The Universe is Waiting

At birth we are given a roadmap:
goals and dreams to add to as we age,
each step changing the landscape into
something we might not recognize later.

Obstacles rise to greet us, what we become tied to our
ability to navigate the wilderness of our destinies, even the
branches that build new maps in unknown territories,
to recognize different dimensions in the lands
of what could have been and what must never be.

Passionate volcanos burn bright and hot,
lava-filled and waiting to erupt before fading
into the background of what was and falling into the
event horizon so new ones can rise up from the bones of nothing.

And still, the Universe is patient.

She waits for each of us to reach our treasure, never bothering
to ask if that is what we need. Assuming, instead, that the brightly held “X”
is the inevitable conclusion to each breath that passes through
our lungs.


She is Four

She is four, she leans back in the swing kicking her legs out and then pulling them back as fast as she can pump her muscles. The movement rocks her whole body until the swing begins to shakily fly through the air. The higher it moves, the better she gets it under control until she is gliding through time and space, her eyes narrowed against the rush of wind on her face. She continues climbing until her toes are pointed skyward at the apex of the swing’s curve; her hair flying behind her in soft golden tendrils.

I wonder if she will ever know how deeply I love her. I’m watching her from the corner of the window right now, carful to not let her see. As much as I want to run out there and make sure she is okay, I can’t. She needs to know that I trust her, she needs to learn how to play and explore on her own. After a few minutes she stops swinging and convinces the dog to play tag.

I’m still watching, and my heart is breaking a little. She is so happy, she is having so much fun, and one day this will pass. Time is a cruel mistress: unstoppable and relentless. Through my daughter’s antics in the backyard I can remember the past as vividly as if it were the here and now, and I can see the future as it unrolls before us.

She is my heart living outside my chest, my living time capsule, my world. I have to walk the careful line between being her friend and her mother, between guiding her on her way and setting down rules.

It is night now, and she’s sound asleep on her pillow, one hand wrapped around her stuffed Pete the Cat and the other arm thrown off across the bed. I run my hand along her cheek and brush the hair back from her sleeping face. She looks so peaceful, her face reminding me of when she was a baby. My arms ache to hold her like that again, to bundle her up and press her skin to me. I kiss her forehead and leave the room, and for a moment I swear I can feel the time slipping by: seconds, days, weeks, years.

An eternity of stolen moments, her body gliding back and forth through the air, her soft laughter, her eyes.

Gingerbread Houses by S.L. Saboviec

Hello, everyone! My name is S. L. Saboviec, and I’m an SFF author. I’m excited to be part of Rhonda’s Giftmas blog tour, and I’m so glad to be here today on Kristina’s blog.

When I was growing up, my mother used to make miniature gingerbread houses.

She had a real assembly line going—at one point, she was making a couple hundred every Christmas. She would give them away to friends and relatives or sell them to my dad’s coworkers and at the church Christmas bazaar. People would go crazy over these things:

I’m sure you can see why. They’re 100% edible and 200% adorable.

A few years ago, I decided to make them myself. The picture above is my attempt in 2011. They turned out pretty well, but they were a lot of work. It takes three days to make them because you have to leave a day for drying between each of three steps. However, if you’d like to embark on some fun Christmas craftiness, here’s how.


Baking ingredients & assorted candies

Large mixing bowl

Cookie sheets



Mixer (Hand or bowl)

Sealable tupperware or bowl & wet cloth

Icing bags

Cake decorating tips (#4 or #5, #18)


Seriously, more patience




2 2/3 cups flour

1/8 tsp. salt

2 tsp. ginger

¼ tsp. allspice

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

¾ tsp. cinnamon

1 cup butter

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup molasses

This recipe makes 8-9 houses.

Sift together flour, salt, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Cream together butter, brown sugar, and molasses. Gently blend flour mixture into butter mixture well. Chill at least 1 hour or overnight in covered bowl. Roll out on generously floured board to ¼ inch. (Note: Cookies must be thin so they dry stiff and the houses hold their shape.)

Cut into shapes, and bake on greased cookie sheet at 350 degrees about 7 to 10 minutes. Let cool slightly on pan before removing to wax paper. Let dry out on countertop overnight.



Make cardboard templates and cut from rolled-out gingerbread with a sharp knife.


