Christmas Carols

Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year. Twinkly lights (which Ken calls “twerking lights”), home baking, holidays, and of course, presents–for those of you who know me well, you are well aware of my love of presents, both giving and receiving them. But the thing that really captures the spirit of the season for me is Christmas music. I start playing Christmas music on the first of December, and I drive Ken crazy by listening to A Charlie Brown Christmas almost continuously (and when the music for the party scene comes on, I always dance like Snoopy. It’s FUN and I also do it at the antique market where I work–they have the radio tuned to the Christmas station all day long, so I get to do my Snoopy dance several times a day. Great cardio.). We also have some beautiful traditional Celtic Christmas stylings, as well as some instrumental stuff we got years ago with cool sound effects in the background, like birds chirping, sleigh bells jingling, or the sound of skates on ice. So as you can tell, I love a lot of Christmas music. But on the other hand, there are some really creepy Christmas songs out there.

1) One of the songs that’s been playing on a loop at work is the version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Idina Menzel and Michael Bublé. And wow, this is one hella creepy song. It sounds perfectly pleasant and festive but if you listen carefully to the lyrics, you start to wonder how this EVER made it onto anyone’s Christmas playlist because it’s about a woman who wants to leave a man’s apartment, but he’s refusing to let her go. At one point, he convinces her to stay a little longer, and pours her a drink, prompting her soon after to ask, “Say, what’s in this drink?” I’ll tell you what’s in your drink—DRUGS. Here’s a newsflash, lady—if you have to ask that question, your next move should be running for the door. But no. As he takes off her hat, she tells him she really ought to say “No, No, No”, at which point he “moves in closer”. Then she explains that her mother will start to worry and father will be pacing the floor. DUDE, SHE LIVES WITH HER PARENTS—LET. HER. GO. HOME. This guy obviously doesn’t understand CONSENT. Then he tells her that she’s “hurting his pride”. Is this not the epitome of a man who is about to be involved in a major #MeToo scandal? How did this song even get to be a “Christmas carol”? It’s not about Christmas; it’s about a guy trying to get into a girl’s pants. I think Jesus would have a serious objection to a song like that being used to celebrate his birthday. (I was going to say, “because Jesus never tried to get into anyone’s pants”, but then Ken just reminded me that some people say that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, and that’s why he appeared to her first when he was reincarnated or whatnot. Still, Jesus would never have been like, “C’mon baby, I’m not pushy, I’m just opportunistic”). But there are other carols which are actually more Christmas-y which, when you think about them, are equally ridiculous. Here are a few:

2) Jingle Bells: In what possible world is it FUN to dash around in an open sleigh? This song could not possibly have been written in Canada, where it’s regularly -30 degrees. If you’re dashing around without some kind of shield from the wind-chill, you’re going to get frostbite and your nose will fall off. This is only Christmas-y if you put a little bow on the nose and hang it on your Christmas tree. On second thought, that’s not actually festive, it’s just kind of gross.

3) Last Christmas I Gave You My Heart: This is a contemporary tune by George Michael. The first two lines are “Last Christmas I gave you my heart/The very next day, you gave it away.” Is this not the ultimate in regifting? I myself have been known to pass on a mug or something equally inconsequential, but even I wouldn’t stoop so low as to regift a human heart. This is the worst Secret Santa gift ever, like “It’s decomposing a little, but if you keep it on ice for a few days, you can hang it on the tree next to that piece of nose you’ve got there. It’s a nice theme.”

4) God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, The Shark Version: I googled this one and I can’t even find it on the internet, but it was on a compilation of Christmas songs called Santa Jaws that my brother and I had when we were little. The only lyrics I remember are:

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
You’re not so merry now.
The seaside signs said not to swim,
But you swam anyhow..
.

Moral of that Christmas song–never ignore seaside signs.

5) Honorable Mention: Christmas Tree by Lady Gaga and Space Cowboy: This one doesn’t get a lot of airplay because it’s just a tad raunchy. Thanks to Gaga, the phrases “let’s fa-la-la-la-la” and “underneath my Christmas tree” are now sexual innuendo. If she got together with the guy from “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” I doubt there would be a lawsuit pending—there would just be one very merry gentleman.

