“Wight Christmas” an Anthology of Christmas Horror

The “Wight Christmas, Holiday Horror and Seasonal Subversion” is available from Amazon and my story “The Selfless Gift” is included.

My story grew out of a writing exercise where the words “velvet silence” were a prompt.

I have spent part of my life traveling through places covered with snow returning to family homes for the winter holidays, in various states of mind, through different eras and phases of my life.

The thing I like most about snow is what it does to sound, so, the words “velvet silence” could only mean for me a snowy night. From there I saw a lonely road driving away from one difficulty towards an uncertain tomorrow.

Christmas, for many, can be the most difficult time of the year. Birthdays can be ignored but Christmas punches a hole in the calendar and threads wishes, family, love, longing and regret together through the years until it can almost seem an entity in itself. I tried to capture those traditional pains and joys in a short story.

Was there ever a better story than a Christmas ghost story?

Looking Back: Quilts

This is an excerpt from a post on my blog “Quilting is My Addiction”.

Without getting too boring or pedantic, I want to say that what I love about quilts is thinking about the anonymity of all those who have thread their lives, industry, and economy into their art. I love imagining the stories they shared, heads bowed over needle, the hopes and secrets, surviving in the fibers, if we can only listen.

No quilt can be reproduced, not really, because it has time sewn into it.

There is an obsession with permanence and naming things that comes with Empires, stamping coins and art and contracts, (all with men’s names, never with the names of women or slaves which sometimes women were by law). But we never run out of the proof that there was always art that was made to gladden the heart, to ease the pain, to connect with hopeful birth and to commemorate loss.

And in a way these proofs that artists were there survive better than the art that is dependant on Dynasties or Holy Empires, because they borrow from each generation, each carefully cherished item and thread a different history, one that includes women and slaves and reaches out to a future undaunted by circumstance, for joy. 

Because Empires fall and art becomes fatuous.

But quilts become stories.


Just went to a launch for this charming book written by Peter Reynolds. First off, Quilts! Secondly, thirdly and well, I lost count — Time travel, an only child with siblings, and a tale of family and traditions!

A magical story, nicely illustrated and told with wit and compassion.

The Moon

I find writing excruciatingly difficult but it feels so good when I stop. And just having someone take the time to read something I’ve written thoughtfully is huge for me.

The idea of making enough money to live on from my writing is like comparing me, stumbling along with my bundle buggy to the grocery store, to an astronaut in a rocket shooting for the moon.

HOWEVER, I don’t think there is an astronaut who doesn’t see the same moon as I see when I am happy to sit by my window and stare at it.

Being Wrong

I got in an argument when I was a kid about whether a certain plant was poison ivy. I was certain it was a Trillium that was not yet flowering.  “So rub your face in it!” was her response.  I did. I was wrong. Boy was I wrong.

We all hate finding out we are wrong.  We might enjoy the humiliation of someone else, especially a blow hard being proven wrong or laugh at the slap-stick that a wrong premise can lead a character to repeat over and over. We recognize it because we have all known that often uncomfortable realization.

The thing about being wrong, as Kathryn Schulz author of “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error” points out, it feels just like being right. Until we find out we are wrong we can feel pretty good.

Then, after we realize we are wrong we might continue to act as if we are right because we think we have too much to lose by making such an admission.

On the other hand we can believe that they are so wrong we have to bring them to justice, or to the court of public opinion, or just remind them, frequently. We can even feel pleasure from this punishing of others for their stumbles. It is unfortunate because we will be wrong again too.

Being wrong is part of being human. How a character in a fiction deals with the realization and all its ramifications can drive a story but in real life, it is an opportunity for us to learn and grow as a human being, and in real life we get lots of opportunities. Lucky thing because learning to be an adult human being is what your all too human life is about. It really is.


I am not going to say I laughed my head off…

I have an overdue library book.  Unfortunately I can’t find it.  I couldn’t even remember what the name of it was.  I usually just scoop up three or four paper backs at a time at random; it is the only way for me to overcome a bias that ends with me reading the same type of books (and even the same book) over and over and never EXPANDING MY MIND.

I asked the librarian what the name of the book I seem to have lost is, get this, it’s title is:


Is that  funny?  Should I move to Prague?  Besides now having literally fallen on my face, this new phase of my life is seeming all too literal!

Metaphorically speaking…NOT!


