Spec the Halls: A Winter Celebration of the Weird and the Fantastic

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The Ghost of Contests Past


Newsletter Archives

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2009 - October 23, 2009 Newsletter | November 28, 2009 Newsletter | December 12, 2009 Newsletter | December 20, 2009 Newsletter | December 25, 2009 Newsletter
2008 - November 1st Newsletter | November 9th Newsletter | November 27th newsletter | December 7, 2008 | December 16, 2008 | December 24, 2008
2007 - November 23rd Newsletter | December 8, 2007 | December 21, 2007
2006 - 2006 Spec the Halls Winners | December 1st Newsletter | December 9th Newsletter | December 22nd Newsletter | January 7th Newsletter


December 25, 2009

(I didn't post this in a timely fashion because I found myself with 10 minutes on a dial-up connection during a Christmas gathering with my in-laws--email notification went out, but not much else.)



Note from the editor

Merry Christmas! (Or other seasonal holiday of your choice, handling charges may apply.)  If you're reading this email, it means I survived the perilous road-trip-into-a-Wisconsin-blizzard that I'm about to go on once I've finished drafting this email. Last time we tried this, we were attacked by deer--and we drive a small enough car that the deer could take us. Apparently I have survived! Time to count my blessings and enjoy reading some holiday speculative fiction.

Happy holidays,

Abra Staffin-Wiebe, Editor

2009 Spec the Halls Winner!

What effect would destroying a cultural icon with the galactic significance of Santa Claus have on the Multiverse? Virginia of the Multiversal Time Protection Unit is determined not to find out.
 

Zombie Elves
by Sue Penkivech


Granted, we’d encountered some odd attempts to alter the history of Earth time/space 227, but this had to be the most ridiculous yet.

“Oh come now, where’s your Christmas spirit?” Douglas asked, his eyes twinkling with amusement as he picked up his period-appropriate pipe from the end table, and pressed the button that made it give off convincing though completely non-carcinogen-containing smoke. There were limits to what even he was willing to endure in the name of historical accuracy, and to my relief authentic tobacco was apparently outside them.

Still, it was a filthy habit. “I think it disappeared the moment you mentioned “zombie elves,” I countered. Sniffing indignantly at the pipe – I was becoming increasingly suspicious that Douglas smoked it less for authenticity than because he was developing a genuine affection for the habit – I got up from my chair and paced over to the sideboard, where I poured several finger-widths of sherry into a glass. The occasion certainly seemed to call for it. Honestly. I knew the Victorian era of Earth 227 was of particular interest to historians, given the way the American Uprising of 1775 had played out, but attempting to modify it by assaulting a cultural icon with the galactic significance of Father Christmas was just too much. Moreover, given St. Nick’s practically unique status as a non-sequential temporal-spatial anomaly, rendering him ineffectual in one timeline would cause a cascade effect throughout the others, causing irreparable havoc throughout all of space-time.


Read more.

Read all recommended submissions.
Read all submissions.

2009 Spec the Halls Honorable Mention!

Medusa's Holiday
by M.M. Bergstrom


Here upon an evening dreary
Though all the world is wet and weary
I bundle up my head of snakes
To deliver all my Yuletide cakes

For legends aught to be polite
If just for one sad, starless night
The going is quite tough and slow
For snakes move poorly in the snow
Read more.

Read all recommended submissions.
Read all submissions.

Holiday Tip
Enjoy.

 Handy Links
Abra Staffin Wiebe's main webpage
Abra Staffin Wiebe's blog
Aswiebe's Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Market List
Spec the Halls Main Page - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls.html

Submission Guidelines - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/guidelines.html
Recommended Submissions - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/recommended.html
All Submissions - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/submissions.html
FAQ - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/faq.html



-
Spec the Halls: A Winter Celebration of the Weird and the Fantastic
http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls.html


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December 20, 2009


Note from the editor

It's easy to think that this is the time for a last-minute flurry of activity to get everything done before Christmas. Nope. Now is the time to relax, breathe deeply, and enjoy what the holidays bring--the wondrous, the hilarious, and the "Well, at least this will make a good story later." Patience, good humor, and a sense of the absurd is essential equipment.

As is typical at this time, I've received more submissions I'd like to recommend than the ones I've excerpted here, so go enjoy them!

Happy holidays,

Abra Staffin-Wiebe, Editor

Recommended Submissions

When new recruit Ferris arrives on a planet ruled by an abundance of chlorophyll and mysterious aliens, he finds that all he can think about is Christmas back on earth.

A Green Christmas
by Jon C. Forisha

The snow was green because damn near everything on the planet was green. It had an abundance of chlorophyll – something like four hundred percent the amount found on earth (though, as the almost unending flurry of skeptics would point out, how the devil is someone supposed to measure that?) – which is what had sent NASA’s long-reaching grubby little fingers all the way out there. So much chlorophyll that even the water was forever tinted. Padnig had been there for three years and he was still marveling at it.

