Saturday, December 31, 2005

Another one bites the dust

Down here at the Not-So-Little House on the Prairies, there isn't much excitement to New Year's Eve. So I'll send this tasteless little tribute out to all those who like silly humour. This one is for those who want something more reflective and serious.

Frankly, this is one of those days that blurs in with all the others. There aren't many New Year's Eve events that stand out in my mind, except one. 16 years ago today, I know exactly where I was and what I was doing. The place: Berlin. The setting: just after the collapse of the Iron Curtain. There was the crackle of energy in the air, the feeling that you were on the verge of something happening. I went to the wall and crossed through Checkpoint Charlie and wandered around, looking at the line-ups of people desperate to cross over to the west. There was such a sense of optimism amongst those people, like their whole world was about to change for the better.

One of the things I remember most was wandering around shops. You could tell the East Germans from the westerners in a heartbeat - the East Germans would stop and stare at the simplest things, mesmerized. And when I got a chance to look around East Berlin I could understand why.

I think that stays with me, not just because I witnessed one of the major historical events in our time, but because there really was this sense that, for many of these people, the new year would be so much better. I'm not sure that the reality lived up to their expectations, to all they hoped for, but there still was this sense that in a short span of time life could improve dramatically, do a 90 degree turn and set a new course that couldn't have been foreseen even a few short months before.

How nice it would be to think that everything that I don't like in my life could all change within the next few months. Mind you, there isn't much I can complain about. Except for the agent-publisher drama that's giving me grey hair. It isn't even so much the waiting for me, it's having others ask me all the time what's happening. Not writers - just people who don't understand the industy and think everything should happen now.

I'm not big on making promises and pledges that I'll only feel a sense of failure for dropping the ball on a week from now. But this is what I'd like to do this next year:

- read more
- write better
- laugh harder
- live forever (so far, so good)

My highlights of 2005?

- Harrogate - what a blast
- Getting Nootka - what a sweet puppy!
- Interviewing Stuart MacBride and Laura Lippman - I love talking to smart, talented people
- Everything Spinetingler-related
- The arrival of my nephew Dashiell June 28



So, wherever you are, whatever you're doing, I hope you're surrounded by those you love and have a safe and happy celebration and start to 2006. I'll see you all here in a day or two.

XO
Sandra

Friday, December 30, 2005

Forget being sucked into a wood chipper...

Now this is inspiration! Where was this story a month ago when we were all prepping our heartwarming Christmas stories? Except me, who wrote them the day I posted them.

But I can see it now... a jolly ol' fat man tries to get into the house and he's got a big sack with him and out pops Rover snarling and clamping down on his leg. Or in this case, Taco, Enchilada and Burrito and the gang lure Santa into thinking that small is harmless, wait until he approaches the tree and bends over and 20 Chihuahuas jump up and bite him on the ass.

Maybe there should be a ban on owning Chihuahuas. Clearly they're a dangerous breed.

And if the injured officer was El Salvadorian, it might have been a race crime. You know, if it had been a group of street thugs, they would have looked into that. I think this reporter was slacking off. How can we stop these vicious attacks unless we understand what prompts them in the first place? Time to, uh, take a bite in the budget costs and call in the dog therapist.

I mean, Fargo did the wood chipper thing. But as anyone done a pack of killer Chihuahuas in a movie yet? I think I sense a short story coming on...

Inspiration...

You know, I used to feel a sense of shock, horror even when I read the news.

Then I worked in journalism.

But this whole crime-writing fixation has brought me to a new place entirely. I see this news story and all I can think is that there's a story in here. Nasty!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Good & Bad

Ah, the day from hell started off as...the day from hell. Our dog sitter didn't show up. Nope, not at all. Evil kev went to his house and banged on the door and after 45 minutes we had to make a decision. We had to leave our dogs unsupervised.

Might not sound like a big deal, but Chinook has huge separation anxiety issues. We got him at the age of 11 months, just over a year ago now, and he'd been abandoned. I took one look into those big brown eyes and was a blubbering idiot. And I remind myself of that often, because he has numerous bad habits. In addition to trying to bury bones on my bookshelves he has also tried to bury one under my butt when I was asleep, de-stuffed coats and stuffed animals, shredded every blanket he's ever been given, and refused to sleep in the $150 doghouse we bought him. Only a few days after we got him, we had all sorts of things happening. Tickets to see Ian Rankin. Tickets to see Val McDermid. Tickets to the Sting/Annie Lennox concert. It was during that event that he pulled down every drape and ripped them to shreds. He has since pulled up the linoleum and wrecked the floor, chewed the handrail to bits, ripped up the old carpet, de-stuffed my weight bench and he tries to make our cats Chooky-snacks. One time when he got past me upstairs he went after Buttons. I grabbed him and put him in the bathroom, where he proceeded to jump against the door. We have an old house and he knocked the metal slide lock across, so when I'd locked up all the cats and went back for him I couldn't get the door open. I had to bodycheck it open, and let me tell ya, it ain't as easy as they make it look on tv.

Oh, and the other thing Chinook does when he's stressed is has diarrhea. You starting to get why I was worried?

Well, off we went, leaving the dogs unmonitored. We were late, obviously. And my Rodeo broke down.

But on the up side, the in-laws have finally figured out the way to their cold daughter-in-law's heart. Cold, hard cash. We cleared $175.00, plus evil kev got new jeans, I got a new sweater, we both got calendars, and we got an electric wok. We did awesome!

And the dogs survived. Downside is that kev is still at his Dad's doing that male-bonding thing over vehicle repairs. Some people might say it's time to give up already on the '91 Rodeo, but this is my baby. We drove it to the arctic circle and we've driven it to the coast and it's great for 4x4ing, which is sometimes necessary where we live, and it's actually been a low-maintenance vehicle. We've probably spent less than $800 in total in repairs on it in the past 3 years, including this problem. I love my Rodeo.

So I can't really complain. And there's even as up-side to kev being gone for a few days. I get to go read in bed undisturbed.

Though I'm re-thinking whether or not John rates as a 'top shelf' author now. Considering the British definition of the term. How would John rate in porn? Hmmmm...

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Self-evaluation



Penny Arcade


Let's face it: with the wonders of the web have come the inevitable downsides, because mankind will always find a way to fuck up a really good thing.

But I have to admit that, given the forum of internet communication, I say things I would never likely in a million years say in person. Well, okay, not until I've had a few drinks, at least. I'm painfully shy in person and have to 'turn it on' to deal with public speaking. I mean, I can do it. I can even kick ass doing it, apparently, because people have told me I'm a natural. Comes with being part-Irish and having kissed the Blarney Stone, I guess. Which might also explain a few diseases...

Anyway, I recently wondered if I'd crossed the line and offended someone with a post I'd made. And I worked myself up into a state where I couldn't sleep over it. Sounds truly pathetic, I know, but I don't like hurting people. Well, usually.

But it made me wonder: am I a fuckwad?

I mean, I say all kinds of things on blogs that I'd be red-faced to even think in public. When I did a manuscript reading a few months ago I was kicking myself. "Sandra, don't write words or scenes in your books you' be embarassed to read in public." Damn. Guess I'd better start writing books for toddlers. Since then I've made a point of practicing all variations of the f word in casual conversation. Absofuckingly, infuckingfallible... All the ones that have managed to creep into internal thought or dialogue. Evil kev says I sound like a trucker. But I no longer get mistaken for a heat source.

No doubt after a few hours of sleep I'll have forgotten this moment of reflection and will carry on as per usual. And if this guy keeps posting stuff like that, I may eventually say things a lot worse than usual. Damn, if it had been a week ago, I would have done a Christmas Eve threesome with David in my poem.

But I suppose it wouldn't hurt to say that I only blog-hop to places where I actually like people, and I mean no offense. If I ever cross the line, put me in my place.

Tomorrow is the day from hell: two sets of in-laws for me. And we have to pay to have the puppies babysat. Not to mention Evil kev won't let me read while we make the journey north - he thinks that after all these years I should still want to talk to him or something. Which means I'll likely spend Thursday either drinking heavily, or reading Winter's End, which is turning out to be a real page-turner. I'm rather monogamous with my authors - I like to work my way through their stuff all at once and then I get depressed because I have to wait for the next book and trudge off to find someone else. It's always nice when you find someone who has a few books out and you like their stuff. I don't know what it is about British men, but they consistently take the top shelf in this house. Because if Chinook gets into my office he tries to bury bones on the bookshelf, so everything near the bottom is subject to being removed and drooled on, and then replaced haphazardly over a sticky bone he's been slobbering over for an age. And there's no way I want my good books becoming chew toys.