Art and Horror: Vermeer’s Woman with a Balance and The Walking Dead’s “Still”

bethdrinks (800x565)

Sketch by Rio

In the painting, Vermeer has depicted a young woman holding an empty balance before a table on which stands an open jewelry box, the pearls and gold within spilling over… “interpreted as a vanitas painting, as a representation of divine truth or justice, as a religious meditative aid, and as an incitement to lead a balanced, thoughtful life.”[3] Some viewers have imagined the woman is weighing her valuables, while others compare her actions to Christ’s, reading parable into the pearls.[1] Some art critics, including John Michael Montias who describes her as “symbolically weighing unborn souls”, have seen the woman as a figure of Mary.[4][5] To some critics who perceive her as measuring her valuables, the juxtaposition with the final judgment suggests that the woman should be focusing on the treasures of Heaven rather than those of Earth.[6] In this perspective, the mirror on the wall may reinforce the vanity of her pursuits.[7]


I know I am making a stretch here trying to connect the painting to the episode, but when Beth is in the bar of the country club, after moving through a sort of hell where a class war went on, there is this stillness. (Daryl, who, while possessing legendary survival skills has little else left after losing his adopted family to a rival group is not in the frame.) In the scene the light is falling across the bar. The light is catching the edges of the bottles and the reflective surfaces, the edges of Beth’s arms,  the side of her face that is away from us, gives her a glow. Something about it made me think of Vermeer’s “Woman Testing a Balance” (which it is also known by), so much that I had to find the painting and look at it again.

I wasn’t disappointed. Vermeer’s painting is compositionally beautiful but the interpretation of his painting is so dead on for what this episode was about.

Beth had made the search for her first drink of alcohol a type of quest but in the face of the obvious carnage that went on, the wealth and riches that were now meaningless, and bloody rage that Daryl let loose on the heads of the zombie walkers, she realizes that it has been a fools errand. All her actions were in vain. She starts to cry.

It is precisely when Daryl is moved to help her. The rest of the episode is about him coming back to her and both of them coming to terms with what they have and what they can now let go of, a return of the only type of balance they can know in the Walking Dead: trust in each other.

The episode was directed by Julius Ramsay and written by Angela Kang. Brilliant!

So I think I am done with ten things to beat the winter blues…

I don’t think I managed it. I think the winter blues beat me, in fact, the winter blues made me their BEE-ACH. (My apologies to those who know the proper spelling and use of the expression.)

I did however write a short piece about a psychopath with aspirations of working as a receptionist and I just found out it will be published in an anthology of stories about coffee. That’s exciting. *Sigh*

When I get my copy or whatever I will post a link or something…is that how this internet stuff works…? *watches brain shrivel up like a raisin*

Sigh. Did I spell raisin correctly?

What’s in a Name?

By any other name

She got hired!  It was an office full of good looking people, purely by co-incidence. Of course they were highly qualified and skilled at their jobs. The only detractor to what would appear to be a bunch of superior office workers was that they all had funny names. They were the sorts of names that could get a kid beaten up.

For example: Her bosses name was Peter Dickey.  He was truly the most beautiful man over 50 that she had ever met. He was like a George Clooney without the pugnacious insincerity.  Peter Dickey oozed sincerity. He had the most gorgeous voice. For the first three days of meetings her panties were wet.

  “Don’t worry; the effect of his benevolent beauty will wear off soon. Most of the women here and some of the men had this experience. You will simply adjust and it will no longer affect you. I can only wonder about the woman who had the good fortune to call him son. It must have pained her to have to wean him from her breast”, Umu, the woman in the cubicle across from her said. She smiled in a way that made it clear she was joking. Umu was as beautiful as any Nubian princess ever born.  Her skin shone like polished ebony; her accent, more a choice of words than any slanted version of them, was charming. She was warm without being familiar and was as calm and as quick as a cobra. Her full name was Umu Mumu.  Ms. Owen choked on her coffee when she read the name plate on Umu’s cubicle wall. 

“Ethiopia, if you were wondering where I am from.”

“Oh, no, I mean, yeah, I figured East Africa. My grandfather was from Tunisia. You have a lovely accent.”

“It’s is you who have the accent, and odd choice of synapse.” She smiled a pearly white smile and winked.

Sing Song, the tech support person walked by and gave them a wave. 

“Umm, Umu, have you noticed that all the people working here are extremely attractive?”

“I am not looking in this fashion, however, everyone here is very healthy, strong, hard working and qualified.”