“So what’s Christmas like here?” I asked, still not entirely used to the way my voice echoed inside the suit when I talked.

“Nothing like home, I can tell you that right now. The first year of the mission here, we kept up a Christmas tree for a good portion of the year. I guess it was an attempt at making the place feel more like earth, but since then no one’s really tried.”

I had heard much the same during my training, but it didn’t make it any less depressing. My father was a minister for most of his adult life, and even though I didn’t identify myself as the most active Christian, Christmas still held something special for my family and I.

“Anyway, man, you won’t be missing Christmas too much once you see the Elves.”

I had heard of the Elves, too. “Those are real?”

“Real as my kidney stones five years back, man. Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll meet them before too long.” Padnig grinned through his suit and motioned for me to follow him back to the bunker.

Read more at Spec the Halls Recommended Submissions.

Read all submissions.


Chris, having lost wife and son, tries to recreate the joy of Christmas.
A Son is Given
by Risa Wolf

Chris had never been one for Christmas celebrations. It had seemed gaudy and somehow selfish until Sarah came along. Sarah had loved all aspects of Christmas with unparalleled joy. The tinsel, the lights, the month of religious milestones, the pine smell, the cookie-baking, the red-and-green color scheme, the angels, the celebratory hymns – she had adored it all. Midnight between Christmas Eve and Christmas had been a magical time for both of them. Sarah would have finished all of her preparations, and she would kneel down in front of a bank of candles or, once they bought their house, the fireplace to sing her favorite carols. Chris, caught in the moment and struck with dumb love at the look of delight on her face, would follow along. Each time Chris had lit the next Sunday candle in the advent wreath, the memory of Sarah bending over them, her brown eyes shining, was a soft, sweet punch in the stomach.

No time for tears, Chris thought sternly, and turned back to the decorations. Everything was laid out in their boxes, all labeled with Sarah's precise block capitals, firmly taped with Chris' omnipresent duct tape. Sarah had packed away the Christmas decorations with more care than she had packed their old apartment. Once Chris had asked her what it was she liked about Christmas.
Read more at Spec the Halls Recommended Submissions.
Read all submissions.

Holiday Tips and Links

 Handy Links
Abra Staffin Wiebe's main webpage
Abra Staffin Wiebe's blog
Aswiebe's Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Market List
Spec the Halls Main Page - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls.html

Submission Guidelines - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/guidelines.html
Recommended Submissions - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/recommended.html
All Submissions - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/submissions.html
FAQ - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/faq.html


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December 12, 2009


Note from the editor

Hello, my name is Abra Staffin-Wiebe, and I think I have a problem. With eggnog. I can't help myself. I see it in the stores, enticing me with it's sweet, rich deliciousness, and I can't resist. Ah, well, at least it's only available for part of the year--and there are worse things than an "addiction" to nog.

Speaking of when things are available, remember that this weekend is pretty much the deadline for ordering gifts and being able to receive them by standard mail. Many places are also offering free shipping right now--and if it's not mentioned on their website, you can always check RetailMeNot.com to see if there are discounts available.


Happy holidays,

Abra Staffin Wiebe, Editor


Recommended Submissions

Madeline and her son found a new home just in time for Christmas. It seems idyllic, friendly, snowy, and picturesque, but the land is animated in ways that defy logic.

Snow Walker

“This town would never have been here if it hadn’t been for a trade.” Norma, the tall masculine-appearing librarian announced this over her teacup.

“Well, I suppose that’s true. Our town does owe the Indians, but at what cost?” Linda the next door neighbor sighed.

“They thought the land was cursed.” Norma explained.

Evelyn jumped in excitedly. “They said the rocks were cursed with the power to animate things. That’s how the windigos came about, you know? Animals wandering the rock quarries, picking up the energy and transforming.” Her eyebrows wiggled dramatically.
Read more at Spec the Halls Recommended Submissions.
Read all submissions.

Medusa's Holiday

Here upon an evening dreary
Though all the world is wet and weary
I bundle up my head of snakes
To deliver all my Yuletide cakes
Read more at Spec the Halls Recommended Submissions.
Read all submissions.

Holiday Tips and Links

Handy Links
Abra Staffin Wiebe's main webpage
Abra Staffin Wiebe's blog
Aswiebe's Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Market List
Spec the Halls Main Page - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls.html

Submission Guidelines - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/guidelines.html
Recommended Submissions - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/recommended.html
All Submissions - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/submissions.html
FAQ - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/faq.html



You have been added to this list by your request or because you submitted an entry to the Spec the Halls contest. Please add specthehalls@gmail.com to your contacts list to ensure that you receive emails. From now to Christmas, you will receive the Spec the Halls weekly email, containing contest news and featured submissions. You are encouraged to forward these emails in their entirety to other individuals you believe may be interested either in reading the contest entries or in submitting an entry themselves. Spread the holiday cheer...the strange, twisted, weird holiday cheer. To unsubscribe, send an email to specthehalls@gmail.com with "Unsubscribe" in the subject line.