But at least he doesn't try to eat the books. That would be Nootka, who claimed half the front cover of Every Secret Thing. Fortunately, I salvaged the rest. Skittles has tried to get in on the action, but he's more interested in chasing his tail in the bathtub. The elevator doesn't go to the top with that cat!

Okay, I'm going to bed now. See you guys in a few days.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Last Christmas

Well, here it is. The last holiday story for the season. It all started with an unusually innocent comment
this guy made, and I was overcome by the image of Santa being chased across the sky by... well, if you want to know, read the story!

I think this week I'm going to mull over the woes of short-story writing. But in the mean time, I held up my end, promised this would be here today, and writing this Christmas morning gave me something to do. Otherwise, I'd likely already be at my sister's place. We discovered yesterday that our six-month-old nephew Dashiell wasn't going to sit idly on the sidelines after all - he delighted in ripping the paper off presents and sticking it in his mouth. Problem was, he didn't concern himself with whose present he was defacing.

Our six-year-old nephew Athaniel wiped the floor with us at Yatzee and Clue, despite the fact that he just learned how to play the games yesterday. No doubt more ass-kicking is in store for today.

And our eleven-year-old niece Arriel has discovered that wonderful tween attribute: sarcasm. Then my sister started talking about how she'd used a word incorrectly much to her embarassment, and she does it in front of my niece, who then asks what a dildo is.

She asked me when her mother didn't answer. I went with the "this is definitely something you should insist your mother explain" line and we fled not long after that.

And you were all wondering why I was hiding in the basement of my sister's house on Christmas Eve, reading Sir Benfro. But it was a pretty damn good Christmas. I got four books I've been after.

And a new roasting pan.


December 23

“My sleigh… What’s going on?”

Fliagra marched over and handed Santa an oversized envelop. “Announcing the formation of Association of Santa’s Helpers Organized Local Eighteen.”

Santa shook his head as he extracted the content of the envelope. There’d been murmurings about a union but he thought it was just the usual Elf bitching he got this time of year.

“There’s only one local group,” he said, leafing through the sheaf of legal papers. “What do you need the ‘Eighteen’ for, Fliagra?”

Fliagra rose and inch and folded his arms across his chest. “That’s Chief Fliagra. It’s called Elf pride. Eighteen inches high.”

And wide, Santa thought at Fliagra tottered off. He scratched his head. Here is was, Christmas Eve Eve and he had an unloaded sleigh and a newly-formed bunch of ASHOLE’s dragging their stubby legs at union speed.

December 24

Santa huffed as he trotted into his bedroom, looking for a clean suit. Damn, damn, damn. What the hell’s wrong with the world? I need to give more Viagra and no contraceptives to the intelligent people and Norplant to these stupid idiots. Leave it to the damn Liberals. He’d underestimated the stupidity out there, and, after having to make a special stop to defend the use of reindeer he’d returned to find his sleigh packed, except for a stack of unfilled wishlists.

Fliagra had sauntered over and dropped a stack of Christmas lists on Santa’s dresser. “We can’t do these.”

“Why not?”

“1,290,972 for peace on earth. 25,789,213 want some sort of explosive device put in George W’s stocking and it’s about half that number of requests for you to take out Tony Blair. And 87,952,899 want you to do something about global warming.”

Santa rolled his eyes. Clearly, the nuts had discovered the rabbit’s secret to rapid multiplication.
**
He’d started out with a sense of dread, but the first part of the run went smoothly. There’d even been enough time for a stress-relief break in Thailand. Santa left with a smile on his face but it wasn’t long before that faded. He pressed the button on the GPS: nothing. He punched it again and again.

Finally, some static crackled across the screen and the face of Fliagra came up. “In accordance with regulation 17 section 7 part 4, all electronic devices are entitled to execute sleep mode after prolonged use. The GPS will be back up in 5 minutes.” Fliagra turned, as though he was about to walk away and then paused. “Oh yeah. Have a safe flight.”

“Have a safe flight? Have a safe flight my ass!”

A sudden explosion to the right had the reindeer bolting. They veered upwards at such a sharp angle that Santa was thrown backwards, out of the sleigh, holding on to the reins.

Another explosion, this time to the left. The reindeer swerved, the steep decline leaving Santa hovering for a moment in mid-air until the tension caught up to him and the reins yanked him down with such force that he ended up with his face pressed against Donner’s ass. Which was exactly when Donner farted. Santa cringed and gasped, but the force was just enough to knock him back into the driver’s seat.

Santa reached under his seat and frantically tossed out the empty wrappers and magazines. Finally, he pulled out the map and spread it out, looking at the old highlighted route guide.

“Shit! We’re over Iraq. I was supposed to go west from Saudi Arabia instead of east. Rudolph, turn that damn nose of yours off before the Americans blow it off! This is why we needed the GPS,” he muttered. The sound of explosions faded into the distance and he sighed.

He’d heard the Catholics were mobilizing to eliminate the commercialization of Christmas, and his naughty tracker had picked up some talk about a kidnap-and-ransom plot, but there was nothing out of the ordinary, just the usual deliveries and distractions. Finally, as they approached England, he let out a deep breath. “Looks like we might survive the night after all.”

Just as they were making their approach to London, a swarm of choppers rose, boom mikes hanging out the side.

“Santa, we have sources that put you coming out of a brothel in Thailand less than six hours ago. Care to comment?”

“Those girls need presents too.”

“But we have pictures…”

Oh damn, the fucking paparazzi. What next?

“Santa, even Camilla has admitted to letting you make some special deliveries. How do you justify giving coal to naughty children when…”

“You’ve got to be kidding! Camilla? Listen, 39.7% of all women have a Santa sex fantasy. You got any idea how many women wait up for me in velvet thongs? What the hell do you think I need so many cookies for?”

It was fuel on the fire. Reporters were calling in copy over the radio, and calling for reinforcements. As soon as one chopper dropped off, another took its place. He was making his run in record time, because every half-naked woman and the occasional man hoofed it out of sight when they saw the choppers hovering by the windows, reporters clicking photographs.

He finally dropped the extra condoms in the White House, cursing the fact that political pressure had obligated him to put this stop back on his list. Would’a been more use to Clinton, he thought, but he’d returned from his last delivery to find Tucker Carlson snooping through his sleigh. His heart had stopped for a second, until he remembered he unloaded the wrappers and his private stash over Iraq. Thank Christ for that. Unions, being shot at by the Americans, the British press… Could it get any worse?
**
The North Pole was in sight and Santa unzipped the top of his jacket, drawing a deep breath. The press choppers had fallen behind. It looked like he was going to survive the night after all.

Out of nowhere, a group of Chinook choppers swooped in to block Santa’s path. “We’re ordering you to put your sleigh down and submit for inspection.”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake! Who the hell are you?”

“Under new federal tax initiatives we’ve been ordered to audit all gifts received and apply that to your income tax assessment. This is by order of the Canadian Revenue Agency…”

“And the IRS,” another voice boomed from a new chopper. “Under the North American Free Trade Agreement terms negotiated, we have the right to tax you for all items brought into the US.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“No sir. The Mexicans are on their way.”

A whoosh from behind had them all turning. What now? Santa wondered.

F18’s. “We’re ordering you to leave this area and surrender the fugitive to us.”

Fugitive? What the…?

“The CIA has authority over wanted fugitive, Santa Claus. Mr. Claus, you are being charged with conspiring against the president of the United States…”

“What? I didn’t even touch Laura!”

“For entering restricted airspace over Iraq. We’d also like to question you about an alleged delivery of a George W Bush voodoo doll to Osama Bin Laden.”

“What?”

“We’re ordering you to put your sleigh down and surrender to authorities.”
**
“Greenpeace formed a blockade, raising some stink about global warming being caused by reindeer games and toy manufacturing. Commercialization Removal Advocacy Party got involved, and between the terrorist concerns, the back-taxes owed to various governments and CRAP, a decision was made to question the ASHOLE’s and hold Santa, but he escaped in the confrontation between the feds and the Greenpeace activists. The US government wanted to question and disband the Elf union, but the Canadians claimed jurisdiction. Since they only had two tugboats and a dozen kayaks available for defense, so it was looking pretty grim there for a while until the Americans realized Santa had escaped. They confiscated his naughty tracker and withdrew.

“The pagans seized the opportunity and reclaimed the winter solstice and that’s why we don’t celebrate Christmas anymore.

“So, yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He’s a wanted fugitive on the run from the US government.”