“Okay, well, don’t you think some of the people’s names are funny?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, Peter for example.”

Umu held up her long supple arms, palms facing the ceiling in an expression that conveyed, you’ve lost me, or I give up, or what’s the joke?

“Never mind”, Ms. Owen said and she went back to reviewing the reports that would be due later in the week.

She had met Harry Wacker, Anita Hoare, Haywood Jablome and Abbie Birthday.  Later that day she would be introduced to: Hank Erchif, Harris Gray and Pat Butt.

Her husband’s name was Allyson. Ms. Owen knew it was a tricky business talking about funny names with him. He was tortured as a child for having a girl’s name. He would tell people his name was Ali like Mohamed and they would make even more fun of him because he wasn’t black and as far from being a boxer as, well, as she was. 

She couldn’t help it. She thought she would explode if she didn’t talk about it.  That night she told him about how everyone in the office at her new job had a funny name.  She neglected to tell him that they were also gorgeous. That was Allyson’s other sensitivity.  He was a smallish man and he was very skinny. He was going bald and he wasn’t yet thirty. He had a Welsh accent. He didn’t think himself attractive.  He was terribly jealous as a result and for some reason he thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world and that every man would be trying to steal her.  Love is blind she thought.

She loved him.  She couldn’t seem to help herself.  People, including her family would say, “What do you see in him?” and she would tell them that he completed her. When he asked her to marry him it was the second happiest day of her life, the first being the day she became Mrs. Owen. “It was as if I was incomplete before.” She would say.

“So what you are saying is you find it hilarious, all these people with funny names?” Allyson narrowed his squinty eyes from behind his thick glasses and glared accusingly at her.

“No! Oh Allyson, I just find it odd that every one of them has a funny name.  There’s not a normal name in the bunch, well except for me.  Even with my mixed race I ended up being the only un-funny name in the bunch.”

“Well, your first name is a bit out of the ordinary…”

“My mom picked it; it’s Indian, like the dish.”

“Well didn’t you get picked on for it?”

“I guess.  I never really minded.  I was a happy kid. I had a positive attitude and I was always quite fearless, like I am now!”

“I wish I knew you when you were a little girl. I just have the feeling I would have loved you even then. I must be the luckiest son of a bitch in the world!  You saved me when you married me, Arhar!”

Arhar Owen: Our Heroine, bad, I know!!!!

References to “Johnathan Livingstone Seagull”

Hurricane Shuffle

It had rained a lot in the night, but now the sky was a brilliant blue. Every day in the summer Martin—Marty they called him—shuffled down the hill to the boardwalk where all the tourists hung out. 

As many sunny days as cloudy, that’s all he could ask for. The cool breezes off the ocean were a gift, as were the tourists, coming from who knows where.

He kept his wagon in the rented shed he’d paid an arm and leg for; he had gotten too old to pull it up the big hill every night. It was full of colourful toys—marionettes and hand puppets—and none of the “thanks for visiting wherever” souvenirs that all the kiosks sold.  Marty didn’t believe in “place by name”. He believed in place by the smell of the salt in the air, place by the people you came to know, place by the memories you made.

“What is the point of buying some shirt just to prove you’re as stupid as the person who bought one before you?” he asked a family walking by.  The kids didn’t like what the Bed and Breakfast had to offer that morning and were searching for a MacDonald’s restaurant.  

 His customer service skills were not great.

While opening up the wagon’s compartments, setting up the supports for the extensions and then carefully arranging his dolls, marionettes and hand puppets on their posts, he remembered the smell of wood chips as he carved each block to form their heads. He could remember that joyous smell way back to his days as a boy when his dad taught him to whittle.  He was a lucky man in that he had had a happy childhood.  “It’s been pretty much down hill since then.” he said to his puppets.

Sometimes for a laugh he fashioned one in the image of neighbor that annoyed him. The winters passed this way; making dolls and puppets. The long days of what might have been loneliness filled with the growing number of these “friends”. In his small house, they ended up sitting around the furniture like a bunch at an Irish wake, flopped over and asleep with their eyes open.

The gulls, those darn dirty birds, were usually squawking out their patch of territory like carnies by this time, but they were not around, except for “Loser”, the flightless cripple gull that was fat from chips. He was there walking in crazy circles. Loser never left the boardwalk.  

