Hartford: Flash Fiction

The hamster could be dead for all she knew. She longed to unzip her coat and check the coffee can for signs of life, because it was cold as hell in Hartford with an icy mix of snow and sleet peppering her face and neck and finding the gaps between her sneakers and socks. But she was afraid that if she stopped to look, either she’d find a dead hamster or a very live one that might escape and die from exposure. Or she’d end up murdered by some vagrant in the switching yards at two in the morning. Even before she’d had this thought of the hamster he’d given her—who gives someone a rodent for Christmas without even asking?—her boyfriend had been a good twenty yards ahead of her, head down, hands in his pockets, loping along like he went for long walks through the snow every night. Now he was even farther, a dark blur in the distance. She hurried to catch up, called his name but he didn’t answer. He was angry, and that’s what he did when he was angry. As if it were her fault he’d read the bus schedule wrong and there were no connections to Boston on holidays. As if it were her fault the only hotel in reasonable walking distance didn’t have any vacancies and the less-reasonable one was two miles from the bus station and the cab company didn’t answer their phone. As if the fate of the hamster were her fault, too. Again, she called his name. He stopped. Turned.

“You’re slow, woman.” He sounded like his father.

“It’s cold,” she said.

Even his grin looked like his father’s. Mean around the edges. “Then walk faster.”

He started telling her a story. No apologies for his silence, for ignoring her. The stories always had dragons in them, and princesses, and he pulled them out of his pocket to pass the time while they waited for buses, or during the long stretches when they were hitchhiking and no cars would come along. This was one she’d heard before, about a princess who ends up rescuing the dragon, and he’d told it to her the night they’d first met. It charmed her, then. But it was cold and late and while the charm was wearing thin, she didn’t have the courage to face the silence. He stretched the story out for the rest of the walk, disappeared while she laid her credit card down for the room, began a new tale in the creaky elevator ride up to their floor.

Her Christmas present was still alive. But something inside her wasn’t. The right words never seemed to come when he shone his blue eyes and stories on her. Only while he slept was there room for her. In repose his mouth turned into a scowl, exactly like his father’s. When he fell asleep that night, in a hotel room she couldn’t afford, she started what would be a series of notes, first to herself and finally to him, in which the princess rescues herself. And the hamster.

12 Blogs of Christmas: Martin Crosbie

web pic with christmas tree 2Last but certainly not least, today’s blogger is Martin Crosbie. In a press release, Amazon called Martin Crosbie one of their success stories of 2012. His self-publishing journey has been chronicled in Publisher’s Weekly, Forbes Online, and Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. He’s the author of six books including the Kindle Scout winner The Dead List – A John Drake Mystery.

Martin was born in the Highlands of Scotland and currently makes his home just outside Vancouver, on the west coast of Canada.

——

Last year on the night after Christmas, even though it had been an exceptionally busy day, I drove a car-load of family members around the streets of our town. For two and a half hours we drove up and down roads searching out the brightest, most illuminating lights on people’s houses and lawns. My eighty-six year old passenger in the back seat, wrapped in a blanket and clutching a mug of hot chocolate, smiled the whole time and asked me pull over and look at every light on every street. Two days later we took her into hospital and three weeks after that we lost her.

Doreen Clark was diagnosed with cancer when she was thirty years old. It was a form of cancer that took ninety-five percent of its victims. She beat it. In the following fifty-six years she lost a kidney, suffered heart failure, lost the ability to walk without a walker and overcame it all. She beat everything that was thrown at her. Some people are resilient, she was more than that. She was unbreakable.

Click here to read more…

Thank you for coming along on our 12 Blogs of Christmas tour. If there are any posts you missed, here’s a list of all of our contributors. I wish you a safe, peaceful, and happy holiday season.