At any rate, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays if you don’t celebrate Christmas. And if you’re looking for a last-minute gift (shameless plug coming as fast as a one-horse open sleigh), don’t forget that you can go to the Potters Grove Press website and download my short story collection Feasting Upon The Bones in either PDF or Kindle version and give it to someone you love. Tell them you know the author personally and that she’s weird, but nice.

Antique Like Me

Before I start, I just wanted to let you know that I had the immense pleasure of recording a reading from The Seventh Devil for the Canadian Authors Association Spooktacular Podcast. I’m first up after the intros, and you can listen to it here! And then, if you’re not too affrighted, you can continue on to the weird-ass post below:

Before

Early last week, I got my first pension cheque so I decided to calculate my new income as a pensioner minus my current expenses. When I saw the result on the calculator screen, I had a mild panic attack:

Me: I need to get a job right away!
Ken: You’ll be fine
Me: But my skin won’t be! At this rate, if we’re going to eat during the week, I’ll have to buy the cheap face cream, and everyone knows that’s just throwing away good money! No, I need a job. Print off my resume for me at once!


As you can tell, I was looking for a job with a personal assistant. However, I was also planning a trip to a particular family run antique market that afternoon, one where I’d had a booth over a decade ago, so I thought, “What the hell.” I handed in my resume to the young guy at the counter who turned out to be the son of the owners that I’d known years ago when he was just a little boy. I pointed out the tiny section on the second page of my resume where it mentioned I had a booth in another antique market and had “antique” experience, lest he become confused by all the references to the secret agency and worry that I’d been sent to spy on him.

“Thanks,” he said. “I don’t know if we have any openings right now. My dad might be in touch, probably next week if we need extra people for Christmas.”

“Cool!” I responded, and went off to shop.

A while later, I was driving home when the phone rang. I thought it might be Ken with another porch update (Slight tangent—Ken finally got the balcony railings installed after I had my seventh panic attack about either me or the dog falling to our respective deaths in a freak accident. “Why would you even be OUT there when you know there aren’t any railings?” Ken asked. “I DON’T KNOW, KEN. That’s why it’s called a ‘freak’ accident!”), but the caller said “Hi, it’s Frank. I got your resume. Can you start tomorrow? I’ll need you to train all this week then start a regular schedule of Monday to Wednesday from then on.”

I was speechless for a second—I hadn’t planned on working right away, or that much, or that regularly but what could I say? I’d literally gone in, hat in hand, and asked for a job. And there it was. So we agreed that I’d start on Wednesday. And I was TERRIFIED. I haven’t had a minimum wage customer service job since I was 18, and my new boss (since the sons are taking over the business) is 24 years old. I went in on Wednesday for “training”, which was mostly learning how to use the complicated computer sales system. But hey, I figured out the new WordPress editor so how hard could it be? And I know everyone was super impressed every time I put through a sale without any help and then jumped up and down, whispered ‘Yay!’ and clapped for myself. But aside from the fact that my feet are killing me, having sat in front of a computer all day for the last year and a half, it’s a fun job. Mostly I just walk the aisles asking people if I can carry stuff up to the front for them or open showcases or answer questions. People are very appreciative of these things and regularly apologize for taking up my time, to which I respond, “I literally get paid to do this.” And it’s true. Because there are no other distractions in a 7-hour workday aside from cleaning the bathroom, which yes, I have to do every morning. Thankfully, the men’s bathroom is on a different floor and someone else gets that pleasure. When I was much, much younger, I worked in a doughnut shop to make money for university. It wasn’t a bad job until closing time, when I had to clean the bathrooms. The women’s bathroom was usually pretty decent, but the men’s? You needed a gas mask and full hazmat suit to even go in it. I can’t accurately depict for you how disgusting cleaning a public men’s bathroom can be—suffice it to say the only way to thoroughly clean that one was to use a flamethrower. Every night, I was like, “Is it even worth cleaning it? Wouldn’t it be better to just bulldoze this entire building down and start fresh?” Overall I’m pretty happy with the new jay-oh-bee, especially since, when I finally gave Ken the financial breakdown I’d panicked over, it turns out that my math skills are as bad as ever and I’d made several errors, so I’m not as destitute as I thought I was and I can still afford the finer things in life. Like the good skin cream.