Marty hated gulls for their capitalism, but he supposed the whiteness of their close-cropped feathers made a nice contrast to so much blue when they were flying. 

As far as capitalism went, his grand-nephew said he should have a website and sell “online”, but Marty was distrustful of such confluxes. The news show channel that came out from the city to interview him made him sound like a joke. He sold well that summer and had to replace all of dolls over the winter, which was a good thing because he preferred to be busy.

Some customers came back year after year, locals and foreigners, with stories about the joy his work brought some relative or friend. These people were the ones that “got it”. These people were like the stepping stones you find when you’re stuck on a rock. They get you back to the shore. In Marty’s case the shore was where he could still care about something.

He put his straw hat on and opened up his lawn chair. This was a good place, enough back of the impending crowd he could breathe but close enough to be seen without having to socialize with the other hawkers. They were like sea gulls without the nice feathers. He didn’t care if they hated him. If any one of them gave him trouble, they ended up with their head on a puppet! 

Howd ya like that, ya filthy carnies? he thought. His thought was directed at no one in particular.  He might have said it; he spent so much time talking to himself he could not be sure.

He stretched out his legs in front of him and lowered his hat a bit over his eyes, enough that he could close them from time to time but enough that he could open them too; keeping watch over his wares.  

The boardwalk seemed a bit empty, even for this early. Since the family of tourists he had not seen anyone. The sky had turned an ugly grey all of a sudden, as if the former blue was just some heavenly lure bobbing on the skin of the sky and this grey was now the truth closing in.

The wind picked up his hat and threw it, rolling it along the boardwalk.

“Oh for f**k sakes!” Marty said, wrestling his way out of his lawn chair to get up and go after it. 

“It’s a mite windy!” He yelled to the only other vendor who appeared to be locking up his booth for the day no sooner than he had opened up.

Marty saw his lawn chair flying over head as he shuffled along in pursuit of his hat. 

“Oh for f**k sakes!”

He had put the brakes on his wagon as always, but he let his hat and chair go and headed back towards it. His shirt and pants were glued to him by the wind and he had trouble keeping his droopy lids open to see his way.  His baggy face was billowing in the wind. It was hard walking.

“It’s a mite windy!” he said again, but he could see that his neighbor was gone, headed for cover. A few puppets had gone flying off their posts, and as quick as he could, he pulled the rest down and folded up the extensions locking the whole thing down. He started pushing it towards the public washroom, thinking that with all the concrete it was his safest bet.

“Oh for f**k sakes!” the doors were all locked. The best he could do was chain it to the rod steel divider in front of the barricaded window of the chip shop.  It was down wind from the washroom and easier to walk to. There was a lot of water coming with the wind now, and he had trouble getting the key in the lock for the chain but he managed.

How had this hurricane come up so fast? He forgot to listen to radio. Why was that? He wondered. Oh, now he remembered: he was going to sit with his coffee and listen to the weather report as always, but then he saw that stupid cat about to pee on his tomatoes again and he had to find the rake to chase it…

The wind was cruel. He was sure he wasn’t going to make it back up the hill to safety. 

“Oh for f**k sakes!” He saw that screw ball sea gull, Loser walking in circles.  He imagined, it was swearing as much as he was. Marty had gotten himself tucked behind the restaurant wall and the wall next to the dumpster somewhat out of harms way and he hoped high enough that the waves which were now lapping over the boardwalk wouldn’t reach him. There were sheets of water flying horizontally through the air. Above the incredible sound of the waves, the wind and the rain he could hear the groaning of things that were meant to stay put changing their address.

“Oh for f**k sakes!” He ran a bit and grabbed Loser by the neck. Marty figured if he killed Loser accidentally with his heroics Loser would be better off, but he seemed okay when they got tucked in. The bird turned his head and put it under its useless wing.  Marty did something similar, squatting down and lowering his head. Loser was in his lap. When he noticed the warmth of piss running down his legs, he considered strangling him but he had to admit, he was so scared it might have been his own. 

 “ ‘To fly as fast as thought, to anywhere that is,’ he said, ‘you must begin by knowing that you have already arrived.’  -Jonathan Livingston Seagull”, Loser said.

“Oh for f**k sakes I thought that book was bullshit when I read it 30 years ago! Why are you quoting it to me now?” Marty was talking to Loser, the Seagull. 