Dec. 13   Ellen Chauvet

Dec. 14   Sarah Lane

Dec. 15   Keith Baker

Dec. 16   Virginia Gray

Dec. 17   Gordon Long

Dec. 18   RJ Crayton

Dec. 19   Jennifer Ellis

Dec. 20   Laurie Boris

Dec. 21   Heather Haley

Dec. 22   Jordan Buchanan

Dec. 23   Cate Pedersen

Dec. 24   Martin Crosbie

12 Blogs of Christmas: Cate Pederson

CatePedersenWelcome back! Today’s blogger is Cate Pederson. Cate is a freelance writer, editor and social media manager. She recently published her first novel and is working on books two and three in the Sister Spirit Series. She is also a contributor in It’s Really 10 Months: Special Delivery, an anthology of birth stories (Special Xmas Sale NOW on Amazon) and an upcoming anthology: Adventures in Potty Training. Cate’s children are now almost grown, so Christmas is not quite as busy, but will always hold a magical place in her heart. Read her “12 Blogs of Christmas” post to find out why!

Website: www.copycate.ca

Facebook: Copycate Writing, Editing & Communications

My Christmas Mystery Man

There is certain magic I experience right at midnight on Christmas Eve. The entire world seems to pause and the air is different somehow. I relax completely, despite the recent whirlwind of activity over the past few days and the maelstrom which is to come Christmas morning and continue until New Year. My spine tingles with anticipation as the hour and minute hands join; I almost want to cheer, “It’s here, it’s here!” I look forward to it every year. I cannot recall ever going to bed earlier than midnight on that auspicious night— especially as a child, waiting up for sounds of bells and scraping hooves on the roof.

When my son and daughter were young, it was the same performance each Christmas Eve; I knew my cues perfectly and waited until I heard regular breathing through my daughter’s bedroom door. She was always last to fall asleep. Her father had been the first. I collect the presents hidden under my bed, in closets, above bookcases and wedged between storage containers. I tiptoe towards the tree with an armful of brightly papered boxes with colour-coordinated bows (and extra tape) . . . then freeze as the ball of my foot puts pressure on that part of the floor that squeaks. I imagine the cracking of wood sending shudders through the hall, and under the beds of my sleeping children, jarring them awake . . . Read more

Tomorrow’s blogger is Martin Crosbie.

Miss one of the days? Here are the blogs posted so far:

Dec. 13   Ellen Chauvet

Dec. 14   Sarah Lane

Dec. 15   Keith Baker

Dec. 16   Virginia Gray

Dec. 17   Gordon Long

Dec. 18   RJ Crayton

Dec. 19   Jennifer Ellis

Dec. 20   Laurie Boris

Dec. 21   Heather Haley

Dec. 22   Jordan Buchanan

 

12 Blogs of Christmas: How Mrs. Claus Got Her Groove Back

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How Mrs. Claus Got Her Groove Back

A fresh log glowed red in the fireplace; garland and twinkling lights lined the mantel. A most cheerful picture, normally, but the yuletide trappings still left Emma Claus cold. She’d tried everything to awaken her Christmas spirit: hitting the Black Friday sales online, reading letters from the children, baking tray after tray of cookies. Even the sappiest of holiday movies failed to lift her mood—even the ones with Colin Firth.

Just to make sure she’d given Hollywood a fair shake, she clicked the remote to the Hallmark Channel, which was showing the same snowed-in romance brewing at the same over-decorated country inn. Emma merely clucked her tongue. “Fools,” she said. “Do those innkeepers ever sleep? All that work! Cooking and cleaning! Sweeping up pine needles, drizzling everything with tinsel just so, tending the fires in every room and dusting twice a day from all the ash…what kind of life is that?”

And then her gaze fell to her own labor-roughened hands, still clutching a dishtowel, and she wept. She hadn’t even heard Santa walk into the room. “What’s this?” he said, voice so kindly that she cried harder. “Tears, Mrs. Claus? During the most magical time of the year?”

She shook her head and dabbed at her eyes with the cloth. “Oh, it’s just the story.” Emma gestured to the television. “This one makes me weepy every time I see it.”

The lines in his face softened. She could never get away with lying to him, the man who’d patented the Naughty/Nice meter. “Don’t you dare say it,” she squeaked out. “Don’t you dare say the same old things about bringing joy to the children.” Granted, it was an admirable mission. And she was grateful. Decades earlier he’d rescued her, a poor orphan girl from the village, and found her a job in the factory. Then, when she reached marriageable age, he’d made her the beloved bride of the most generous man in the world. But clearly, something was missing.

