my drabbles have been accepted in the Eleanor Merry Presents Christmas Horror anthology “Dark X-Mas”.

According to the blurb for Dark X-Mas Drabbles Anthology:

I’m dreaming of a Dark Christmas
With every little tale that I read
When the knife blades glisten
And scared children listen
To hear slayers in the night
Where sugarplums can be gory
In the frightening elf story
And trees eat favorite household pets
There are gifts on all the pages
Of terror through the ages
Told of gift giving regrets
I’m dreaming of a Dark Christmas
With every little tale I read
While the bright lights shine
And the family dines In the soft fireplace glow
So hold loved ones tight
It’s not Santa visiting tonight
Death lies buried in the snow.

I actually don’t know a whole lot about co-publishers Eleanor Merry and Cassandra Angler, but some other authors I’ve been published with before, including David Bowmore and Shawn Klimek, are participating, so I figured “what the heck?”

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Dueling Holidays

christmas wordle

Image found at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie

“Oh come on, Dave. Certainly during this Yuletide holiday you can celebrate with your family a little, put a present or two under their tree, herald the coming of your Savior. I’ll even wear mistletoe on the front of my waist tonight the way you like it.” Suzanne, winking naughtily, was pulling out all the stops to get her husband out of his recliner in front of the smoldering fireplace in the cozy living room so they could drive the fifteen miles to his brother’s house.

Instead, he just looked up at her with a forlorn expression on his forty-five year old face. “We sent Bob’s family a card, and they know we don’t celebrate Christmas. I mean, they do the whole Santa, reindeer, stocking thing.”

“Get up.” She grabbed his arm forcefully, and he let her pull him to his feet. They both were already dressed for the festive meal his younger brother and their family had every Christmas Eve, so it was just a matter of her getting him to the car. “I don’t care if they put Christmas pudding in the ears of all their elves on their shelves, we’re going.” The forty-two year old software developer gripped Dave with all the strength her gym weight training produced.

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Santa Lives in Arizona

desert christmas

Photo Credit: Susan Spaulding

Seventeen-year-old Humberto knew they’d never make it if they stayed with the mob, so hours before dawn, he took his Mama, his pregnant older sister Esmeralda, and his ten-year-old brother Joaquin and slipped into America just a few miles northwest of Nogales.

“We are lost, Niño.” Mama was always worried. If they could make it to Tucson, Uncle Carlos would take them in.

“No, we aren’t. Rio Rico is just a few miles ahead.”

“Humberto, I have to pee.” Joaquin had walked hundreds of miles, but he was still just a kid.

“We’re in a desert. Go anywhere.” Humberto turned to Essie. “How are you doing?”

“I’m only five months along. Stop acting like I’m going to give birth any second.” Mama catered to Humberto, and she resented him acting like Papa.

“Mama! Mama! Look it.” The child was jumping up and down excitedly. “It’s Santa’s house. Look.”

The squat home with the low rock fence was decorated in red and white, but it was the fat old white man with the bushy beard smiling and waving them over that convinced Joaquin.

“You’re welcome to stay here,” he said in spanish. “It’s Christmas and I’d love to celebrate with company.”

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge of 23 December 2018. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

Yes, it looks like Arizona, regardless of where the photo was actually taken, so I looked up “Arizona news.” Among other stories, I found one chronicling the arrest of hundreds of migrants that had come into the state across the border near Nogales, so I based my we tale on that event. After that, I tried to “Christmas” it up as much as I could, given the theme.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

The Ghost Before Christmas

christmas

Photo credit: Akshata Ram

Raymond walked into his bedroom with a fresh cup of coffee for a relaxing Sunday morning and found the Christmas decorations laid out on the bed next to his newspaper. “You never give up, do you, Mom?” Setting his cup down on the end table, the 45-year-old divorced engineer sat at the foot of the bed and picked up the dollar store Santa. “I miss you too, Mom, especially this time of year.” He knew his ex had her place elaborately decorated for the season, and that his three sons delighted in trying to guess what was inside all of the brightly wrapped packages, but he’d given up on Christmas and everything it was supposed to stand for when his Mom died a month after his divorce was final. Taking a deep breath, he picked up his cell and punched in a number.

“Hi, Sherry. Is it okay if I come over for a while? I’ve got some presents for the boys.” He listened and smiled. Of course, he’d have to go shopping first.

I wrote this for the 196th FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 174. This is pretty much a “stream of consciousness” thing. I just wrote the first thing that popped into my head.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

The Penny

 

christmas in boise

© The Idaho Statesman

Sadje tagged me to continue (or in this case, finish) A Special Finish the Story Challenge for Nov started by “The Haunted Wordsmith.” Here’s the story as crafted by the various contributors.

Let’s start with Teresa:

Sounds of children’s laughter and joy floated down the stairs. Liam breathed deeply and smiled. Never more content in his life. All thanks to the penny in his hand.