“Marty, this is your life. You have no friends and now you are going to die, pitifully, behind a dumpster with piss and bird shit on your pants,” Loser said, his face was gleaming with a heavenly white and his beak was the most perfect yellow. Around him, the sky was bluer than any blue Marty had ever seen.

Puppets were floating by him, saying things like, “He’s right Marty, listen to him; he’s the only real live friend you have…”

“What do I do? What do I do!!!”

               “Recite after me, ‘there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…’ and after all this is over get that young nephew over with his computer and start selling online, maybe you could try some online dating too, you’ve been alone too long, oh, and KILL THAT FUCKING CAT NEXT DOOR. I hate cats!”

Marty woke up in hospital. It was a miracle he survived. His entire inventory was destroyed. He was going to have work all winter. When he got home, he did what Loser told him to do. He bought a computer and got his nephew to set up a website so he wouldn’t have to deal with the public and the weather. As for the online dating, he wouldn’t call it “dating” so much…

He has not, as of yet, killed the cat.

A Little Dog, A Short Story and A Lame Excuse!

Jim looking all powerful! Photo courtesy of cottonmanifesto

I’m sitting a Zen retreat which is being made possible by my sister who is coming to look after my mom for a few days.

I could post something for my weekly Thursday post, (what? You didn’t know I had a weekly post?), but I am busy cleaning up the house and getting meals prepared for while I am gone.

I will post a story I wrote for a weekly writing contest in Brigits Flame  THAT I WON!  (A first!)

“the wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something, but are both reluctant to start”.

The young woman in the yellow raincoat joins the fray. It is a grey morning. She steps on the bus and jostles with the rest, hanging by an arm from one of the straps provided for commuters too short to reach the bar. With her free hand she checks the email on her Iphone and sends a text to her friend. She glances over her shoulder at the man who is standing too close and gives him a look of annoyance. She looks at her Iphone smiles at the text she has just received, looks up briefly at the passing scene of newly built row houses barely registering the fact that have been made to look Victorian. She sees the pedestrians with open umbrellas hurriedly joining the stream of Monday morning rush hour commuters.

  The music playing via her iPhone pours into her ears through barely visible ear bulbs. It is frenetic and electronic, the singer’s voice like a choir of adolescent boys.

 The bus turns into the station and the passengers swing from their tenuous grasps, embarrassed smiles all around because they are bumping into each other (a few give angry glances). They pound off the bus en mass, like a grey beast, except for her. She floats out in her brilliant yellow raincoat. 

Her perfectly shaped ankles rise above the neat blue shoes that click on the polished cement tiles of the station. She moves quickly so as not to miss her connection.

 The masses flow like an autumn stream with one perfect yellow leaf upon it. Wind blows cold from the tunnel lifting her hair slightly as the train slows and she steps carefully over the gap between the platform and the car. 

  A seat! She slips into it trying not to see the elderly woman who has no business riding at rush hour and starts to read her book, wondering slightly how it is possible that these two worlds exist simultaneously; the world within the pages of her book filling her a word at a time with a sense of belonging, and this periphery of real life that is so meaningless. She promises herself she will write about it when she has a chance: this schism. She cracks open her paperback.

 She would save the boy.

 She is surprised when the train’s automated voice announces her station. She has been immersed in the protagonist’s struggle and the music of her iPhone. Getting up to the door she meets an odd Anime-looking leather-clad youth with blue hair who is facing the passengers with a “nerd gone postal” look on his face and she opts for the further door. The train jostles to an abrupt stop and she drops her purse and bangs her calf into the corner of a seat.

 A man crouches down to pick it up for her and her impulse is to grab it away angrily but when she sees his beautiful face, framed by long, curly, dripping wet, black hair, she is caught off guard. He is exactly like the boy. She has pictured him in her mind: his angst and struggle, his hunger after righteousness, the hopelessness of his love. Her heart breaks for the boy.

  He doesn’t smile but he holds her gaze a millisecond too long.

 Sheknows she looks successful. She hopes it doesn’t appear to him that she doesn’t care about inequity, passion and truth: all the things that are important to the boy. She wonders: If she wasn’t so comfortable in her nice little nest of habits, would she take his hand and run off this train into the rain and keep running? They could travel the world together, citizens of no country, unafraid and open to every adventure, drifting from one beach to the next.

 “At least I didn’t fall.” she says, embarrassed, accepting her purse from him.

  He doesn’t say anything …

 As she steps on the platform she is confused briefly until she realizes she has turned left instead of right.