After

P.S. If you want to know how I got this silver I found so clean and shiny, I used the aluminum foil/baking soda/salt/ vinegar/boiling water recipe and it worked like a charm!

All Critters Great And Small

We live in a 115-year old home, which means occasionally, we get a critter or two in the house. They rarely come into our living area, being mostly confined to cupboards or in between the walls where they’re pretty quickly discernible and easily caught in live traps then relocated. This past week though has been a disturbing combination of visible and invisible creatures, and I place the blame fully on Kate who, reveling in the joy of her Veterinary Technician program, is like a young, female Dr. Doolittle:

Kate: I just learned how to restrain a dog using the Lateral Recumbency method. Watch. C’mere, Atlas.
Atlas: I don’t think so.
Me: Let her do it. You’ll be fine.
Atlas: Okay, but NOBODY is cutting my nails.
Me: I promise….is he restrained now?
Kate (holding him): Yes.
Me: Ken, get the nail clippers!
Atlas: Betrayed once again!!

Don’t feel sorry for him—I distracted him by feeding him treats while Kate performed the nail-ectomy. And then last Friday, she came home for the weekend super-excited and waving around a…

Me: Is that a vial of…blood?!
Kate: Horse blood. I drew it myself.
Me: I thought you hated horses.
Kate: Not any more.
Me: Well, just don’t use it for any rituals.

Just to clarify, she drew the blood as part of a practical class–the instructor asked for a volunteer so she put her hand up, determined to get over her fear of horses. And while we’re super proud of her, her enthusiasm seems to be radiating out into the animal world because we’re becoming a haven for tiny creatures. Last weekend, we invited the family over to celebrate my parents’ 60th anniversary, so I decided to get fancy and pull out a nice tablecloth. But when I went into the sideboard in the living room where I keep them, I was puzzled by the presence of what looked like red peanut skins. I dug a little deeper and found more skins, and then some peanuts. And while the old sideboard doesn’t have a back panel, it’s still pretty close to the wall, and it’s an absolute mystery to me how a squirrel could have been sitting in there eating peanuts without anyone noticing. And how long was it in my house? Was it still here, hiding somewhere? And more importantly, where the hell did it get the peanuts from? Ken had other ideas:

Ken: It was probably a chipmunk. I think we would have noticed a squirrel.
Me: And you don’t think I would have noticed a CHIPMUNK carrying a grocery bag full of peanuts into the sideboard? And where did it go?! Was it waiting behind the kitchen island for me to open the door and it rushed out when I wasn’t looking?

Then things got worse. Kate called to us from her bedroom saying that she could hear loud scrabbling sounds in her bedroom ceiling, so Ken and I went up into the attic to investigate. We didn’t find anything, but when we came back down, she told us that while we were up there, a mouse had come through the very tiny hole in her ceiling where her internet cable came in. It climbed half-way down, then saw her and hightailed it back up into the ceiling. It was hard to believe that anything could have squeezed through that hole, but Ken shoved some steel wool into the opening as a deterrent. In the meantime, I went into the guest bedroom next door to discover to my horror, a singular piece of mouse poop right in the middle of the guest bed quilt. I shook my hand at the ceiling and cried out, “This means war!”

So Ken set up the live traps, and I couldn’t wait to catch the little sh*t that shat on the bed. And when we checked the next morning, sure enough, there in the trap was…the most adorable little baby mouse I’d ever seen. It had big ears, and big eyes, and tiny little feet…

Kate: Awww…
Me (sigh): We can’t keep it.
Kate: But—
Me: Take it out to the field. Fare thee well, Peanut.

But as everyone knows, there’s never just ONE mouse, and I’ve been busy designing tiny Hallowe’en costumes, so the trap is still set up, and every day I check it, but so far, no luck. Darn.