1 x round base = 4 inches diameter

2 x Five-sided end pieces:

Bottom = 2 1/2 inches

Height of sides = 1 3/4 inches

Height to the peak = 3 3/16 inches (approx)

2 x Side pieces:

Bottom = 1 7/8 inches

Height = 1 3/4 inches

2 x Roof pieces = 2 inches x 2 inches



3 large egg whites at room temperature

½ tsp cream of tartar

1 pound or 4 ¼ cups powdered sugar

This recipe makes about 2 cups royal icing.

Combine egg whites and cream of tartar in large bowl. Beat at medium speed until frothy. Gradually add powdered sugar, mixing well. Beat for 7 minutes until dry enough (stiff).

Keep covered in Tupperware or with wet cloth at all times or it will dry out around the edges and top.

Glue houses together with Royal Icing. Use cake frosting tip #4 or #5 for gluing pieces together. Let dry overnight.


After 24 hours, use fresh & stiff Royal Icing again to add assorted candies to decorate. You can use whatever you want, but here are some suggestions.

Front – Tin-foil wrapped chocolate Santas

Front step and side “windows” – Smarties (US) / Rockets (Canada)

Roof – M&Ms or Reese’s pieces

Chimney – Tootsie roll cut in half

Fence around the outside – Red hots (For the picture above, I cut up a multi-colored gummy thing because I couldn’t find them.)

Front and back “window” at the top – Jujubees or gumdrops

Use cake frosting tip #18 for squiggling “snow.” Let dry overnight again.



Each house can be bagged up. They can be eaten or kept for years in the freezer to be used as decoration.

It’s a lot of work, but a fun family tradition. Enjoy.

Thank you, Kristina, for having me here today!


About Me:
I’m an author whose dark, thought-provoking science fiction & fantasy contains flawed, relatable characters and themes that challenge the status quo. My first release, Guarding Angel is available at several major eBook retailers and on Amazon in paperback: Kindle | Kobo | Nook | Google Play | Paperback (Amazon) | Goodreads. The sequel, Reaping Angel, will be released in spring 2016.

You can also follow me on social media: Twitter | Pinterest | FaceBook | My newsletter (No spam!).

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“A Million Pieces” By Rhonda Parrish

In exactly one week I have the pleasure of hosting Kristina on my blog. What’s more (Spoiler!), she’s going to be sharing a bit of Christmas flash in that post. Since she is sharing a story on my blog I wanted to return the favour on hers.

Every year I participate in Loren Eaton’s Shared Storytelling: Advent Ghosts. So far I haven’t figured out what I’m writing for this year’s (good thing I have a few days left!) but I am quite fond of the piece I wrote for last year’s. This story has been described as ‘heartbreaking’ and ‘haunting’, which is my way of warning you, this isn’t a happy little holiday tale, but I hope you like it!

A Million Pieces
by Rhonda Parrish

They say it’s the things which drove you crazy that you miss the most. I never much believed it myself. Not until I lost you.

It’s been a year now. And what a year. A year of rehab and therapy, lawyers and courtrooms. A year of firsts.

My first surgery. First steps without my walker. First birthday without you. First day back in our apartment, alone. First night—

So many things you could have counted. So. Many.

It used to frustrate me so much, your counting, but my love was deeper than my irritation so I stayed. Stayed though you counted every Cheerio in your bowl. All the bowls in the cupboard. Every spoon.

I loved you enough to stay though you counted your pills six times a day. And when you stopped taking them? I stayed then too.

I spent our last Valentine’s Day dressed up, crying and watching you crawl across the floor in your suit picking up each Q-tip from the Costco-sized box I’d spilled and counting, counting, counting.

I stayed through all that, yet you let a drunk driver tear you from me. One. One car. One driver. One crash.

Christmas was always your favourite holiday, and I’m celebrating in style in honour and remembrance of you. I’ve baskets full of Christmas balls scattered throughout the house, festive decorations, and the tree is up and decorated. I think you’d approve. The lights twinkling on it are reflected in the glass globes which adorn it and nearby the fireplace snaps and pops. Outside, snow is falling, piling up in the corners of our windows, and my want for you is so intense it’s nearly a physical thing.

I stare out at the city. From this high all I see is a sea of lights piecing the darkness. Like stars.

I look up, then, expecting to be disappointed; star-watching and snowfall so rarely go together, but through a clearing in the clouds, just to the left of the moon, one star gleams. It’s super bright and though I don’t know its name or if it’s a part of a constellation, I’d bet it’s one sailors use to navigate. To find their way back home.

