Publisher’s Note: I can finally say it: Happy Holidays!


Okay. It’s official. The Christmas season has begun!

Our tree is up, our lights are strung, our house is decorated, and the holiday music and movies are streaming!

I love the Christmas holidays, as you might have gathered.

My daughter is very excited, too. And we haven’t even started the advent calendars yet. This year we have three: our annual Jacquie Lawson electronic advent calendar, an Escape Advent Calendar (which I supported via Kickstarter), and one I do myself (little drawers that I fill with different things year after year).

As you can see, we love advent calendars here at WMG. That’s why we came up with the WMG Holiday Spectacular 2022 Calendar of Stories. Because there was nothing like an advent calendar for fiction on the market.

Of course, our stories cover all sorts of holidays and span the genres. And you get to open them every day from American Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.

That’s why we call it a Calendar of Stories. Advent calendars inspired the idea, but ours is so much more.

And it’s not too late to get in on the fun. You have until Sunday, Dec. 18, to give it as a Christmas or Hanukkah gift and have the recipient get sent all the stories they’ve missed, plus start getting new ones every day, on Monday, Dec. 19. You have until Sunday, Dec. 25, to make it in time for Kwanzaa.

You can still sign up for the calendar after that, too, if you realize you missed someone on your list or just didn’t have time to read until after the holidays.

Just click here to go to the Calendar of Stories page on our website and find out all the details.

Happy Holidays to one and all!

Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.

WMG Holiday Spectacular 2022: Free Story of the Week

“Patterns” by author Irette Y. Patterson, is free on this website until December 4, 2022. The story’s also available as a part of the WMG Holiday Spectacular 2022, which brings a new holiday story to your inbox every day through New Year’s Day. For more information click here.

Patterns

Irette Y. Patterson

When you want to distance yourself from a man, the last thing you do is go to his place of business, right? That would be the reasonable, the sensible course of action. So, of course, I didn’t take it.

I caught my reflection in the glass in front of Jake’s Coffee Shop before going in. The shop used to be a convenience store that had been there since I was a child, buying bubblegum for a quarter. The faded red sign out front stated it was a grocery, but advertised why folks really shopped there—beer, wine, and lotto. The burglar bars on the windows were gone now. Jake’s logo (a steaming coffee cup and Jake’s in cursive) was superimposed over my face. Candy canes hovering above the cup added as a nod to the season hit right above my head which wasn’t hard to do considering I was short. But it did look like a crown of sorts. Jake had probably paid a college kid to add the illustration for the holidays which was typical.

My reflection was a reminder of how ridiculous this situation was. My plain round face looked like a Sunday school teacher’s or, an accountant which is what I told people I was if they asked. Besides the gray knitted hat that covered my short hair, I was able to get away with just wearing an all-weather coat. It didn’t start getting really cold in Atlanta until January. Growing up, I could remember wearing shorts on some Christmases.

All in all, my reflection portrayed the woman I wanted to be seen as—middle-aged, chunky, respectable. I wasn’t the woman who received grand, romantic gestures. I was the type to attend zoning board meetings or volunteer as a poll worker.

I’d learned early to play to my strengths and been rewarded for it. As an actuary, I calculated risk. As the daughter of a single mom, I made sure I was going to be financially secure. After finishing college, instead of heading to Buckhead like the typical young Atlanta professional, I stayed in the West End where I’d grown up and bought my first home intending to fix it up and turn it into a rental—a yellow house with burnt orange accents. My childhood friend Shay, who was just as ambitious as I was, moved in with me. Back then, no one cared about the West End. The proximity to downtown and the MARTA station were negatives.

But I kept an eye on my neighborhood and kept track of where the money was going…and the money was going to the West End. When I was a kid, our landlord Miss Mary gave us a break on rent. I didn’t know that at the time. It was something my mom told me later on and it stuck with me. While I had materialistic dreams like anyone else. Bougie dreams of going on trips to places I’d read about in cast off National Geographic magazines at the Goodwill. Dreams of clinking glasses filled with mimosas with friends over brunch. Dreams like making sure that my nieces and nephews could go to any school they wanted. I had rich auntie dreams and I’d achieved them.