Friday, December 23, 2005

Just in Time for Christmas: Canada OK's group sex

The More The Merrier

Today began with a trio of emails from a friend from high school who moved to the States years ago. When she asked if this was for real, I told her we're very forward thinking. And looking for ways to entertain ourselves during the long, cold winters. She said she's moving back.

So, for those who are...um...liberated I guess this is a Christmas of KY, whips, thongs and maybe the odd piercing. And in the case of some British writers I know, rubber nun outfits. Oh, and please people, condoms. The decision comes too late to expand the options for the office Christmas party which has no doubt annoyed some, but never fear folks. New Year's is just around the bend, and unlike last year, you don't legally have to leave the gathering to get up close and personal with anyone.

I'm privy to sources that keep me overstocked in tales of the slightly twisted to openly kinky. Since evil Kev is one of the guys who responds to 9-1-1 calls, I can't help wondering about some future day when we discover the Golden Years Retirement Club in town has been a bit too liberal with the viagra scripts and started expanding their group events.

Just the thought has me shuddering with horror.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

PS

Christmas Dreams

Promise I'll be back up on Christmas day with my story.
Unless I get run over by a reindeer Christmas Eve.

Words to Live By


A brief pause in the Christmas hoopla, because my remaining Christmas story is more of an after Christmas story. I'm hoping to cash in on all the readers going through withdrawal after Stuart's 12 part Christmas series is complete.

But today, evil Kev decided he was going to order some motivational posters (http://www.despair.com/mis24x30prin.html). I wonder what he's trying to say. And I was kinda hoping for the pessimist's mug

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A Child's Prayer For A Christmas Miracle

She paused by the cross at the back of the sanctuary, her gaze flitting from the left to the right until she was quite certain nobody was watching her. Polly bowed her head and closed her eyes, shifting her doll under her arm as she folded her hands, her lips forming the words silently, the same words she’d prayed every day for three months.

“Please God. It's almost Christmas. I want my parents to be together.”

A lone tear trickled down her right cheek, making a ragged line on her sullied face.

**


Polly’s shoulders sagged as she slowly sank down and sat on the cold concrete. Her left arm lay on the lowest railing, her cheek pressed against her wrist as she sat there, swinging her legs, her other hand clutching the tattered doll she’d gotten for her birthday not three months before. Already the toy’s face was fading, the beige-pink fabric streaked with water stains.

There she sat, her dark black eyes staring off, past the church parking lot where the women still lingered, nattering away, ignoring their husbands, who were revving the engines and glancing at their watches between glares at their wives.

Her grip on the doll loosened, until it dropped onto the top step beside her, her arm hanging at her side limply.

The little girl stared off, past the usual Sunday morning church parking lot hubbub, past the straggly black limbs clawing the sky, towards the cemetery where row upon row of stone marked the passage of time since their watch had departed this world. Some were the old stones, the etched markings of letters and dates blurring into the crumbling fa├žade. There were some newer markings as well, for those that still opted for sanctified ground.

“Poor thing,” Ethel Beasley murmured with a cluck-cluck sound as she shook her head soberly, her eyes widening as she leaned in close to Marlene Ford’s ear. “It must be so hard on the poor dear. I can see she misses her mother terribly.”

“Of course, it’s only natural she should want to have both parents at home,” Marlene said with a sigh. “Her hair, all straggly like that, unkempt. It really is surprising the courts would leave her with her father, after all that’s been said.”

“Why, she’s hardly more than skin and bones now, and her hair has lost its sheen. Not that she was ever a particularly happy child. There’s always been something about the look in her eye.”

“You don’t say. I thought it was just me all this time, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen that girl smile.” Marlene’s eyes gleamed. “You know in Sunday school, they had the children write down what they wanted for Christmas. She said she wanted her parents to be together.”

“Now that would take a Christmas miracle. Her mother always was a wild one. Have I ever told you about the time she ran off…”

Polly turned her head abruptly, her gaze suddenly on the two woman whispering about her not twenty feet away. As though they could feel her looking at them they both stopped talking and glanced up, first Ethel and then Marlene’s gaze meeting the sobering stare of the child. Ethel sucked air between her front teeth sharply, tut-tutted and then trotted across the pavement towards her car.

**

“Come on then, Polly. Let’s go.”

Her father’s voice was low but there was still an edge to the words, a no-nonsense tone that told her he would not be kept waiting. Still, she looked up at him for a moment, towering over her, clutching the railing with her hand as her chin quivered.

“Now, Polly. And pick that doll up off the step. Someone will trip and fall and break their neck. Is that doll ripped already? Dammit.” He scowled as she pulled her feet up and positioned them on the pavement, about to stand as he reached down with a heavy sigh and grasped her wrist, yanking her to her feet as she stretched to grab the doll with her other hand. Polly yelped but it was a brief almost noiseless yelp, inaudible to anyone more than a few yards away.

But not so quiet that her father didn’t hear. His eyes narrowed as he tugged on her arm, her short legs racing to keep up with his long strides so that he wouldn’t drag her across the pavement.

“You know what can happen when you leave things lying on the stairs, Polly.”

As soon as she was in the back seat of the car he slammed the door, not waiting to check that she was buckled in. Polly reached up over her shoulder with trembling fingers and tugged on the seatbelt, dragging it down, fumbling with the clasp while her father walked around to the driver’s door and got into the car.

He sighed as he ran his fingers through his hair and then pushed his lips up into a sympathetic smile. “I know you miss your mom, Polly.”

Her shoulders shook violently as her mouth opened, imitating the form of sobs, tears streaming down her sunken cheeks, but no sound escaped her mouth. She shuddered, her body convulsing with the soundless sobs and her father sighed again, started the engine and drove away.

**

She walked as softly as she could, careful to place each foot in front of the other soundlessly on the floor. Her father was still in the living room, where he’d been since they got home from church. The first thing he’d done was pull off his tie, undo a few buttons on his shirt and push the sleeves up. Then he sat down on his chair and told Polly to get him one his drinks.

Polly knew only three things about his drinks, but they were three of the most important things she knew. The first thing was that she was never, ever, ever to take a sip of his drinks. The second thing she knew was that his drinks were almost magical, but not a good kind of magic. When he drank he changed. All of the mean points got meaner and the nice things about her father disappeared.

And the last thing she knew was that when her father had a lot of drinks, it would be a very long night.

There had been a lot of long nights since her mother had gone.

Polly had just finished in the bathroom when she started walking towards the kitchen, careful to prop her doll up under her arm so that the rip was upwards, so that none of the insides would spill out.

“Hey!”

She froze mid-step, waiting for him to speak.

“Wudza git me assuther un.”

He waved the empty bottle in the air and she nodded, creeping towards the kitchen.

When she set the doll on the counter, some of the contents spilled out. She ignored that, went to the fridge and got the bottle. She’d had enough practice that it only took a few minutes of fumbling with the opener to get the cap off.

Then she dealt with the bits from the doll that had spilled onto the counter. From the other room she could hear his slurred words, hear him calling to her. Polly hurried with the bottle and then stopped herself, walking slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, so that she wouldn’t spill a drop.

She crossed the room and he grabbed the bottle from her hands and tilted it back, taking a swig. Polly turned and went back to the kitchen to get her doll.

**

As she started up the stairs he lifted his bottle and hand in her general direction. “I’lls be up soon en tuckya in luvs.”

She swallowed and nodded, climbing the stairs one by one. He was drinking this one fast, so she knew she didn’t have much time to get ready.

But she was prepared. Her nightie was set out so it took only a moment to slide out of her dress and into the cotton gown. She moved quickly, quicker than usual, and when everything was done she sat on the edge of the bed, her arms wrapped tightly around her knees as she rocked back and forth, back and forth. Listening. Waiting.

Then she heard the sound of something clunking against the floor, thick glass rolling on the lino followed by the sound of movement. She’d been downstairs enough times before to have a good idea of what was happening, the initial thuds followed by a low curse and then more thuds as he staggered back up to his feet and started towards the stairs. Each step was unpredictable, the footfalls coming at irregular intervals, but coming closer, the sound increasing slightly in volume as he made his way up to the top of the landing.

She heard the uttered, “whah” from almost right outside her room, followed by tremble of her bedroom wall as his fist struck it, then the clunk clunk tu-du-du-du-du. There was a loud crash, the sound of glass shattering, and then silence.

**

Tick tick tick tick tick…

Polly watched the clock for twenty minutes and then let go of her knees, her legs sliding down the side of the bed, her bare feet softly landing on the floor. She held her breath as she crept to the door, turning the knob a millimeter at a time until the latch clicked and she could tug it open slowly.

