Now available: “Wishing Season: Holiday Tales of Whimsy and Wonder”

WishingAs Frosty would put it, “Happy birthday!” My newest ebook Wishing Season: Holiday Tales of Whimsy and Wonder is now available at Amazon and Smashwords (coming soon to B&N, iBooks, and other online retailers via Smashwords).

Wishing Season is a collection of seven short stories with a holiday theme, including two that have never before been published — the fable “The First Winter” and the tale of “Santa’s Summer Vacation” (hint: it doesn’t go as planned). It’s about 26K words — or about 88 pages, according to whatever sorcery Amazon uses to figure that — and will run you about the same cost as your peppermint mocha.* **

“The Gingerbread Reindeer” – When Santa finds himself one reindeer short for the Christmas run, the frost-elf Boreas enchants a replacement. But there’s more than elf-magic being worked, and when an ancient foe threatens them all, the gingerbread reindeer finds he’s made of more than just flour and sugar.

“Special Delivery” – It’s Christmas Eve, and Phillip Cottington–a.k.a. the Easter Bunny–is already planning for spring. But when a letter intended for Santa gets delivered to him instead, Phillip has to make sure it gets through in time.

“Holly’s Jolly Christmas” – All the young reindeer Holly dreams of is to be part of Santa’s team, but no one will give her the chance–until a child’s letter starts her on a path that will take her places she never imagined.

“An Older World” – Jakob the toymaker lives in a world of grief, until a special toy gives him a chance at a new life.

“The First Winter” – A mother bear tells her cubs the story of how First Bear defeated Death.

“Nativity” – An orphaned girl finds an unusual place to belong.

“Santa’s Summer Vacation” – By order of Mrs. Claus, Santa and his head elf Fussbudget travel to the magical island of Serendipity to relax on the beach. But Maelstrom, evil King of the Eighth Sea, has other plans for Santa.

Buy Wishing Season at Amazon (Kindle format, of course)
Buy Wishing Season at Smashwords (all ebook formats)

 

*I don’t know why specialty coffee is the standard cost comparison, much in the way a Big Mac is the standard unit of measurement for how bad some particular food is for you. I’m just a writer; I don’t make the rules.
** (Homer Simpson voice) Mmm, peppermint mocha…

 

Cyber Monday sale – Hero’s Best Friend ebook and more!

Just a quick heads-up that herocoveras part of Seventh Star Press’ Cyber Monday sale, the ebook version of Hero’s Best Friend: An Anthology of Animal Companions is on sale for just 99 cents today. If, like me, you’ve always been more interested in hearing about the animal sidekicks than the fantasy heroes, you’ll probably enjoy this one. It includes my short story “The Emerald Mage,” about a wizard and his snowcat companion dealing with the personal and magical effects of the wizard’s aging.

You can get Hero’s Best Friend here on Amazon — again, 99 cents, today only:
http://www.amazon.com/Heros-Best-Friend-Anthology-Companions-ebook/dp/B00IAHEI1W/

Seventh Star Press is offering the same great deal on a lot of other novels and anthologies today, and they’re also giving away a Kindle HDX. You can find all the details about the giveaway and a full list of discounted titles here on their website.

 

Coming soon: “Wishing Season”

WishingI’m getting together a new short story collection for the holiday season, available soon as an ebook from Amazon and Smashwords! Wishing Season: Holiday Tales of Whimsy and Wonder will feature several previously published stories, including “The Gingerbread Reindeer” (first published in audio form in the Anthro Dreams podcast), “Nativity” (runner-up in one of Women on Writing‘s flash fiction contests), and more, as well as two brand-new stories — the fable of “The First Winter” and the tale of “Santa’s Summer Vacation.” Various real-life issues have delayed it a bit, but (fingers crossed and Christmas wishes) I’m hoping to have it all ready for release by next weekend. Watch this space!

Now on Kickstarter – Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things

Didn’t mean to be so long between posts — it’s been a busy summer and fall — and I’ll be back very soon with some updates of my own. Right now, though, I want to help spread the word about a new literary journal of stories and poetry, aimed particularly at young writers and readers ages 10-18.

ember titleIt’s called Ember, and in addition to just plain looking like a gorgeous publication with a worthy purpose, they’re also planning to reprint my story “The Frog Who Swallowed the Moon” in their spring 2015 issue (after it appears first in their sister publication Spark: A Creative Anthology).