But my real dream? My real dream was to buy the block I grew up on. Miss Mary dreams because the only thing that people listen to in this life is money. At forty-five I hadn’t bought up the entire block, but I made some inroads. I still lived in that yellow house with burnt orange accents though Shay had gotten married and moved out. And I still kept an eye on the neighborhood. Gentrification was inevitable once the beltline project was announced—green space and development. This all meant tax breaks for developers, higher taxes for homeowners and pricing out current renters. Now the West End had been rechristened as West Midtown. The neighborhood reflected the transition. Over on Joseph E. Lowery, a shiny brew pub sat next to a Jamaican bakery.

So, when Jake’s Coffee Shop opened up, I took a walk there to see what was going on. Jake’s was dark and cozy. The plain tile floors I’d roamed as a kid looking at candy had been replaced with tiled, octagon floors like an old ice cream shop. The big shiny silver machine that made the magic happen sat behind a long granite bar. Bags of coffee were shelved next to the machine with beans named after Black Women historical figures—Ida, Araminta, Celia. There was one long high table for the college kids from the Atlanta University Center that came in to study and the rest of the space was filled with small, cozy tables fit for two.

One taste of a proper cappuccino made at just the right temperature to release the milk and sugar and I was hooked. As I spent more time there, I developed an unfortunate crush on the owner. It wasn’t that he was attractive. He was that, don’t get me wrong. But he was kind and appeared to have a heart for the community. At least I knew it was a crush and how ridiculous it was. Still, my afternoon tea was a habit, a place where I researched and brainstormed ideas for my latest project. This project just happened to be dating.

The wind slapping against my cheeks reminded me to get a move on. A bell jingled as I walked in and the warmth surrounded me. I took off my coat and headed to my table in the back. I wanted to get started a bit before putting in my order for tea. The table was made by local artists. The same with the art on the walls. When I brainstormed, I liked reading hard copies and getting all my ideas out first with pen and paper. After staring at a screen for eight hours, it made sense.

I opened my binder irritated that at forty-five years old I was even making a plan. No matter how comfortable my current life was, in order to make room for a new one, I had to let something go. That was the lesson. Knowing Jake these past months made me realize I wanted warmth. I wanted companionship. Was it too late? Numbers made sense. People? Not so much. But I could figure it out. I’d done so in the past.

“Ready for a top off?”

The question and the voice attached to it warmed my heart. I looked up and there was Jake. He was about my age, bald, and he worked out enough that he had to like it. Morris Chestnut brown, he liked wearing black T-shirts a size too small with the coffee shop’s name in cursive over, not his heart, mind you, but more like his pec. Right now he was holding a golden-brown personal tea service on a tray. The teapot looked like it was made of maple leaves. Perfect for Thanksgiving even though we were headed to Christmas. I loved the tea set, though. Thanksgiving was the overlooked holiday compared to showy Christmas. I liked it so much I bought a duplicate tea set to keep at home. Two scones were set off to the side.

I closed my binder out of embarrassment though I hadn’t written anything in it yet or started playing around with possible schedules.

He set the tea service on the table next to mine and took a seat. Somehow, he knew the perfect time I was ready for my tea and he’d sit down to talk. It was quiet between five p.m. and seven. The college kids had started to go home for the holidays, making it emptier than normal.

He looked over my setup. “That’s different.”

It was. Newspapers were typically strewn across the round dark wood table. He would notice. I was a regular. It was good for business to notice. I wasn’t the only one good at recognizing patterns.

“Different project,” I admitted.

He laughed, a throaty one. “You. On a different project.”

“I know. Strange, right? But it has come to my attention that I need to make some changes in my life.”

He poured a cup of tea and pushed it toward me. “What kind of changes?” He was well aware I bought the ’hood when no one else cared which, after twenty years, made me a wealthy woman. Any changes I made, could be a cause for concern for him financially. I couldn’t bring myself to look him in the eyes. Jake saw too much, and it was embarrassing.

It couldn’t hurt to tell him what I was going after, what I wanted. Supposedly people connected people who wanted to date. Supposedly. That had never happened for me. Folks usually only want to offer you help when you don’t need it. Still. There was no downside to dropping hints.

I opened the binder. He wouldn’t be offended. According to my preliminary research, since we were the same age, I was too old for him to date me. “I’ve decided to start dating.”

He turned his head. “You’ve decided?”

“Decided. I mean dating just doesn’t happen to me. I have to make plans and find a way to fit it into my schedule, and I guess try out different strategies to see what works.”

“Why not just wait for something to happen?”