--
Spec the Halls: A Winter Celebration of the Weird and the Fantastic
http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls.html

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November 28, 2009


Note from the editor

It's officially Christmas season! Although (most) stores have been stocking Christmas items since slightly before Halloween, now it's possible to start celebrating without the danger of feeling a little bit shamefaced about giving in to the consumer propaganda and shortchanging less profitable holidays. Hopefully this will help get you in the mood.

Happy holidays,

Abra Staffin Wiebe, Editor

Recommended Submissions

Two warriors face a black day.
The Horde

The horde stood before the gates. The old warrior’s face was etched with worry as he watched the gathering mass. All the clans had gathered for this assault, yellow, red, black, and white. They wore their varied insignia, breathing out an expectant mist at the white cold dawn as they hungrily eyed the castle.


The old warrior looked at the younger man beside him. Young Fool, he thought, you have no idea of the violence about to break through those gates!
Read more at Spec the Halls Recommended Submissions.
Read all submissions.

Some would say that it's impossible for Santa to do everything he's supposed to. But it might just be entirely unlikely.
Tis the Season to Be...
I have only a little time before my errands (it said). The cat, the collective misunderstanding of millions of high school physics students, twines about my legs while lying dead on the hearth, mewling softly. I don't count for him - or he for me - no matter how much we look at each other. He meows again, and I pour a saucer of milk for him. I'm sick of milk and cookies - a hot coffee and muhallebi would suit me better - but I keep the stuff around for the cat.
Read more at Spec the Halls Recommended Submissions.
Read all submissions.

Holiday Tips and Links
Handy Links
Abra Staffin Wiebe's main webpage
Abra Staffin Wiebe's blog
Aswiebe's Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Market List
Spec the Halls Main Page - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls.html

Submission Guidelines - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/guidelines.html
Recommended Submissions - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/recommended.html
All Submissions - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/submissions.html
FAQ - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/faq.html



You have been added to this list by your request or because you submitted an entry to the Spec the Halls contest. From now to Christmas, you will receive the Spec the Halls weekly email, containing contest news and featured submissions. You are encouraged to forward these emails in their entirety to other individuals you believe may be interested either in reading the contest entries or in submitting an entry themselves. Spread the holiday cheer...the strange, twisted, weird holiday cheer. To unsubscribe, send an email to specthehalls@gmail.com with "Unsubscribe" in the subject line.


--
Spec the Halls: A Winter Celebration of the Weird and the Fantastic
http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls.html

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October 23, 2009


Welcome back to Spec the Halls !

Spec the Halls is a contest for speculative winter holiday-themed fiction, artwork, and poetry. The holiday may be fictional or real; it may be Christmas or Yuletide as we know and love it, or it may be something much stranger.

Submissions open November 1st, and the earlier you submit, the more likely your submission is to be a featured submission! And you should submit, since this is still a relatively small contest, which means your odds of winning are good. Not that you'd be that calculating and cold-blooded, of course.

The contest guidelines remain essentially the same as last year, though the prize amount has increased. To refresh your memory, read the guidelines.

Post about this contest! Spread the holiday cheer...the strange, twisted, weird holiday cheer.

You can sign up for the weekly-ish newsletter sent from mid-November to Christmas, at the Spec the Halls website.

Or if you prefer, these newsletters will also be duplicated in an RSS feed spun off from my blog at:
http://cloudscudding.livejournal.com/data/rss?tag=specnews

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December 24, 2008

Note from the editor

Merry Christmas! (Or other seasonal holiday of your choice.) Christmas Eve for me is a time to eat traditional foods, unwrap presents, and rejoice in not having to go in to work tomorrow. My belly is full of semmel, cherrymus, and blue cheese; I have more tea, coffee, and totes than I will use for at least a year; and for once the entirely unpredictable work schedule of my day job is firmly settled. Time to count my blessings and enjoy reading some holiday speculative fiction.

Happy holidays,

Abra Staffin Wiebe, Editor 2008 Spec the Halls Winner!

The human race may perish, the stars themselves may fade and die, but what if Christmas went on and on forever?

Last Christmas by Graham Storr

It was at least a thousand years since Solvay had had toes or fingers. And now her toes and fingers were cold.

So she made her boots and gloves warmer and pressed on through the deep snow towards the house she could see across the fields. The Moon was full and the sky as clear as space itself. The snow sparkled as if sprinkled with fairy dust and the elves giggled as they played in the hedgerows. She called out with a voice that rattled the icicles in the trees but no-one heard and no-one called back.
Read more.
Read all recommended submissions.
Read all submissions.

2008 Spec the Halls Honorable Mention!

What happens when Santa and the reindeer wake up to find the human race has disappeared? He's a bit grumpy with the first person he encounters...on the Moon.

Wormhole Magic by Marianne Plumridge

There was a structure with a sharply inclined roof, all lit up from inside, and something long in the sky behind it. I looked at it for a long time, but couldn't make believable sense of it, so I turned my attention to the label. The script was so ornate, that it was even more difficult to fathom. After some minutes, I managed to decipher "T'was The Night Before Christmas".

