Saturday, December 30, 2023

[Link] Dictionary of Hard-Boiled Slang

by Brett & Kate McKay

I’m a big fan of hard-boiled detective novels. I highlighted my favorites in a previous article.

The thing about hard-boiled detective novels is that the characters often use slang words that were in common use in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, but are no longer part of our popular vocabulary.

There have been a few times when I’ve been reading a Raymond Chandler or John McDonald novel where the dialogue left me scratching my head.

Hundreds of hard-boiled slang words have been recorded and compiled. Below, I’ve highlighted my favorites from this category of vernacular. You’ll likely notice that there are a lot of different words for “detective.” It took me a while to figure out that a “shamus” was a detective. My absolute favorite of these slang words are the greetings (“How’s tricks?” “What’s the score?”) and the ways to tell people to get lost (“Go fry a stale egg!”).

Hopefully, reviewing this list will help you better understand the next hard-boiled detective novel you read. And maybe you’ll even sprinkle some of these words into your daily vocab to mix things up with some gritty old-school lingo.

Read the full article:

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Doug Van Belle: Something Worth Sharing

Douglas A. Van Belle is an award-winning author and screenwriter, and winner of New Zealand's prestigious Sir Julius Vogel Award. His recent work includes science fiction novels The Barking Death Squirrels, The Care and Feeding of Your Lunatic Mage, and the YA title, The Kahutahuta. He spends his days as a Senior Lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington, where his research includes the politics of crises and role science fiction in society, which are related in surprising ways. Also an artisan bladesmith, he is a passionate advocate for the therapeutic value of playing with fire and pounding the living daylights out of white-hot steel.

Tell us a bit about your latest work. 

A World Adrift was published by Wordfire Press in October, and I guess you could call it my breakout novel.  Wordfire probably still counts as an indie but it has an established global distribution chain and a marketing program to match the big publishers. Perhaps more importantly, it’s run by a best-selling science fiction author, Kevin J. Anderson, who created it specifically for science fiction authors and fans. He knows the genre and its fans better than any other publisher out there so I suspected that I might have something special when he asked to see it even though Wordfire was closed to submissions. Then, just a few hours after getting his hands on a typo-laden monstrosity of a first draft, he emailed me a contract and I knew I’d finally managed to take that next step. 

A World Adrift is set in the skies of Venus, roughly 800 years after humans first settled the habitable layer about 55 kilometers above the surface. It’s a steam-punkish world of Zepplin cities, kitesurfing airships, empires, war, and economic collapse. But unlike most things you might call steampunk, everything in the story is real or realistic.  That habitable layer in the Venusian atmosphere exists, and all the steampunk elements are logical and realistic projections of the science, engineering, and socio-economic realities of living there.

The novel is about the people caught up in a coup, and again, every element is as accurate and realistic as it can be. I’m an academic who has spent decades studying the human side of the politics of crises and disasters, and that informs every aspect of the plot. Still, the politics and that plot are the framework, not the story.  The stories are about the people; reluctant heroes thrown into the breach; decent people swept onto the wrong side; poor choices; plans that fall apart; improvisations that go wrong; and clever solutions that win reprieves but fall short of resolutions.

Drama is personal. Stories are personal.

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

My first instinct is to say that I don’t revisit themes. I have an extended development process for novels and screenplays that involves a lot of exploration and a lot of writing of scenes that I think of as concept sketches, few of which ever make it into the novel or screenplay. Through that process, I discover the themes and the ideas I want to write about, and they reflect how the story evolves and how the characters take shape.

However, one of my more philosophically inclined friends recently introduced me to a small group of fans by describing my fiction as reflections of the tragic comedy that is humanity, and I’m starting to think he may have something there. Humor is and always has been a big part of my fiction, but when that friend referenced tragic comedy, he was talking about the countless ironies inherent to the clash between humanity and the human condition.  I bring a lot of my background in politics, psychology, sociology, and the sciences into that, but that’s all stage and setting for characters trapped between what they think should be and what is, which is the tragedy comedy that is humanity.

What happened in your life that prompted you to become a writer?

Nothing. And that’s not a cop-out. Like someone who always had a flare for drawing, or could just always sing, I’ve always just been a writer. Fiction has always been the just-for-fun part of that, and somewhere along the way it evolved into something worth sharing. There’s been a hell of a lot of work I’ve had to put into learning the craft of writing fiction, and that came after realizing that I had stories worth sharing, but there was no big bang event.

What inspires you to write?

When it comes to fiction, nothing. And that’s an actual answer. I desperately want to spend every minute of every day playing with stories and ideas and the only thing it takes to get me writing is an hour or two when there’s nothing on the schedule that I can’t put off.

Honestly, I have to wonder why the people who struggle to find the motivation or the inspiration to write fiction bother. If you aren’t writing fiction simply for the pure artistic joy of creating something, why are you doing it?  Spoiler alert, if you’re doing it for the money, fame, or the respect it brings your way, I have some bad news for you.

What would be your dream project?

A World Adrift is pretty close. Hard science fiction where I didn’t have to make a single compromise on the science to create a wow kind of world, and a story that just about wrote itself, that is my dream project. However, I’d have to say that if I could find that in a big TV project, that would be better. I’m a far better screenwriter than I am a novelist and to get the opportunity to write something like A World Adrift for the screen would be the dream. I’ve done a lot of uncredited ghostwriting and script fixing for a NZ studio, but that’s just work. Getting the chance to create something for the screen is the dream.

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do? 

That’s a good one, one I’ve never heard before, and the answer is obvious. My novella, Breathe.

There are tons of little things I would like to change in my novel, Barking Death Squirrels, particularly some of the details around the central female character, but that’s just a re-edit with a competent editor. I received a lot of useful editorial input on the stories that made up the chapters in Barking Death Squirrels, so the editor for the novel couldn’t do much damage, but that also meant that I couldn’t see how unprofessional they were until after they edited Breathe. It wasn’t just the embarrassing mess they made of the copy-editing; they made countless editorial changes that they didn’t mark up.  I probably still should have seen that her changes transformed the hapless, hopeless, and tragic romantic idiot into a creepy AF horror story cliché of a villain; or the way that cutting some of the clever little things that the overly chipper woman did turned her into a bubble-headed idiot; or worst of all, the way cutting a few critical sentences introducing the woman trying to keep the spark in her marriage turned her into a misogynistic cliché; but with all the drafts an author holds in their head when they’re reviewing copy edits, it’s pretty damn tough to spot things that are no longer in there when they aren’t signaled. 

