Warmth, family, good cheer? Not everyone associates these things with the winter holidays. For some, it’s a time of longing and reflection. Mischief Corner Books invites authors to create stories set during the holiday season and centered on the fulfillment of a wish or desire.
Fear of Fire by Gregory L. Norris
Glass Artist Lucius Price works desperately to create a holiday symbol intended to help the town of Villatopia heal from a rash of unsolved hate crimes against gay men. When he is targeted next and his studio set ablaze, handsome firefighter Oscar Ramos rescues Lucius from the flames, creating a different kind of fire during an unforgettable Christmas.
Wonderland by J. Scott Coatsworth
Zeke is a loner his late forties, living in a small cabin in rural Montana. Nathan has been traveling across country on foot since the zombie apocalypse, dealing with his OCD in an empty world. Zeke just wants someone to love. Nathan just wants to be home again.
Fate brings them together in a winter wonderland, but their own fears and baggage may tear them apart.
Is there still hope for love at Christmas, at the end of the world?
Eve of the Great Frost by Wendy Rathbone
Remi has prepared for over a year to be the king’s gift at the annual celebration of the Eve of the Great Frost on the planet Niobe. Twelve men, taught under the tutelage of the Pleasure Master, hope to be the one (or one of several) chosen to spend an erotic night with the mysterious alien king who always wears a mask. But when Remi’s turn comes to be presented to His Majesty, everything goes wrong from a costume malfunction to breaking protocol. What happens next is a shock, and a night he will never forget
Excerpt from Wonderland:
Zeke stared up at the darkening sky from the porch of his log cabin. The clouds were rolling in over the mountains, thick as cotton. A year and four months he’d been here all alone, since he’d last seen another living human being. At forty-eight, he was resigned to the fact that nothing much was likely to change in his life from now on.
A good storm was coming—he felt it in his bones, although the winter had been unusually warm and dry so far. He’d need to haul some firewood inside the cabin and check his food stocks. He scratched at his scraggly beard as he carried in the chopped wood to lay it next to the fireplace.
Zeke lived off a combination of trout from the Clark Fork River and an assortment of canned goods from the local Grocery Surplus store, but even that vast source of food was starting to wear thin. Winter was just starting—and still not an inch of snow, though that looked to be changing quickly.
Sometimes he wished that he wasn’t the last man on Earth. He’d always been a loner. He’d lived up here on the slopes of the Reservation Divide his whole life, first with his father, and then these last ten years by himself. He’d acted on his impulses once or twice, driving down to Missoula for some big-city life in the town’s two gay bars, but he’d never found what he was looking for, and now it was too late.
It turned out that absence really did make the heart grow fonder. He wished that he had someone—anyone—to talk to. He snorted. If wishes were fishes, we’d all live in the sea—one of his father’s favorite sayings.
Maybe I should think about heading south.
The first year after the plague, he’d stayed put as it ravaged Thompson Falls down in the valley below. Even rural Montana hadn’t escaped its reach. Even so, he’d run into one of the besotted, still living a couple weeks after the end, and had blown it away with his rifle. Its blood had splattered all over his face, but he hadn’t gotten sick.
He shrugged. Someone had to be immune. Maybe I was the unlucky sod.
Zeke covered the rest of the wood with a new waterproof tarp to keep out the snow and sleet. That was one advantage of being the last man in the world—there were so many things at his disposal, right there for the taking, and he didn’t have to pay a dime for them.
He snorted. Money—such a strange, strange thing. Sometimes he would crack open a cash register in town to grab a handful of metal coins—quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies—just to run them through his hands.
He cranked up the generator out back and went into his library room to check the shortwave radio, just like he’d done every day since the plague. It was his ritual, though he’d long since given up hope.
He sat down and scanned through the bands, listening intently for anything signifying human contact. There was only static.
Zeke went back outside and sniffed the air. Cold wind whipped at his beard. Snow was coming, for sure, but he should have enough time to make it down to the market for a quick supply run before the storm began.
He checked the fuel gauge on his ATV. It was low—he should probably top off in town. The first month after the plague, when he’d deemed it safe again to go out, he’d found a way to tap the underground tanks at the old Sinclair gas station, so he had all the fuel he needed.
He strapped one of his heavy-duty canvas sacks onto the back of the vehicle and hopped on, firing her up. He took a deep breath of the cool pine-scented air and then started off down the canyon toward the empty town of Thompson Falls.
Excerpt from Eve of the Great Frost:
I stood quiet and still as instructed, my hands clasped behind my back, my head slightly bowed. The red jewels on my sleeves caught the light, winking. All twelve of us glimmered in rubies.
The pleasure master was a short, portly man with gray-silver hair tied tightly back. His black shirt was trimmed in white fur. He held a traditional leather whip, black as onyx, that he gestured with the way a conductor of an orchestra might use his baton. Since the new ways and laws came into effect, whips were for ornament only, never used for punishment.
Some said the new young king wanted to do away with slavery for good. I did not know. If it were true, why were we here tonight, clad in the Cloaks of Erotic Promise? Was it for the ritual and nothing more?
My stomach lurched at the thought. I wanted more than ritual. I wanted this night to prove to myself I had something to give. I’d trained hard and with great dedication. I longed to belong to another in pleasure, in surrender. Decadence, sensual ardor, red passion’s heat—these were things I craved. To be worthy. To be wanted. I would not have sold myself otherwise. I knew my family would be taken care of by being chosen, but honestly, I was doing this for myself.
I stood on that gold stage worried, nervous, excited. My fingers clenched to fists, something we were told not to do. The sounds of revelry began to diminish, the volume softening across the ocean of dancing, moving bodies until only the voices from the guests outside could be heard wafting on the cool breeze.