"Who, or what, is Christmas?" I mused aloud.

Read more.
Read all recommended submissions.
Read all submissions.

Holiday Tip

Enjoy.

Handy Links

Abra Staffin Wiebe's main webpage
Abra Staffin Wiebe's blog
Aswiebe's Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Market List
Spec the Halls Main Page - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls.html
Submission Guidelines - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/guidelines.html
Recommended Submissions - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/recommended.html
All Submissions - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/submissions.html
FAQ - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/faq.html

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December 16, 2008

Note from the editor


There are only a couple of days left to submit your stories or art to Spec the Halls! Get them in while you can!

That's not the only thing you're running out of time on, either. If you want to use standard shipping and still have your presents arrive by Christmas, you'd better order them today or tomorrow! I finally finished up (almost all) my Christmas shopping online today. I'm not sure why I put it off until now--once I got started, it was pretty easy. Next up: getting Christmas cards out in time!

Happy holidays,

Abra Staffin Wiebe, Editor

Recommended Submission

A father uses technology to bring a traditional Christmas to his family, but things don't quite work out as planned.

A Robotic Christmas

by Karlton Douglas

He had agonized all the way through October and into the middle of November until he finally came upon an idea. Flicking through the channels on his Wall Screen Viewer he saw an item on the Shopping Network that caught his interest. It was a semi-Robotic Santa. It could play music, and appeared life-like, but its movements were limited to shaking hands and patting children on the head. Terence smacked himself on the head with the palm of his hand, saying, Terence you idiot, why didn't you think of this before?

Read more at Spec the Halls Recommended Submissions.
Read all submissions.

Holiday Tip

Tired of watering the Christmas tree every four hours? Afraid it's going to dry out and burst into flames? Make a hidden Christmas tree waterer (Instructables, via Lifehacker).

Handy Links

Abra Staffin Wiebe's main webpage
Abra Staffin Wiebe's blog
Aswiebe's Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Market List
Spec the Halls Main Page - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls.html
Submission Guidelines - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/guidelines.html
Recommended Submissions - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/recommended.html
All Submissions - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/submissions.html
FAQ - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/faq.html

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December 7, 2008

Note from the editor


Who says you have to wait until after New Year to try something new? There's always a glut of new people at any gym or class after New Year--and nobody expects most of them to last. Get in now and be one of the "regulars" by the time all the latecomers show up. Whetheryour New Year's Resolution will be to finally submit your book to publishers or to start exercising regularly, why wait?

In an attempt to get my novel submission process moving again, I submitted my story to Authonomy, Harper Collins' attempt at circumventing the slush pile (mandatory pimpage: Serenade of Blood & Silver). What are you going to try?

Happy holidays,

Abra Staffin Wiebe, Editor

Recommended Submission

What do the elves think of their incessant activity in making lists and enchanting toys? Do they ever long for a new society--one in which Santa and his loaded bag of goodies has no place?

Elfin Letter

by Suanne Warr

To My Comrades in the Field,

Our cause goes forward, despite recent attacks from the big man in red. The flying Reindeer manure was a great success in fighting off the Abominable Snowmen sent to oust our comrades in the barn, but that tactic will unfortunately remain a localized defense, due to problems with the transportation of sufficient amounts of manure.

Read more at Spec the Halls Recommended Submissions.
Read all submissions.

Holiday Tip

Organized Christmas has a nice collection of holiday tips and crafts, as well as a Christmas countdown.

And if you'd like to get yourself something for Christmas but don't want to spoil the surprise, try getting yourself a Something from the Something Store.

Handy Links

Abra Staffin Wiebe's main webpage
Abra Staffin Wiebe's blog
Aswiebe's Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Market List
Spec the Halls Main Page - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls.html
Submission Guidelines - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/guidelines.html
Recommended Submissions - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/recommended.html
All Submissions - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/submissions.html
FAQ - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/faq.html

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November 27, 2008



Note from the editor

I hope everybody's having a great Thanksgiving! (In case of turkey emergencies, check out the holiday tip.)

It seems like the "Christmas season" is starting earlier and earlier--I was a bit startled when I was buying fake tombstones in October and wandered over one aisle to find myself surrounded by twig and pinecone Christmas tree ornaments. It's out-of-control. Alas, this year I contributed to that. ::bows head:: I moved back the end date of the Spec the Halls contest because, well, declaring the winner after Christmas seemed kind of beside the point. Moving the start date back, however, made my "winter holiday" contest start before Thanksgiving.

And that was just plain wrong. So I won't do that again--instead next year it will be a contest that's only open for a couple of weeks, as is right and proper.

If you don't want to start your holidays until tomorrow, just wait to read Christmas stories until then. ;)

Happy holidays,

Abra Staffin Wiebe, Editor

Recommended Submissions

What happens when Santa and the reindeer wake up to find the human race has disappeared? He's a bit grumpy with the first person he encounters...on the Moon.