Pressing her face up against the tiny crack, she looked into the darkness of the landing, seeing nothing but the usual shadows from the partially closed doors to her parent’s room and the bathroom. When there was still no sound, she took a gulp of air and opened her door enough to poke her head out into the hallway.

There was no movement, no sound. She risked a step out and looked down the stairs.

Enough moonlight shone in through the windows for her to see his face was grey and still as the stones in the churchyard. He lay on his back, arms sticking out from his sides, one leg pushed back underneath his body, the other lingering on the stairs, his mouth open ever so slightly, a trickle of something dark having hardened in a jagged line from his lips.

Polly bent down, picked up her doll and scampered back up the stairs, slammed the bedroom door shut and turned the lock.

She sank down to her knees beside her bed, like she had done every night of her life, and folded her hands. Thinking back to a night not so long ago, when the scuffling sounds had been furniture and bodies downstairs.

“You’ve had enough,” her mother had screamed. “Y’aren’t supposed to take ‘em with the booze.”

“One ain’t gonna kill me.”

“They say no alcohol.”

“Dammit wimmin you ain’t bossa me. Givez me de fuzzin’ drink. Now.”

There’d been more scuffled, then the sound of fast footsteps, running up the stairs. Followed by something falling at the top and then a sharp cry, followed by a long silence. And then the looks and hushed whispers about what kind of mother runs away from her child....


**

Polly didn’t know how many pills it would take. She’d been stashing them in the doll until she counted up twelve and tonight she mixed them in with his drinks. But she wasn’t prepared to chance it. She’d left the doll on the step to make sure it happened again. Not what everyone thought had happened, but what had really happened.

Her boney knees pressed against the cold, hard floor, Polly folded her hands and closed her eyes.

No more, she thought. No more Daddy games.

“Thank you God. For getting my parents together again,” she said, her lips curling up into a smile.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Okay, so it's not as original as yesterday's story...

...but it took less time to write. Proof that I either have way too much time on my hands, or that I'll look for any excuse to avoid housework.

T’was the night before Christmas, over in the UK
Little Miss was sleeping, Mrs. MacB was away
John’s naughty nurse costume elicited regressed fears
Rickards stomped off in a huff and burst into tears

Grendel was all nestled, snug in her bed
While visions of fat mice danced in her head
Thinking of John’s outfit, Stuart huddled in a corner
Repeating over and over, “The horror. The horror.”

From up in the attic there arose such a clatter
Stuart’s high-pitched scream made the glass he held shatter
John stopped his sulking and ran up the stairs
Snagged his skirt on the railing, the hem he did tear

The attic was once a haven for mice
But now it was just a horrendous sight
A humongous rat had completely demolished the roof
He was chewing on Rudolph, who was caught on his tooth

Santa reached in his sack and pulled out a Harry Potter wand
“You big evil rodent, I command you! Be gone!”
The rat swallowed and belched and then he started to laugh
“You stupid old fart, are you really that daft?”

“Harry Potter isn’t real and that toy’s just a stick”
He moved towards Santa, licking his lips
Santa started to cry and he begged for his life
He wanted to see elves again, and even his wife

Santa was slobbering, snot ran down his nose
John was freezing from a lack of proper clothes
He yelled down at Stuart and told him to motor,
To bring the whips and gas and the flame-thrower

Frightened fat Santa had already peed in his pants
When Stuart reached the roof and took the whip in his hands
He cracked the rat on the ass with one flick of his wrist
Winked at John and said, “I’ve had plenty of practice.”

John fired up the flame-thrower, he never hesitated
When it was all over the rat had been cremated
The sleigh and toys were saved and most of Santa's crew
Though the top of Stuart’s house reeked of reindeer poo

Instead of being grateful for being saved from the rat
Santa pulled out his paperwork and he cursed and he spat
“You’re harbouring rodents and I’m really pissed!
I’m putting you both on my naughty list!”

He got in his sleigh, though it wasn’t that easy
To move his legs ‘cos the urine was freezing
Santa drove away and left them on the attic floor
Once he was gone they heard the sound of the door

Stuart ran down the stairs trying to think of an excuse
How would he keep her from noticing the lack of a roof?
Mrs. MacB swore, “What the hell happened here?”
John was no fool, he ran and hid in fear

Stuart tried to smile sweetly as he said, “What the heck.
You may as well know I was going to build a sundeck.
It’s taken me months to come up with the plan
But I needed John here to give me a hand.”

Mrs. Mac B stared at him. “You must think
That I’ve had an outrageous amount to drink
Now tell me what happened and tell me the truth
Or I promise that I’ll beat it out of you!”

Stuart shuddered with horror. “No, not that! I confess.
Santa crash-landed his sleigh and a giant rat did the rest.
The rat, he was evil, he had sixteen toes
And he ate poor Rudolph, even his shiny red nose.”

He thought the hard part was convincing his wife
But ever since then folks have called him Mad MacBride
His life, it has never been quite the same
Because he tried to tell the truth on his insurance claim

And what became of our friend John the nurse?
It's a matter of opinion but it might have been worse
The insomnia lasted through a few all-nighter's
Then he sobered up and became a crime fiction writer

If there’s a moral in the story it should be perfectly clear
That the truth can sometimes be something to fear
So remember when you file a claim when the unbelievable happens
That people believe in giant rats but they don’t believe in Santa

Monday, December 19, 2005

Succumbing to Christmas Madness

First it was Stuart MacBride tra-la-laing about holiday happiness. Then John Rickards weighed in with a festive tail about peace on earth and goodwill to all men.

Such heart-warming tales of merriment had me misty-eyed and I was zapped by a flash of sudden inspiration to write a real shorty - the shortest story I've ever penned. And if you like it, then just pop on over to Stuart's blog and do the double-click to donate food. And read his stories about true love and Christmas cheer.

Christmas Dinner

“We have problems with allergies here, too.” She smiled. “Standard chocolate chip recipe with no nuts, with your favourite substitute. I baked them myself.”

“Ho ho ho! Smartie cookies!” Santa took a bite. “You wouldn’t believe what they’ve started leaving for me in California. Wheatgrass juice and celery sticks. How can I be a jolly fat man with snacks like that?”

She wrinkled her button nose. “That is bad. Here, in the South Pacific, we want to see a fat Santa. A very fat Santa.”

He let his gaze drift over her body as he munched. She looked as fit as any hoola dancer he’d spied on when he finally got the naughty list up to date. Which wasn’t as often as he liked, especially since so many writers started blogs.

But here she was, in nothing but a bikini top and a grass skirt, on a tropical island, baking cookies for him, a trickle of sweat running down her neck and pooling on the little lip of clothe between her generous breasts.

“You know, Christmas just isn’t the same. Damn Canadian government cracked down about seatbelts and airbags…”

“Shhh,” she said, placing her index finger over his mouth, her lips lifting into a coy smile. “Have the last cookie.

“You should relax. Not worry about this anymore. Here,” she said, running her hands down the front of his velvet jacket. “You not need these warm clothes on a tropical island.”

She winked as she reached for his belt buckle. Within minutes she’d stripped him down to his briefs.

Tracing a finger down his chest, she started to kneel. “I want Santa’s special delivery,” she said. “I want to try reindeer style.”

“You want…?” He stood, gaping at her as she ran her hands up along the inside of his legs and released the last item of clothing and smiled again.

“Those blue bits in the cookies weren’t smarties, Santa.”

“Ho ho… hoaaah.”

**

Santa’s broad smile was frozen on his face when she went outside. The chief was waiting.

“Do you have it?”

She handed Santa's clothes to him. “Yes. Everything’s there.”

“Good,” he said. He gave the red suit to another woman, with instructions.

A group of men carried Santa out of the hut.

The chief and the girl followed as they carried his body down to the beach. They looked up to see Santa’s sleigh pulling up into the sky.

“Santa 25,” the chief said as Santa 24’s body was positioned on the spit. The fire crackled as some body fat dripped into the flames.

“Are you sure no one will notice?” she asked.

“You think that if they really believed Santa hit sixty and stop aging that he’d be let loose to make presents and play with elves? They’d be trying to find the secret to eternal life, dissecting him in some laboratory.

“They need a jolly fat man to deliver the goodies and we make sure he never loses his festive cheer or thinks about retirement. Gets them off the hook for his pension. It takes a while to bulk up the shipwreck victims, but a few years of milk and cookies and he’ll be nice and plump. And we've got a few spares to tie us over in the mean time. Everybody’s happy.”