And just to make the week even more disappointing, the church across the street is up for sale, so the local Heritage Society asked Ken to come over and take pictures when they opened the time capsule that had been in the church’s cornerstone since 1876. I was intrigued and immediately wrote a short story about a church group that opened a time capsule only to discover it contained, among other things, a severed finger that was apparently put in there to save the town from ruin. So, as you can imagine, I marched over on Tuesday, breathless with anticipation, along with Ken and a group of Heritage Society members. The local stonemason was on hand with a bunch of tools, and the cornerstone was finally pulled out and the time capsule extricated. We all crowded around to see the contents, and let me tell you that I wasn’t the only one who was let down. I mean, I wasn’t REALLY expecting a severed finger or whatnot, but the only things in it were a decayed annual report from 1876 that was falling apart, and a few old coins. And I know I wasn’t the only one who sighed, said, “Meh”, and left. Darn.

Creative Wednesday: The Seventh Devil is here!

You may or may not have seen on my social media that my latest novel, The Seventh Devil, has finally been released after several delays due to Covid backlog at the printing plant. I’m really excited about it, except for the fact that Amazon has been causing so many issues with making it available. My publisher reached out to them, and this is what they said: “Last Summer, Amazon ordered as normal throughout and we heard reports that processing delays resulted in trucks sitting unreceived for up to 2 weeks at Amazon facilities. This summer, Amazon is aggressively triaging their stock orders to manage what is moving through the warehouses. This is resulting in gaps between when Amazon runs out of stock, and when they reorder a book, because books, barring the best sellers, are still deprioritized.”

“Barring the best sellers”?! Well, maybe it would BE a best seller if Amazon bothered prioritizing books instead of socks, which I can get the very next day after I order them. The Dome has been suffering the same fate, showing up as unavailable or out of stock at various times as well. But here’s the great news–if you want a copy of The Seventh Devil, or my other Bookland Press books, Smile and The Dome, you can order them through All Lit Up, (click the link and it will take you right there) a much better distributor who ships to anywhere in Canada AND the United States. Otherwise, for my friends outside of North America, let’s hope Amazon gets its act together soon.

And just to refresh your memory, here’s the synopsis for The Seventh Devil:

“When nineteen-year-old runaway Verity Darkwood, homeless and devastated by guilt, takes refuge in a bar to escape the unwanted attention of a stranger, she doesn’t expect to meet Gareth Winter, let alone become business partners with him. They discover that they each possess the ability to interact with the world beyond the veil and, with the help of Horace Greeley III, editor of the fantastical online journal The Echo, Verity and Gareth spend the next two years on the road, successfully crossing over the ghosts who haunt their clients, or getting rid of the demons that plague them. But when they stumble upon a series of unsolved child abductions spanning decades which are eerily similar to the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Verity’s younger sister, they embark on a pursuit that will take them across Canada in their quest to find The Seventh Devil, the dangerous and mysterious figure who may be behind it all.”

Live Reading Tonight!

Do you have 45 minutes to spare tonight? Just a reminder that I’ll be doing a live reading from Feasting Upon The Bones on Facebook from 7:00 to 7:45 pm Eastern Time. I’ll be reading 4 pieces from the collection and discussing a little bit about the stories and what inspired them, and then, if there’s time, I might read a piece from the new collection I’m currently working on, Night Terrors. I hope you can join me. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/108877348159254/live_videos/

Creative Wednesday: Feasting Upon The Bones

I’m really excited to share the news that my first short story collection Feasting Upon The Bones is now available for pre-order! You can find it on the following websites:

Potters Grove Press (Paperback, Kindle, ePUB, PDF)

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca (also available on Amazon UK and others)

The Stories In Between (website of Potters Grove Press editor, River Dixon)

And if you buy it, read it, and like it, I’d love if you could give it a review! And for those of you who’ve voted for me for various things over the last couple of years, you might just find your name in one of the stories as promised!