Fortunately, I just might get a redo on Breathe.  A NZ filmmaker picked up an option on the story and I fixed the issues when I wrote the adaptation. It’s not clear if I’ll get to expand the novella into a novel, but so far, that’s part of plan, and if I do, I’ll fix the issues there as well as add the new story elements from the adaptation.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

Unironically, I’m going to say “all of them.” Obviously, I haven’t read all of the authors out there, but when it comes to Fantasy and Science Fiction, I’m about as close to that mark as anyone might be able to manage.  I’m also pretty omnivorous when it comes to reading and I get something out of all of it. Even the trashy stuff that’s so bad I can’t finish it has an influence. I can’t tell you how many novels I’ve abandoned and then subsequently I wondered if this, that, or the other thing might have made it work.

Having said that, Larry Niven was huge. I read Ringworld back when I was far too young to read Ringworld and the whole idea of building a world changed everything for me.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

Art, no question, but like any form of art, there is a tremendous amount of craft, that you might call the science, involved.  You can’t really paint in an artistic way until you understand layering, color theory, perspective, stroke, and texture. Writing fiction is the same. It’s an art built on a science of technique that we call craft.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

The three weeks or so after finishing a big project. The stretch run on a novel, screenplay, textbook, or research monograph is so intense and so all-consuming that finishing it can feel like stepping out an airlock. Even after dozens of books, finishing that final draft leaves me lost and hopeless. I wake up the next morning certain that I will never again have a good idea and spiral down from there.  A lot of the writers I know save some little projects for those dark weeks after the novel, but that doesn’t work for me. I just have to ride it out. I kind of sleepwalk through at least a few weeks where I can’t do anything and can’t get anything done. It’s pretty damn bleak.

How do your writer friends help you become a better writer? Or do they not?

In every way you can imagine, and this question is just begging for some name-dropping, so let me oblige. Robert J. Sawyer treated me like his equal from the moment I published my first story, and I can’t possibly say how huge that was. David Brin taught me more than I can say about being the professional writer that Rob inspired me to be. David Gerold taught me how to appreciate the community that is science fiction. Chatting black-hole physics and chaos theory with Stephen R. Donaldson back when I was in graduate school showed me how a writer extracts story elements out of knowledge. The entire team at Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine was always there to encourage me to play around with ideas, push things to the edge of absurdity, and take creative risks. Melinda Snodgrass was generous in helping me build a professional network at science fiction conventions. Greg Bear whispered in my ear that I needed to enjoy everything that went with being a professional, and then he went and showed me how.  Larry Niven’s writings inspired me, and now that I can call him an acquaintance, his humility is just as inspirational as his writing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen him waiting in a queue at a convention when he could just walk up to the front and get waived through like a VIP. Steven Barnes taught me to find my own way, find my own voice, and find my own process. Kevin J. Anderson taught me more about the business side of the profession than most writers ever learn. And a special nod has to go to my fellow Kiwi, Lee Murray. Relentlessly supportive, she doesn’t hesitate to throw biting critiques at my work. She taught me the difference between style and self-indulgently bloated prose and for that, I will always be grateful.

What does literary success look like to you?

Pretty much, this. The instant you can say that writing fiction is a bit more than a hobby, you are a literary success, you are the one in a thousand, and I think I finally hit that mark with A World Adrift. I’d love to build a big audience. I’d love to have my agent land me a multi-book contract with one of the big publishing houses. I’d love to get a screen production of one of my works off the ground. I’d love to build my fiction into a second career, but I can honestly say that I appreciate this moment for exactly what it is.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

Zombies From Mars. It’s a reworking of one of my short stories into a scripted, radio-drama podcast and the first episodes should drop in early 2024. I keep saying I write fiction just for the fun of it and this version of Zombies is the most fun I have had in ages.  It’s a biting critique of bureaucracy and capitalism, masquerading as over-the-top absurdist comedy. On top of that, not only did I get to be involved in just about every part of the production, I got to work with my daughter, who’s one of the co-stars. I knew she was talented, but I had no idea she was that talented, and discovering that was priceless.

I’ll shout out on social media when that goes live, but I’ve also just put my next novel, Killing Beauty in the hands of my agent. That’s a dark thriller set in a future where medical technology has advanced to the point where everyone can live forever. I’ve also just been offered the chance to adapt a prominent author’s biggest novel into a TV series, which isn’t quite getting something of my own produced, but it could be big if all the other pieces can be put in place. So, let’s hope.

For more information, visit:

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Heri za Kwanzaa!

May your meditations and re-assessments help
you become the person you want and need to be!

Monday, December 25, 2023

A Christmas Wish for You!

 Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Seasons Greetings to all (and God bless us, everyone! -- thanks, Tiny Tim)


... "That's a noise," grinned the Grinch, "that I simply must hear!"
He paused, and the Grinch put a hand to his ear
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow
It started in low ...
... then it started to grow ...

But this--this sound wasn't sad!
Why, this sound sounded ...glad!
Every Who down in Whoville,
the tall and the small,
was singing--without any presents at all!
He hadn't stopped Christmas from coming--it came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same.

And the Grinch, with his Grinch feet ice cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling:
"How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!"
He puzzled and puzzled, till his puzzler was sore.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before:
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store--
Maybe Christmas--perhaps--means a little bit more."

And what happened then--well, in Whoville they say
That the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day.
And then the true meaning of Christmas came through,
And the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches--plus two.

-- Dr. Seuss, "How The Grinch Stole Christmas"

Sunday, December 24, 2023


by I.A. Watson


’Twas the night before Christmas and down in the gutters

The vermin were stirring with curses and mutters.

Mister Big puffed on his big fat cigar

And stared at his henchman beside the wrecked car.


“What do you mean that the loot isn’t there?

How can it be missing?” he said with a glare.

“And where are the guys that we sent out as guard?

And who wrecked the auto? And who left that card?”


For all that was left of the briefcase of loot

Was a silhouette logo, some man in a suit

With a mask and a gun, on a card on the dash.

No sign of the gunsels, no sign of the cash.


“I want all the boys out patrolling the street.

Beat up all the stoolies and turn on the heat.

I want that case found and my money returned!”

Mr Big wasn’t about to get burned.


But as all the goons made to shake down the bars

A smoke grenade rolled out right under the cars

And a horrible laugh pierced the still Christmas night

And the thugs and enforcers looked round them with fright.


“Oh felons! Oh killers! Oh infamous crushers!

Oh murderous cutthroats and drug-dealing pushers!

Oh sinners! Oh cowards! O criminal scum -

Your dark days are numbered, your reign here is done!”