One of the women approached them and extended two plates to the chief. “Santa or Santa’s helper?”

“Santa,” the chief said. “I’m allergic to elf.”

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Naughty Santas

Yesterday, we were driving along the highway and we passed Santa* driving a blue tracker in the center lane.

I guess the tradition of reindeer and a sleigh is a thing of the past. And I can appreciate that. No problems with wind chill, reindeer gas or stomping around on rooftops that have inconveniently abandoned the traditional chimney in favor of a gas fireplace.

But a blue tracker? Really, Santa. If you're going to dispense with tradition, could you not find something with a bit more festive cheer? I mean, even I drive a red rodeo, Santa. What's next? You trim the beard into a goatee and get some neon streaks put in? Maybe lose the fluffy red suit for some black Spandex?**

Of course, an image make-over might be in the cards. I can even get with the idea of cloning yourself so that you can keep up with increasing demand for toy production and personal delivery, but can't you save the carousing for after Christmas?
Rampaging Santas

The happy holiday season just isn't what it used to be.

* I'm not joking. I looked over and there was Santa. But it wasn't Mrs. Claus he was with. Maybe that explains the tracker - vain attempt at disguise.
** Why'd I have to think that? Out damn thought, out damn thought, out damn thought...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

C-C-C-C-C-C-Cold

The trouble with too many comtemporary novels is that they are full of people not worth knowing. The characters slide in and out of the mind with hardly a ripple. They levy no tax on the memory; they make little claim on the connecting power of identification. They make only the skimpiest contribution to an understanding of the human situation. They leave you cold.
Norman Cousins

The trend over the past few years seems to be to redo things. We've had our return to Star Wars (which was a superb money-making scam on Lucas's part and a waste of my time). In a year where the box office has slumped to record lows for intake, what is it people are going to see? Long-time classic stories like The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe have been adapted to the big screen, and King Kong has been redone.

It would be easy to pick on Hollywood in a discussion of crap production. Why is it that I feel like so many movies are trying too hard and failing? I simply don't find the characters...believable. Or endearing. Or even deliciously evil. The only "new" movie superhero in the past few years to really appeal to me is Spiderman. And that's an adaptation of an old comic from the 60's.

For me, the problem with television and movies is that I have been spoiled by having a taste of greatness, so everything else falls short by comparison, but I'll save my spiel on the wonders of The Wire for another time. Like in the countdown to the new season, airing next month on HBO.

But when I look at the volumes upon volumes of books out there, I find myself wondering just what it is about some characters that captivate us? What is it that makes a character legendary and other characters entirely forgettable?

For me, character is critical. I want to find great authors with a series character that I am positively salivating to read more about. Dennis Milne and Logan McRae spring to mind, though I suspect in Logan's case I've been influenced by the mischievious tactics of the author and am simply just too bloody nosey to be able to live without knowing if he and Jackie had sex. If the next book doesn't answer that, I may have to ply the author with numerous drinks until I can get him to fess up.

Seriously, I suppose part of it is because they're both flawed but on a path, working on sorting things out. They aren't reckless playboys who don't give a damn about anyone or anything. Sure sure, Milne has a little problem with murder, but he's a principled killer. And I can completely appreciate the desire to throttle some people.

And that's a weird thing about me. When I think of characters I love, the overwhelming majority are male characters. Rebus, Thorne, Milne, McRae, Tony Hill.

So, what is it for you that makes a character so compelling that you must get your hands on every book in the series, or that you're sad to see the book come to an end because you want desparately to continue on the journey with the characters you've come to love?

Friday, December 16, 2005

PS re: Porn

I failed to mention the upcoming discussion about good porn in January. So, when all the Christmas merriment is over and the holiday hoopla has abated, leaving you with nothing but long, dark, freeze-your-ass-off weather to look forward to every day, tune in here: The Sex Party** and check out the sexiphosers cafe.

** Sandra Ruttan is not a member of The Sex Party, for the record.

Home Remedies

1. If you are choking on an ice cube, don't panic. Simply pour a cup of boiling water down your throat and presto. The blockage will be almost instantly removed.

2. Clumsy? Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

3. Avoid arguments with the little woman about lifting the toilet seat by simply using the sink.

4. For high blood pressure sufferers: simply cut yourself and bleed for a few minutes, thus reducing the pressure in your veins. Remember to use a timer.

5. A mouse trap, placed on top of your alarm clock, will prevent you from rolling over and going back to sleep after you hit the snooze button.

6. If you have a bad cough, take a large dose of laxatives, then you will be afraid to cough.

7. Have a bad toothache? Smash your thumb with a hammer and you will forget about the toothache.

Sometimes, we just need to remember what the rules of life really are: You only need two tools: WD-40 and Duct Tape. If it doesn't move and should, use WD 40. If it shouldn't move and does, use the duct tape.**

Anyone else with a helpful home remedy?

** If you're Stuart MacBride, that would be duck tape. Why the Scottish need a special adhesive for mallards and fake beards How Stuart Got His Facial Hair I'll never know.

Dear John, with a twist

Now there's a way for you to notify your partners via email anonymously that they've been exposed to an STD.

  • Ding dong, possible STD's calling


  • Let's just think about this for a second. Is it a good idea? Hmmm, well, people need to know, right?

    But is it completely anonymous?

    Only if your partners have been frolicking with others of late and consequently can't narrow down the suspect list. This would really NOT work if you were in an exclusive relationship with only occasional nights off. I mean, just because you stepped out doesn't mean your partner did. And if you send them an anonymous email then, well, duh. They've likely got a pretty good idea where it came from.

    Your only hope then is that your main partner works as a pathologist and you and your alternate partner can top yourselves while the main partner is on shift. Don't think of it as giving up on life: Think of it as avoiding a prolonged, painful experience when she finds out and gets a hold of you. Pathologists are good with knives. And pruning shears.**

    **See "Two Turtle Doves" - link on the right

    Thursday, December 15, 2005

    Porn: The Gift That Keeps on Giving?

  • Porn Tax


  • I suppose as a woman, I should be completely offended by the very idea of porn. But for some reason, I find it rather intriguing. What is is about looking at pictures of naked women that appeals to men more than, say, going home and undressing their wives or girlfriends?

    Then it hits me. Pictures can't nag before, during or after. And it's likely a lot easier to satisfy a picture than it is to satisfy a woman. Of course, having no experience in either department, I'm just theorizing...

    But, oddly enough, I do feel a bit uncomfortable about the idea of this tax. I'm not particularly fond of taxes to begin with, but there's a growing trend to slap extra taxes on selected items. I don't mind taxing cigarettes into unaffordability, because they're bad for you. And smoking costs health care millions each year. I might even go so far as to say that if you smoke, you should forfeit your health care coverage entirely. Of course, I also watched my great-uncle die from lung cancer at a very impressionable age.

    Now, what is it about porn that justifies levying an extra tax on it?

    Do we slap entertainment taxes on X-box games? Nope. How about a show-off tax for all those who own a BMW or a porsche? Nope. Do we slap environmental taxes on overpackaged goods? No. We aren't doing that either.

    So why slap an extra tax on porn?

    First of all, it seems rather sexist, as I suspect the bulk of consumers in the porn industry are men.
    Second of all, who does porn hurt? Okay, okay, get off the petty disgust angle. Especially in Europe, where all you need to do to see naked bodies is watch the average commercial for jeans or head for the sauna.

    I know this might sound a bit like I'm pro-porn, but really, in this case, it seems like nothing more than a sneaky way to squeeze a bit more out of a man. And if they can start by taxing porn, how long before specialty items in those naughty adult shops come with the extra slap of a special tax?

    And when that money still isn't enough for the government, what then? Special taxes on flavoured condoms? Levying fines on certain positions? Think I'm kidding? There are laws, you know. Ever wonder how they regulate these?

  • Check your position

  • How do people in Nevada reproduce?


  • I never would have written this six years ago. All this time I thought I was training my husband, and it turns out marriage has completely corrupted me.

    Wednesday, December 14, 2005

    You Can Lead a Whore to Culture, But You Can't Make Her Think

  • Santa Gets a Head

  • To make a long, boring story short and hopefully not as effective as a sleeping pill, I was looking up phrases and found this one:

    "You Can Lead A Whore To Culture, But You Can't Make Her Think"

    Now, that's a line that's likely fallen out of favour in our pc times. I'd certainly never heard it myself. But I can think of several people it fits perfectly. Not like you can just throw that one out there when the whore says, "Well I don't know why, but that's just what I think, so there!" at the next family dinner. Uh, did I say family? I meant gathering of very distant acquaintances. Yep, that's it.