Creative Wednesday – The Seventh Devil

I know I mentioned my newest novel, The Seventh Devil, back in October with a couple of cover mock-ups, but last week I finally signed the contract with my publisher, Bookland Press. They had a different idea for the cover, so we agreed to a compromise. The best part is that the book is available for pre-order on Amazon, Chapters/Indigo, and a lot of other places, with a release date of June 15, 2021. I like the new cover, but I really loved the original concept that my daughter had designed, so I’ll be using that one for the short story collection I’m putting together, which is why I haven’t been submitting to any journals lately—they all want first electronic rights and I’m trying to keep the number of previously published pieces to a minimum.

So my new challenge for 2021 is to find a publisher interested in a collection of 30-35 spooky, weird short stories/flash fiction complete with its own cover (see below for the mock-up). I don’t know about ‘twisted tales’, so if you have a better idea, let me know:

A-Muse-ing

This week, D. Wallace Peach of  Myths of the Mirror challenged her readers to write about their muses. She has many, all with distinct personalities, and the one who appeared to her cut quite an imposing figure. My muse, on the other hand, isn’t corporeal, doesn’t have a name, and annoys the hell out of me.

Cue frenetic electric guitar.

A screaming howl rising to a crescendo.

I can’t stand it, I know you planned it…

Me (groggy): What the f*ck…?
Muse: Hello!
Me: Why are you making me listen to Sabotage at 3 o’clock in the morning?!
Muse: You weren’t asleep anyway. You had an idea and you need to write it down.
Me: No, it’s fine. I’ll remember it in the morning.
Muse: No you won’t. Write it down.
Me: It was only two damned lines. I’ll remember it.
Muse: That’s what you said last time. Then you went back to sleep and when you woke up in the morning, you couldn’t remember the fantastic idea you had. It was only mediocre, if I’m being completely honest, but you were still really furious with yourself.
Me: But I’m all warm and snuggly.
Muse: WRITE IT DOWN.
Me: Fine! Where’s my damn phone? There…are you happy? And since we’re both up, any ideas for the blog this week?
Muse: Two words. Weird clock.
Me: Oh right! You’re the best muse.
Muse: I know, right? Now that you’re wide awake, do you want to discuss the sequel to The Dome? Any more progress on Chapter 2?

Luckily, I was saved from the rest of that conversation when Atlas decided to throw up. As for Weird Clock, no, it’s not one of mine. Get ready for more Facebook ads that make no sense:

1) Weird Clock

I can only imagine the conversation regarding the existence of this particular item:

Guy: Hey honey, I think I’m going to sell this weird clock. It’s so small that I can’t see the time from over here.
Wife: Well, it’s no use to us. Do you think anyone would even pay good money for it? I mean, the only way you could even see what time it is would be to wear it on your arm or something.
Guy: On your arm?! What a ridiculous idea. Who on earth would want to do THAT?
Wife: We’ll be lucky to get 2 dollars for it.

2) Room For Rent in a Workout Basement

And you thought a gym membership was expensive! $550 a month and be forced to work out on top of that? No thank you! My only question is “Where’s the workout equipment?” All I see are two boxsprings and two mattresses. Is it a trampoline workout? Because that ceiling is REALLY low.

3) W.w.1 Gift Box

Is it the shadow of a grenade? Is it an extreme close-up? Is the person being purposefully mysterious? Because there’s another picture and it’s exactly the same as this one. Even the description below just says W.w.1 gift box. Is it a box that contains a gift from World War 1 or—hear me out—is it a box that CONTAINS World War 1?:

Guy 1: Hey, I got you a present!
Guy2: Ooh, what is it?
Guy 1: Well, you know how you’re always talking about how much you like war?
Guy 2 (excited): Yes…
Guy 1: I got you one of your own!! It’s an original!

4) Jullery Box

Perfect for holding all your jullery.

5) Brass candle holders for carriage or hearse with eagle tops

Not only is it the longest title for an ad, I think it’s a little misleading. That puppy is NOT made of brass and I don’t see any damn eagle tops anywhere. I know you’re not allowed to sell pets on Facebook Marketplace, but if you’re going to try anyway, couldn’t you just advertise the puppy as Con Rear Stairs? Or a Temporary Sheep/Goat Fence?