He nodded once, and then twice, and then muttered, “I’ll be in my workshop.”

She sucked in a few deep breaths and made a deal with herself to hold it together, for his sake. She’d done this forever, after all. Sat by the fire on Christmas Eve monitoring the sleigh’s progress on NORAD, fed the hungry elves, met him on the launch pad when he returned. And then endured the silence and loneliness when, exhausted, he collapsed into bed and slept for days. The sleep of a man happily consumed by his work.

Somehow, Emma managed to get through the long, bereft days leading up to the Big Night. Santa had to have noticed the misshapen cookies, the lackluster dinners, the depth of her sighs. Smart man that he was, though, he said nothing. Just made himself a sandwich and retreated to the company of his elves.

Then Christmas Eve came. As she’d done for more years than she could count, she pressed his velvet suit, polished his boots, and left him to dress while she prepared his favorite pre-flight meal. But he didn’t come down. She called for him, and he answered in a deep, wrenching moan.

Emma sprinted up the stairs and gasped when she saw him. In bed, clutching his belly. “Oh. Oh, my dear,” he said. “I don’t think… I don’t think I’ll be able to make it. Just the thought of… Call the elves…” And then he passed out.

Her eyes widened and she rushed to him, pressing a hand to his less-than-rosy cheek. Still breathing and heart strong, thank God, although clearly he was in no state to travel. He’d never missed Christmas. There were emergency provisions, of course, in the event that NORAD had to alter his flight plans, but it had been such a long time and all had gone so smoothly that she didn’t even know where the binder was. She managed to calm herself enough to make the call. Doc Elf was on his way, and the other elves had been alerted, but there was still the matter of distributing the presents.

Emma took a few steadying breaths. The elves were good, and the factory ran well, but how could she trust them with this most important task, which she and Santa had magicked together from the very beginning. She eyeballed the red suit hanging in the corner and felt a shiver sweep down her spine.

She would do it herself.

With wobbling hands she dressed in the velvet coat and trousers, with shaky fingers adding the belt and cinching it tight. “I don’t want to leave your side, Mr. Claus,” she said to the prostrate, bearded lump of man on the bed as she smoothed the white hair from his forehead. “But we don’t have Amazon drones and these Kindles aren’t going to deliver themselves.”

As she fit the cap over her silver curls and strode for the door, a bit of the process started coming back to her. By now, the elves would have already assembled the sleigh and the reindeer; on many occasions of late, Santa had waved off praise for his efforts, saying that he had automated the practice so well that basically all he had to do on the Big Night was sit back and let Rudolph’s GPS guide the way. And thanks to her good cooking, she’d grown as well padded in the belly as he, so she doubted that anyone spying them from a distance would notice it was not Saint Nick at the reins.

Still, she allowed the air traffic controller to help her into the cockpit and nodded as he rattled off a list of instructions, a mix of excitement and dread spiraling through her stomach. Finally, with a last wave from the ground crew, she was cleared for takeoff. Emma gulped as the sleigh began a vertical ascent from the launch pad. She grabbed onto whatever was handy, bracing herself to be jostled about, but she soon discovered that there was no need. Even when they zoomed off into the night, climbing higher and higher, there was not a bump or a jolt to be felt. And soon she released the death grip she’d had on the upholstery and the dash—she’d even put down the reins and whooped like a giddy child on an amusement park ride.

The radio crackled, and a small voice cleared its throat. “With all due respect, Mrs. Claus, we need to focus on the task at hand. Just follow the coordinates on the monitor and you’ll find the addresses—”

“Oh, pish on that,” she said, emboldened by the magical ride and the power of being in the driver’s seat. “This was meant to be a labor of joy, not one for the auto-pilot. I’ve read all the letters; I’ve followed the radar maps for years; I know where the children live.” She laughed as she clicked off the radio, imagining all sorts of fright going on at headquarters, the gossip among the elves: The missus has gone rogue. “Hit it, Rudolph.” She flicked the reins. “It’s you, me, and your eight buddies tonight. Just the way it was supposed to be.”