    It's one of my little pet peeves. People who are so narrow-minded you couldn't navigate a piece of thread through their ears.

    Which brings me to the slaying Santa. Chopping off barbie doll heads and hanging them on tree branches sounds a bit more like the product of a hyper five-year-old boy getting into mischief around Halloween, not some Manhatten mansion-owning couple's idea of a statement about Christmas commercialism.

    And then comes the kicker. In an interview, the guy says, "Christmas has religious origins,” he said. “It’s in the Bible. Santa is not in the Bible. He’s not a religious symbol."

    Hello whore of the day. Forget to take your history classes did we? Or maybe you haven't actually read the good book you're supposedly making a statement on behalf of. I have news for you: Christmas IS NOT in the Bible!
  • Pagan Christmas Practices


  • Christmas, like Easter, originated as a Roman holiday dedicated to pagan gods with various practices that pre-dated the acceptance of Christianity. First Constantine converted, then the old pagan practices were converted into 'Christian' celebrations.

    Why else do you think we have a fluffy bunny running around giving kids chocolate eggs when we're supposed to be thinking about Jesus suffering on the cross?
  • Christian Constantine

  • You know, it isn't the sentiment these people are expressing that bothers me. Christmas has become so commercial. I mean, check this out:
  • Ch-Ching

  • Damn, that's more than I spend on my mortgage each month!

    The problem I have with the Krupnik's of the world is that by being misinformed, they make everyone who thinks that we should re-examine our priorities at this time of year and focus more on family than on gifts seem like religious nutjobs. You catch more flies with beer and honey than you do with crap, folks, and you leave a better impression on your neighbours.

    So, maybe instead of desecrating Santa and Barbie you could invest your time and money in spreading peace and good cheer. You know, support a food bank. Help the homeless. Stuff some money in the Salvation Army collection plate. You know, actually do some good and show the world how you want it to be instead of creating a scandal that gets your name in the papers.

    Seems to me that this is just about these people trying to draw attention to themselves. I'm surprised they didn't start ranting about how the name Santa is just an anagram of satan...

    I wonder how these people would feel if next Easter, the people next door put up a 5-foot bunny carrying a basket of Mary heads with fake blood dripping from her eyes.

    Tuesday, December 13, 2005

    Beer & Popcorn

    In every election it's only a matter of time before the mudslinging begins. After all, these guys practice hurling the insults at taxpayer's expense on a regular basis in this place we Canadians call parliament.

    And if our own Prime Minister's communications director (I'll call him IDIOT for short now) had spewed off in front of the opposition parties, there might have been a lynching. Instead, he just blabbed to the cameras.

    When asked about the Conservative proposal to give child benefits to parents, said IDIOT, "Don't give people 25 bucks (a week) to blow on beer and popcorn."

    Uh, yeah, because what else would parents have to spend their money on? I mean, it's not like they need anything. Daycare is free and we're going nude so the clothing issue won't be so bothersome. And we can deal with childhood obesity by just not feeding the kids.Uh, yeah, right.

    But it gets better! Another advisor to our Prime Minister (I'll call him DUFUS) chipped in and said that not only would the child-care money would be blown on beer and popcorn but these damned irresponsible parents would piss it away on coats and cars, too.

    Maybe these guys should chip in with their big, fat slush funds of taxpayer's money that they use for dining with diplomats and paying for chauffeurs and expensive suits and such and rent an arena, set up a wrestling wring, invite all of Canada to come and watch as they sling some real mud.

    Now that would be something worth investing money in beer and popcorn for. Stephen Harper, Jack Layton and Paul Martin tossing off the ties and having their hissy-fits live. Maybe intermission could be Peter MacKay and Belinda Stronach having a post-lover's quarrel.

    But I'd settle for seeing This Hour Has 22 Minutes invite IDIOT and DUFUS on and have Mrs. Enid set them straight.

    Which has prompted my re-discovery of the archive videos. http://www.cbc.ca/22minutes/video.html Shitstorm tracker and Canadian weather report are definitely worthy of the downloads. And if you want to see some mudslinging, listen to Belinda Stronach. She has some interesting things to say about what a man should do with his caucus.

    Monday, December 12, 2005

    The List of Approved Subjects

    No, this is not the working title of some historic piece about monarchy loyalists. It's about people. And writing. Because my split personalities have been arguing over what to blather on about today.

    First, the writing. Recently, I was told that prologues are a sign that you're an amateur, they tell agents and editors you don't know how to fit the story into the context of the book and have to use this cheap, outdated technique.

    Which convinced me that the person who said it didn't know a whole f*ckin' lot about the kind of books I read.

    I mean, lets talk prologues. Val McDermid: A Place of Execution. Mark Billingham: The Burning Girl. Simon Kernick: A Good Day to Die. Laura Lippman: To The Power of Three.

    Yep, these are all amateur hacks who've only ended up being published by some absolute fluke and will likely fade into oblivion after their second or third book. I wish I had a 'roll my eyes' emoticon to put after that comment. Clearly, nobody told these authors that prologues are out. Psst. Pass it on. What were you all thinking?

    Same source critiquing the opening of the sequel to the manuscript they referenced above said it started too quickly with the action and they didn't know who anyone was.

    Uh, if you read the first book, you would have. Ever skimmed the opening to Rankin's Black & Blue? Not exactly a "His name was Rebus and he'd been working with the Edinburgh police since 1937..." kind of intro. More like "smack, bam, in your face, figure me out later" - do people really want to start sequels with pages of back story? Not this reader. I mean, I don't mind back story as much as some people do, as long as it's relevant to the current story, but I don't want to OD on it in the first chapter.

    All of this to say that every bit of advice you get as a writer shouldn't just be accepted without question. We learn best how to construct a story from reading the work of those we admire, those who write our genre. I'll go with the works of McDermid, Billingham, Kernick & Lippman over an unnamed editor any day.

    Which brings me to people. There are some people who seem to have this criteria for conversation. "We can talk about this, but not that." What really burns me is when you've known someone for a long time, and discussed a number of things with them in the past, and then all of a sudden it's just, "I couldn't give a damn and won't talk to you about that now." And it's not like a conversation you've done to death. Something they told you about months ago has come up again, and there's been some news on the subject, so you ask what they think and basically get told to shut your trap.

    Like, gee freakin' whiz people, if you didn't want to talk about it, why'd you bring it up months ago?

    Recently, I got this email from someone I don't know, asking me to recommend a product to them. It's a long, complicated story, but I felt uncomfortable making general referrals to someone I didn't know, particularly of a product I don't use. So when I wrote back to this person, I was very careful to benchmark the few companies I did know of that they could consider with statements about how I'm not a client of any of them, have never been, blah blah blah.

    The person wrote back to me and started off the note, "Look lady."

    Look lady? WTF? First off, the person is likely twice my age. Second, nobody who knows me calls me lady. Insolent juvenile perhaps, but lady? I mean, why not just take that out and insert 'old geezer'?

    Not to mention that I didn't ask them to write to me in the first place! Now, I always try to write back to people, and I always try to be nice and polite because that's my nature (shut up Stuart) but when somebody writes to me, unsolicited, doesn't use my name and just says "Look lady" they're asking for trouble.

    Sorry, I just had to bitch about that somewhere. And this is cheaper than therapy.

    Saturday, December 10, 2005

    Narnia

    Last night I did something I seldom do anymore: I went to a movie. Now, in order to actually get to a movie theatre not only must I drive 35 minutes to get to the city, but then I have to battle the hoards of Christmas shoppers because of this ridiculous habit of putting oversized 16-screen theatres into malls. I mean, what are they thinking? That the average shopper will glance at their watch and say, "Hmm, lunch at the foodcourt or I could get a popcorn and watch a movie. And with all these bags from Sears and Reitmans and Chapters, it would be nice to sit down and rest my feet..."

    So, I suppose it must boil down to something about convenience. Likely for that most insidious group of the population: parents.** Send the kids off to see a movie and go to the lower level of the mall for bowling. Or across the street to the adult bar. Or the theatre lobby for those kick-ass video games.

    But getting back to the point, it's a fair drive. The parking sucks. Then, there's the ticket prices. Wow. For the price of two of us, I can wait six months and buy the dvd. And we aren't even talking about the absolutely crappy food for sale at outrageous prices. Personally, that recent box-office slump was cause to celebrate. It costs more to go to the average movie than it does to buy my nephew's birthday presents (and we do not cheap out on the birthday presents - X Box games and more) and I resent it when the Big-Name Actress is getting $20 mill for her part in the production at my expense.