Then out from the alley through shadow and fume

Came a fast-moving figure of terror and doom

With two pistols blazing and fire-filled eyes

As he cut through the villains and made for the prize.


“Protect me, you idiots!” the overboss cried.

His thugs screamed and scattered as more of them died.

And the gentleman champion advanced on his prey;

Their crime-spree was over and now they must pay.


Mr Big fumbled a gun from his coat.

Before he could fire, strong hands clutched his throat.

“You thought you could kill me,” the gentleman said.

“But nothing can stop me at all now I’m dead!”


Police sirens roared through the slush-slickened street

To the site where the gangsters had met their defeat

And some men lay dying and some lay there dead

And Mr Big gibbered, his sanity fled.


And they heard a voice call, as the snow blurred their sight:

“There is justice for all… and to all a good night!”


Best wishes


A Dickens of a Christmas (All Year Long)

Friday, December 22, 2023

Brian K. Morris brings you The Terrors!

It's official (with ebook to follow) for the first Rising Tide publication in over four years... and it was worth the wait.

It's the Black Terror, but NOT as you remember him! 

The government told Dr. Bob Benton to stop being a hero for all the wrong reasons. But when corruption raises its ugly head, how can any superhero bear to stand down? 

Also, is the Cobalt Scarab an ally or an enemy? And how dangerous IS Sylvia Devereaux?

THE TERRORS is the first in a series by Brian K. Morris with an amazing wraparound cover by Jeffrey Hayes/Plasmafire Graphics.

Get your copy today! 

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Granny Grammarian: The “Self”-Aware Writer

by Granny Grammarian

Primum Verbum Specta: First, look at the verb.

So many issues of grammar can be resolved with this simple rule coined by extraordinarius latinus magistra Penelope Cipelone. Find the verb; then find the subject of that verb; then figure out what that subject is doing to the other elements in the sentence to make sure they all fall into their proper place.

A recent poll of writers (and readers who care about such things) listed the grammatical nails-on-a-chalkboard errors they loathe the most. Some went so far to say they would hurl a book into the trash can (dustbin, if you’re English) when they found such errors. I couldn’t help noticing how many of those mistakes were a simple case of ignoring the verb.

I’ll start with one of my own pet grammatical peeves: myself. 

No, I don’t mean me personally; I’m speaking of the usage of the reflexive pronoun to refer to the subject of the verb. 

I did it myself.

I love myself. 

I myself do not like liver and onions.

A reflexive pronoun cannot be the subject of a predicate; only a nominative (a.k.a. subjective) pronoun (I, we, you, he, she, it, they) can do that—or do anything, for that matter. You can’t make another person the receptor or initiator of your actions using that person’s reflexive pronoun. Consider the wrongness of these statements:

I did it yourself.

I love himself.

I themselves do not like liver and onions.

If you aren’t shuddering or chortling at those, you might need this lesson. I’m taking it for granted you’re all smart enough to know better. 

However, how do you respond to these?

When you finish the form, you can give it to myself or drop it in the box.

Please notify myself of your intentions in an email to my office.

Myself and my colleagues will be happy to take your comments at the conclusion.

If that didn’t bother you, you don’t understand the concept of looking at the verb first, the subject second, and then the affected elements of the rest of the sentence. If someone else is the subject of that verb, that person must be referenced with an objective pronoun (me, us, you, him, her, it, them). No one else can give anything to yourself; they can only give it to you. No one else can notify yourself; they can, however, notify you. More significantly, yourself can’t perform a verb (see nominative pronoun above); only you can do that.

A look at the verb in each of the examples above would make it clear which pronoun should be used. For the verb “can give” in the first sentence, the subject is “you”; the proper grammar is “you can give it to me.” In the second example, the understood subject of the imperative form of the verb “notify” is the nominative pronoun “you”; therefore, once again, the proper grammar is “you can notify me.” The verb in the third example is “will be.” “Myself” cannot be the subject of that verb, so you must use the nominative pronoun “I”: “I will be happy…” The etiquette of English dictates the sentence should read, “My colleagues and I will be happy…”

Now that you are “self”-aware, be certain not to use these errors in official correspondence with your editors or agent. You never know who’s also “self”-aware.

And remember: primum verbum specta.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Holiday Short-Shorts -- Our Contributors' Gift to You!

These are all original holiday short-shorts written by our regular contributors. I sent them the following prompt:

For our next writers roundtable, we're going to create short-shorts for the holidays. Pick any holiday you celebrate during this season and write a one-short-paragraph (or the multi-paragraph equivalent in length) story with that holiday as the setting. You may choose any genre, from literary to horror to pulp adventure and everything in between. I'll post them in a blog article on December 21st. 

Like the awesome bunch of writers they are, they turned out to provide original fiction for you this season. 

Happy holidays, everyone!


Let It Snow

The wind howled and raged about the cabin.  Icy pellets hammered at the windows as sleet slashed at the roof.  

The hearth roared to life, but was quickly snuffed out.  The family huddled together for more than warmth as the storm blasted the log walls.  With a shudder and groan, timbers succumbed.

By morning, a blanket of snow had smothered them all.

But the radio, still blaring, cheerfully declared their epitaph:  Oh, the weather outside is frightful...

        -- Ef Deal


As Easy As Carving A Turkey

The table sat with all the traditional trimmings. Tourists of dressing, green bean casserole,  and cranberry sauce encircled the roasted guest of honor, Tom Turkey, like a wagon train siege from indigenous raiders. China plates lay before each family member. The cutlery tremored to dive in, as did the crystal stemware waiting to be kissed by each family member in front of them. Silence dripped over the room like Giblet gravy atop mountains of mashed potatoes. Finally, nary a sound was heard from the usual traditions' chaotic hustle and bustle. Silence. All it took was that carving knife on the table to achieve it. A small smirk crept across my face as I sat there, thankful for that silence. All it took to make the entire room an homage to cranberry sauce was that sharpened blade. It was as easy as carving a turkey.

        -- Jason Bullock


Christmas Lights

The most wonderful time of the year was the Christmas lighting competition in the Florida gated community that made the holiday spirit year after year. Each family put their thoughts, heart and soul into a new theme for the display that transformed their house as early as July. House number 62 of 110 won two years in a row with a live Bethlehem Nativity scene then an ice rink with fake snow blowing machines to make a winter wonderland. House number 59 was determined to win the prize money jackpot and bragging rights for the whole year. December 10th, the night the HOA president toured the neighborhood, house 62 knew they would win another year when the husband dressed as Santa Clause in a metal-built sleight with shiny lights and reindeer. An E-newsletter bulletin went out early morning of the 11th to notify the passing of the representative of Santa in the beloved neighborhood. The family of house 59 sat on their front porch with mugs of peppermint shakes, gazed at the blacked-out house as their 2nd place house glowed of Christmas spirit."