They’ve commissioned beautiful cover art for the spring issue, inspired by my story. (I’ve already pledged to get a print of it.) :) Please have a look at their Kickstarter campaign and contribute if you can:

https://www.kickstarter.com/project…..uminous-things

 

Beatrix Potter meets Stephen King…

Those of you who’ve checked out my pages on Amazon or Goodreads know that my bio there lists a rather eclectic grouping of influences — all the way from Beatrix Potter to Stephen King. So what might a story look like if it combined some of the tones and styles and subject matter of those two authors?

Maybe something like this…

How Mother Rabbit Lost Her Name

(Warning: Most definitely not a children’s story, unless perhaps you’re the type of parent who reads the original versions of Grimm’s fairy tales to the little ones before tucking them into bed without a nightlight.)

The inspiration for “Mother Rabbit” actually came from Nickelodeon’s children’s show Peter Rabbit (which I love, by the way). In one episode, the character Lily announces to her friends that she’s moving, because her parents just don’t feel like the Lake District is a safe place for the family to live.

At that point, I cracked up. Well, no, I guess it’s not safe, considering that you have at least two neighbors who actually want to eat your children! Like, literally cook them in a big pot and eat them. Yeah, I don’t really blame Lily’s parents — I’d want to move my kid, too.

And then I started thinking about all the storybooks with predator and prey species mixed, and how there’s kind of a potentially dark undertone there. How civilized do these creatures get by putting them in waistcoats? It took a while to figure out exactly what sort of story I wanted to tell from that notion, but in the end it became this dark bit of flash.

Apologies to Beatrix. And thanks.

Hero’s Best Friend: Roundtable Interview

I love doing interviews, even if it’s just a pre-written set of questions. And as part of the blog tour for the Hero’s Best Friend anthology, there’s now an author roundtable interview posted in 4 parts at the editor’s blog. (There are a lot of authors in this anthology.)

You can find all my answers — including the all-important Benji vs. Cujo one — here:

http://smsand.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/heros-best-friend-roundtable-interview-part-2/

herocover

Long live the king…

This was originally posted to my now-defunct LiveJournal five years ago (back when that was the place to be). The prompt was to write about your favorite Michael Jackson song, and today, on this fifth anniversary of his death, I thought it was worth reposting.

 

Somewhere in the early 80s…

My sister is babysitting me. This is really cool, because my sister is a teenager and in high school (or maybe even college, then), and that means I get to watch MTV. MTV plays all kinds of music videos, and my sister likes the Madonna and Cyndi Lauper stuff, but I’m sitting on the bed and waiting, hoping they’re going to play the only video I want to see.

Yeah. This one.

One of the first videos we rent for our brand-new VCR is the documentary about the making of it.

Another year or two passes, and I’m having a birthday party at the skating rink. (So cool that we have the same birthday.) It’s great, because all my friends are there, and I get tons of jelly bracelets and My Little Pony stuff, and we’ve all been roller skating for so long that it’s going to feel really, really weird to be walking in regular shoes again. And then they turn the lights down, and the disco lights are swirling in the darkness, and they play it. “Thriller” — my favorite song, off my favorite album, the one I have on LP along with my Care Bear records and Disney stuff. I race back out there. I have to be out there for this one.

That is the song, essentially, oddly, wonderfully, that encompasses my childhood. I love so many others of his, from that album and those that followed it, but that is the one that takes me back.

Again, this is why we mourn celebrities. Some of it is for the work we loved, a body of work that becomes now static and unchanging. And some of it is for how our lives entwined with that work. We mourn our own past, and we treasure the things that have the mysterious power to return us there, even just for 14 minutes.

 

Fanfic: “All the Time in the World”

This week, I added my 500th book to my Goodreads “to-read” shelf. Which doesn’t count the several hundred books on my Kindle I haven’t read, or the stacks of physical books waiting on my real shelves, or even the handwritten to-read lists that wind up in my journal…

…all of which made me think of the Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough At Last,” my favorite, in which a mild-mannered bookworm finally has time to read… because he’s apparently the last one left alive on Earth.

So, to celebrate my nuclear-holocaust-worthy reading list, here’s a bit of fanfic I wrote a few years back, when I’d watched the episode yet again, could no longer bear to leave Henry Bemis standing helplessly amid those stacks of books, and so decided to imagine a more hopeful future for him. (And yeah, it’s kind of sentimental, so if you’re allergic to that sort of thing, you’ve been warned…)


“All the Time in the World”

by Renee Carter Hall

inspired by the Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough at Last”

(teleplay by Rod Serling, based on a short story by Lynn Venable)

 

 

The problem, now, wasn’t what he couldn’t see.  It was what he thought he saw, the wavering forms that washed around him as he made his way through what was left of the world.  Every morning, the sun rose on a nightmare version of an Impressionist painting, a palette of grays and browns with occasional splashes of sparks arcing from power lines that had not, yet, gone dead.

