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Midwinter Anthology, 2014

So, for a long time now, I’ve been working on getting a small digital publishing house going. Not just as a show-case for the writing work that I do, but as a place where I can help other authors and poets get their feet out there.

This is a long process. It requires building a name for yourself, and letting people submit work. It takes mostly work from myself in laying out the books, and passing the strange digital hoops that distributors ask for. Hopefully, with each edition, I get better at it, and the process gets quicker.

For those that want to have a read of it, check out the current Midwinter Anthology on Google Play.

It’s free.

Midwinter Anthology, 2014

Thai sat down, took a sip of tea, and began to write.

Thai sat down, took a sip of tea, and began to write. His pen glides over the bleech-white paper, slowly at first, letting the words form themselves. The desk was covered in similar sheets of paper, covered in scrawls, and the occasional brown ring of tea. The apartment was small and dark. The curtains had been pulled shut months ago, and now a combination of mould and dust held them in place. Thai ran his fingers through his once-short hair, and scratched his stubbled covered skin. He wanted to stop writing. He had wanted to put the pen down, but they wouldn’t leave him alone. They called to him, called him to keep writing, making their world live.
(more…)

Gender Roles in Short Stories.

Inspired by : this post on Women in History, or should I say challenged by, I took another look at short story that I written. I had chosen a male pilot, and a female stewardess. The reasons was exactly the point being made there. It was lazy writing. I didn’t need to think too hard about the back story of these two characters. I picked up a readily-available sterotype and I used it. It was lazy. The story, to my mind, is not changed very much at all by the change of the gender.

What is now the story can be found here: http://blog.valhalla.jara23.co.uk/?p=1299.

It would be helpful to see if people can read both stories and see if this gender swap really does make a difference. People’s thoughts on the matter would be appreciated!

~BX

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

The pilot looked up from his instruments to the panoramic window in-front of him. Smoke was billowing out of the left-hand engine, and the propeller turned it’s last with a grinding, juddering noise. The little EMB 120 shuddered as the second engine took up the strain. With practised ease the pilot began to ease back off the throttle, slowing the plane, letting the other engine pick up the slack. It was not the first time that he’d lost an engine in flight. He jabbed some buttons, turning off the fuel supply to the burning engine, and watched with some satisfaction as the black smoke became grey and vanished. Immediate danger over, he reached for the internal microphone, a weather eye on the instruments. “Ladies and Gentleman, there has been a small technical problem with engine one, there is no need to panic. Our ETA will now be 30 minuets later”. He replaced the microphone, satisfied. No doubt the stewardess was busy handing out peanuts and other complimentary items to take the passenger’s minds off the worrying lack of engine. They had nothing to worry about, this little plane was solid and reliable. The stick juddered in his hand, and his heart nearly stopped. He didn’t need to look, he knew in his gut that that was the feeling of the second engine failing. It took moments for him to know that there was no way he was going to survive the crash. The realisation swept over him, and calmed him. His only option now was to see how many of the passengers he could save. He pointed the nose of the plane towards the river, and tried to slow the decent.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

She was surprisingly calm considering. The movement of the air-plane suddenly downwards meant only one thing. She fastened her seatbelt like the panic and flustered stewardess demanded, and dug into her handbag for her compact. As she dabbed her face with the powder, she contemplated her life. She was single, by choice, and had a string of lovers in her past, some she remembered with fondness, some she would rather forget but they all rose unbidden to the surface of her mind. As she fixed her lipstick, she reflected that her mother’s warning that she would die alone looked likely to become true. She didn’t care. She hadn’t had to spend her life watching others lives their as her mother had done. She hadn’t had to explain every bruise or black-eye like her mother had done. She had not wasted away mourning a worthless lowlife. She had lived. She finished fixing her lipstick and dropped back into her seat. She would die alone. It was only the thought of no-one to mourn her that caused a single tear to roll slowly down her perfect, paid-for, features.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