    Since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, I can count on one hand the number of movies I've gone to see in the theatre. I can probably count on one hand the number of dvd's I've bought as well. If there's one thing Hollywood's really good at, it's producing predictable crap.

    But the release of Narnia was an event that could not be missed. Since I was 7 years old, lying in bed one hot July with pneumonia, I've been entranced with Narnia. It all started with a (then) rare act of kindness by my older sister - she brought me home some library books. Man, way back then, we had to share a double bed. I used to kick her in the back while I did my nighttime gymnastics. Could explain the incidents with her holding a pillow over my head. Anyways...

    I remember reading almost all of the Narnia books then, and I've always loved them. And I've always owned a complete set. The decision to make a movie had the same good/bad reaction for me that the news about LOTR did. Would it match up to the book? Or would I be disappointed.

    Lord of the Rings was a fantastic achievement. In some ways, that made the forthcoming release of Narnia even more nerve-wracking, for there would be the inevitable comparisons. And how can you compare? LOTR was an adult series meant for an older audience. Narnia was written for children, but remains loved by adults. LOTR features adult actors. Narnia centers on four children.

    If you haven't read the book and want to see the movie or don't want spoilers, don't read further.

    The film is quite accurate. The essence of the book was in tact. One thing that might have been nice for those who didn't know, was an explanation about the wardrobe and who the professor is. But it's not necessary if you just accept the wardrobe as magic and leave it there.

    And the beginning of the movie was great.

    I thought they did a fabulous job with the battle. Of course, I wondered how they'd handle it, because Narnia is much more for children than LOTR was. But they didn't sugarcoat it. They also didn't overdue the violence, IMHO.

    I felt the role of Edmund was played extremely well. Here's a talented young man who has a future in movies. Not that the others don't necessarily, but that role was vital. Susan, for example, could have been played poorly and it wouldn't have been as critical to the overall success. But if Edmund had been a flop, the whole movie would fall. And I thought he did a great job. I believed in him as the villain, and I believed in his change.

    There was something disturbingly familiar about Tumnus. I must go check that actor's bio.

    I haven't looked into it, but I do hope that Disney is going to do a few more of the books - oh, and please, Voyage of the Dawn Treader. That would be excellent.

    And, if you're a sappy schmuck like me who cries easily, close your eyes if they show the preview for the story in the antarctic about the sled dogs. I'm getting all choked up just thinking about it. Damn, they need a guidance system for adverts like that - rated Tissue Necessity: Very High. That way you can get enough napkins when you're buying your overpriced popcorn.

    ** Seriously, it was nice to see so many families out for this movie.*** I actually overheard a father and son talking about reading the books on their way out of the theatre - music to my ears.

    ***And I'm sure it made Disney happy too.

    Thursday, December 08, 2005

    Jib Jab

    For those who could always use a good laugh, the Christmas Jib Jab's are up. Yep, Santa's whining about foreclosure and The Farting Elves are...Oh my, poor snowman. http://www.jibjab.com/Home.aspx

    But my favourite is still the politically-irreverent 'This Land'.

    Burn Gingerbread Burn!

    Yep, it's here. The big night. I will galavant off into the city and pick up my niece - who must be wooed with dinner and excessive praise for passing up on a birthday party - and take her to my meeting where she'll get killed. Ah, that reminds me, one more thing to pack. See, she'll be playing the part of the Gingerbread protestor, fighting against oppression and torture of gingerbreads everywhere, one of the most prominent members of the NAAGP (North Americans Against Gingerbread Persecution). When she kicks the bucket there will be a lot of fingerpointing, especially at the beneficiaries of J. Dough's will. And the best thing is, even though I'm the event coordinator, I don't even know who's guilty! That's the benefit of working with yourself on a project when you have multiple personalities.

    Now, seriously, I just realized I have one more thing to pack. I must find a needle...

    Tuesday, December 06, 2005

    I really need that toy!

    Maybe you know how it is, when you're starting on a new project and the first order of business is to visualize that person, your protagonist, in your mind's eye. Sometimes, the image comes to me easily. And other times, the face seems to be veiled in shadows, remaining elusive.

    I don't particularly mind stories that are vague on the physical details, as a reader. But sometimes, it helps to have that mental picture to refer to. It keeps you from turning your blue-eyed blonde of 5'1" stature into a towering 5'11" raven-haired model partway through the book. Unless frankensteinien experiments on leg extensions and physical alterations are part of the plot.

    So, today, I'm sitting here twiddling my thumbs, rearranging my office (shut up Kevin) because I'm trying to get a mental grip on these faces. And I'm thinking about this toy I had as a kid, with different heads, torsos and legs that you could put together and make an image of a fashion design. Evidentally attempting to teach young girls of the world that tight skirts don't look good with poofy poodle-like sweaters. But I wasn't thinking about the fashion - I'll spare you all the typing, I'm a lost cause - but I was thinking about how great it would be to have a similar toy that just let you put together facial features.

    Which had me wondering if I could justify a Mr. Potato Head as a legitimate writing expense.

    But then I found this: http://www.dressupgames2.com/facemaker/

    So, for free I've been twiddling around with various eye and eyebrow combinations, and killing more time. Now, what I really need is a kick-ass exhaustive program something like this, that lets you play with face shapes and has a bit more selection. And then I'll have posters of all my villains instead of modeling them after my spouse.

    So Santa, I've been relatively decent this year, I think. I didn't drink too much at Harrogate and I didn't swear too much at the kids on Halloween. Can I have some new software? Please please please?! Oh, and MAC compatible too, unless you're throwing in for a new computer.

    Sunday, December 04, 2005

    Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It...

    In December I have but one goal, one purpose that will be my sole focus.

    I'm attempting to raise money for The Starving* Artists Fund.

    The goal? To make enough money for Stuart MacBride to stay home in his pajamas and watch bees for years to come.***

    How can you help me make Stuart's dream a reality? Buy a copy of the Spinetingler 2005 anthology, which contains a short story by Stuart.**** Yep, a hefty^ chunk of the proceeds will go straight into Stuart's slush fund^^ so he can save up for the replacement vehicle, or perhaps start the building project. Aberdeen does seem like the place where soppy residents would start hallucinating about animals in two's and big boats.

    What do I hope to get with my comparable pittance? Maybe I'll be able to afford a new CD by my birthday.^^^ Hey, we all have to have our dreams!

    Now, seriously, the anthology is out and you can find the link at www.spinetinglermag.com I was hoping to have some fancy purchase button up on my blog, but I'm technologically incompetent*^ and my husband has a pressing need to play Grand Theft Auto.




    * Thirsty would be more accurate in some cases**
    ** Not inferring anything
    *** Or whatever it is that he does when he isn't creating an inventory of ancient books.
    **** And two by me, but I'm not that important.
    ^ Okay, I'm exaggerating.

    ^^ Donations can also be made by purchasing COLD GRANITE - the paperback will be out in January! I recommend printing a copy of the cover off of Amazon and giving it to friends and family with a big, bold note saying, "Your gift is coming soon." It's one way to beat the post-Christmas blahs by giving them something to look forward to, and it's really just a variation on the "box" with cardboard figures of Star Wars toys that people bought years ago when production problems kept the toy company from having enough ready for Christmas demand. If people could give their kids cardboard boxes, you can damn well give your spouse a letter. And especially your parents if you were one of the kids who got a box years ago!

    ^^^ Which is in June. And I'm actually counting on the new Simon Kernick being out with one day to spare. Wahoo! Although it sucks, because we often only get the trade paperbacks here and last year I got the hardcover of A Good Day To Die in the UK for a steal of a price by comparison... Same with Cold Granite.

    *^ Comment on this at your own risk!

    Saturday, December 03, 2005

    Slush fund

    The day started out with a few 90-degree spins on some pretty slick roads. Uh, it's Canada, but have you people heard of plowing? I didn't realize that was a new concept out here. First you've got to fight the pull of the drifts and then you get out of the SUV and slide on the ice and land in a pile of slush. Not the nice, white powdery stuff. The grey-brown soppy guck that grows faster than bacteria in a uni student's fridge.

    I just remembered that it's been a while since I dropped some coins into the box marked "Harrogate bar tab". Yep, that's right, thought I'd squirrel away the bucks all winter so that next July, when I get home from England (and Scotland if I manage it again this trip) I don't have to explain to my husband why I spent so much at the hotel but didn't bring as many books home. Of course, I'm sure I'd never spend as much as some people I could mention (Stuart, Mike...)