Santa's lights and the metal sleigh could have caused a spark," the wife beamed.

          -- Krystal Rollins


Better Watch Out

No one ever believed her when she said she'd heard reindeer paws on the housetop.  They laughed when she startled at the sound of bells.  Every Christmas, she was the brunt of their mockery.  

"Guess who still believes in Santa!  Thirty years old!  She still lies awake to see him!"

Wide-eyed, trembling, she waited, the blanket tucked up to her chin, all in vain.  In the morning, she awoke to photos beneath her tree again: her eyes closed, her hair spread wide on the pillow, her brow knit with terrified dreams, the blanket pulled back to reveal her, and the grim captions:  He sees you when you're sleeping.

        -- Ef Deal


Fool’s Gold

The tree in the hotel lobby is fake, a conglomeration of dull green plastic festooned with gold and silver balls that scream “I came as a boxed set” and a sparkly garland wound around its girth like a fuzzy golden snake, strangling the tree into dull mundanity. I sit across from the fake tree in a surprisingly comfortable chair next to the fireplace, pretending to watch the yapping heads on the television as mumbling tourists check in and out of the hotel. The fire glows silently beside me, as fake as the tree, an electric perception of crackling radiance without heat. It doesn’t need to warm me, as it is a strange sixty degrees in December. Someone has placed silver snowflake decals on the lobby windows and doors as if to summon pristine Dickensian snow in defiance of the unnatural air outside. My heart keeps speeding up and slowing down and it is becoming difficult to breathe. It’s not fair to be here where people can see me, but the pills hit too quickly and I no longer have the strength to walk to the elevator and the privacy of my room. I feel sorry for the clerk, who’s about to have a terrible day, and hope she keeps the fifty I’ve tucked into the chair. Better to her than whoever ends up claiming me. I wonder who will bother to come. It doesn’t matter. My heart is stuttering now, and I fix my gaze on one of the golden balls on the fake tree. It reflects my face in a grotesque distortion, giant eyes and small mouth, held prisoner in an orb of fool’s gold. I am captivated by its gaze, myself watching myself, seeing me fade quietly by the glow of the heatless fire. My arms and legs feel heavy now, and I try not to be afraid. The nodding heads on the television say it has never been this warm this late in sunny St. Louis. Then on to the next tragedy.

          -- Elizabeth Donald


Like Waking

“It’s like the world is painted in dreams,” Alice said almost every time Ivan took her skating. Today she had dressed in a red skirt and sweater with white trim, like a living candy cane on his arm as they darted across the ice, weaving in and out of other skaters dodging around and through them. Still, she held his hand with a sort of dragon-like grip, as much by his wrist as by his palm. His fingers were left untouched to freely chill in the cold. “I’m sorry to be so clingy today,” she said, and he smiled, not minding in the least. “It’s just that today feels different, like the edges of the dream are turning clear, solid. It doesn’t make sense.” He smiled again, loving the way she put things and how pretty her little red lips were with each syllable. “Like I’m waking up whether I want to or not.” She yawned and let go of his hand suddenly. When he reached to regain her grip, his hand passed through. “Oh!” she said, and the world was gone.

        -- Sean Taylor


Santa's Helpers 

Dear Santa,

I know about your helpers and how it all works. I hope it’s okay that I know. I like having the secret. I just wanna make sure you know and they know I’m really being good, since Mommy and Daddy keep blaming me for things.

I didn’t mean to snoop. It started when Brandon didn’t put his trucks away, and they ended up broken. He blamed it on me and I ended up grounded – I didn’t do it, I swear! I know the helpers like things clean. That’s why they came out at night and smashed them. They tore up my report card when I didn’t get good grades, but I’ll do better. Mommy says I left threw leftovers in the trash because I was being bratty, but I swear it was the helpers getting mad she made meatloaf again. Then I got grounded for lying. Even though I did’t. 

I’ve been leaving them cookies since then, and they seem to like that. Mommy got mad and said I wasted food, though. Her perfume got smashed after that, but at least she blamed the dog.

They come talk to me sometimes, though it’s hard to understand them through the walls. I like having someone always watching over me, even if it means I gotta be good. I know I’m not supposed to see them, but I had to go to the bathroom one night and saw one running back to the space behind my closet wall. Sometimes I see them when they peek out through cracks in the ceiling. 

This year for Christmas I told Mommy and Daddy I wanna bike, but I really wanna be a helper. The whispers in my bedroom closet say I can join them. I gotta help them punish my brother and Mommy and Daddy, then go to the special place behind the walls with them. I’m scared, but I think I can do it. I’ve already been moving things so Daddy tripped bad on the stairs and had to get a cast. He let me sign it, and I drew a spaceship on it.

The helpers say it was a start, but I have to save the big tricks until Christmas. Once I help them, I can come meet you through the in between places they talk ‘bout. I’m gonna try on Christmas Eve and they said they’ll help show me how. 

Have a safe trip. See you soon and can’t wait to join you next year! 



          -- Selah Janel 


A Savior is Born

Mama and Pap with whiskey nightcaps were comatose in liquor-induced naps...

...Leaving presents unwrapped and the tricycle semi-assembled.  Her gut wrenched; her goodwill bolted; she wrapped herself and by 5am tucked Christmas under the tree before climbing exhausted, betrayed, into bed.

Come 7, she mumbled sleepily, but they couldn't rouse her.  

Mama and Papa sneered.  "God knows what she was doing all night.  Hell with her.  Let her sleep."  And they sipped more hair of the dog.

Downstairs, the little ones shouted, "Look what Santa brought us!"

No saint.  No elf.  Just 14, and trying to cope with Christmas spirits.

        -- Ef Deal


Right Down Santa Claus Lane

“I hear the bells!” Celia exclaimed. But the dark-haired man with the shotgun told her to shut up and kicked her chair, making her wobble but not quite fall over. Though her arms and legs were tied, she used them as best she could to maintain her balance. “It’s Santa Claus!”

“The only Santa we need is your dad’s money, kid, and you’d better hope he loves you enough to pay up.” The other man, a blonde guy with a goatee dyed bright blue, grinned and exposed dirty teeth. “Or else somebody’s not gonna have a very merry Christmas.”