“Don’t forget your change, sir,” she had said. Her smile ignited the flame he thought long dead. A brush of her hand against his, and he was hers.

The ladies in his life, in beautiful red holiday dresses, walked down the steps of the opera house still reveling in The Nutcracker.

“Did you like it, Daddy?” Alice grinned.

“Very much so.” He kissed Alice on the forehead, and held his wife’s hand.

The ringing of the Christmas bell called to the penny, and with a smile and tip of his hat, Liam dropped the penny into the kettle so that it may bring someone else as much love and joy as it had him.

“Thank you, sir and Merry Christmas.”

Cheryl:

That evening as the Salvation Army Santa Claus emptied his kettle into the bank deposit box, he noticed one of the coins sparkled. He thought it was his tired eyes, playing a trick on him, but there it was, almost begging him to retrieve it. He hesitated only a second or two and then took the penny.
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The Winter Rose

winter rose

© Sue Vincent

Nancy clung to the base of a gas street lamp just across the street from St. Andrews shivering as she listened to the beautiful hymns and organ music late on Christmas Eve. The tiny child’s clothes were too thin to ward off the December chill and wind, and the cloth wrapped around the perforated soles of her shoes did nothing to keep out the snow.

She couldn’t go back but no one else would take her. Papa had never come home from his sea voyage to America where he said he could earn a fortune for their poor family, and Mama had been beaten and murdered on the way home from cleaning the houses of rich folk, all for a few farthings.

Auntie Pierce took in her baby brother Benjy but said she wanted no “dirty little girl” in her home and sent her away to her friend Lady Harrington to work with the maids. The maids said she was too small and weak and would be nothing but a nuisance, so sent her back to her Auntie’s. Auntie’s man servant refused her entry at the door and she found herself alone.

A boy named Charley Bates discovered her begging on a street corner for just a few pence with which to buy bread and took her to Fagin with promises of work and pay. It was then she embarked on her new life as a thief.

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Let the Trees Be Burning Bright

christmas

© Roger Shipp

“I’m sorry but we’ll be needin’ this tree too, younguns.”

“But Pa!”

“Please don’t take it, Pa!”

Jeffrey and Constance wailed at their Father as he and three other large, rough men in heavy coats and workmen’s boots tramped into their one room sod house and took the first Christmas tree they’d ever had in their young lives. Ornaments of paper and tin, woven grass and dried corn shook free and fell to the dirt floor.

Their Ma held them back as the nine-year-old boy and his seven-year-old sister struggled. There were no presents for they were too poor, so their gayly decorated pine fir was their only symbol of hope and magic.

As the men retreated, their wives brought their children in either wailing or mute with terror. The women and their young huddled around the stove, burning hot with buffalo chips.

There were only a few such trees brought in from the mountains leagues afar, but burning them until dawn was the only way they knew to keep the werefolk at bay. Too late had the plains settlers discovered they’d homesteaded on lands cursed by the Heathen gods when the first white men landed in the new world.

I wrote this for the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner – 2017 Week #51 writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction up to 200 words long. My word count is 200.

I seem to remember posting stories for this particular challenge in the past, but somehow have failed to do so for several months. I just saw a blog post by someone else which reminded me and also was sorry to see that only one other person responded, even though it first went online on the 20th.

Since we’re just a few days away from Christmas, I have been inundated with Christmas related prompts and it’s getting harder to respond to them creatively. I’ve been writing a lot of vampire-related short stories recently, so I decided to keep with the horror theme though not specifically addressing the undead.

In this piece, I’ve chosen something menacing plains settlers of the 18th or 19th centuries and made up the remedy of burning fir trees, uncommon on the grassy plains, in response to an attack of cursed were-creatures. The joy and glad tidings that Christmas trees symbolize for some had to give way to the practicality of defending against supernatural killers.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

The Winter Feast of the Children

christmas prompt

© Sammi Cox

Christmas was the perfect time of year, especially in such high latitudes. There were less than four hours of daylight in Nome which meant Tarkik could move around with almost perfect impunity. To the sick inuit children, he came as a Shaman bringing the blessings of Quviasukvik, and to the white boys and girls in town, he appeared as Santa Claus. The doctors thought they merely suffered from tonsilitis but his keen senses told him it was worse. If any of them died by his ministrations, a growing epidemic would be the perfect cover.

Tapeesa and Amaruq trusted the Shaman to be alone with their little girl Yuka. Tarkik took only a little of her blood, she’d never remember it. He had been feeding well this winter and the blood of children was warm and invigorating. He slowly, lovingly licked the last crimson drops from her soft, supple neck before pulling her nightgown and blankets back up. He could afford to be a gracious hunter after all.

