Tuesday Toot is a semi-regular feature here. An invite-only series of short posts where writers, editors, booksellers and other creatives have been asked to share their stuff and toot their own horn. It’s hard to be seen in the digital morass and hopefully this occasional segment will help some of the quality stuff out there get noticed. It should all be things that regular readers here will find edifying.
This time, it’s Jodi Cleghorn talking about something I can really get behind. Take it away, Jodi!
Who is Jodi?
Jodi (@jodicleghorn) is an author, editor, publisher and innovator.
By day (and sometimes night), she runs the many facets of eMergent Publishing (eP), a small press dedicated to nurturing next-crop authors, editors and visual artists.
Between the cracks she chases her own characters in a blending of themes and genres best described as “dark weird shit”. Fruits of these adventures include the collaborative epistolary serial Post Marked: Piper’s Reach and Elyora (Review of Australian Fiction—special edition), a horror novella set just off the New England Highway.
She’s occasionally known to loiter at her blog 1000 Pieces of Blue Sky.
Deck the Halls: festive tales of fear and cheer, the first and most recent (I can explain) publication from eP’s Literary Mix Tapes imprint of conceptual anthologies. But first…that explanation.
The origins of Deck the Halls are bizarre, to say the least.
In December 2010 I created a shit storm on Facebook when I commented about my displeasure with the overtly Christian tone of the carols night at my son’s school. (He goes to a state school with a diverse ethnic demographic and I felt it totally inappropriate to push any one brand of religious fervour, when their Easter bonnet parade is included as a ‘cultural’ event on the school’s calendar, devoid of religious connotations).
I know, I know, Christmas is a Christian holiday… but, historically, it was many other things before the Christian’s got their pesky hands on it.
Rather than whinge—or delete the exploding Facebook thread (with people telling me, among other things, how intolerant I was)—I decided to publish a bunch of twisted, non-traditional Christmas tales. It’s apparently the sort of therapy an editor-writer-publisher seeks out in the wake of a social media implosion.
In The Beginning
The original idea was to rope nine friends into writing stories based on the lyrics of Deck the Halls (the idea of a troll for Christmas set my imagination on fire as I sat there in the hot, humid school hall!) and then publish the stories online on Christmas Eve. First, I contacted Jim Wisneski to get his blessings (I was riffing off his idea from 12 Days project) and then sent announcements out through the usual channels to see who was interested. I referred to the project as a Literary Mix Tape (a concept everyone immediately got and a name that’s stuck.)
Nine places became nineteen places, with the caveat everyone was to beta read for each other—I was too busy to edit. On Christmas Eve twenty twisted stories—rocking the dark and light side of the Christmas and New Year period—went up, one an hour, on a dedicated website. Christmas Day I made all the stories available as a free eBook.
The ideas of writing to musical prompts and cooperative submission (a term later coined by Tom Dullemond) found traction. That traction spawned the official launch of Literary Mix Tapes (as an imprint under the eMergent Publishing umbrella) and three more anthologies: Nothing But Flowers: tales of post apocalyptic love, Eighty Nine and From Stage Door Shadows [I have a story in that one! - Alan]. Two years on I am still amazed that of all the ideas I’ve had over the years, this was the one that garnered the most enthusiasm. Many of the cornerstones of the LMT imprint, and the way each anthology is released, can be directly traced back to that very first Christmas adventure.
I felt the original authors deserved to see their stories in a paperback, so I rebooted Deck the Halls in 2011, opening ten (then twelve) new places in the anthology. Andrew McKiernan offered to do the front cover (based on Susan May James’ chilling story, “Bosch’s Troll”). This Thursday (6th December) a revised, revamped, extended and fully edited edition of Deck the Halls goes on worldwide sale as Deck the Halls: tales of festive fear and cheer.
DECK THE HALLS traverses the joy and jeopardy of the festive season, from Yule to Mōdraniht, Summer Solstice to Years’ End. The stories journey through consternations and celebrations, past, present and future, which might be or never were.
Along the way you’ll meet troll hunters, consumer dissidents, corset-bound adventurers, a joint-toking spirit, big-hearted gangbangers, an outcast hybrid spaceship, petrol-toting politicians, mythical swingers and a boy who unwittingly controls the weather.
Heart-warming and horrifying, the collection is a merry measure of cross-genre, short fiction subverting traditional notions of the holiday season.
At under $20 for the paperback (or $4.95 for the eBook) it’s a brilliant stocking stuffer or Secret Santa present. Better still, treat yourself to a copy and use it as an antidote to everything irritating, painful and nauseating about the holiday season.