Celia grinned as the bells clanged and sang again from the roof. She looked toward the chimney in the old house the men had taken her to. Dust and ancient soot fell. The dark-haired man turned at the noise from the bricks. The blonde one followed suit. Then the door kicked in behind them and they spun round like a top.

Two elves in green tights stood there, each holding a bag of toys. One pointed toward the chimney. 

“Ho, ho, ho,” came a thunderous voice. “I think coal may not be enough for you two this year,” said the fat man in the red suit, as he cracked his knuckles loudly. 

        -- Sean Taylor

Friday, December 15, 2023

Selah Janel Decks the Holidays with Holly and Ivy!

Holly is forced to return to her parents’ farm after she loses her job and goes through the worst breakup of her life. Incapacitated by hopelessness and embarrassment, she doesn’t expect to bump into a forgotten childhood friend who isn’t supposed to exist.

Ivy is a dryad who lives in the pine trees Holly’s family grows as part of their livelihood. As the friends reconnect, Ivy not only shares her views on life, nature, and the modern world, but also gives Holly a magic charm that will change both their lives.

As the year progresses, things magically fall into place and a new figure is introduced into Holly’s life. Still, guilt lingers that maybe all the good developments aren’t deserved and aren’t even her own doing. Christmas not only brings surprises, but a choice. What’s more important: success, happiness, and love, or keeping a promise to an old friend?

Available on Amazon.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

[Link] The Snowflake Method For Designing A Novel

by Randy Ingermanson

Writing a novel is easy. Writing a good novel is hard. That’s just life. If it were easy, we’d all be writing best-selling, prize-winning fiction.

Frankly, there are a thousand different people out there who can tell you how to write a novel. There are a thousand different methods. The best one for you is the one that works for you.

In this article, I’d like to share with you what works for me. I’ve published six novels and won about a dozen awards for my writing. I teach the craft of writing fiction at writing conferences all the time. One of my most popular lectures is this one: How to write a novel using what I call the “Snowflake Method.”

This page is the most popular one on my website and gets over a thousand page views per day. Over the years, this page has been viewed more than six million times. So you can guess that a lot of people find it useful. But you may not, and that’s fine by me. Look it over, decide what might work for you, and ignore the rest! If it makes you dizzy, I won’t be insulted. Different writers are different. If my methods get you rolling, I’ll be happy. I’ll make the best case I can for my way of organizing things, but you are the final judge of what works best for you. Have fun and . . . write your novel!

The Importance of Design

Good fiction doesn’t just happen, it is designed. You can do the design work before or after you write your novel. I’ve done it both ways and I strongly believe that doing it first is quicker and leads to a better result. Design is hard work, so it’s important to find a guiding principle early on. This article will give you a powerful metaphor to guide your design.

Our fundamental question is this: How do you design a novel?

Read the full article:

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Holiday Re-Runs -- Writing Holiday-Themed Fiction: What Works and What Doesn't?

 Okay, writerly types, I've decided that in spite of my busy schedule this season, we are NOT going to let the holidays slide by without at least ONE writer's roundtable for the blog. 

It's as open-ended as questions can come...

What makes a holiday story work?

(If you need to be specific, you can tell me whether or not it needs a "moral" or it must be drenched in holiday decor or can be peripherally Christmas -- like Die Hard. Your call.)

I.A. Watson: New Year is probably the most popular specific time of year for pulp fiction. That’s when Honest Jack Action huddles in the corner of a smoky bar, lost in the booze and the past, almost oblivious of the classy dame shimmying towards him. It’s exactly when Dr Destructo intends to set off his Mindworm Devices to conquer the Earth. It’s when Vic Valiant has to chase the villain across the snowy rooftops while Big Ben tolls midnight and the fuses burn down around the Commissioner’s daughter.

Christmas is a competitor too, because it’s fun to juxtapose those warm log fires and yellow-lit interiors with the bleak blizzard outside, and dark deeds seem that much darker against a cosy yuletide backdrop. But even Christmas can’t match the pulpy power of the year ending and a new one starting for good or ill.

Most stories set on Earth either ignore the season or generalise. Maybe the weather had to be bad for plot reasons, or there’s a specific season for a pathetic fallacy; falling leaves are excellent for that, and so is frozen earth (especially round graves). But I’m hard pressed to think of any story that takes place on New Year’s Eve or at Christmas by accident.

That’s because fiction has to be more believable than real life, and because writers need to focus their readers on only those things relevant for the story they have to tell. In the same way that the hero doesn’t bump into a neighbour who’s on his way to the laundry and get into a chat about his maiden aunt’s lumbago unless it fiendishly turns out to be somehow plot-relevant in the end, so remarkable weather and notable times of day distract from the story and are thus omitted.

For example, how would “Farewell, My Lovely” been improved by Christmas trees? In what way would “The Problem at Thor Bridge” have been bettered by occurring at New Year? Any stories accidentally happening at Easter, Hallowe’en, or any solstice or equinox are simply impossible.

That’s because some holidays and some extreme weather forms are so distinctive that they have a narrative pull all of their own. New Year’s Eve can never be a neutral backdrop. The characters simply have to react to it or seem unrealistic. Unless the hero spends a moment with his old regrets or the villain is motivated by a burning resolution to wreak vengeance before the calendar turns, the time seems like a distraction, a nagging plot thread that doesn’t fit. If it’s New Year, or Christmas, or thunder storming, or blizzarding, or a heatwave then it has to either be plot relevant or mood-setting. Literary convention insists on no less.

On the other hand, stories that do avail themselves of readers’ expectations of an intimate family Christmas or of the countdown to the next millennium have a powerful tool. The problem is it’s a much-used tool. If the writer wants to present a Christmas ghost story then the Ghost of Dickens Past peers over his shoulder. Any fictional teens who decide to spend a night making out in the old abandoned mansion on Hallowe’en must beware cliché as much as the mad old groundkeeper. And archvillains about to launch the New World Order as the year turns had better book their place in the rota early, because there’ll be a queue.

As the new year approaches, we ignore the fact that our calendar is somewhat arbitrary and take the opportunity to reflect upon joys, sorrows, and sins past, upon achievements and failures, upon lost friends and precious memories. We’re also drawn to the future, to hopes or fears for the days ahead, to new resolutions, to changes that the coming days must mark. New Year is a birthday that the whole world shares, with similar celebrations and self-analysis. And so it is for our characters, with all the dramatic potential that offers. A writer’s challenge is to use the setting as skilfully as any other pulp trope – the driving rain, the teeming railway platform, the unrelenting desert heat, the funeral of a friend etc – and make that countdown… count.

