Friday, 28 December 2012

Bookends


My plan this year was to make myself write again, and to focus on submitting / sharing something each month to another website / blog or competition. Eventually the novelty of that wore off a bit, but I did keep writing, and have properly remembered how much I enjoy it. Need it in fact. Buoyed up on this little cloud of positive optimism, I fleetingly decided to make next years blog one of those 365 ones, where there's something new everyday. But then I remembered I still have to spend time with my family and go to work. "Maybe sometimes more than once a week" is my resolution. In many areas of life.

My wee personal highlights this year would be winning a signed copy of Meaning of Liff from John Lloyd for writing a new liff, having a story printed in the clockworks anthology, getting some Harry MacArthur material onto the comedy unit podcast Rough Cuts and getting to write a piece about Favourite Places for the Scottish Book Trust blog.

The most viewed piece on the blog though was my Wind in the Willows / War of the Worlds mashup. And my favourite search engine query which somehow brought someone or some robot to the page was "dog food murder".

But my absolute favourite things from this year were doing a story tweet for the awesome 3hundredand65 twitter graphic novel and working as part of the team on the Identity Graphic Novel project.

Kinga shinnen when it comes, and, at the years end, a final wee poem.


I am a casket of in jokes,
Of pot shards poorly glued.
A box filled with spent matches,
A subscription not renewed.

Blotting paper damp with ink,
Stained glass weathered back to sand.
Snow falling onto streams,
I am the ever open hand.


Saturday, 22 December 2012

Shocking Chillers



Earlier this year I contributed a text story to the smashing small press horror comic Hallowscream. Myself and Andy Lee have a strip in the Scary Christmas Special as well. The first two pages are below, you can read the rest this December via The Theatre of Terror.

It's based on a story I recorded a few Christmases ago. The strip will also appear in a slightly different format in next year's Tales of the Oak comic...
Here is Bjork's version of a traditional winter song about the Jolasveinar...




And quite frankly any excuse for my family tale of terrifying winter fun from last year...Santa's Little Werewolves....





I've been sharing festive and winter stories all month here and on the Tales of the Oak blog. It's my favourite time of year for writing and telling stories. But I'm actually supposed to be maybe possibly moving house this week, just in time for Christmas, and I've honestly run out of steam. Here's a well intentioned selection of links in place of anything else new this year, just in case yer still in the mood, and feel like gorging on wintery folktales, fables and festive fear.

Alice's Winter Wonderland Christmas

A tale of unease featuring Master Mariner Para Handy

A Christmas message from Councillor Harry Macarthur

Another comic strip of festive terror The Green Oak Trees

A lost chapter from Wind in the Willows in which badger and mole talk Mithraic worship.

Midwinter fables featuring robber wives, christmas present quests and scary rabbits.

My thoughts on the ancient practice of trying to ruin Christmas for everyone in Midwinterfestivusmas

Or if you'd rather not be bothered with all that sort of nonsense, here instead is a specially selected wee Christmas playlist of alternative classics. I picked them just for you.

Feliz navidad.
xx


Thursday, 13 December 2012

Midwinter Fables - The Silver Snowflake



There once was a boy, a good boy, but a poor boy, and with winter celebrations approaching, he had no gift to give his mother, and no way of buying one.

He walked up onto the hills behind his village and watched the snow fall onto the trees and rooftops below, holding out his hand to catch the flakes as they fell.

And then a snowflake floated gently onto his hands…and did not melt. The boy waited, wondering if perhaps his hands were now to cold to warm the snow, but the snowflake did not melt. Gently, he picked it up between his fingers to look at it more closely; it was cold, but felt more like steel than snow. And it would not melt.

The boy realised that he could give the snowflake to his mother as a gift, but now that he had the snowflake, he wondered if Wayland the Smith would be kind enough to hang it on a chain for him.

