Madeline was afraid.
She had woken in the middle of the night to the tinkling of bells on the roof. Her excited curiosity had faded quickly as sounds of snorts and growls coursed through the house. There was a soft crash, followed by a succession of muffled bangs, then what seemed to be loud, rapid gulping.
She thought of her father’s tales of the frightening demon of midwinter; her imagination began toiling with bright red eyes, twisted horns, hooves, and sharp, bloodstained teeth. Shivering, she pulled her wool blanket up over her face leaving only her eyes exposed to peer through the darkness.
There is nothing to fear, she repeated in her mind. The soft glow of the fireplace emanated through the crack beneath her door. She was grateful for any light it could offer, until a shadow crept across the brightness, stopping directly in front of her doorway. The handle creaked as it turned, the hinges groaned, and the door slowly swung open.
Madeline’s eyes broadened as wide as they would go. The silhouette before her was more alarming than anything she had imagined. She slid the edge of her blanket upwards as slowly as she dared to move, until it covered her entire head. The heavy footfalls of the terrifying beast grew steadily louder. She was sure the horrible demon was upon her. The room fell deathly silent, and she wondered if anything was there at all. She cautiously lowered the blanket, coming face to face with a thick, brown snout. Heavy, pungent breath threatened to suffocate her, and she opened her mouth to scream.
1. What does a standard Christmas look like for you, and what would be an ideal Christmas?
Growing up, Christmas was a big deal. It wasn’t really about religion for us though, it was about the togetherness and the warmth of the season in the coldest time of year. It was a time for family bonding, and a great season to dive into the classic traditions. It started with decorating the tree. There was a huge family get-together for dinner. Kids were allowed to open a single gift on Christmas Eve. I keep all of these traditions with my own kids. My dad used to decorate the outside of the house, and my stepmom would decorate the inside. My mom used to have a calendar with a piece of candy for each kid tied to the first 24 days, to help count down until Christmas. I usually try to do these, too. An ideal Christmas would contain all of these fun traditions, with lots of hot chocolate and holiday music. I’m excited for the days when I can decorate more without fear of children breaking village houses and swinging from garland.
2. What inspired the story you have written for this Anthology?
My story was inspired by all of the Christmas traditions most people keep: having a tree in the house, leaving out milk and cookies, enjoying a holiday feast, a man in a red coat coming down the chimney, the sound of silver bells alerting children that St. Nick is near, and the thought that he leaves a lump of coal if you’ve been naughty. I wanted to keep to a Pagan theme though, because a good portion of Yule myths are wonderful and have the most potential for a horror twist. The Yule goat inspired me the most, because of the common association between goat-men and the devil—a misconception that I was more than happy to play on.
3. What is your favorite genre to write, and what are you currently working on?
I want to say that my favorite genre to write so far is fantasy. Ask me again in a few years though, because lately I’ve been really stemming out and trying new genres and styles. Horror is surprisingly fun, and I’m currently planning out a horror novel regarding zombie-like aggressive behavior. I’m writing a memoir novel about living with bipolar disorder, and a few general fiction stories on the side. My friend and I are about to begin a wonderful novel collaboration in which we each write two sides of the same story, with each other’s protagonists as our own antagonists. My main project and what I am most excited for is Aspect, an epic fantasy trilogy centered around a girl who is chosen to become the next Aspect of Time. To take her place among the other elemental Aspects, she must first gain their trust and their abilities, proving her worth. However, she is tricked into freeing Chaos from his eternal prison and must find a way to defeat him before he destroys the world. I’m loving it all, and I hope I get the chance to delve into a few other genres before settling on a main course.