Jonathan was sat next to the sleeping Howard. They had always joked that he would sleep through anything, even the apocalypse, and it seemed that Howard was going to do just that. Jonathan looked at the chiselled features and the mop of red hair falling attractively into his face. They had been friends since high-school. They had survived the horror of college together. They were now young, relatively successful businessmen enjoying what was meant to be a kayaking trip of a lifetime. Jonathan didn’t care for kayaking, but he wouldn’t have passed up a chance to spend time with Howard, whatever they were doing. He was infectious. He was, truth be told, the reason that Jonathan never kept a girl-friend. He wasn’t really into girls. He managed by picturing Howard’s chiselled features. It was a secret that burned in his chest, and always had, since the first time he had seen that playful smile. It really was now or never. Howard hand was limp on the armrest, and gently Jonathan took his hand in his own. The touch was electric. Jonathan squeezed the hand, trying to send all his emotions, all his late-night hoping through that single touch, before Howard awoke and snatched his hand back. Howard stirred, and Jonathan’s heart beat so loud he was sure the entire plane could hear it. Howard squeezed Jonathan’s hand, and held it, tight.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

Rupert looked at Cynthia’s alabaster face. She was gripping the arm-rests with her claw-like nails, and staring straight ahead. He could see that she was terrified. He could see that she needed comfort, and he realised that he didn’t care. They had been married for nearly 20 years, and he couldn’t remember their relationship ever being that intimate. They had married because it was the thing to do, but neither of them, really, were into any real kinds of intimacy. They had perhaps held hands about half a dozen times, and they had made the pragmatic choice for separate beds over a decade ago. They didn’t row, because they didn’t talk. They had a rota for chores, and they were done. They would come home from work, offer each other the obligatory peck on the cheek, and spend the night perusing their own individual hobbies. Sure they would attend each other’s gala lunches, but only because it would be unthinkable not too. He had never really contemplated that he had no emotion for Cynthia at all. None. Here, in what could be their last moments, he didn’t even care enough to take her hand and offer her the kind of comfort that one human being would offer another. Cynthia looked at Rupert, and he saw in her eyes the same realisation. A calm point in the storm of fear. They nodded at each other, and offered one another what they each, in turn, thought was a sympathetic smile, and both sat back in their seats to contemplate their individual fates.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

“Father, will you pray for me?”. Her soft voice broke him out of his thoughts. Reverend Ronald Buchanan hadn’t prayed for anyone for months. He had been sent by the diocese on a spiritual pilgrimage, a journey that they hoped would help him find God. Though he had to confess he hadn’t really been looking. He had mostly been site-seeing, simply trying to relax. The woman from the seat behind had come to sit next to him looking at him with pleading eyes. He had seen eyes like that on many men and women. Those that wanted something that he cannot give. They wanted a miracle. They wanted him to pray and take away the pain, to hold back death, to make the world not be the way it was. And he had prayed. He had prayed with all his strength, he had prayed night and day. He had prayed until he was weary, but never once had it made a difference. Never once had what he prayed for come to pass. “My dear… “ he began, wanting to confess his disbelief, but the words died on his lips. His hand went to his neck, the tell-tale collar was missing, he didn’t even ware a cross any more. He wanted to ask how she knew. He didn’t have his title on his passport, or ticket, or even his luggage. “Perhaps…” he thought, and shut it down. It didn’t really matter, it would be churlish of him not to. He dug into his pocket, but there was no breviary there. It was amongst the things he had joyously thrown into the sea a month ago. He took her hand, and dug into himself, looking for words of comfort. “My dear, let us pray”. He began, letting the words form themselves. He let them tumble out as he found himself voicing only that which was on his heart, words of comfort, of peace, of the surety of the love of God. It was not fear that caused his tears to fall.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

Stephanie strapped herself into the stewardess’ seat, and tried to run through the safety procedures in her head. She clung to them, her only life-raft. She had been in planes that had done emergency landings before, but never had she faced one dropping at such a rate in such a remote part of the world. The noises of the wind was oddly comforting, but that wasn’t the noise that unnerved her the most. It was the silence. In other planes, in other places, similar events had led to short panic screams, men groaning in fear, hushed and frantic whispers to others that it was, despite all evidence to the contrary, going to be okay. The entire cabin was silent, except for a soft murmuring coming from the back, the rhythmic sounds of prayer. But even that prayer was not frantic, not a call to whatever deity to save them, it was simply prayer. She didn’t know what to do with the silence, it was unnerving. She had no-one try to calm, she was being left alone with her thoughts. Her only thought was that she didn’t want to die. She was terrified of it. She opened her mouth, and screamed.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

In a Brazilian Jungle, there was a brief thunderous noise as the EMB 120 dropped out of the sky, and ploughed into the river, water spraying over the banks. The birds, startled by the sudden noise took the sky cawing wildly to each other. In a few moments, the birds had flown away, leaving behind nothing but silence.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