Wormhole Magic
by Marianne Plumridge

I've been here three months now, and I still haven't decided what my Astrogation Thesis is going to be about. Prof. Jordan harrumphs about this every time he sends a data burst - which I thankfully receive only once a week. Whenever he prefaces a sentence with 'Now then, William, it's time to make a decision…" I know the usual lecture on my future, career, commitment, and profitability, is in the offing. I'll get to it, I'll get to it, but at the moment, it's more fun just exploring the outpost and the Moon's surface. So much junk is stored here - left behind no doubt by those who wanted to keep some of history intact for future use.

Read more.

Holiday Tip

What to Do When Your Turkey Catches on Fire

1. Leave all the oven doors closed and turn off the oven.
2. Open nearby windows to ventilate the smoke. Close kitchen doors to
keep it from getting into the rest of the house, if you can.
3. Wait 5 minutes. Ovens are designed so that burning things shouldn't
cause a problem. Just keep the doors closed so you don't feed the fire
oxygen.
4. Open the oven door slightly and check to see if the turkey's still
burning. If it is, close the door and wait a few more minutes. If the
turkey's still burning after 10 minutes, *that's* when you should call
the fire department

- From the Worst Case Scenario Survival Guide, paraphrased.


Handy Links

Abra Staffin Wiebe's main webpage
Abra Staffin Wiebe's blog
Aswiebe's Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Market List
Spec the Halls Main Page - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls.html
Submission Guidelines - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/guidelines.html
Recommended Submissions - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/recommended.html
All Submissions - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/submissions.html
FAQ - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/faq.html

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November 9, 2008


Note from the editor


The first contest submissions have started trickling in! Take a look.

This week snow fell for the first time this year in Minneapolis, MN, where I live. I found this a bit dismaying, since this week is also when the leaves started falling in earnest from the giant maple tree in our backyard. All the other trees in our neighborhood shed their leaves two or three weeks earlier, but this tree's tough. I admire that, but it means that there's the all-too-real prospect of raking up mounds of leaves amidst wind and snow! On the bright side, despite the gray winter day, I have only to look out my window to see a beautiful golden carpet--of leaves waiting to be raked.

Happy holidays,

Abra Staffin Wiebe, Editor

Recommended Submission

The human race may perish, the stars themselves may fade and die, but what if Christmas went on and on forever?

Last Christmas
by Graham Storrs

It was at least a thousand years since Solvay had had toes or fingers. And now her toes and fingers were cold.

So she made her boots and gloves warmer and pressed on through the deep snow towards the house she could see across the fields. The Moon was full and the sky as clear as space itself. The snow sparkled as if sprinkled with fairy dust and the elves giggled as they played in the hedgerows.

Read more.

Holiday Tip

With the difficult economic times that seem to be upon us, some of us have smaller Christmas gift budgets than last year. Whether it's a hand-knitted scarf, candy-infused vodka, or classic cookies-in-a-jar, DIY gifts might be the way to go. And there's a lot of ideas out there!
http://familyfun.go.com/arts-and-crafts/season/specialfeature/holiday_gifts_ms/
http://lifehacker.com/software/diy/alpha-geek-diy-gifts-for-the-holidays-217225.php
http://nicholeheady.typepad.com/capture_the_moment/2008/09/homemade-gifts.html
http://notmadeofmoney.com/blog/2006/11/50-homemade-gift-ideas-from-around-the-web.html
http://lifehacker.com/tag/gift-ideas/ (gift ideas in general, but a lot of them are DIY)

Handy Links

Abra Staffin Wiebe's main webpage
Abra Staffin Wiebe's blog
Aswiebe's Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Market List
Spec the Halls Main Page - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls.html
Submission Guidelines - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/guidelines.html
Recommended Submissions - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/recommended.html
All Submissions - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/submissions.html
FAQ - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/faq.html

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November 1, 2008


Note from the editor
Welcome back! The 2008 Spec the Halls contest is now open for submissions! Go here to read the guidelines. Remember, submitting early increases the chance of your creation being a Featured Selection. Don't save your entry until the end!

It's difficult for me to believe that October went by so quickly. It feels like I just blinked my eyes and there were trick-or-treaters at the door. It seems way too early to start thinking about Thanksgiving, let alone Christmas. I just have to remind myself that thinking about it now will save stressing about it later.

Happy holidays (or at least the beginning of the season),

Abra Staffin Wiebe, Editor

Holiday Tip

If you don't want to get another holiday sweater (or a book about insects doin' it--true story!), try helping your family to figure out what to get you. Amazon.com recently improved their Wish List option by allowing you to add items from any website, not just their own. That was enough to get me to sign on! Universal Wish List.

This is also the time to make sure that those who might buy you or your family clothes know what size will still fit, as Flylady's Cruising Through the Holidays reminded me.