Let the world tremble. The hour comes!

Sarah Lucy Beach: The holiday needs to be inherent in the story in some fashion. Die Hard works because the setting constantly reminds us of the pending holiday. And spending Christmas with his wife and kids is McClane's driving motivation.

Whereas even though the opening of Jurassic World indicates the movie takes place during the Christmas holiday, there is absolutely nothing in the story that requires it to be that season, not in character motivation or in anything they say or do.

It's not so much that a holiday movie has to have a "moral", but rather that the story ought to reflect the nature of the holiday involved, whether it's Christmas, Halloween, or Arbor Day.

Another story that does a good job of weaving the holiday into the story is Coco (using the Mexican Day of the Dead).

Jennifer M. Contino: I have to feel a little choked up at the end with warm and fuzzies.

Andy Sheehan: I've written two Christmas stories and they both carried the same theme: reconnection with loved ones. Die Hard (the greatest Christmas movie ever) has the same theme. You can't have a Christmas movie with the protagonist riding off alone into the sunset.

Curtis Dumal: I'd say most have a character who doesn't like people or Christmas and is generally misunderstood.

Jamais Jochim: It just needs to be tied to the holiday. Batman Returns happens during Christmas, but nothing really ties it to the holiday. On the other hand, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a holiday not just because of Rudolph's job, but also because it ties into the family aspect of Christmas.

Otherwise, there really is no prerequisite for it...

Ron Fortier: I can't answer that question without first stating, I'm a Christian and I believe with all my heart and soul that Jesus came into this world to save us all. That is why we celebrate that holiday.  Now once anyone understands that narrative, it becomes easy to see how it has so many different elements and each can be the focus of the story.  "A Christmas Carol" is all about redemption and understanding what is important in life.  "A Wonderful Life" is about the value every good person in this world and to never forget that simple fact. "A Christmas Story" is about nostalgia for days when families enjoyed the season with all its hectic activity so that at the end, it was about being gathered together on Christmas morning with those you loved the most.

I'm sure you'll get lots of different answers, but honestly, unless it has to do with Christmas, with children, with Santa, with magic, with love and forgiveness and above all else, hope.  It's not a Christmas story.

Heather A. Titus: To me, there’s always a faint wonder and magic around Christmas time. I get a glowing, joyful feeling every time I see a tastefully decorated tree, or Christmas lights, and when my family gathers for hot drinks and cookies. If a holiday story can successfully capture that joy, it’s a win for me.

Stephanie Osborn: I think there needs to be a core focus on the holiday by at least one of the characters, and if there is angst to be had because of the holiday, that ups the ante.

For instance, one of my Division One books is set at Christmas, and one of the two main characters is torn between anticipation and dread -- Christmas was always important to her family, but around a decade or so before the story, her family was killed (murdered) the day before Christmas Eve. She tries to keep up family traditions (given that she's the only survivor by dint of being targeted by the perp to cause max pain), and in fact jumps into celebrating with both feet, but it's hard, because everything she does therefore reminds her of them, and of her losses. Meanwhile, her partner (it's an SF galactic buddy-cop kind of series) has his own issues with the holiday and his personal losses, and as he puts it, while he observes it, he no longer celebrates it. Which, in turn, leads to additional angst for them both, as their respective approaches to the holiday conflict: she wants him to participate in her celebration, he wants to be left alone to grieve his own losses.

So there are actually three different levels of angst over the holiday, between the two protagonists. And all of that is secondary to the main conflict of the book, which is that there is a mole in the agency, but many of the agents think that mole is the female protagonist.

This all seems to end up causing the reader to seriously empathize with the characters, who have thereby become very human, very real people, to opposed to cardboard characters.

Kessie Carroll: I've written exactly one Christmas story, and it was about reconciliation and healing. I had a reader tell me that it was a wonderful picture of grace. I went for the feels, man. All about the feels.

Tom Groh: A conflict which the reader can identify with which is at odds with the overall *spirit of the season... conflict makes story.

Mary Ann Back: I'd have to agree. A story in which a troubled soul finds truth of some sort in the meaning of the season.

Susan Staneslow Olesen: Egads. The Christmas stories that come through the library make me want to retch. I prefer the Die Hard type -- a regular story that takes place at Christmas. I prefer the Christmas stories of James Herriot. Those ghastly, saccharine, diabetes-inducing "inspirational" Xmas romances make me want to scream. I just want a good story, not Lifetime Channel milk of magnesia. "Accidental" stories that take place during the holidays are far more realistic and inspirational than forced tripe.

Davide Mana: A good holiday story, to me, has to check two different boxes.

First check, it has to acknowledge the shared narrative of the holiday -- like, Thanksgiving/family reunions, Christmas/good will etc. While the common elements of the narrative must be there, they do not necessarily have to be front stage (Die Hard is a good example: John McClane is meeting his wife for the holidays, possibly to try and find a way to solve their differences, hence the good will etc.; in a different genre, in Trains Planes, Automobiles, the main character wants to get home and be with his family.) We've all been there, we all can relate, or at least we know that's what's supposed to be. The status quo.

The second check, the story must subvert or flip somehow the shared narrative, introducing an extraneous element (John McClane is on a goodwill mission to bury the hatchet with his lady, instead he gets a building full of terrorists; Steve Martin in Trains Planes Automobiles is lost, away from home, and saddled with a guy he can't stand, and the clock is ticking). The status quo is questioned, menaced, or just plain ignored.

The trick at this point is weaving the two elements together so that thy play against the other. The story pulls us in because we know what's expected of the season's festivities, and then our expectation is subverted, the goal is no longer the original goal. The traditional narrative can be completely derailed (in Die Hard, we end with John's wife punching a guy in the face - not much in terms of goodwill), or reinforced by the ending (in Trains etc, family is extended, people share the holiday). Both choices run the risk of either resulting cheesy or contrived, or too cynical.

But if the storyteller knows how to play his cards, we'll get hooked, and we'll end up associating that particular story to that particular celebration, even if there's lots of explosions, people killed and not a Santa Claus in sight.

Perry Constantine: Nothing. Holiday stories suck.

Tobias Christopher: I like my holiday stories with a twist. Like writing a Dragonball Z parody, only the search is for the 7 magic orbs that can summon Santa for one Christmas wish. The usual holiday clichés are fine, but you have to have fun with them or turn them on their ear.

Erwin K. Roberts: A good story may be built around the Christmas season without really being about Christmas. Case in point Hal Goodwin's The Egyptian Cat Mystery, one of the Rick Brant Science-Adventure series.