The pilot looked up from his instruments, to the panoramic window in-front of him. Smoke was billowing out of the left-hand engine, and the propeller turned it’s last with a grinding, juddering noise. The little EMB 120 shuddered as the second engine took up the strain. With practised ease the pilot began to ease back off the throttle, slowing the plane, letting the other engine pick up the slack. It was not the first time that she’d lost an engine in flight. She jabbed some buttons, turning off the fuel supply to the burning engine, and watched with some satisfaction as the black smoke became grey and vanished. The immediate danger over, she reached for the internal microphone, a weather eye on the instruments. “Ladies and Gentleman, there has been a small technical problem with engine one, there is no need to panic. Our ETA will now be 30 minuets later”. She replaced the microphone, satisfied. No doubt the steward was busy handing out peanuts and other complimentary items to take the passenger’s minds off the worrying lack of engine. They had nothing to worry about, this little plane was solid and reliable. The stick juddered in her hand, and her heart nearly stopped. She didn’t need to look, she knew in her gut that that was the feeling of the second engine failing. It took moments for her to know that there was no way she was going to survive the crash. The realisation swept over her, and calmed her. Her only option now was to see how many of the passengers she could save. She pointed the nose of the plane towards the river, and tried to slow the decent.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

She was surprisingly calm considering. The movement of the air-plane suddenly downwards meant only one thing. She fastened her seatbelt like the panic and flustered stewardess demanded, and dug into her handbag for her compact. As she dabbed her face with the powder, she contemplated her life. She was single, by choice, and had a string of lovers in her past, some she remembered with fondness, some she would rather forget but they all rose unbidden to the surface of her mind. As she fixed her lipstick, she reflected that her mother’s warning that she would die alone looked likely to become true. She didn’t care. She hadn’t had to spend her life watching others lives their as her mother had done. She hadn’t had to explain every bruise or black-eye like her mother had done. She had not wasted away mourning a worthless lowlife. She had lived. She finished fixing her lipstick and dropped back into her seat. She would die alone. It was only the thought of no-one to mourn her that caused a single tear to roll slowly down her perfect, paid-for, features.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

Jonathan was sat next to the sleeping Howard. They had always joked that he would sleep through anything, even the apocalypse, and it seemed that Howard was going to do just that. Jonathan looked at the chiselled features and the mop of red hair falling attractively into his face. They had been friends since high-school. They had survived the horror of college together. They were now young, relatively successful businessmen enjoying what was meant to be a kayaking trip of a lifetime. Jonathan didn’t care for kayaking, but he wouldn’t have passed up a chance to spend time with Howard, whatever they were doing. He was infectious. He was, truth be told, the reason that Jonathan never kept a girl-friend. He wasn’t really into girls. He managed by picturing Howard’s chiselled features. It was a secret that burned in his chest, and always had, since the first time he had seen that playful smile. It really was now or never. Howard hand was limp on the armrest, and gently Jonathan took his hand in his own. The touch was electric. Jonathan squeezed the hand, trying to send all his emotions, all his late-night hoping through that single touch, before Howard awoke and snatched his hand back. Howard stirred, and Jonathan’s heart beat so loud he was sure the entire plane could hear it. Howard squeezed Jonathan’s hand, and held it, tight.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

Rupert looked at Cynthia’s alabaster face. She was gripping the arm-rests with her claw-like nails, and staring straight ahead. He could see that she was terrified. He could see that she needed comfort, and he realised that he didn’t care. They had been married for nearly 20 years, and he couldn’t remember their relationship ever being that intimate. They had married because it was the thing to do, but neither of them, really, were into any real kinds of intimacy. They had perhaps held hands about half a dozen times, and they had made the pragmatic choice for separate beds over a decade ago. They didn’t row, because they didn’t talk. They had a rota for chores, and they were done. They would come home from work, offer each other the obligatory peck on the cheek, and spend the night perusing their own individual hobbies. Sure they would attend each other’s gala lunches, but only because it would be unthinkable not too. He had never really contemplated that he had no emotion for Cynthia at all. None. Here, in what could be their last moments, he didn’t even care enough to take her hand and offer her the kind of comfort that one human being would offer another. Cynthia looked at Rupert, and he saw in her eyes the same realisation. A calm point in the storm of fear. They nodded at each other, and offered one another what they each, in turn, thought was a sympathetic smile, and both sat back in their seats to contemplate their individual fates.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