And, following the stars, they flew from the North Pole all around the world, landing on rooftops of the good and the naughty, for she believed everyone deserved a little magic on Christmas. When every last gift was delivered, she directed Rudolph to take them home. She was still giggling with delight when nine sets of hooves touched down lightly on the launch pad. For a moment she sat, laughing up at the stars as a gentle snow began to fall and the sleigh’s bells jingled to a stop.

“Santa!” she gasped, remembering his state, and leaving the reindeer to the stable master, rushed into the house.

And there, playing video games, all manner of junk food spread before them, sat her husband and three of his elves. The old sod had never looked healthier in his life. When he noticed her staring, he gave her a slow grin and a wink. “Red is definitely your color, my dear.”

She pressed her fists into her hips. “You conniving b—”

“Ah. Language in front of the elves.” He jammed the joystick forward and digital explosions blasted from the speakers. Then he let loose a jolly ho-ho-ho. “Come on, admit it,” he said. “You’ve always wanted to drive that sleigh. And you’ve never liked auto-pilot.”

A blush overtook her face at being found out. And then a smile. “Can I do it again next year?”

He lifted his shaggy white brows. “If you always come home to me looking so happy, you can take the reins for the rest of our lives. Although we’ll have to fashion you a fake beard.” He patted the cushion next to him. “Now park it and let’s celebrate a job well done. I saved you some pizza.”

—-

Thank you to Martin Crosbie for pulling this holiday event together. I hope you’ll join us tomorrow for Heather Haley.

Miss one of the days? Here are the blogs posted so far:

Dec. 13   Ellen Chauvet

Dec. 14   Sarah Lane

Dec. 15   Keith Baker

Dec. 16   Virginia Gray

Dec. 17   Gordon Long

Dec. 18   RJ Crayton

Dec. 19   Jennifer Ellis

 

12 Blogs of Christmas: Jennifer Ellis

JenniferEllisWelcome back! Today’s blogger is Jennifer Ellis. Jennifer lives in the mountains of British Columbia where she can be found writing, hiking, skiing, borrowing dogs, and evading bears. She also works as a climate change researcher, evaluator and strategic planner. She has wanted to be a writer since she first read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and didn’t want to come out of the wardrobe.

Jennifer writes science fiction, romance and dystopian fiction for children and adults, including In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation and A Pair of Docks, which was a bestseller in children’s time travel fiction. She has also contributed to several anthologies, most notably Synchronic: 13 Tales of Time Travel, which hit #16 in the Kindle Store.

You can subscribe to her blog for writing tips, industry insights, and two free short stories at www.jenniferellis.ca, and check out her writing on Amazon at: http://bit.ly/jenniferellis. She tweets about writing, cats, and teenagers at @jenniferlellis.

Excerpt

I’m once again participating in the 12 Blogs of Christmas with eleven other writers, organized by Martin Crosbie. As part of the event, we are to write about—not surprisingly—Christmas. Many of the other eleven bloggers have written about fond or funny memories of Christmas. Last year, I wrote about my fraught relationship with Christmas—acknowledging the magic of Christmas but also the busy-ness, commercial aspects, and guilt associated with Christmas (we have so much, and so many people have so little). So I can’t do that again. Most of my stories about Christmas go something like… we got too much, ate too much, spent too much (even though we don’t spend that much), stressed about a turkey, and were really happy to be able to go skiing and eat leftovers on Boxing Day.

I exaggerate. I’m sure I’ve had some nice Christmases, but since I’m often up to my elbows in a turkey, and have not had any famous disasters, they are not the stuff of stories. Then again, my memory is famously poor—all that living half the time in another world. This year I’ll be sure to burn the turkey, so I have something to tell you about next year (Hmm, I’m getting a strong turkey vibe here. It might be time to start serving Christmas steak).