Handy Links
Abra Staffin Wiebe's main webpage
Abra Staffin Wiebe's blog
Aswiebe's Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Market List
Spec the Halls Main Page - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls.html

Submission Guidelines - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/guidelines.html
Recommended Submissions - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/recommended.html
All Submissions - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/submissions.html
FAQ - http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls/faq.html

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December 21, 2007


Note from the editor

Amazingly, I think I've gotten everything done that needs doing for Christmas this year--except for Christmas cookies. Cards and presents are all done. This year I did a lot of my Christmas shopping in July. Taking care of things early is a great feeling!

Unfortunately, judging by the (small) number of entries to Spec the Halls so far, not everybody took care of things early. I'm looking forward to a rush of submissions right around Christmas time!

Featured Selections

Titch
by Sheila Crosby

Titch walked up and down the washing line twice. He looked on the ground below and in the bushes behind it. Nothing.

He muttered, "There must be a one-legged thief around here. That's the third sock vanished this week." Read the rest of the story.

Holiday Tip

The Mayo Clinic has an informative Healthy Living newsletter--links that you might find useful around this time of year include Stress, Depression, and the Holidays: 12 Tips for Coping and healthy (and tasty-looking) holiday recipes.

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December 8, 2007


Note from the editor

Gifts are bought and wrapped, the house is (mostly) decorated (which means garlands over the doorways and ornaments hanging from the chandeliers), and I'm currently trying to figure out how to condense a year into a 1-page Christmas letter. Hmm. Yes, sending out this newsletter is me procrastinating!

Featured Selections

The Santa
by Gregory Bernard Banks

The pounding on the roof alerted us that he'd arrived. The legends said he returned every Christmas Eve, the hulking red menace with his accursed sack of offerings. No matter what we did, whether we begged, pleaded, threatened, or attempted to deceive, he was never deterred from coming back each year to torment our lives.

Bells rang as he strutted across the roof, his gas-bag of a belly no doubt bouncing in glee. I glanced at my wife, her yellow eyes dancing with fear, and the two cubs, who hid beneath her skirts, and I felt powerless, even impotent, knowing that I could do nothing to stop this invasion into our dark abode.

Read the rest of the story.

Abbey Green
by Jude Parsons

Every year the little wooden huts go up in the city centre for the Christmas market in Abbey Green, under the ancient sycamore tree.

And every year, when the shoppers have gone home and the streets ring with the occasional footstep of a lost traveller or late-comer, the elves creep inside the makeshift garden sheds and make toys, hats and all things Christmassy.

Read the rest of the story.

Holiday Tip

Trying to figure out what to get for that one really difficult to buy for person on your Christmas list? Take a look at Surprise.com. They've got a bunch of categories that help the process--things like "Always Cold" or "Adventurous" or "Sports Fan." And yes, I passed along this tip last year, too--but it's still good!

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November 23, 2007


Welcome back to Spec the Halls!

Spec the Halls is a contest for speculative winter holiday-themed fiction, artwork, and poetry. The holiday may be fictional or real; it may be Christmas or Yuletide as we know and love it, or it may be something much stranger.

You have been added to this list by your request or because you submitted an entry to the Spec the Halls contest last year. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, you will receive Spec the Halls emails, containing contest news and featured submissions. You are encouraged to forward these emails in their entirety to other individuals you believe may be interested either in reading the contest entries or in submitting an entry themselves. Spread the holiday cheer...the strange, twisted, weird holiday cheer. To unsubscribe, send an email to specthehalls at gmail.com with "Unsubscribe" in the subject line.

This year, things are a little bit different. There are now two versions:
* Spec the Halls Free Entry, which requires that submissions be posted online in a publicly viewable forum, and
* Spec the Halls Paid Entry, which has a small entry fee and does not require posting entries online.

This is still a really small contest, so please pass the word along to other writers, artists, and poets. We want them to share the fun, too.

Welcome back! I hope you're ready to enjoy the holiday season!

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2006 Winners


Artwork | Poetry | Fiction

Artwork Winner

See more of R. Lee's art at http://rainoerus.deviantart.com.

Star of Bethlehem by R. Lee


Click to see full-size version.

Poetry Winner

Heidi is a professional writer who enjoys surprising people. Contact her at h dot waterhouse at gmail dot com.

The Gingerbread House by Heidi Waterhouse

Come in, come in, my dears!
I haven't seen you in years.
Nice of you to visit an old lady
who is past the age of shoving
anyone into any ovens.
I know, it's terrible how I've let the place go,
although it's polite how you don't say so.
But do what you can, the firmest siding
starts to stale, and the rain sets the icing to sliding.
Are you keeping well? Good, good,
I always like to know I send only the best into the world.
Those kids too slow or dumb or trusting...
No, dear Greta, don't be dusting.
I'll die and the mice and mold and entropy will have their way,
the candy canes will come unstriped, and gingersnaps decay.
But that's life, and old age for you, and it's so nice you visited,
I understand that it's a busy season and you have to go.
Take a gumdrop. No, really! For old time's sake. I know
you'll take care of it, unlike some of those other ingrates.
Are you sure you wouldn't like some tea? Well.
Well. Have a nice season! Come again.