The boy went to see Wayland the Smith and showed him the silver snowflake.
“I’d like to give this to my mother as a gift.” he said “Could you hang it on a chain for me?”
“That’s a very nice snowflake.” said Wayland “I like how it doesn’t melt. Of course I could hang it on a chain. That would be one gold coin.”
“I have no money.” said the boy “Is there any way I could do some work for you to help pay?”
“Well,” said Wayland “You could run me an errand. Below the mountains, lives Rathsvith the Dwarf. And he has in his armoury a mighty hammer which I would very much like to have in my smithy. If you get him to give you the hammer, I will give you a chain for the snowflake.”

So the boy wandered up towards the mountains and then down the hidden ways into the caves beneath the world. And he found Rathsvith in his armoury, sharpening one of his axe blades.
“Hello Rathsvith.” said the boy “I’m on an errand from Wayland Smith who says that you have one of the finest hammers in the world…he would very much like that hammer for his smithy.”
“Hah!” said Rathsvith “I bet he would! And what would I get in return for this gift?”
“Well,” said the boy “is there anything I could help out with? I was once a Page and know my way around an armoury.”
“Hmmm.” said Rathsvith “I’ve no need of a Page Boy. But do you see that old treasure chest in the corner? That chest was given to me by my grandfather, but the key was stolen by a Selkie who now lives in the river. If you get me that key, I’ll give you my hammer.”

So the boy followed the cave streams out from under the mountains and down to the river. He stood by the rivers edge and called out to the Selkie (though he was careful not to stand too close as he knew how they liked to drag children down into the dark waters)
“Yes?” said the Selkie “What are you bothering me for?”
“Hello Selkie.” said the boy “I have just been speaking to Rathsvith the Dwarf and he was wondering if he could have the key for his grandfathers treasure chest back.”
“You mean this key?” said the Selkie, who was wearing it as a charm. “And why should I do that.”
“Well” said the boy..
“Come a little closer, I can’t hear you properly.” said the Selkie.
“No if it’s okay, I’ll just stay here thanks.” said the boy. “If you give me the key, maybe I could do something for you? But without coming any closer to the river.”
“Clever boy.” smiled the Selkie. “There was a song I used to sing, many years ago now, all the children loved my song. That song was stolen from me by the Banshee. I have no idea why, she has a terrible singing voice. If you get me my song back, I will give you the key.”

The boy followed the river all the way down to the woods by the castle keep and waited, for he knew the King was very ill. That night, the Banshee howled for the King, and when she had finished, the boy went to speak to the hag.
“Hello Banshee.” said the boy “I was speaking to the Selkie this morning, and she was asking if you had finished with that song you stole from her?”
“Was she indeed? No I am not finished with that song. I sing it most beautifully.”
The Banshee screeched and howled for a few moments to prove her point.
“Very nice.” said the boy. “But you sound as if you are maybe getting a bit tired of singing it. Maybe I could trade you for something?”
“Perhaps.” sighed the Banshee. “There is one thing I have always wanted, and that is to see the sun rise. I am tied to the night time. I would dearly love to see the day.”

The boy walked to the edge of the horizon, and by the time he got there, The Sun was just rising.
“Good morning!” said the boy “I wonder if I could ask you a favour. I have a friend who can only come out at night, but would very much like to see you.”
“I’m not allowed to come out at night,” said The Sun, “Not any more. Once, long ago, I could dance around the world with The Moon, but it’s been so many years since I have seen her. I would love to once again kiss the Moon. If you could bring her back to me, then it would be night time in the day.”
“Who could help me move The Moon?” asked the boy.
“Only the Moonwitches.” said The Sun.

So the boy rowed out to the islands where the Moonwitches lived, but when he arrived, there was only one witch, sitting there, alone.
“Hello Moonwitch.” said the boy “Where is everyone else?”
“All my sisters have passed on this last year. It’s just me now. Me and The Moon.”
“Talking of The Moon,” said the boy “I wonder if you could help me. I was talking to The Sun, and he misses The Moon. I wonder if you could move The Moon so he could see her.”
“It’s much too hard for me to do that on my own. I’ve grown tired and sick since my sisters passed.”
“Well…they say laughter is the best medicine, so if I could make you laugh, would you move The Moon?”
“I would do anything to laugh again.” sighed the Moonwitch.