To me, Christmas is about gratitude and reflection on a year gone by. In an effort to dredge up some Christmas spirit (and not seem like cross between Eeyore and the Grinch—I promise I’m actually not—Christmas commercials make me cry), I decided to do a post on the 12 writing things I’m most grateful for this Christmas. That’s not to imply that there are not a lot of non-writing things I am grateful for (there are so many of those things), but this is a writing blog (and I think this sentence is a triple-negative) so… [Read more…]

Tomorrow some author named Laurie Boris is sharing a Christmas story. 

Miss one of the days? Here are the blogs posted so far:

Dec. 13   Ellen Chauvet

Dec. 14   Sarah Lane

Dec. 15   Keith Baker

Dec. 16   Virginia Gray

Dec. 17   Gordon Long

Dec. 18   RJ Crayton

 

12 Blogs of Christmas: Keith R. Baker

Keith R. BakerWelcome back! Today’s blogger is Keith R. Baker. In addition to being an avid history and genealogy buff, Keith has been an avid outdoorsman his entire life. He has a variety of hats in the business world after completing two periods of duty with the US Navy.  His hobbies apart from reading and research include shooting, teaching others the basics of gun safety and handling. Until recently he took an active role in local and regional politics as a public speaker and campaign consultant.

Keith and his wife Leni have enjoyed living several places in the US, including Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and Montana. They have two adult children, two adult foster children and nine grandchildren scattered around the country. www.keithrbaker.com

Fire in the Snow

The big man’s boot carefully kicked aside a remaining hunk of what appeared to be a roof rafter. Burnt nearly to ash, it had almost no weight to it. Still, it was best to be careful. Any of the smoldering pile of debris that had been their family home could yet be white-hot. He didn’t need a burnt foot; he had enough trouble already.

Rob Finn’s young family had few enough possessions before the fire. Now, it seemed, they had none. Farming their tiny acreage had barely provided enough food in the good times. Along with everything else they’d lost, even their supply of necessary food stuffs were gone. What would they do? Read more…

Links

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Current Promotion:

Read about Rob Finn and his family in the Longshot series, beginning with Longshot In Missouri, price reduced through Christmas, here.

Hope to see you tomorrow when Virginia Gray will be our featured blogger.

Miss one of the days? Here are the blogs posted so far:

Dec. 13   Ellen Chauvet

Dec. 14   Sarah Lane

 

 

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Sarah Lane

Sarah Lane photoWelcome back! Today’s blogger is Sarah Lane.

Sarah Lane is the author of The God of My Art, the story of a young woman’s journey to become an artist, and a quarter finalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Lane’s short fiction and poetry have also featured in a number of literary magazines, including The Antigonish Review, Roar Magazine, and Quills: Canadian Poetry Magazine.

Lane’s upcoming young adult novel is a psychological read about a cerebral seventeen-year-old who struggles to learn salsa dancing only to be shown up by her doppelgänger. (You can sign up on her website to be notified when it comes out).

Sarah Lane hopes you will enjoy listening to this reading from her young adult crossover novel The God of My Art. This chapter is taken from near the end of the book, when Helene visits her mother over the winter holidays. Watch the video here. Or view on her website.

(Next up: Keith Baker)

Miss one of the days? Here are the blogs posted so far:

Dec. 13   Ellen Chauvet

 

The 12 Blogs of Christmas: Ellen Chauvet

EllenChauvet_2015-2049-Edit-Edit-5Happy Sunday! We’re kicking off our 12 Blogs of Christmas Tour with author Ellen Chauvet. Ellen lives in Vancouver, Canada, where long months of rain are particularly conducive to writing dark stories. You can learn more about her at her website.

Here is what she wrote:

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

Composed by Clement C. Moore

____________________________________________________

When Martin Crosbie invited me to participate in the 12 blogs of Christmas I immediately said yes. I’ve always treasured Christmas and the opportunity to share my love of Clement Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nick” poem appealed to me. After several hours of research, the following is what I gleaned.

(Up next: Sarah Lane)

 

12 Blogs of Christmas – Martin Crosbie

web pic with christmas tree 2Our 12th Blog of Christmas is written by bestselling author, Martin Crosbie.