Rachel Van Helsing was never kind or forgiving but it would be over another month before she could arrive in Nome, and only then with the first dog sled teams bringing vital serum to stem the diphtheria outbreak. The vampire Bartholomew Crowe confessed his last victim’s name and location under torture when she captured him in Anchorage. Once the daughter of Abraham Van Helsing located the latest threat, Tarkik would come under the tender mercies of her blade and stake.

I wrote this for the Weekend Writing Prompt #34 – Christmas challenge hosted by Sammi Cox. There are separate rules for the prose vs. poetry challenge, but in my case, I could use the image, the word “Christmas,” or both as the inspiration for crafting a Happy Christmas or Horror Christmas flash fiction tale of no more than 250 words. My word count is 249.

Since I’ve been writing a lot of vampire-based fiction lately, I settled on that theme, but needed some sort of Christmas hook. At first I thought of a vampire disguising himself as Santa Claus and visiting sick children in hospitals, but he’d never be alone with the kids in order to “put the bite” on them.

I did a bit of Googling and the idea of making the setting in “Nome, Alaska” popped into my head. I looked up Nome and discovered the 1924-25 diphtheria epidemic among the inuit children and the famous 1925 serum dog sled run which was the only way to transport diphtheria antitoxin to that remote area.

In December 1924, diphtheria had not yet been diagnosed and local doctors thought the first several children were suffering from tonsilitis. I made my vampire an inuit so he could pass casually among the population and found that among the inuits, there is a winter feast called Quviasukvik that incorporates a number of Christmas-like elements. So my vampire could pass among the inuit families as a Shaman and the white Christian families as Santa Claus visiting the sick kids and, once alone with them, feeding on their blood.

I looked up sunrise and sunset times in Nome for December 23rd. The sun comes up at 12:03 p.m. and sets at 3:59 p.m. Tarkik can be active for about twenty full hours in complete darkness, maximizing his ability to feed on many children (and probably a few adults) so he doesn’t have to take too much from any one of them.

Oh, I looked up Inuit names for my several indigenous story characters.

Vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing first appeared in Bram Stoker’s 1897 Gothic horror novel “Dracula.” I figured the elder Van Helsing was a little too old to keep on pursuing vampires and the original canon did say he had a daughter (although her first name changes depending on which source you consult).

Of course, after torturing a confession out of another vampire to discover who and where the next undead predator could be found, Rachel would still have to brave a lengthy and dangerous journey by dog sled on the mission to get the antitoxin to Nome (in real life I seriously doubt she would have been allowed to make the trip), only arriving by early February. That would give my vampire over a month to continue enjoying the winter feast of the children.

To find out more about the challenge and read other stories and poems based on the prompt, click this link.

One Wish

north pole post office

North Pole, Alaska Post Office – Found at PostOfficePhotos.info

“This is your idea of a joke perhaps? I hate Christmas.”

“I’ve never been more serious in my life and you know it.”

“I told you I cannot take lives but neither can I grant them. I cannot save even one, no matter who it is.

“I have but one wish for you.”

“All of them? There are so many.”

“No, not all. Just these.” Meredith wheeled a canvas container in front of Abu Nuh Maimun. She had acquired his services quite by accident and had less than twenty-four hours to exploit them.

He read the label on the side of the voluminous bin of letters, “The Make-A-Wish Foundation.”

“You are Postmaster of North Pole, Alaska for the day. I have exactly one wish and you as a Jinn must fulfill it.” She shook the side of the container filled with letters from children all over the world.

“Grant them!”

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to take a Google maps image and/or location and use it as a prompt to create a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today the Pegman takes us to North Pole, Alaska. Yes, it’s a real place and every Christmas season, their post office is deluged with letters addressed to Santa Claus. I looked the town up on Wikipedia and it’s decorated for Christmas year-round. Especially in warmer months, it’s quite the tourist attraction (Santa Claus House closes during the week in January and February because of the extreme cold).

I originally thought of a person or supernatural being who absolutely hates Christmas being condemned to live in North Pole, Alaska as punishment for some horrendous crime. But as I pondered the concept and remembered those letters, I considered the idea of granting the wishes of children. I didn’t want to grant them all since I don’t necessarily believe in supporting the Christmas feeding frenzy of consumerism and greed. However, there is one worthy cause, one collection of children who deserve everything they ask for, at least their final wish, which is what the Make-A-Wish Foundation does for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

So Meredith has acquired the services of one of the Seven Kings of the Jinn (in this case Saturday’s) for twenty-four hours and her one wish is for Abu Nuh Maimun to grant what those letters request (I’m playing fast and loose with the “wish count limitation” since there are probably hundreds or thousands of letters in that one canvas bin). Oh, I made up the twenty-four hour limit so that Meredith had to act fast in utilizing her wish. I’m sure given time, she could have thought of a more effective way of applying a single wish for practically anything in order to help the maximum number of deserving children.

I don’t celebrate this particular holiday, but if I had to grant one wish on Christmas it would go pretty much the same way.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.