I close my eyes.

I make a wish.

When I open them, something has changed. Not outside. The moon and star are still there, snow still falls and below steams of red taillights still move alongside the blue-white of halogen headlights.

I shift my focus from beyond the window, to its glass. The change is in here. With us. The window reflects the room back at me. Tree, fireplace, me…and you.

Your reflection is as solid as mine. Distorted ever so slightly by the flaws in the glass, but distinctly you. Your shaggy hair. Your hipster glasses. Your mouth which moves, your voice I hear.

“I missed you—” You reach for me. You reach for me and I panic and grab the basket of Christmas balls from the window ledge beside me. The wicker is hard against my fingers, unforgiving. I turn it upside down, pour out the balls which tumble over one another, and onto the floor.

You stop. Your graze drops to the floor, then back up to mine, reflected in the window.

“I—” you begin, then stop and chew on the corner of your pinky finger’s nail. My chest clenches at the sight, so familiar.

Your indecision is a vacuum sucking all the air from the room, slowing the tick-tock of the clock on the mantle until each sound is a long, drawn-out scream. I can’t move. Can’t breathe. My eyes burn, but I cannot cry.

“One,” you say, kneeling down and disappearing from my sight. “Two—”

I exhale. The grip on my chest loosens and the clock resumes its natural rhythm.

“Three, four…”

How many balls were there? A dozen? More?

Too few. Too few.

I step back and white heat rips through my heel as the ball crunches beneath it.

Blood stains the milky glass shards, drips from my foot to the hardwood. You reach for a piece, a shard, “Five, six, seven…”

A sob catches in my throat and I snatch a ball from the tree. It’s blue and glittery, the surface rough against my palm. I remember picking it out with you in the antique store we stopped at on our way home from the local theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol three years ago. You’d grinned at me then, so big I could see the gap between your bottom teeth, and your eyes shone with love. It was a perfect moment in a perfect day.

How many more of those days could we have had?

“Eighteen, nineteen, twenty—”

How many were stolen from me?

“Twenty-four, twenty-five—”

…from us?

“Twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine—”

I hurl it with all my strength so it shatters. I rip the next from the fir’s branches and smash it too. And the next, and the next.

I scream out my anger. I sob out my sorrow. My blood mixes with the fragments of memory spreading across the floor and woven through it all, your voice. Implacable. Counting.

“Three thousand four hundred and two, three thousand four hundred and three—”


Bio: Rhonda Parrish is driven by a desire to do All The Things. She was the publisher and editor-in-chief of Niteblade Magazine for eight years (which is like forever in internet time) and is the editor of several anthologies including, most recently, Scarecrow and B is for Broken.

In addition, Rhonda is a writer whose work has been in publications such as Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast, Imaginarium: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing (2012 & 2015) and Mythic Delirium.

Her website, updated weekly, is at


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Mark’s Story

He drummed his fingers on the Formica counter, trying to find just the right phrase to put in the letter. This, after all, was going to be the turning point. This was going to be the day that he solidified his relationship with Lucy. This was going to change everything.

Unrequited love may have been something that Shakespeare wrote about, but this was different. This was his life, not some sixteenth century drama. When he thought of the perfect way to express this, he put the pen on the paper and scribbled it out, his hand moving across the paper as fast as he could to not lose his concentration. This was his latest attempt at getting everything down on paper, on getting it written out correctly.

Just as he was about to move over and dump the stale coffee into the sink the news flashed to a story about the special anniversary of the singer who had disappeared. Mark snatched up the remote and turned up the volume, checking to see if they had any new findings on the woman whose voice he had adored.

“…vanished without a trace on her way home from getting gas. Tonight it has been three years since anyone has heard or seen Shelly Green. If you have any information on this case, please be sure to contact the authorities using the special hotline number on the bottom of the screen.”

While she was speaking of the disappearance the broadcaster’s face was drawn and serious, but in the instant when the story shifted over to the children’s art festival her face transformed into a large wide smile, the trauma of the missing singer gone.

Life moves on. He thought, folding the paper up and tucking it into the envelope. He made sure that his shirt was tucked in and that his hair was combed. He knew that presentation was half of the battle to gaining her attention.