Martin lives on the west coast of Canada and has written five books including Amazon bestseller My Temporary Life. His popular Christmas novel Believing Again: A Tale Of Two Christmases is available in e-book format in the US and UK as a Kindle Countdown Deal from Dec. 24-27 for only 99 cents.

——————

Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

Those delicious words open the Dickens classic. Previous to the publication of A Christmas Carol, Christmas was barely recognized. Although it was a holiday it didn’t have the romantic vibe that it has today. Mr. Dickens and his novel changed all that. And, if he’d waited for his publisher to release the book it may never have happened.

Charles Dickens wrote his masterpiece in six weeks. Somehow he was able to channel the story and get the words on paper (or parchment probably) in less than two months. At that time he was suffering financially. His wife was pregnant with their fifth child and the wolves were closing in on their door. His previous novel had not sold well and when he submitted his new manuscript (after having it beta-read surely), to his publishers they were slow to warm to it. I’m not sure how rejection letters were sent out in 1853 but his publishers indicated that they were not interested in publishing the story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s epiphany. Anxious to have the book released by Christmas Dickens went the print-on-demand route and self-published. He hired his own illustrator and contracted his publisher to print the books. And, he did the legwork himself. Then, in those very, pre-Konrath days he decided to lower the price to five shillings – a price that most folks would be able to afford. He wanted his book to be read and perhaps he even thought that readers might enjoy his other works if they liked his Christmas tale.

Read More…

Thank you for reading our 12 Blogs of Christmas. A joyous and peaceful season to you!

12 Blogs of Christmas – Dianne Greenlay

Dianne Greenlay photoToday’s 12 Blogs of Christmas contribution is from Dianne Greenlay. Take it away, Dianne.

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Hello everyone! I’m delighted (and more than just a little bit in awe) to be part of this group of talented and very entertaining authors in our “12 Blogs of Christmas”, conceived and assembled by my friend and bestselling author Martin Crosbie. By now, you have met several of these brilliant authors, and today it’s my turn to entertain.

I’m the author of the award winning action/adventure QUINTSPINNER SERIES , and also of THE CAMPING GUY , a humorous short story, which is an award winner in its theatre script version. I live and write on the Canadian prairies, home (most years) to 6 or 7 months of winter. Yeah, we never put our parkas away, just in case. (Is it any wonder that I fantasize and write about pirates and adventure in the sun splashed tropics?)

I chose to write my first novel over learning to play the bagpipes, and my husband is grateful. I love to hear from my readers and you can find me at www.diannegreenlay.com, or on twitter at https://twitter.com/DianneGreenlay or even at my Author page .

And now onto my Christmas blog. Wishing you all a wonderful holiday filled with good friends, good luck, and good books!

——————-

Getting Into The Christmas Spirit …

Bah, Humbug!

To steal that popular line, it is Hot Stuff Hubby’s summation of what he also refers to as “a Hallmark Holiday”. The rest of us call it Christmas.

For anyone who has anything for sale, the Christmas retail season is like bottled oxygen to an astronaut in a Space Station – absolutely necessary in order to survive the rest of the year.

Not a particularly religious man, Hot Stuff nevertheless laments the overshadowing of the original intent of fellowship and gratitude of the season, with that of a glut of retail activity.

Personally, I love the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. I think I must have been a magpie in a former life because I love all things sparkly – twinkling lights, reflective ornaments, the ropes of flashy tinsel, diamonds (ahem, are you reading this, Hot Stuff?), and such.

I love Christmas music, especially the more traditional carols and hymns perfectly harmonized and performed by choirs – I feel no shame in humming along out loud as they are pumped out of the speakers in the mall stores; I thrive on the smells of Christmas baking – sugar and cinnamon, butter and raisins, warm gingerbread – and can often be seen hanging out around the local bakery counter until the clerks get a little nervous at my continuous presence; and I take personal pride in decorating my home and yard as though it were a marker for NASA to be easily seen from outer space.

But this year is a little different. You can read more and find out why here.