13 December 2018

Dark Stories for Christmas?

J.S. has a new and mysteriously dark story in volume 10 of Ink Stains: A Dark Fiction Anthology. The story is "The Darkening Mist". Aileen has moved to a small East Anglian village to get away from her troubles, but out in the mist something is waiting:
    
    The house crouched at the bottom of a short slope, a little way back from the old road that ran straight, with military precision, through the village. The village had been there for centuries, the road even longer.

     Overnight the mist seeped upwards from the soil and wrapped the house, the road and the adjacent countryside in swathes of damp, grey muslin. Everything the muslin touched was smeared with a thin layer of frost, reducing the immediate landscape to timeless tones of uniform grey. Everything, that is, except the darker grey of the man-shaped shadow standing motionless within the mist’s embrace, just beyond the garden fence.

Ink Stains, a quarterly anthology published by Dark Alley Press, is about shining a stark light on the shadows of life, exploring those dimly lit corridors, and unearthing those long-buried secrets. We don’t believe good will always triumph over evil or that someone will always be around to save the day. Sometimes all we have is ourselves. And the stories that keep us turning the page.

In Volume 10 we consider - Death. Murder. Betrayal. An inevitable undoing. The selfish and terrible actions of humans rarely go unpunished in a world where Fate is a cruel mistress and Karma can be more vengeful than a woman scorned. Hell is real, and it exists here on Earth as several characters in the stories contained within can attest as they face war, jealousy, domestic violence, and supernatural forces. Some face Hell on a literal level as others discover it is of their own making. Authors Michael Barron, Eric M. Battaglia, Eddie Cantrell, Michael R. Collins, Patrick Hackeling, Matthew Lett, J.A.W. McCarthy, Karen Metcalf, Ben Nein, Liam Quinn, RL Schumacher, Caleb Stephens, C.J. Thomson, Jackie Valacich, and J.S. Watts weave together dark tales that question how far one is willing to push to get what they desire and explore the consequences of those more interested in themselves than their fellow men and women. 

You can find it on Amazon UK and Amazon US


12 December 2018

The Last Taboo

J.S. is suitably excited to have a wee poem published on Ink, Sweat and Tears today. You can read  "Last Taboo" for FREE by clicking here.

7 December 2018

Christmas Traditions (Giftmas 2018)

J.S. is participating in Giftmas 2018, an Advent Calendar styled blog tour featuring a new story a day from participating writers from 1st - 25th December. Its aim is to raise funds for the Edmonton Food Bank (Edmonton in Canada, that is). For ways in which you can get involved (there's a free raffle), or donate please go to Rhonda Parrish's fabulous blog. If you can't afford a donation, but have enjoyed this or other stories in the blog tour, please help us to raise the profile of the appeal by sharing the stories and/or blog-tour details on social media.




J.S.'s contribution for 7th December is a basic and earthy tale about how some of our favourite Christmas Traditions may have come about...