The first three days, afterward, he spent searching for the gun.  Or for another one–it didn’t matter.  Anything that could fire a bullet would do.  In those first anguished hours, if despair could have killed him, if one could truly die of a broken heart, that would have been his fate.  But that merciful endless slumber passed him by, left him breathing and somehow sane — too sane, he reflected — and so he began the search, picking up anything that seemed to be the right size and shape, feeling for a barrel, feeling for a trigger, then dropping the piece of wood or twisted metal and moving on.

He resented his body for feeling hungry.  Every day he vowed not to eat, to die in the only way easily available to him.  And every evening the descending sun saw him sitting amid the wreckage of humanity, dutifully cranking open another can.  Now that he could no longer read the labels, it became a demented kind of game to see if he could guess the can’s contents by the label’s color, or perhaps by a fuzzy image he could make out.  He became best at guessing tomatoes, but different varieties of beans proved almost impossible to distinguish.

The fourth day, after he gave up on the gun, he threw the can opener as far as he could and heard it land, somewhere ahead of him, with a rattling clank.

The fifth day, weeping, he searched for the can opener until he found it.

Continue reading

It’s a major award!

Or at least it feels like it, even though there are no aesthetically questionable lighting fixtures involved…

Near the end of March, I had hit something of a creative low. I’d finally completed a new story for an anthology’s deadline, was pretty happy with how it turned out, felt confident about it getting in — and, of course, it didn’t. As much as I’ve learned to bounce back from rejection (at least after a day or so), it’s always a letdown to feel like your work is perfect for something, and have such good feelings about it, and then find out you were completely wrong. I knew I had to send it back out again (always the best balm for any rejection letter), but because of a lot of other things going on at the time, I felt too tired and disheartened to figure out where.

And then I ran across a link on Twitter to a writing contest.

Whose theme just happened to suit the story perfectly.

With only two days left to submit.

So I shrugged, and sent the story in, and waited, and hoped, while at the same time trying desperately not to get my hopes up (because it’s been that kind of year), all the time thinking, “wouldn’t it be funny if…”

And now I can say that my story “The Frog Who Swallowed the Moon” won the fiction grand prize in the latest Spark contest:

http://sparkanthology.org/contests/five/

It’s my first writing contest win — for fiction, anyway, not counting things like essay contests in high school, so it’s pretty exciting.

This sort of thing has happened before — story gets rejected only to wind up getting published someplace that’s somehow better in the end — but not quite this dramatically, so in addition to being a nice ego and confidence boost, it’s also a nice boost to the kind of faith you have to have to keep writing and revising and sending stuff out time after time.

Although I have to admit, I always feel weird about writing these sorts of announcements. There’s such a fine line, to me, between announcing one’s accomplishments and sounding like you’re bragging about them. I’m taken back to that feeling of elementary school, sitting at my desk with a completed test, waiting for somebody else to finish and hand theirs in before I get up, so everyone won’t know I’m the first one to finish. And on the flip side, I know what it’s like to feel that everybody else’s success always happens during your own driest spells, and to write congratulatory comments with your teeth gritted.

In the end, though, I come back to this, a passage that’s been quoted so much it should feel like a threadbare cliché, but one that still rings true to me:

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

-Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

And besides, I got a particularly snarky rejection letter a couple days later. So the universe is still in balance. :)

 

Poem: “The Unicorn at the Zoo”

The Unicorn at the Zoo

 

They put it among trees and rose bushes,

ringed a dry moat with an iron fence.

They’re still not sure if it’s

male or female; the ultrasound

goes to static and freezes every time.

They tried to test its blood,

but the silver serum in the tube

swirled and shimmered into nothing.

They held a contest to name it anyway,

and a third-grader won with Moonflower.

Tourists gather at its enclosure with

strollers and cameras,

whinny at it like a horse,

hold their children up to see.

In their snapshots, it is only

a vague white blur, a bit

of pearly horn here, a hint

of cloven hoof there.

The gift shop has no postcards of it,

but the plush horned ponies sell out every week.

The keepers aren’t sure what it eats.

Some say the flowers, but they’re untouched.

Some say water, some say air.

Some say love, but they’re laughed at

by people who feel guilty for it afterward.

The keepers hold somber meetings

with scholars and art historians.

Every day they worry it seems a bit thinner,

its coat a touch paler, more translucent.

The words on the sign at its enclosure

are starting to fade.

Sometimes the zoo director stands

before it in his three-piece suit,

slow tears tracing the lines of his face.

Some say he’s only thinking about

the money he might lose.

Others aren’t so sure.

 

 

          -Renee Carter Hall