“Father, will you pray for me?”. Her soft voice broke him out of his thoughts. Reverend Ronald Buchanan hadn’t prayed for anyone for months. He had been sent by the diocese on a spiritual pilgrimage, a journey that they hoped would help him find God. Though he had to confess he hadn’t really been looking. He had mostly been site-seeing, simply trying to relax. The woman from the seat behind had come to sit next to him looking at him with pleading eyes. He had seen eyes like that on many men and women. Those that wanted something that he cannot give. They wanted a miracle. They wanted him to pray and take away the pain, to hold back death, to make the world not be the way it was. And he had prayed. He had prayed with all his strength, he had prayed night and day. He had prayed until he was weary, but never once had it made a difference. Never once had what he prayed for come to pass. “My dear… “ he began, wanting to confess his disbelief, but the words died on his lips. His hand went to his neck, the tell-tale collar was missing, he didn’t even ware a cross any more. He wanted to ask how she knew. He didn’t have his title on his passport, or ticket, or even his luggage. “Perhaps…” he thought, and shut it down. It didn’t really matter, it would be churlish of him not to. He dug into his pocket, but there was no breviary there. It was amongst the things he had joyously thrown into the sea a month ago. He took her hand, and dug into himself, looking for words of comfort. “My dear, let us pray”. He began, letting the words form themselves. He let them tumble out as he found himself voicing only that which was on his heart, words of comfort, of peace, of the surety of the love of God. It was not fear that caused his tears to fall.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

Stephan strapped himself into the stewards seat, and tried to run through the safety procedures in his head. He clung to them, his only life-raft. He had been in planes that had done emergency landings before, but never had he faced one dropping at such a rate in such a remote part of the world. The noises of the wind was oddly comforting, but that wasn’t the noise that unnerved him the most. It was the silence. In other planes, in other places, similar events had led to short panic screams, men groaning in fear, hushed and frantic whispers to others that it was, despite all evidence to the contrary, going to be okay. The entire cabin was silent, except for a soft murmuring coming from the back, the rhythmic sounds of prayer. But even that prayer was not frantic, not a call to whatever deity to save them, it was simply prayer. He didn’t know what to do with the silence, it was unnerving. He had no-one try to calm, he was being left alone with his thoughts. His only thought was that he didn’t want to die. He was terrified of it. He opened her mouth, and screamed.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

In a Brazilian Jungle, there was a brief thunderous noise as the EMB 120 dropped out of the sky, and ploughed into the river, water spraying over the banks. The birds, startled by the sudden noise took the sky cawing wildly to each other. In a few moments, the birds had flown away, leaving behind nothing but silence.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

The Devil and Mrs. Durant

It was a short rap at the door. A rap that suggested it’s owner was expected, and that time was of the essence. Elenor Durant, opened the door a tiny crack. Beyond it, bathed in the yellow glow of the security light stood a small, sharp mine. His dark brown eyes sunken into his sallow face, his black hair clinging to his head depite the dryness of the evening. He had a mustach, though the collection of dispirate hairs that made it up were simply an unconnected colleciton of long hairs. His lips turned up in a smile. “Mrs Elenor Durant, I presume”. It wasn’t a question. “Or should that be Miss Elenor Durant”. He made a strange wheezing noise that shook his shoulders. “Mr P…” the man held up his hand, “no names please. Sir will do”. He flashed is seedy smile again, and Elenor opened the door. The man shuffled in, and peeled off his grubby overcoat, and placed it into Elenor’s surprised hands. Underneath he wore a baddly fitting, rumpled suit, and carpet slippers. “Where is he?” the man asked, a slight hint of some eastern accent slipping out on the r. She motioned through into the sitting room. The man pushed the door open with a pen, and made a “mm” noise. “I didn’t me…”. The man held up his hand, as his beedy eyes explored the scene before him. The simple cream livingroom had gained a new and surprising colour, blood red. Sprayed from the now deceased corps of Rodney Durant, filander, abuser, and violent ex-husband. Elenor had no idea what it was that had pushed her over the edge. They had been together for nearly 20 years, and not once had she even raised her voice to him. He had powerful friends, the kind of friends that could do terrible things with wire and electricity, or an inappropriately placed poker. She had never imagined that one day she would have to make that call.
(more…)

Hell.