“Waiting for something to happen is how I got to be this age and single. I realized my life is designed to give me exactly what I have. I don’t like what I have, then it’s time to change. If I want a different output, I need to change the input.”

“That’s a technical way of looking at the situation.”

“I mean, it’s like any goal. For example, your goal here is to turn a profit.”

“This is true.”

“If you weren’t meeting your goal, wouldn’t you change your strategy?”

“I would if I hadn’t let it have enough time to build. Like, let’s say if I was going to have an event. I would need to advertise.”

I took a sip of the tea. Perfectly brewed. I liked my tea strong, and he knew it. “So, you understand what I’m saying.”

“And I would advertise in the neighborhood first.” He reached for one scone from the tray using it to punctuate his language. “You can have an event but if you don’t have an open sign, then how will people know you’re open for business?”

I nibbled on my scone. It had a touch of lemon, my favorite. “Hmm,” I said. Wonderful. “This recipe is definitely a keeper. Maybe add a little raspberry jam on the side?”

“You’re changing the subject.’

“I got distracted. Baked goods are my weakness.” I swallowed another bite. “If you serve these at your hypothetical event, you wouldn’t have any trouble keeping the doors open. You have an excellent product.”

“That and the location and advertisement. Everything working in concert.”

I slipped the rest of the scone in my mouth, that burst of lemon again. I sank into the booth. This was just so comfortable, warm. Sitting here with lemon scones and tea. Jake sitting next to me smelling clean like no single man deserved to do and it was quiet. Things slowed down at this time of day, which is the reason I liked coming here. I liked the quiet. I liked comfortable. Both things I would have to get out of if I wanted my life to change.

He must have noticed my frown. “Is the scone bad?”

“Hush. The scone is perfect and you know it. Just thinking about how nice it is here. How comfortable. How you have to turn into someone else to get something different.”

“Maybe you don’t have to be. I think you’re fine just the way you are.”

I’d heard that before. Men weren’t the only ones who could be friend-zoned. I would not let my mind go there. I wanted this, this comfort but with someone who wanted me, too. Someone who cared enough to pay attention to me. If Jake was interested in me, he would have given an indication. He hadn’t and we were both adults. The last time I made an effort to date, I read all the books and a suggestion was to ask men out. And I did. I tried that strategy. While it worked for some women, it didn’t for me. I was met with either outright rejection or the men expected me to chase them. I discovered I wasn’t a chaser.

I gave him that slight smile that said I like you but don’t be terrified I might be interested in you romantically. “Thank you for saying that.”

I tapped my pen on the blank schedule page. “I need to schedule more time in target-rich environments.”

“Why do you think that’s necessary? Maybe you’ll meet someone here.”

“I’ve been coming here for five months, Jake. You don’t get enough foot traffic this time of day. I mean, I chose this time of day to come here for that reason. It worked for me in the beginning and now it doesn’t.”

“You just need one guy.”

“Yes,” I said. “I just need one. Maybe he would be dressed in a button-down shirt and khakis. You know, preppy. Maybe he’ll ask to go somewhere else because we would have talked until closing.”

A yawn escaped my mouth. I covered my mouth with the back of my hand. “Sorry about that. The chamomile tea must be doing its job.” I stuffed my papers in my black leather work bag. “See you tomorrow.”

“So, we’re still part of your schedule?”

“I’ll always find time for you. I mean for Jake’s.” I shrugged. “We’re well into cuffing season, too close to Christmas. I’m making these plans to implement in the new year.” I slid out the chair and remembered I hadn’t paid. “Oh, I haven’t paid.”

I started digging into my bag when he stilled my hand. “Don’t worry about it, Geshonda. I’ll put it on your tab.”

“Thanks.”

The next day, me and my plans showed up as usual, except Jake wasn’t there behind the counter. It was Cicely, Georgia State hospitality major. Strange.

I ordered a cappuccino since I didn’t trust Cicely’s tea. Alas. There would be no scones tonight. “Jake isn’t sick, is he?”

She shook her head. “No, ma’am.” Ma’am. “He just wanted to take the night off.”

“Well. Okay.” It made sense. I handed over my card then headed to my table. The conversation was nice last night, but it didn’t help me get to where I wanted to go. And this place was a comfort, but it wasn’t helping me move forward. I had to be ruthless. It either helped me reach my goal, or it had to go.