Heads turned. The celebrants looked in the direction behind me. I was not allowed to move. I could not see what was happening, but I could feel it: the electricity of his approach; the change in air pressure.
The king had made his entrance.
The air seemed to flutter about me. Light and flame, gilt and tinsel—everything glowed. The great hall seemed too small to contain it all.
I could feel his presence looming closer, a psychic weight, a change in the dimensions of reality both subtle and dramatic. Everything blurred, all heat and distant ringing of stemware and held breaths mixing with raised pulse rates, the inner hum of awe, the rustle of silks as people realized they now occupied the same space as a legend.
Every part of my being wished to break formation, to turn and look upon the origin of this catalyst of change and upheaval, this man who’d brought an end to our suffering ways.
Only my vow of discipline kept me in my place.
The pleasure master said from somewhere behind me in a voice of wavering bass tones, “Welcome, Your Highness, Emperor of Niobe, Greatest of Venerables, King Shin. I have the honor of presenting to you on this glorious evening the revered and most exotic gifts of our land, the finest and most beautiful physical representatives of our male citizens, trained in the esteemed art of exquisite gratification.”
An enthralling voice replied, “The honor is mine.”
Review by Diane: 4.5 Hearts
I’ve said it before, I like anthologies, a great way to try new stories, new to you authors as well as read stories from your favorites! For the holiday season 2016, Mischief Corner Books has released This Wish Tonight, which includes a science fiction, post apocalypse and contemporary take on holiday stories! As diverse as the story genres are, I really enjoyed it, the stories are very distinct, very well done and hard to put down!
Eve of the Great Frost by Wendy Rathbone
In a world called Niobe, there is a tradition of gifting young people who had been trained in various pleasure arts to hopefully please the gods and bring spring to a planet who had not seen spring in one hundred years. Told from the point of view of Remi, one of the young men offered to King Shin, their world does seem on the cusp of change and when all the training does not take into account a faulty robe clasp when perfection is expected on presentation, Remi is not sure he will be part of that change. For such a short read, there is a lot of detail packed into this story and while satisfying on it’s own, I won’t lie, I would have loved to read more of Remi and Shin!
Wonderland by J. Scott Coatsworth
Zeke thinks he is the last man on earth, until he finds an almost frozen stranger outside his door, are they the only survivors and if so, what now? The story is told from both Zeke’s point of view as well as Nathan’s, the man who finds his way to Zeke’s door. I really enjoyed this story, it was sweet as well as impactful because while Zeke has been alone a long time, Nathan hasn’t been as alone, but with the lack of people they have encountered, they both have to rediscover people skills! How both characters approach getting to know each other, navigating a possible friendship and how Zeke takes care of Nathan, even when he thinks he has screwed things up. I loved it, and considering how the two men ended up where they are, the story did end on a hopeful note.
Fear of Fire by Gregory L. Norris
Imagine the man of your dreams from a firefighter calendar coming alive to also be your hero? Well, that is exactly what Lucius Price gets to experience, at the expense of his studio, unfortunately! Oscar Ramos spotted a local feature on a glass artist and has been imagining him since, except, he is in the closet at work, but wonders if Lucius might be a reason to finally come out? A mostly sweet and hot romance with a bit of drama for what happened to Lucius’ studio, it is told from both Lucius and Oscar’s point of view and hey, a hot firefighter and a glass artist, what is not to like?!?
Buy Links Etc:
Publisher: http://www.mischiefcornerbooks.com/this-wish-tonight.html (info only)
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01NAEIP8C (preorder until 12/14)
ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-thiswishtonight-2181667-166.html (preorder until 12/14)
Gregory L. Norris
I am a full-time professional writer, with numerous publication credits to my resume, mostly in national magazines and fiction anthologies. A former writer at Sci Fi, the official magazine of the Sci Fi Channel (before all those ridiculous Ys invaded), I once worked as a screenwriter on two episodes of Paramount’s modern classic, Star Trek: Voyager and am the author of the handbook to all-things-Sunnydale, The Q Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Alyson Books, 2008).
In late 2009, two of my paranormal romance novels for Ravenous Romance (www.ravenousromance.com) were reprinted as special editions by Home Shopping Network as part of their “Escape with Romance” segment – the first time HSN has offered novels to their customers. In late 2011, my collection of brandy-new terrifying short and long fiction, The Fierce and Unforgiving Muse: A Baker’s Dozen From the Terrifying Mind of Gregory L. Norris is being published by Evil Jester Press. I have fiction forthcoming from the fine people at Cleis Press, STARbooks, EJP, The Library of Horror, Simon and Shuster, and Pill Hill Press, to name a few.
J. Scott Coatsworth
Scott has been writing since elementary school, when he and won a University of Arizona writing contest in 4th grade for his first sci fi story (with illustrations!). He finished his first novel in his mid twenties, but after seeing it rejected by ten publishers, he gave up on writing for a while.
Over the ensuing years, he came back to it periodically, but it never stuck. Then one day, he was complaining to Mark, his husband, early last year about how he had been derailed yet again by the death of a family member, and Mark said to him “the only one stopping you from writing is you.”
Since then, Scott has gone back to writing in a big way. He has sold more than a dozen short stories – some new, some that he had started years before. He is currenty working on two sci fi trilogies, and also runs the Queer Sci Fi (http://www.queerscifi.com) site, a group for readers and writers of gay sci fi, fantasy, and paranormal fiction.
Wendy Rathbone has had dozens of stories published in anthologies such as: Hot Blood, Writers of the Future (second place,) Bending the Landscape, Mutation Nation, A Darke Phantastique, and more. Over 500 of her poems have been published in various anthologies and magazines.
She won first place in the Anamnesis Press poetry chapbook contest with her book “Scrying the River Styx.” Her poems have been nominated for the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Rhysling award at least a dozen times.