Fiction Winner

Three Winters and One by Michael Greenhut

A story for grown-up children

Christopher [I]

"I am dying," the snowman spoke softly. His voice, high and soft, warmed Christopher more than all of his mother's blankets. Now, that voice was cracking and melting like the snowman's white, round face � a face that would smile until it was gone. The snowman acted like most grown-ups, smiling when he was sad.

Christopher felt the same grownup sadness, but he could not smile about it, since he was only seven years old.

No. His throat felt hard and tight. He covered his mouth with blue, snow-sprinkled gloves, coughing out cold winter steam. No, no. His coughing always grew worse when he was upset. You can't die. You can't die if I put you back together. He scooped up a handful of snow, one of the few fading lumps that still covered the backyard grass. He placed it gently on the upper corner of the snowman's chest. It looked wrong, like a third shoulder.

His heart sank as it toppled back off, taking an extra chunk of the snowman with it.

Water melted down from the snowman's uneven eyes, two cuff links that Christopher had taken from his father's old suit. Even Christopher, more a believer in fairy tales than most of his schoolmates, never thought that a pair of buttons could look so sad.

"Christopher . . . " A few more flakes broke off the snowman's chest. Was he trying to breathe like a real person? "I watched you come into this world, before you shaped me with your hands, or your mind."

Then don't go!

"Don't you remember the stories your mother read you? Nobody likes countries where it's winter all the time. Nobody, except evil queens."

Then I'll be a queen some day.

The snowman chuckled.

Christopher wiped his eyes, coughing into his glove a few more times. Next winter he would be a year more grown up, which meant he would want to play with the snowman a little less. A year later, even less. And less. And less.

Christopher pulled off his red hat. The wind, a little warmer than yesterday, tickled his matted brown hair. Stupid seasons. I don't have any friends after winter. You're the only one who plays with me and doesn't throw my lunch in the girls' room, or make fun of the pom-pom on my hat, or trick me into believing things, or call me the cough-boy.

The snowman laughed like a tired grandfather, placing a gloved hand on Christopher's thin, quivering shoulder. The hand warmed him almost as much as the voice.

Christopher stopped trying to wipe his cheeks dry. At that moment he believed what his mother told him, that he'd be a little boy forever, and he hoped she was right. He didn't want grow another day, another hour, another moment. Please don't go. Or if you have to go, take me with you so I don't have to go back to school next Tuesday.

Read the rest of the story here. Return to top of page.


"Weekly" Newsletter - January 7, 2007


Note from the editor

I hope that everybody has enjoyed this holiday season to the full! The trick is remembering that every other day of the year also deserves the sort of dedicated attention to finding joy that most people save for special occasions only. The stress, on the other hand, can be left behind!

Thanks to the large volume of last-minute submissions, we have several Featured Selections this newsletter.

Featured Selections

Star of Bethlehem
R. Lee

Angelique
by Karen A. Romanko

She is a perfect creation,
platinum hair framing
pure, porcelain skin,
white satin cloak
whispering delicate contours
Read the rest of the poem.
Santa Claws
by Jess Hartley
(warning: contains mild violence)
As the sun set over the grey Pacific shore, Jake watched as one family and then another down the block began loading up into their SUVs. Some emerged laden with presents, brightly colored boxes piled high and stashed in a kaleidoscope of commercialism in trunks and back seats. Others left their homes empty handed, just bundled against the bitter cold. Their breath hung in the early winter night, visual testament to the words they tossed back and forth before sealing themselves into their luxury suburban vehicles and driving away towards the coastal highway a few blocks eastward. Finally, it was quiet, and dark, save for the ubiquitous multi-colored lights. Jake went to work.

He started with the house he'd seen folks leave from bearing gifts. While those who'd left empty-handed might have more loot still under the tree, those who'd carried presents with them were likely to remain gone longer. After more than a decade of holiday "shopping" and a few close calls, he'd got this down to a science. The fear-thrill that had once accompanied every trip was now mostly gone, which was, he supposed, a good thing. He had no desire to end up in jail, or with a record, but sometimes he missed the jolt of adrenaline he experienced when things went a little off plan.

Read the rest of the story.

Holiday Tip

Make a bunch of New Years resolutions but not sure how to help yourself keep them? A good way to help keep them in mind is to post them online on a blog or webpage and then set that as your web browser homepage. It's more difficult to forget them when they pop up in front of you daily! And if you're interested in tracking your progress, take a look at joesgoals.com. Put in as many daily or weekly goals as you like, give yourself a smiley face when you achieve them, and chart your progress over time.