I spread out my binder with blank schedule pages, a notebook for brainstorming and printed research materials on my regular table, pink highlighter in hand because everybody used yellow. I took a sip. Cicely was good. I’d pay for drinking caffeine this late in the day, but it would be worth it. I smiled. Shaking me had waited for the caffeinated jolt, enjoying the warmth seeping through my hands.

There was another smell, though, that caught my attention. Clean. And a presence. I opened my eyes. There was Jake, not in a ridiculous tight shirt, but in a button-down and khakis and glasses. I didn’t know he wore glasses.

“Is this seat taken?” He pointed to the same chair he sat in yesterday, that he’d sat in every evening. Why in the world was he there dressed like that? Asking me that question? But for once I kept my mouth shut. This was a break in the pattern and those usually meant something.

“No,” I said. “It’s not taken.”

“Is the coffee good here?”

I laughed, wondering what he was about. “Yes. It’s hard to find a place around here that the temperature is just right so it’s not too hot.”

“So, the owner must know his stuff.”

Was this…flirting? Along with how to pose, I missed those classes, but I suppose I needed to lean in. “The owner must know his stuff. I would say so.”

“I hear he’s handsome, too.”

“Modest though he does tend to wear tight T-shirts.”

“If you noticed, it must have done the job.”

“Must have,” I said, taking another sip.

“That must mean you must come here a lot.”

I shrugged “I like it. It’s cozy. Good company. Nice…view.” That was flirty, right?

“It does seem kind of uptight, though, wouldn’t you think?”

“As opposed to…”

“There’s this spot down the way. They have the best beignets and they’re open late since this place is about to close.”

“Jake’s is open for another hour.”

“I can assure you, Geshonda, Jake’s is closing early tonight. We could talk more there. You might even find out my name.”

“I think that would be lovely.” I started putting my papers back in their slots in my notebook. Large brown hands helped me.

“There,” he said. “All organized.” He stood up and reached out a hand.

It was real. People. Lawd. People who did not fit into neat patterns.

“It’s a glass of wine, Geshonda.”

And everything is scary the first time. Patterns were comfortable, but then you didn’t find out what else there was. Maybe I was a woman who inspired grand gestures, after all. I took his hand. “Let’s go.”

Patterns
Copyright© 2022 by Irette Y. Patterson
Published by WMG Publishing as part of the WMG Holiday Spectacular 2022 project. Click here for more information.

Publisher’s Note: With Gratitude


I was talking with a friend recently about vision issues, and I was trying to articulate what it’s like to have lived for as long as I can practically remember with extreme nearsightedness. I’ve needed a correction of more than -10 diopters for my entire adult life, and I was at greater than -3 by middle school. For those of you who are mercifully not nearsighted, -3 diopters of nearsightedness puts you at about 20/400 vision (unable to see even the big E on the top of the chart).

I’m currently at a correction of -15 diopters, which puts my vision at about 20/2,000. But that’s not really accurate, either, because who can see 2,000 feet away?

What’s really relevant here is that I haven’t truly seen the world since I was 8. I mostly see it. But not what it really looks like. 

Here’s the best way I can describe it: Think about being inside your house and looking at your yard through the window. Maybe you see trees, grass, flowers, birds. You can see the green of the grass, the individual blades. But then, you open the window and look again. Same trees, grass, flowers, birds, but everything is brighter and sharper. You see the variation in the green, the definition of the blades of grass.

My whole life has been looking at things through glass. Either glasses or contact lenses. Without aid, I can only see between .5 and 1.5 inches in front of my face. And what I do see is magnified. So, I have a vague sense of what I’m missing, but not a clear one (yes, I realize the pun I used there).

On the plus side, I’m a master splinter remover. That comes in handy more than you might think.

But it’s strange to never see the world as it truly is. It’s sometimes disorienting and exhausting. However, I’m grateful for the sight I do have. And I’m grateful for the technology that corrects my vision as much as it does and will someday allow me to see clearly again (my ophthalmologist says cataract surgery will be life-changing for me, so I will be grateful to one day get cataracts, too).

I have a friend who is hearing impaired (since birth) and is now also going blind. Yet, she’s one of the sweetest, kindest, most positive people I know. She could absolutely feel angry and frustrated all the time at the cards life has dealt her. And sometimes she does, but she doesn’t let those feelings consume her. She acknowledges them and then thinks about her loving husband, great kids, supportive friends. She’s the living embodiment of why it’s so important to focus not on what you don’t have but instead on what you do.