The boy knew just where to go, back down in the valley, there lived a very Old Joke.
“Hello.” said the boy. “I know someone who would love to hear from you.”
The Old Joke was delighted as he hadn’t been heard in years.

The boy sailed back to see The Moonwitch.
“Hello again.” said the boy. “Why wouldn't the lobster share his toys?”
“I don’t know.” said The Moonwitch, 'Why wouldn't the monster share his toys?"
“Because he was shellfish.”
The witch laughed, because it really had been a very long time since she'd heard a joke, and then pulled down The Moon for The Sun.

The Sun kissed the Moon and they both shone in the sky.

The Banshee came out in the moonlight, and saw The Sun shining brightly, so gave the boy her song.

The Selkie took her song back and she sang it beautifully, then carefully passed the boy the key.

Rathsvith took the key and opened up his treasure chest (which had a picture of his grandmother inside that made him smile and cry). He gave the boy the hammer.

And Wayland took the hammer and made the boy a chain for the silver snowflake.

The boy gave the silver snowflake to his mother and she wore it every winter.

And then one day she gave it to the boys daughter, Who gave it to her daughter. Who gave it to her daughter. And so on down the years.

And the snowflake never melted.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Midwinter Fables - The Wishing Mirror



The first snows had fallen, and as Christmas was on the way, the Robber was out looking for a gift for his wife.

He had passed three little houses so far, but everyone was still awake, singing and drinking mulled wine. He was beginning to worry that he wouldn’t be able to steal anything for his wife at all, when he saw a little house by the trees all hidden in darkness.

The robber peered quietly in through the windows, no one was home. He carefully opened the door and sneaked into the house. It was a very bare house, with not much to steal, but just as he was about to leave and try somewhere else, the robber noticed a little mirror lying on the table. Thinking that would be ideal for his wife, he snatched it up and ran out of the house.

What the robber did not realise, was that this was the house of Old Mab, the witch. The mirror was to be a gift for her niece. It contained three wishes. When Mab returned and found the mirror stolen, she cursed the little mirror, and the thief, and then sat down at her fire to wait.

On Christmas day, the robber gave his wife the mirror and she was very pleased.

A few days later, she stood by the window admiring herself.
“If only my eyes were as dark as my hair.”
And at once, her eyes turned black as coal and all the world around her was in darkness. Cursing and blinded, the wife threw the mirror out the window into the river that ran behind her house, and it was carried away down stream.

The poacher was out that day, and as he stood, stealing fish, he saw the mirror come floating by. The poacher was not popular at home at the moment, as his wife did not appreciate the trout he had given her for Christmas. “This will fix things!” he thought.

So the poacher took the mirror and gave it to his wife that evening over supper. She was so delighted that he got two helpings of pudding.

A few days later the poachers wife was walking home, admiring herself in the mirror.
“If only my nose were as small as my feet.”
And at once, her nose shrunk back into her face until it was not there at all.
The poachers wife threw the mirror into a field as she ran past shrieking.

There was no pudding that night.

Later that night, the horse thief was out in the fields, having very little luck with so many horses stabled for the winter. As he wandered, he found the little mirror. The Horse Thief had not only forgotten to get his wife a gift for Christmas, but had also forgotten that it was her birthday a day later. “She will certainly like this mirror!” And so she did.

A few days later, she stood admiring herself in the mirror.
“If only my lips were as red as my cheeks.”
And at once her lips grew a dark, angry red, drawing all the blood from her face and leaving her pallid and weak. The horse-thief’s wife no longer had the strength to hold the mirror, and she dropped it. As she did, a crow flew in through the window and caught it. And the crow knew just what to do.

Old Mab sat by her fire and smiled as the crow flew in with her mirror. She gave the Crow some crumbs from her Christmas Cake. The she wrapped the little mirror with a slice of cake, and walked down to the village to see her niece.

Love’s greatest gift is to see that love reflected. That is something which cannot be stolen.