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Weekly Newsletter - December 22, 2006


Note from the editor

My apologies for the delay in getting this issue of the newsletter out! I got overwhelmed by planning our Christmas travel, and then the travel itself got in the way of my getting anything meaningful done. I suspect I'm not the only one that this happens to! I hope that you are all having a good holiday season. Remember, this contest closes on Christmas Day, but you are allowed to submit once in each category. I still haven't gotten many poetry and artwork submissions--only one art submission to date, and I'd hate for anyone to win by default (sorry, eh?). So please tell friends that you think might be interested in submitting.

Featured Selections

The Gingerbread House
by Heidi Waterhouse

Come in, come in, my dears!
I haven't seen you in years.
Nice of you to visit an old lady
who is past the age of shoving
anyone into any ovens.
Read the rest of the poem at http://wiredferret.livejournal.com/1169099.html

Holiday Tip

If preparing yourself and your home for the holidays is a source of major stress for you, take a look at Flylady.net's Holiday Control Journal. Just trying to figure out what to do when your nearest and dearest considerately call to warn you of their visit a half-hour in advance? Flylady's Crisis Cleaning page will see you through it.

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Weekly Newsletter - December 9, 2006


Note from the editor

As the holidays get closer, I hope that everybody is taking time out for themselves to keep from becoming too stressed. This is supposed to be a time of joy, bright lights, good friends, and good food. Enjoy it!

Featured Selections

For Arthur
by Elizabeth Kate Switaj

Faeries have glided ice over pines
I myself have brought down stars for boughs

You have not returned
and when I think
you never will
Read the rest of the poem at http://qassandra.livejournal.com/531267.html

Holiday Tip

Hunting for last minute gift ideas? Take a look at surprise.com. This site organizes gift suggestions in categories according to what characteristics a person has, such as "Adventurous," "Always Cold," and "Unusual Sense of Humor." I've gotten some great gift ideas from this site that I never would have thought of on my own.

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Weekly Newsletter - December 1, 2006


Note from the editor

Happy Holidays, everybody! The submissions have started to come in! So far, we have a number of fiction submissions, but only one artwork submission...and no poetry to date. The beginning of a contest is always the slowest, but please encourage your friends (especially the artists and poets!) to submit their work if you think they might be interested in this contest. Enjoy the featured selections, but want more? The links at the top and bottom of this page will take you there.

Featured Selections

Three Winters and One
by Michael Greenhut

There are many stories of imaginative children whose snowmen come to life for a little while. What happens when those children grow up? Learn about four special souls, the nostalgia that haunts them and a strange task that will change them forever. Editor's comments: This is a poignant, bittersweet story about magic granted to those most in need of it.

"I am dying," the snowman spoke softly. His voice, high and soft, warmed Christopher more than all of his mother's blankets. Now, that voice was cracking and melting like the snowman's white, round face - a face that would smile until it was gone. The snowman acted like most grown-ups, smiling when he was sad.

Christopher felt the same grownup sadness, but he could not smile about it, since he was only seven years old.

No. His throat felt hard and tight. He covered his mouth with blue, snow-sprinkled gloves, coughing out cold winter steam. No, no. His coughing always grew worse when he was upset. You can't die. You can't die if I put you back together. He scooped up a handful of snow, one of the few fading lumps that still covered the backyard grass. He placed it gently on the upper corner of the snowman's chest. It looked wrong, like a third shoulder.

His heart sank as it toppled back off, taking an extra chunk of the snowman with it.

Water melted down from the snowman's uneven eyes, two cuff links that Christopher had taken from his father's old suit. Even Christopher, more a believer in fairy tales than most of his schoolmates, never thought that a pair of buttons could look so sad.

"Christopher . . . " A few more flakes broke off the snowman's chest. Was he trying to breathe like a real person? "I watched you come into this world, before you shaped me with your hands, or your mind."

Read the rest of the story at http://neoguardian.livejournal.com/404653.html

Season's Greetings
by Zvi Zaks

"Will it hurt?" Harry asked. How could anything cause pain in December, the holiday season? The streets filled with songs and bustled with happy people. But for Harry, the music was off key. Editor's comments: This story is a can't-miss for fans of The Twilight Zone.
"Will it hurt?" Harry asked.

"No. You won't feel anything. We numb a small patch of skin on the top of your of scalp with Novocain, and the rest is done under electro-acupuncture anesthesia. It won't hurt. That I can promise." The researcher spoke with the firm timbre of a man trying to end a long stream of questions by adopting a definite tone of voice.

"And your drugs and electrical currents won't change my personality?"

"Not at all. During the experiment, some perceptions and some memories will be altered. That's all. It won't change who you are or affect your driving or your ability to respond to danger..." The scientist, Peter Anders, a thin, bespectacled man with uncombed, brown hair, sighed with impatience.

Harry thought. "Will it do anything else?"

Read the rest of this story at http://home.att.net/~fiddlerzvi/greeting.html.

Holiday Tip

Those who use the Firefox browser (and if you don't--try it, you'll like it!) may want to download the Tinseltown theme. It turns your browser into a winter wonderland, as you can see from the image below. I particularly like the snowflake pattern that pops up when you use multiple tabs and the candy cane scroll bar.

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