With American Thanksgiving approaching, now is the perfect time to focus on what we’re grateful for.

One of those things, for me, is always working in a field that I love. Fiction is a great way to escape what troubles us in the real world, and during challenging times, I’m very grateful for that.

And I’m grateful for the readers, like you, who support our fiction.

So, with my gratitude, I’m giving you a free short story this week to celebrate this time of Thanksgiving. It’s one of my favorites.

Click here to download “Pudgygate” for free.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.

Publisher’s Note: A Free Trip to the Old West


I promised last month that I’d tell you about another of our free first-in-series ebooks in November, and that time is now!

Dean Wesley Smith’s Thunder Mountain series deftly blends together science fiction and time travel with the old west, and even throws in a little romance, to boot.

Here’s the synopsis for the first book in the series, the eponymous novel Thunder Mountain:

USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Dean Wesley Smith weaves a science fiction tale of love and survival of two modern professors dealing with the past.

Offered a free trip into a remote Idaho wilderness that she loves and studies, Professor Dawn Edwards agrees. On the trip she meets Professor Madison Rogers, and they fall for each other before they even reach their destination.

But living in the Old West proves to be a brutal task.

A science fiction novel of new times in the old west by one of the best and most prolific writers working in fiction today.

Click here to get the ebook for free now.

And while we’re talking about free books, don’t forget that we’ve put the WMG Holiday Spectacular 2022 Calendar of Stories on a Buy One Get One Free sale for all of your holiday gifting.

Just click here to go to the Calendar of Stories page on our website and add two calendars for the price of one. Or get four for the price of two. Or…well, you get the idea. There’s no limit to how many BOGO deals you can get, so add as many calendars as you want.

Happy reading to one and all!

Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.

Publisher’s Note: BOGO for the Holidays!


It might still be a couple of weeks until Thanksgiving, but I’m already feeling gratitude. Our WMG Holiday Spectacular 2022 Kickstarter was a great success, with more backers than ever before. Thank you so much to all of our supporters.

If you missed the Kickstarter but just realized that the Calendar of Stories makes great gifts, I understand. Maybe you were in a candy-induced sugar coma. Or maybe you just can’t bear the thought of starting your holiday shopping until after Halloween. Or maybe you were just waiting for a different kind of deal.

Regardless of the reason, we’ve got you covered. Because starting today and running up to Thanksgiving, we’ve put the WMG Holiday Spectacular 2022 Calendar of Stories on a Buy One Get One sale for all of your holiday gifting.

Just click here to go to the Calendar of Stories page on our website and add two calendars for the price of one. Or get four for the price of two.

And so on. I’ll let you do the math from there. There’s no limit to how many BOGO deals you can get, so add as many calendars as you want.

You can read all about the calendar on that page, too, including instructions on how to tell us who to send the gifts to.

One gift to rule them all. Holiday shopping managed.

Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.

Free Fiction Monday: All Treats, No Tricks


Happy Halloween!

Although the ghosts and bats and skeletons and spiders decorating my house will get packed up tomorrow, the pumpkins will be with us for a while longer. Those hang around until the day after Thanksgiving, when I can finally decorate for Christmas!

Not that I’m not enjoying the fall holidays. I love them. But Christmas is my favorite holiday season of the year.

That’s one of the reasons I love our annual WMG Holiday Spectacular!

We’re in the final days of the WMG Holiday Spectacular 2022 Calendar of Stories, which is edited by the amazing Kristine Kathryn Rusch and gives readers 39 stories over 39 days, from American Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.

We’ve hit four stretch goals so far, which means anyone supporting the project at the $25 level or higher gets the following bonus treats:

Stories

  • “Christopher’s Crummy Christmas” by Kris
  • “The Last Christmas Letter” by Kris
  • “Sprinkle on a Memory” by Dean Wesley Smith
  • “The Taste of Miracles” by Kris

Workshops

  • Writing Class Bundle #1: How to Write a Short Story lecture & Short Story Strategies Pop-Up #57
  • Writing Class Bundle #2: Think Like a Science Fiction Writer lecture & Writing Science Fiction classic workshop

We’ve got lots more great stretch goal rewards, too, so keep spreading the word. (And a huge thank you to those who already have backed the project!)

We have so many great rewards and gift options available, it’s the best holiday one-stop-shopping ever created for readers and writers.

Click here to learn more. But don’t wait! The Kickstarter ends Thursday.

No tricks here. Only treats.

Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.