Driving By The Numbers

I’ve picked up several new followers lately, many of whom are NOT vitamin bloggers (but if you are, I take a LOT of vitamins so welcome!), and I thought it might be time to let you all know what to expect when you follow this blog. Today’s entry is short and sweet because I’m one chapter away from finishing my new book—it’s the denouement so it needs careful thought and a few solid hours of writing time, which I’ll be doing the second I wrap this post up.

So this is me.

In 2015, I bought a cute little car. It was a 2013 model but it had only been used for car shows and demos, so it had very low mileage; in fact, I think when I got it, the odometer (I just googled “thing on car that tells you mileage” in case you were thinking I was super-knowledgeable about cars) was below 2 000 kilometres, which is like 10 000 US miles or something, and I thought that was really cool. As I was driving it places, I would look at the ODOMETER every once in a while to see if I’d hit a mileage milestone and if I did, I would pull over and take a picture. Here’s the first one I took at 11 111:

Here’s 12 345 from a few months later:

There was a lull in my odometer fascination for a while, but then I reached this milestone:

All those 4s look really cool, I think. Although the number 4 is apparently unlucky to some cultures, it isn’t to mine—I’m half English and half Scottish, so 4 is simply the time we have more tea and haggis.

Then I reached a more scary number—notice that I didn’t drive the extra 5 kilometres to round out the shot, on the off-chance that it might stir up some kind of negative universal energy (as an aside, I participate in a Zoom group occasionally and the password for the room is 666, and whenever I see that number, my first instinct is to yell, “Ah! The number of the beast!” But I don’t do it out loud, just in my head and usually to an Iron Maiden song. The first time I entered the password, I was worried that I would be transported into one of the 9 circles of hell, but no, it was just a group of friendly Asian people, so Dante was way off there).

Anyway, last week I was driving and I realized that my odometer read 79, 972. “That’s so close to 80,000,” I said to myself. “Only a little more than a thousand kilometres to go and I can get another cool picture.” And if right now, you’re saying to YOURSELF, “I think the math is really, really wrong here,” you would be absolutely correct.

So I got to my destination, glanced at the odometer and gasped in dismay to see that it read 80, 007 and my first instinct was to yell “What the f*ck!” And I did that out loud, not in my head. I was well and truly furious with myself for once again being completely stymied by mathematical calculations, and I drove home in a snit. At least for the first 5 minutes, because my odometer, as you can see, is digital. The 8 looks like a capital B, and the zeros look like capital Os, and the 5 looks like a big-ass S and I realized, with a sudden thrill, that if I waited another seventy-some-odd kilometres, I could spell out the word BOOBS and that made me smile all the way home.

So, to sum:

I’m terrible at math.
There will sometimes be swearing.
I’m a 54 year-old woman with an adolescent sense of humour.

Welcome to my world.

(Update: I finished my new novel, The Seventh Devil, yesterday. 177 pages and 51, 370 words. Now those are some numbers!)

Creative Wednesdays – Keeping Faith

This is a piece I wrote a few months ago. It’s deeply personal, but I’d like to share it with all of you. For a little context, if you’ve followed me for a long time, you’ll have noticed that the name of my child has been changed in all my posts to Kate, my wonderful daughter, who told me she was fine with me sharing it:

Keeping Faith

I stopped believing in a higher power
A few years ago
But sometimes I wonder if I’m wrong
Driving down a dark road
There’s something coming with flashing lights
I pull over for ten seconds but
It’s only a tow truck and
I’m mad
In a hurry
Then I wonder if there was a reason
Like a deer up ahead that I just missed by those ten seconds
And I think about the deal I made with somebody’s god,
A long time ago
That if I could finally have a baby
I would love it forever no matter what
And when my beautiful boy came to me
Crying, saying
I’m in the wrong body
I’m really a girl
I didn’t think about the deal
Or anybody’s god
I just answered I will love you forever
No matter what
Then up ahead I see a doe and her fawn crossing the road
About ten seconds away
Enough time to slow down and remember
It takes two to make a bargain.