Rick and Scotty, who are high school students, go to Egypt on their holiday break to help troubleshoot a new radio-telescope with weird problems. They get into all kinds of trouble. The mystery partly revolves around the question, "Do Egyptian Post Men work extra hard around Christmas?"

Fine story, but only partly related to any holiday. On the other hand, the film Die Hard is heavily related to Christmas Celebrations. Certainly more so than some of the so-called X-mas songs like the one about a guy who gets dumped by his girl on December 26th. Or the guy who runs into his former love on 12-24, but could just as easily be New Years Day, or Labor Day, etc.

I'm not too likely to try a holiday-themed story without having an idea that could only happen on, or around, that specific part of the calendar.

C.E. Martin: I think Robert has the right idea... to be a holiday story, it needs to be a story that couldn't be told without the holiday -- that is, the holiday, or something commonly associated with it, is central to the theme.

Alex Andrew: It would be, in my opinion, a story about characters who are opposite any other time, but they come together in a way that wasn't before, and may not come again, the holidays make it so.

Nancy Hansen:  I had a holiday story in the December 2011 issue of Pro Se Presents. In Of Saints and Angels, I went with a tale about a notorious road agent in a pseudo-1700s setting who returns to her roots to spread a bit of holiday cheer while dodging the men hunting her down. What makes it work is the sentiment of the holiday became an integral part of the mix. The title tips you off that something reverent is included, though it's a pun of sorts based on character names and nicknames. While there's enough action included to please the pulp fans, it also has that rather heartwarming feel that you expect of a holiday story, as you get the see the whys and wherefores behind what lead the main character into the outlaw life she now embraces. The holiday is the backdrop, and that kind of end-of-year reminiscing and catching-up people do is a big part of the tale.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Give the gift of, well, me this year!

Here are a few favorites from among my books for you to include in your gift-giving this year. 

Show Me a Hero

This is the collection that started it all. The super-hero collection Dwayne McDuffie called, "...More fully-rounded, more realistic and, as a direct result, more human than all but the best superhero comic book work" (from the introduction). 

Buy now!


Giddy and Euphoric: Essays on Writing and Reading (And Ray Bradbury)

My collection of non-fiction essays about writing and reading and why crap is king when it comes to market. (And, as promised, several about Ray Bradbury too, such as why I want to be a time machine.)

Buy now!


The Golden Amazon

Before he died, Howard Hopkins wrote several Golden Amazon comic scripts. I was asked to turn those into short stories for this collection. 

Buy now!


The Ruby Files Vol. 1

My favorite gumshoe. Okay, sure, Bobby Nash and I created him and his cast, but I can't help it. I love Rick, and Evelyn, and Broomstick, and the gang. This is the first anthology of 4 Rick Ruby stories. Featuring my stories, "Die Giftig Lilie."

Buy now!


The Ruby Files Vol. 2

This one is my favorite of the Rick Ruby books. Four more wonderful, hard-boiled tales of the unassuming private dick. Featuring my story, "A Tree Falls in a Forest."

Buy now!


The New Deal: Masks and Mutations

What if super-powers started to manifest during the Great Depression and the public needed a group to blame and hate? Features my stories "Gatsby" and "Angel in Blue." 

Buy now!


For more books, visit my bookstore!

Friday, December 8, 2023


Airship 27 Production is delighted to present its second collection of brand-new stories featuring one of the most famous pulp characters of them all. Curtis Van Loan, the famous socialite, returns as the mysterious pulp hero, the Phantom Detective in four brand-new mysteries. These cases involved an eighty-year disappearance, an insane arsonist, an evil young prodigy and the murder of army veterans. All penned by four of today’s leading New Pulp scribes; Carson Demmans, Gene Moyers, Michael F. Housel and Fred Adams Jr.

Artist Kevin Paul Broden provides the black and white interior illustrations and Adam Shaw the classic PD cover image. All designed and assembled by Award Winning Art Director Rob Davis. This is mystery the old fashion pulp way.

Available now at Amazon in Paperback and soon on Kindle!

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Movie Reviews for Writers: Christmas in Connecticut

I'm a sucker for Barbara Stanwyck. Not only is she a compelling dramatic actress in such films as Double Indemnity and The Secret Loves of Martha Ivers and Meet John Doe, but she is also a gifted comedic genius, whether the sharp wit of Lady of Burlesque and Ball of Fire or the almost Lucille Ball-like sense of manic panic as it this one.  

Holiday movies, I'm not usually so much a fan. They tend to either smack of forced melodrama or cutesy romantic intrigue that's about as believable as the romance between Anakin and Padme. 

But I do love this charming little flick about a magazine writer who gets herself in trouble by "faking it" without "making it."

Stanwyck is Elizabeth Lane, a sort of Martha Stewart before there was a Martha Stewart. She writes home décor and cooking articles for a major magazine, and she's a rock star in the world of doilies and fancy dining. The only trouble is she's a total fake. When she is called out on it and has to put on a holiday dinner for a returning war hero, she finds that as a Fifth Avenue dame, she's way out of her element, no where close to the ranch, newborns, and homey world she pretends to inhabit. To save her job, she had to pull off the con of her life.

So, to use our writer slang, she fakes it. 

But making it, well, that's a little more difficult. 

It's a classic sort of screwball comedy, so the laughs are built around her flailing attempts to pretend to be a mother and a homemaker and a cook of the first order, all while balancing a pretend husband and the soldier she finds herself falling for. But underneath all those laughs (and trust me, there are a lot -- Stanwyck gets accolades for her dramatic thrillers but not nearly enough for her comedy chops, if you ask me) is a cautionary tale about writing what you know. 

Have you ever taken on a writing assignment that was clearly out of your depth, the sort of job where you figure you can learn everything you need to know to make it happen by the deadline? The kind you sort of bluff your way through the initial meeting, knowing it will "all be fine"? 

  • Accepting a blog writing gig for B2B articles for a corporate client
  • Ghostwriting a romance book when you do mainly thrillers
  • Editing a textbook in a subject you know little about

Sure, research is always a writer's best friend, and the only way to grow into new areas of "writing what you know" is to learn new things. But there's a difference between pushing yourself and cheating your client or publisher. Let's say you've worked for a company in a similar industry. Well, then, that blog article might not be too much of a stretch with a rudimentary bit of research. Let's say you've only blogged about sports and the client is in international cosmetics. Then, that rudimentary research turns into a doctorate-level dive that might mean you turn in work that might (a) misrepresent your client or (b) reveal your lack of knowledge. 