On the way to her he made sure to run the truck through the wash, the warm soapy water closing him off from the outside world. He leaned back against the headrest of the truck and thought about the letter in his pocket. He had memorized every line and now replayed it in his head imagining how it was going to go and what he was going to do. He liked to be prepared for every eventuality.

Twenty minutes later he was pulling up in front of her house, his sweaty palms gripping the steering wheel. This was his last chance. He knew that if she didn’t respond to him tonight that it was never going to happen, that he would have to move on.

He didn’t want to, but it was truly in her hands now.

When he got to the door he could see her sitting on the couch through the window, waiting. She was always dressed so perfectly, her long blonde hair fanned out to frame her face. When he stepped on the porch it creaked and she looked over at him and waved.

Waving back, he thought about the first time he had found her, stranded on the side of the road, trying to get help. The cell signal on these back roads was spotty, and he knew right away that he had to help her. Since then he’d been visiting her regularly.

Tonight they sat on the couch as usual, her palms pressed together and her knee slightly bouncing in anticipation. In the time Mark had known her he was always left a little breathless when they were together and he loved to sit next to her and soak up the scent of roses that seemed to seep out of her pores.

He was not sure what to say to her, but he knew that she understood because she never seemed put off or upset when he came around.

Mark sighed, this was his last shot though, he’d promised himself that if he didn’t work up the nerve to ask her to marry him this time then it was never going to happen. He wasn’t sure what he was so worried about; he knew that she would probably say yes. They spent all of their free time together and neither of them were seeing anyone else.

In fact, Lucy was almost a hermit. He wasn’t sure that she ever saw the outside of her cabin, let alone anyone else. While he wanted to do some grand gesture to let her know how he felt, instead he took the letter out and slipped it under the edge of her hand.

Smiling, she took the letter and opened it, her eyes slowly reading over the lines as he waited. Mark could feel his chest tightening and the blood pumping through his body was doing so with such force that small stars lit up the corner of his vision.

He didn’t know that he had ever been so anxious for a response.

Looking down, he fished the ring from his pocket and put it firmly in the palm of his hand, clasping his fingers around the band and pressing it deep into his flesh. When he looked back up he saw that she was staring at him, her dark blue eyes churning.

“Of course I’ll marry you, Mark.” I’ve always wanted us to be together forever.

He heaved a giant sigh of relief and handed her over the engagement ring. He thought about getting down on one knee, but he didn’t want to fall over or do something foolish to ruin the moment.

He held his breath, waiting for her to laugh at his clumsy proposal, but instead she just smiled sweetly and took the ring from him.

After a moment, she stood up and tried to grip his hand, “Come here, I want to show you something.”

“What?” he asked as he rose, pulling his shirt down and wiping his palms against the fabric before slipping his hand back into hers.

“You’ll see.” She whispered, and Mark walked through the room into the back of the house. In all his visits he had never gone to the back of the house. It was were the bedrooms were, and he knew how important waiting was for Lucy. She’d mentioned it more than once.

In his mind he wondered if because he had proposed now would be the night when they would finally be able to be together. He smiled to himself.

“I want you to see what forever looks like.” Lucy put her hand on the doorknob and looked at him one last time. “You ready?”

Mark nodded and took in a deep breath, and he was still inhaling and envisioning their night together when she pushed the door open and stepped to the side.

When he looked up he almost choked on that breath as he struggled to push the air back out in a solid scream. In front of him was a woman shackled to the wall. Her head hung limply against her chest and her blonde hair was matted with clumps of dried blood. He backed up a step, and tried to turn only to find himself falling.

A heavy object landed its first blow against his head, and then that pattern was repeated three more times in rapid succession. The last thing he could see through red tinged lenses was the woman’s face as she looked up and tried to call out to him, her gaunt features pulling tight against her cheekbones as she screamed. But he could hear none of it.

As the darkness sank down over him, he realized three things. One was that the woman had chunks of flesh missing from different points in her body, some of them healing at different rates so that it looked like this was an ongoing thing.

The second was that he had found the missing singer.

The last thought he had as he struggled to pull himself away from Lucy’s beating was how often he had eaten steak at her house.

She leaned over him, the soft scent of her floral shampoo now clogged his nostrils and he pushed himself away from her.

“I promise you forever,” she whispered as she leaned back and raised the pan above her head one more time.

“Oh no…” he managed to mutter to himself as world faded to black.