Christmas Traditions
By J.S.Watts 


Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house nothing was……...
What do you mean, you’ve heard it before? Ungrateful bugger! You said you wanted a Christmas story. This was going to be a nice traditional one. There ain’t enough respect for the old traditions if you ask me, but no one does; I’m part of the traditions no one respects.
Happens I’m not “sexy” enough. These days it’s all sexy vampires and hot werewolves. Even shapeshifters get a look in. There’s one in that TV show “First Blood”, along with those too cool for their fangs vampires and, I admit, some pretty tasty goings on, but me and mine we’re not sexy at all, even though I can manage a bit of shapeshifting myself on a good night.
There was a time when it was traditional to placate me with cakes and a saucer of milk. Now I have to make do with Santa’s leftovers and look what they’ve done to ‘im: primeval demi-god to cartoon character in less than a thousand years. First they demote the poor bugger to a saint and then they hand him a Coke, stuff him into a red romper suit and make him work with children. Talk about cutting off his……
Balls! That’s what did it. The final nail in the solid oak coffin of a traditional Yule. A perfectly decent pagan festival that survived all the church stuff that got dumped on it, received its fatal wound when mass manufactured deccies ushered in the commercial Christmas. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing against commercialism per se, the me, me, me ethos is all very admirable, but when they sold off the mid-winter festival it lost its dark hued soul. Too many traditions have been thrown out with the baby, including me. Some of you ain’t even certain yet as to what I am. Back in the day you’d have known.
Anyways, I’ll ignore the disrespect – for now. Would you like me to tell you a properly traditional Christmas story? One with a bit of sex and violence in it, like in the old days; things that go bump in the night and make the wheel of the year turn a little faster? What d’yer mean, something nice and seasonal and suitable for family reading? We’re talking Mid-Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. You can’t fill up that sort of dark with cutesy robins and day glow reindeer. Even the Victorians liked a decent ghost story at Christmas. They knew there’s a need to give the dark a decent send off if you want the sun to come round again.
Alright, alright, I ain’t got time to argue. It’s a busy time for me too. ‘Oo d’yer think has to burn the turkey, break the brand new toys and help Grandma choke on them mincepies? Look, I’ll tone down the sex (a bit), head butt the violence out completely and tell you the story of how the fairy got on top, err… of the Christmas tree. Ok?
It was the night before Christmas (see – told you so) and I was poking the fire for the Gingko fairy, if you catch my drift. She likes her fire roaring, does that one. The family I was lodging with had just put up one of those new fangled German things that came into fashion about then and we were keen to see if the branches were as bouncy as they looked.  We had knocked more than a few pine needles off that tree, let me tell you, when the Fairy Queen comes along and catches us at it. She was mightily unhappy with us and we was on the receiving end of a long tirade on immoral conduct and what not to do with candles. This was all a bit rich coming from her. I’ve seen what she gets up to with Oberon, we all have; she likes things al fresco. Then there’s all those human boys she makes off with. They certainly ‘ave to earn their keep before they get dumped back, a shadow of their former selves, in the mortal world. Plus, I tell you, there was this incident with a donkey, though that was midsummer and you wanted a Christmas tale.
Anyway, I thought Titania was being somewhat hypocritical and I told ‘er so in no uncertain terms, which, with hindsight, was probably not such a good idea. She got into a right royal temper and waved her wand about like she wanted to behead somebody. So I backtracked a bit and tried to get us off the hook by claiming that we ‘ad been overcome by a surfeit of mistletoe. When that one didn’t work I tried pointing out that we was re-enacting the male – female symbolism of the holly and the ivy, but she was ‘aving none of that either. If anything, all my excuses ‘ad made her angrier.
“You nasty little boggart. Think you can lie your way out of this like you do out of everything else?”
It’s at this point that I should probably explain that me and her Majesty ‘ad played Christmas party games ourselves in the past, until I had blotted my copybook by lying to ‘er over something she considered important. I may not be that good looking, but I’m in demand for my dexterity with me poker. I suspect that part of the reason for her fury at me and Gingko was jealousy, pure and simple. Trouble is that by now she had got ‘erself into such a rage that things were far from simple. She was determined to mark my card.
“You are going to pay for this. If you’re so keen on Christmas symbolism let me help you become a part of it. The mortals haven’t finished decorating yet. I’ll have you stuffed and mounted on top of this tree you’re so fond of. What do you think of that, then?”
Not a lot, I have to tell you. It wasn’t going to be much fun if she was planning on having me executed before the stuffing and even less fun if she wasn’t. She was easier on Gingko. She just threatened to exile her to the royal kitchens every Christmas for the next two hundred years. Is that fair, I ask you? Clearly my lovely little Gingko didn’t think so.
“Please ma’am, don’t do that to the boggart. He’s just put a silver bit in my pudding and I beg you not to have the father of my New Year’s babies immolated on a tree. Also, he’s really very ugly and would scare the human children something chronic.” 
Even Titania had to concede that last point. In the end she relented and agreed to commute the sentences. Gingko was allowed to use magic to perch herself, harmlessly, on top of the Christmas tree until twelfth night and I was consigned to kitchen duties. It was hard work, but I spend a lot of my time in kitchens anyway, so I coped. I was given the sprouts to peel and cook and have done so in my own special way every Christmas since.
So there you go. Now you know not only how the fairy got on top of the Christmas tree, but also why the sprouts always taste so ‘orrible and blow through you so handsomely. Plus, of course, you’ve had yourself a merry little Christmas story. Please note though, I’m not a firkin Christmas elf, I’m a boggart. My activities are not purely seasonal like the bleak mid-winter snow. So if you wants to keep in with me regular saucers of milk all year round are just the thing. Remember, a boggart is for life, not just for Christmas.

Christmas Traditions by J.S.Watts was first published in October 2010, in issue 9 of the much missed Ethereal Tales magazine.


The 6th December Giftmas 2018 story was contributed by Pamela Fernandes — Letters From Bidbid

The Giftmas 2018 story for 8th December will be posted by Amanda Wells — http://www.wellsaj.com/blog/


For full details of Giftmas 2018 go here or use the link at the top of this post (it's the same one).
To donate please click on this link It will take you straight through to the Charity's giving pageYou’ll notice the link doesn’t go to a PayPal account or anything like that. None of this money comes to the writers. It all goes to the Edmonton Food Bank via Canada Helps. That means you can donate with confidence, knowing there is no chance your money won’t go where it’s intended. 






28 November 2018

Questions I Don't Like Answering Part II

It's almost a brand new month (we're probably escalating for Christmas) and Mark Meier has rashly allowed me to play with his blog yet again (I now realise he hasn't learnt).

Most writers will tell you there are questions they don’t like having to answer: often they are the ones we get asked the most. I'm writing an occasional series of lighthearted blog posts looking at some of my “oh no, not again!” questions and exploring why I, personally, don’t enjoy having to respond to them.

This month sees the second question in the series: “Why Do You Write?” You can read my response to this thorny writerly issue here

27 November 2018

Giftmas 2018

This December J.S. will once again be participating in the Giftmas Advent Blog tour to benefit the Edmonton Food Bank (that's Edmonton Canada, if you're reading this in the UK).

Each day there will be a brand new story from one of the participating writers, starting with S.G.Wong on 1st December. A list of those participating is given below. J.S.'s Christmas story will go live here and on her Goodreads Blog on 7th December.



9 November 2018

Autumn Songs

This week has seen an unprecedented amount of blogging activity.

Today, Ali Jones is kindly sharing J.S's words and photos on her blog, Green Fire Poetry. In particular, J.S. muses on the poem, Song For Autumn by Mary Oliver and on her own approach to seasonal writing.

You can see and read the results here.


To see more of J.S.'s photos go to her photography blog Random Acts of Would-be Photography.