Now, that's a rather extreme example, and that's a far cry from thriller writers trying their hands at romance -- as long as both the publisher knows up front it's that writer's first excursion into romance. And proofreading that textbook might not be an issue, whereas content editing it might. 

The simple truth of it all is this: Unlike Stanwyck's Elizabeth Lane, you and I don't usually have the kind of people on hand to pull ourselves out of the fire if we misrepresent ourselves, and even if we did, it doesn't override the moral obligation to be honest in our business dealings with our writing. The trick is to know where that fine line between "I can research this" and "I will have to fake this" lies. One side is fair play. The other is dirty pool. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

The Author's Gift List

Let's get in the gift-giving mood this year with our first December holidays roundtable.

What would be the top item on your wish list for this year to help you become a better writer? 

Lainey Kennedy: A good dedicated group of fellow writers to keep me accountable and to talk through ideas with. All my friends who used to do this in real life are now super busy.

Scott Roche: Sponsorship to go to a GOOD workshop.

HC Playa: Hmm, more hours in a day 😂. More realistically, using some vacation time for writing days.

John L. Taylor: A new laptop (NOT a Chromebook, those are trash for word processing).

Danielle Procter Piper: Time. I lost a tremendous amount of personal time after the auto accident I was in back in January. I need things to settle so I can work on my craft again. 

Jason Bullock: A "Thank You." So many times we as writers are supporting ourselves, our families, aspiring creatives, all of those around us but often never get a simple "Thank You." This simple positive social convention fills each of us with a feeling of love and community. I try to say "Thank You" to everyone who has given me their support in all that I do. I also would gladly say "Your Welcome" to anyone whose simple gift of thanks fills up both our lives with positive energy.

David Wright: Time.

Sean Taylor: Energy. I need energy to write all the stuff that keeps popping into my story-making-machine (my brain, I hope). So many ideas. So little time. I'm a special ed teacher as well as a writer, and when I get home, I'm pretty much emotionally and mentally wiped out, so writing becomes more of a chore than the adventure it used to be. So, yeah, energy... particularly emotional and mental energy.

Krystal Rollins: Time, discipline and a role model

If you could give anything to a beginning writer to help them on their path, what would it be?

Jason Bullock: A strong sharpened pencil and a lined notebook. Every one of us needs to connect to the origins of all those imaginings, aspirations, and illuminations that we want to share in our storytelling. No matter how technical we become in our mediums to tell those stories, analog, digital, virtual, or even neural, everything begins with putting pencil to paper to ignite the spark we hope to share with everyone around us.

Scott Roche: The book on how to write a novel using the snowflake method.

Krystal Rollins: For a new writer? Journal all the time. 

Danielle Procter Piper: Help them figure out what their ultimate goal is. Do you just want to share your stories, are you expecting movies and merchandising? Something in the middle or something else entirely? If you just want to share, would you consider sites that allow readers to access your work for free without pressure on you? If you want movies would you consider learning screenwriting instead of how to format a short story or novel? Once you know your goal, you can aim for it and save a lot of time. By the way, yes you DO actually have to know how to write well no matter if it's a comic book script, TV commercials, teleplays, poetry, whatever. Most editors and agents will not waste their time on you if you cannot spell and don't comprehend basic grammar or lack cohesion. It is NOT someone else's job to take your splatter of misspelled words and clean it up into a polished masterpiece. You DO need to know how to translate your ideas into comprehensible reading material and prove you're dedicated to improving yourself as a writer. 

David Wright: Marketing support.

Lainey Kennedy: A journal and the idea that you should journal about your projects from a personal/emotional standpoint as much as working directly on the story.

Sean Taylor: I would wish all authors, beginning or old-timers, a renewed vigor for the work. To me, that's the most important thing, you have to want to put your butt in a chair and churn out the words. 

John L. Taylor: A subscription to Writer's Digest and a creative writing correspondence course. I started that way. 

HC Playa: A tutorial on grammar and punctuation and a guide on creative writing (like On Writing by King or any number of similar books). Heck, maybe even this one: Giddy and Euphoric.

Now, just for fun, what's your favorite holiday-themed story or novel? Why?

David Wright: The Santa monster hunter story by James Palmer. 

HC Playa: I have to admit that other than Dickens' A Christmas Carol I can't say I have read that many holiday-themed stories.

That said, a few of the series I have read have done holiday-themed short stories.

One that comes to mind takes place in Sherrilyn McQueen's Dark Hunter universe. You have all these badass, scary, often solitary folks that have survived all kinds of trauma, deal with the worst kinds of evil, and a few maybe made a pact with a certain red-headed goddess to serve her for eternity in exchange for their soul and a single act of vengeance.

In spite of all that you get this glimpse of people creating joy and family, giving to each other b/c they know what it's like to have nothing.

A lot of the holiday shorts authors do can feel a bit cheesy or feel like they don't quite fit the world that has been built. This one (and to be honest I read it years ago and while I can tell you it takes place in Sanctuary before the dragon upstairs found his mate, and possibly before or around the time the wolves found theirs, I honestly can't recall the name of the short story, only that it felt a natural extension of the universe while simultaneously conveying both the loneliness people can feel at the holidays and the joy that can happen when we include others and give selflessly. That, IMO is what the season is about.

Lainey Kennedy: I’m a sucker for A Christmas Carol!

Danielle Procter Piper: I don't know what my favorite holiday story is...but I remain haunted by "The Little Match Girl" which is a sad and painfully brief moment from the life of an innocent child forced to work in abysmal conditions while longing for something better.

John L. Taylor: Roads by Seabury Quinn. It's an origin story for Santa Claus and is surprisingly original for the era (written in the 1930s) yet totally relevant to the religious aspect of Christmas.

Krystal Rollins: I do have a favorite Christmas carol: "O Holy Night."

Sean Taylor: I'm with you on this one, Danielle. "The Little Match Girl" is my favorite holiday story in spite of it's tragic-ness. Something about it is simply haunting, as you said. I'm also a sucker for How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which I've always considered the second greatest redemptive holiday story. "Maybe Christmas,' he thought, 'doesn't come from a store -- Maybe Christmas -- perhaps -- means a little bit more.'" And I recently discovered a fun haunted house story by Charles Dickens called "The Haunted House" (how original, right?) It was part of his "scary ghost stories" tales as referenced in the Christmas song "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year."

Jason Bullock: I don't really have a favorite holiday-themed story or novel. So many of the stories that I have read bleed across the months in character's lives that eventually if you follow their story all the special moments of their lives are laid bare for the reader to see.

Scott Roche: Christmas With the Kranks.