Warm Mudbath

Summer on the plains
with only the monotonous sunlight.
Thick heat seeped into our pores,
relieved by wind
and the occasional skinny dip
in the shaded river.
The only things to see our twinkling skin
were the turtles,
but they never said a word.
We laughed and played
as the mud-red
water washed away the
heat between us.

Vascular System

He looked up from his biology book and asked me with an earnest face why they had two different names for the circulatory system. I told him that the vascular system was more outdated, but that it was harder to scrub something from years of references in textbooks so they still reference it.

“But isn’t the vascular system in plants too? That’s crazy.”

I nodded and continued cutting the vegetables for dinner, sliding my knife easily through the carrot as we talked. “It may be, but you should never underestimate the level of crazy that one can experience when dealing with any aspect of the heart.”

For a little while he didn’t say anything else, and I was so concentrated on getting dinner ready that I didn’t notice until I felt the weight of his gaze. He wasn’t going to interrupt my concentration, but it was clear that he was waiting for my attention. I didn’t immediately look up but rather finished slicing the cucumber and slid it into the salad bowl alongside the tomatoes and carrots.

Then I looked up and met his gaze, “Yes?”

He was barely fourteen, that soft age between the harsh expectations of society and the soft touch of childhood. In that instant I could see the person he was going to become as clearly as I could see the child he’d been. My arms longed to gather him up, pull him tight in a hug and wrap myself in the memories.

Time was an evil mistress, and I blinked back at the sudden tears in my eyes.

“Do you mean that love is crazy?” he asked, his brows drawn together in serious contemplation. I almost chuckled at his concern, but then I remembered how moments ago I was ready to swaddle him like a babe for one more hit of that deep motherly love.

“Yes,” I started, holding up my finger when I could see the apprehension in his face, “all love is crazy, but that does not mean it is bad. Rather, it is exciting and  tense and sadness and happiness. And it is all of these things all at once. But life would be a flat wasteland without it.”

“Huh,” he commented, blushing a little as he looked over my shoulder. I wondered if he was thinking about a girl or if he was contemplating future loves. I almost asked, but instead reached for the head of lettuce and slid it onto the cutting board as he dipped his head back to his studies and I began chopping the salad.

Tenth & MacArthur

Crackling neon calls,
flashing its constant message
Live Nu e Girls
(The d is out).
Above this message are neon girls
dancing across the dark windows.
kicking their legs in perfect
rhythm. Except for one
constantly quivering light.
They remind me of the Fancy’s II
sign near my house at
10th & MacArthur.

It’s dark and unlit now, half
hidden by the telephone pole.
There is an outline of two girls
standing back to back,
nude and ready to dance.
But if you look closely,
you can see that it’s also
the outline of a vagina.
A carefully created illusion,
like the seemingly misplaced wooden
blocks that actually spell out Jesus:
a hidden hologram,
beckoning men in through
its dimly lit doors.

Storm Shelters

“You never really notice them until you need them.”

That’s what my mother used to say to me about storm shelters. Although, growing up in Western Oklahoma, it was almost mandatory that every house had one on the property.  I know we never lived in a house without one. Sometimes they would be shelters, more often than not they would be labeled as storage or playrooms during all of the times we didn’t need them.

Then, when the storms would come, we would find ourselves huddled down in the dank confines of the underground rescue with overflowing boxes of old paperwork, panting dogs, and hissing cats. All of us bound together waiting for the tornado to pass by as we listened to the sound of the air moving by so fast that it was temporarily a pressurized being.

Sometimes we would play cards, and once Uncle Jim even brought down a set of dominos. But most of the time we sat in the darkness, our eyes all turned upward at the cement ceiling. If someone had peeked into the shelter they would have thought us some weird faction of an underground cult. Our eyes all pointed upwards at the terrifying deity that could form a hand out of the air and crush us at any moment.

Red Truck, Warm Beer

It was a bright red Dodge pickup,
only one year old,
and I was driving you home from a
roadside party you were too drunk
to fully remember.

At least that’s what you told me later
as we sat on the tailgate and looked
up at the stars.

Then you bought something new, something bigger;
a tan Ford with a mud-stained
cattle guard for extra protection.
You were the king of the road,
the safest thing traveling.

It was another night and another party
when you found that it wasn’t so safe.

In my daydreams
I knew I had driven you home
from that party, too,
and on sticky hot nights we still sat on the tailgate
of your red truck,
looking up at stars we would never reach,
drinking warm beer.