They sell hell is something you carry around with you. That it is not a place. There are many people who think that they have been to hell, or are in hell. This is, perhaps, true. Though it is only, really, a pale version of hell. An idea that is part of the genius of the Devil. Part of the way in which his mind works is to convince people that he does not exist; that his role in the world is something other. The beneficent opposer, the one who has been sent by God to tempt the world, or the one who, for the want of one mistake, lost everything that he had been given. The true origins of the devil are not as simple as that. He is everything that people think he is. He has lived many lives, and has betrayed each and everyone of them (more…)

Story-Teller.

I am a story-teller. Not one of great note, and not even one with a fireplace round which I can spin my yarns, but I am a storyteller.

I can feel the spaceship under my feet, the gentle throb of the engines through the metal bullwarks, I can feel the warm summer breeze on my skin, and the sun on my furred skin, I can feel the cold and damp as it seeps into my boots. I can see each character I create, the way they move, the way they sound, the way they act. I know intimately their past, and I walk with them while they create their future.

I live with them, I mourn for them, I argue, and laugh and sing with them. I know the worlds, I know the land as it unfolds beneath a travellers feet. I can see the paint-flecked buildings, or the creating wooden boats, or the white gleaming city, and the sun dancing off the polished robots.

I can tell you a story, and feel it weave as I speak. I can build a story from nothing, and I can set fire to imagination. I know the need to write, even if it makes no sense, even if it is only a beginning, or a middle, or even, an ending.

I am a story teller. Sit awhile, and listen. Let my words transport you to a place of imagination, and let us, together, bring the world alive.

~BX

The Caller. (Unfinished)

It was late when the bell rang. The houses’ occupants looked at each other, and one heaved themselves out of a chair, and made their way to the door. He pulled it open and looked out into the damp and misty misty night into the very frightened face of a man.

“Can I help you?”
“Errr… yeah, is this where the priest lives?”
(more…)

A Man Walked Into a Bar

A Short story written for the Geek and Sundry “Let’s Write” vlog. Thought I’d give it a go

Armand was a dead man. He knew it, and frankly, it was a good way to die. The bar behind him was filled with cheers and laughter. Even the Old Storyteller, one of the Aesir, was back, entertaining children with his meandering stories.

This was the end of the world as he, and his party knew it. His small group had been the ones that had brought it about, and only just escaped. It was the reason why he was a dead man. The important thing, at least to this once-selfish mage, was that they were not.
(more…)

Death and Josephine (unfinished)

Josephine had fallen in love, and she was sure it wasn’t usuall. She had heard all her friends talk about love, but for her entire 24 years, she had never really understood. She had never truly understood that longing, that yearning, that desperate need to be close to someone. She didn’t really understand the concept of friends, seeing them only as a social convention that ensured that her time was adequately filled. To find herself, therefore, in desperate love came as somewhat of a shock.
(more…)

Dora And Velma Kick Ass

You Didn’t Ask for it. You didn’t even think it, but here it is. A short script for the AWESOME Concept of Dora the Explorer and Velma Dinkley (of Scooby Doo fame) meeting in their very own mystery, to kick ass against the notorious Dr. Edmund Vile.

This is an original script written by BlackXanthus, from an orginal idea by Ania Kovas

Dora and Velma Kick Ass

Dora the Explorer Copyright Nickelodeon.
Velma Dinkley Copyright Universal Orlando (as far as I can tell)
Original Concept Copyright Ania Kovas
Script and Idea Copyright BlackXanthus and Psi23

Spirit Journey

Nostros took the first caravan going anywhere, plying his small trade as a bandager and maker of simple herbal potions. He also offered his small skill with the sword. The bigger caravans were well provisioned with clerics and warriors, better able to protect themselves. Nostros found himself with a place with a small poor caravan, where everyone would have to take their turn walking, and all would take their turn on watch.

The destination of the caravan didn’t bother Nostros. If it was going somewhere he had no wish to go he would leave it at a suitable village, and wait for the next passing travelers that needed his services, or start walking. Destination was not important, but rather the movement. It gave him time to think. On reflection, it was better that he was doing this alone. It wasn’t until the third day did his turn to ride in the caravan come. He took it gratefully, and joined the motley collection of merchants and travelers inside the passenger caravan. There were no seats, just straw covering the flaw. People used cloaks and each other to make the rough journey as comfortable as possible. There were few smiles, these were hard people. A smile was not easily earned. Nostros smiled softly at them anyway, and found himself a space.
“I am Nostros” he said by way of introduction. “I have some small skill with potions and bandages. If anyone has any ailments, they need only ask. All treatments are free of charge.”
(more…)