    And this with Christmas shopping conspiring to rob me of every cent I can spare because the number of kids is multiplying - yep, I still have the hubby and now I have two nephews instead of just one. And for a baby, Dashiell has a surprisingly long wishlist. Must have worked out the telepathy early...or is that just the evil parents conspiring to squander our money instead of theirs?

    Ah, love and joy and goodwill to all men. Judging from the way people were fighting over the last 'build your own lightsaber' sets at Toys R Us, it's more like the season to get your claws out. Seems like a good time to go find the 'Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer' cd...

    Friday, December 02, 2005

    Converted to Noodly Appendages?

    http://www.venganza.org/

    Okay, I’ve heard of some wacked-out things, but this is a cake-taker.  Not the theory of intelligent design in particular, but the church of the flying spaghetti monster?  Well, I guess there are stranger things to worship than pasta...

    Evil**, thy name is Stuart MacBride... or should that be Stuart MacBride, thy name is evil?

    Reasons I adore Stuart:
    1.
    2.
    3.
    ..........
    Okay, seriously, have you checked out Stuart's blog? I'd post a link, but I haven't figured out how to do that yet. Duh. The problem is that I've been so busy doing other things that I haven't been bored enough to bang my head against the computer for a while. That always brings changes, at least on my screen.****

    So, get on over to http://www.halfhead.com/ and check out the witless*** wonderboy's write-ups. He's a laugh a minute, and not just because of the beard.*

    Speaking of which, I saw on his beard kit that he recommends the use of duck tape. I wonder if that's some sort of Scottish variation on sticky tack... you know, you take some duck do-do and mix it with an adhesive and presto, perma-cardboard beard all over your face. (No need for aftershave, but I'd recommend cologne,)


    * Absolutely not intended as a comment on his appearance.
    ** check out the latest Spinetingler Magazine issue for the background www.spinetinglermag.com - Winter Issue, Interview with Laura Lippman
    ***I meant witty. I'm sure I did. I can't imagine making such a scurrilous error. Someone must be contaminating my subconscious!
    ****I'm sure it has nothing whatsoever to do with altered mental state.

    Thursday, December 01, 2005

    Round One: Batter Up - yep, the truth can be revealed. The gingerbread man is getting offed next week.

    Diary of J. Dough, Gingerbread Activist
    It was a dark and stormy night. First there was the staccato rhythm of gunfire. I was on my way out, but that stopped me cold. After all, I don’t want any thugs mistaking my buttonholes for targets. The wind was howling and then, ta da, the lights flickered and went out.
    Which is, of course, when I decided I wanted to read. So I lit some candles, found a baker’s mitt to snuggle up in, and started skimming the classified. That’s when I saw it.
    How Ginger Snapped starring CSS. There she was, playing the part of Ginger, the chainsaw-wielding gingerbread cookie, grinning with an evil look in her eye.
    I confronted her outside the theatre on opening night. She cackled like a witch when I reminded her that she used to be one of us, one of the few promoting acceptance of gingerbreads around the world. She told me not to remind her of her crummy past and rushed off inside.
    I hadn’t realized until then that she’d gone super-Hollywood. She’d had cosmetic surgery. So now, instead of being a gingerbread playing the part of a psycho gingerbread, she was actually a gingerbread who’d had surgery to look like a person who was using make-up to dress up as a gingerbread. It was horrifying. Like Michael Jackson using make-up to play the part of Mandela** in a movie. Uh, my apologies to Mr. Mandela for even thinking that…
    I was speechless, but only for a few moments. When I’d seen the advert I’d had a flash of inspiration as bright as the Hollywood lights. I was ready.
    I went inside, took my seat and waited until she raised her weapon for the first time. Then I ran onstage, dodged the security team and waved my sign, complete with pictures of CSS before the surgery. She couldn’t deny she was really a gingerbread then and ran off-stage, her fake icing smudged from her tears.
    For days the story made the papers. Her career was over, but do you think she saw the error of her ways? Nope – it wasn’t long before I found it, CSS's blog, where she ranted on and on about the fact that some gingerbreads were clearly half-baked, and tasteless. I knew she was talking about me! So I hacked into her website and posted messages of love and goodwill towards gingerbreads everywhere.
    The battle went on for months. I heard she sought counseling at the Pillsbury Clinic and then moved to Canada. That’s when I decided that I needed to come north to make sure she wasn’t causing any more trouble.
    I started off checking out her schedule, with general background on the people she was meeting with. It was then that I learned that she was involved with the most insidious group of gingerbread persecutors in the world, disguised as a writer’s group, of all things. She was spreading her poison amongst the members of Mystery Writers INK.
    September 13, 2005 Met with the president of INK. I wanted to see how much damage CSS had already done. I spoke at length about the misrepresentation of gingerbreads in the media, how gingerbreads were becoming the stereotypical villains. She nodded and appeared to listen patiently.
    For a while, things were quiet, but it was all a ruse. It wasn’t long before I heard about it on the news.
    “AJ, president of Mystery Writers INK, has endured 40 sleepless nights writing a story she had a recent flash of inspiration for. Her novel, BURN G-MAN BURN*, exposes the truth about gingerbread culture, the violence and the story centers around an horrific murder…”
    I went on-line. Yep, there it was, being hailed by critics as “an incendiary new novel” with a quote on the front from JC, CBC Homestretch, “The revelation of the killer is a complete surprise; all I can say is it’s just icing on the cake.”
    And there it was, in bold caps, an invitation to learn more about other books being released by INK authors. A few looked alright, but there were two that caught my eye.
    HOW THE COOKIE CRUMBLES Killer Gingerbread Recipes* by JB Fletcher
    COOKIE MONSTERS* by Sandra Ruttan
    And then I learned the webmaster was CSS! No wonder she was giving prominent advertising to the evil stories about gingerbreads!
    For a while I paced the floor until my feet started to crumble. Then, it hit me. The perfect thing to do.
    I started with a letter-writing campaign. Newspapers, rights groups, MP’s – you name it. That’s when I found out about the NAAGP – NORTH AMERICANS AGAINST GINGERBREAD PERSECUTION.
    November 7, 2005 Joined forces with the NAAGP and began candlelight vigils and letter-writing campaigns. BURN G-MAN BURN fell off the bestseller list and into fires at book burnings, which helped keep us warm during those late-night protests. It got to the point where you couldn’t give a copy away.
    November 15, 2005 We tackled the recipe book. “Promotes Cannibalism”, one prominent spokesperson said. Oprah went on the record, saying the book incited hatred towards gingerbreads. Her legions of unquestioning fans followed predictably, and started a Wal Mart boycott until they agreed to nix the lucrative book deal JB Fletcher had been offered. The scene got pretty ugly and I do feel a bit bad for kicking her in the foot – I heard she’s been vowing vengeance ever since over the loss of income and the cast she’s had to suffer with for the past few months, and she’s armed herself with a solid steel cane that only looks like its made of wood.
    November 24, 2005 I went after the most insidious author of all: Sandra Ruttan, who wrote a book for children. Brainwashing and conditioning of the worst kind. I found out every school she was scheduled to speak in and campaigned to come in and promote my children’s book, CHOCOLATE CHIP SAVES THE DAY exactly one day before she was scheduled to come in. I spread love and goodwill amongst the children and was sure to donate free posters so that she’d see them when she came in. It made the news. The children booed. Parents proclaimed their disgust and the publisher quickly cancelled the second print-run they’d ordered.
    November 30, 2005 The NAAGP has scheduled a special event tonight in celebration of our recent victories and success at stemming the tide of discrimination against gingerbreads. I’m getting an award for all my hard work. And my book has knocked Sandra Ruttan’s into oblivion by selling ten times as many copies in the first week of release. She’s been spouting off on any talk shows where people are bored enough to listen, and I know all four of them hate me. I think I’ll hack into the website to remind CSS that I beat her. Just for old time’s sake. There are also going to be some award ceremonies over the next few weeks, including the Governor-General’s award.

    Now, here's my question. Who do you think has the best motive for killing J. Dough? I only left my name in, 'cos, well, it's me. But it could have been CSS. It could have been AJ. Or JB Fletcher... I haven't finished the plot yet, so I'm open to suggestions...

    ** I'm really sorry about using you as an example...
    * All books are ficticious. As is the plot. As is the hit that's been taken out on the gingerbread protester.
    How will J. Dough's story end? Laid out on a baker's sheet or taken down with a cookie platter? Tune in next weekend to find out more.