Archive for 12 Days


12 Days of Christmas: Recap

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For the last 12 days we’ve brought you 2014’s titles at the knock-down festive promotional price of only £1, or your current equivalent. If you missed any of the daily offers, fear not as the deal is available until 2 January, 2015. Here’s a handy list of all the books we included and also links to the posts; click through for extra treats from some of your favourite authors.

13 December: Andy Remic’s The Iron Wolves

14 December: Justin Gustainis’ Hard Spell, Evil Dark, and Known Devil

15 December: Matthew Hughes’ To Hell and Back omnibus and Joseph D’Lacey’s Black Feathers & The Book of the Crowman

16 December: Anna Kashina’s Blades of the Old Empire and Freya Robertson’s HeartwoodSunstone

17 December: Michael Boatman’s Last God Standing

18 December: Danielle L. Jensen’s Stolen Songbird

19 December: Jay Posey’s Three & Morningside Fall

20 December: Marianne de Pierres’ Peacemaker

21 December: Tim Waggoner’s Night Terrors

22 December: Andy Remic’s The White Towers

23 December: Craig Cormick’s The Shadow Master

24 December: James A. Moore’s Seven ForgesThe Blasted Lands and Anna Kashina’s The Guild of Assassins

25 December: Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire and Rod Duncan’s The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter

Here’s how to take advantage of our £1 seasonal special offer:

1. Visit the Robot Trading Company at
2. Add the book(s) you’d like to buy to your shopping basket
3. Add the magic word ‘mincepie’ to the ‘coupon/voucher’ box
4. Click the ‘update basket’ button and the discount will be applied

Wishing all our Robot Army, readers, fans, and friends a wonderful warm and merry Christmas and a happy new year.



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Welcome to the final day of our 12 Days of Christmas, and let this post start with a Merry Christmas from everyone at Angry Robot HQ to you all.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our festive promotion, and picked up some bargains. If you missed any of the posts, click here for links to all the ebooks you can still get at only £1 – or your currency equivalent – until 2 January, 2015. For our final day, we bring you two fantastic titles, Kameron Hurley‘s epic fantasy The Mirror Empire and Rod Duncan‘s steampunk fantasy The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter.

Here’s how to take advantage of our £1 seasonal special offer:

1. Visit the Robot Trading Company at
2. Add the book(s) you’d like to buy to your shopping basket
3. Add the magic word ‘mincepie’ to the ‘coupon/voucher’ box
4. Click the ‘update basket’ button and the discount will be applied

For today’s festive bonus, here’s a special memory from Rod:

The Gift of Strangeness


December 25th 1991

The tea house was perched on top of a cliff. Sipping oolong from a cup little bigger than a thimble, I looked down to where a river licked the rocks far below. I could just make out turtles swimming in the green water. After two and a half years living in Taiwan, the scene had come to feel ordinary to me.

I can’t say that this was the precise moment when I started to write stories. It was certainly within a week or two either way. As with most turning points, it seemed inconsequential at the time. Not something worth noting in a diary, even if I’d kept one. But years of not writing were about to end. As a dyslexic, I’d done my best to avoid pens and paper. You’d have been more likely to find my efforts in FORTRAN than English prose.

Not that I had anything against stories. There were plenty of them chasing their tails in my head. Some I made up. Others I read in books – chiefly science fiction and fantasy, one of my favourite authors being Mervyn Peake.

Peake was born in Jiangxi province, China, a few hundred miles from Taiwan. That was in 1911, less than a year before the fall of the Qing Dynasty. I’d always assumed that his experience growing up in an exotic and intensely stratified society had given him the inspiration to write his masterpiece, the Gormenghast trilogy. The books describe a society bound within crumbling walls and a labyrinthine code of laws. The Forbidden City in Beijing is an easy comparison.

In a much smaller way, perhaps living on Taiwan and being immersed in an exotic culture had given me the push to start writing. Whatever the reason – I began tapping away on my computer, creating an eco-thriller based on the island, a landscape of vertiginous mountains dripping with tropical forest and gorges carved into white marble.

It was bad writing. With the benefit of 20 years hindsight, I can assure you it was terrible. Thankfully (and unsurprisingly) it didn’t get published. However, I had caught the writing bug. I was still at it when I returned to the UK.

Taiwan might have become normal to me. But I was surprised to discover that the UK, my old home, had become strange. Ordinary things had become extraordinary – the way people walked down the street, the assumptions they made about each other from dress and speech, the thousand inconsequential habits and gestures of everyday life.

It was then I started to think that perhaps Gormenghast owed as much to 20th century England as it did to Qing Dynasty China. How strange London must have seemed to him when he arrived in 1922. Its people bound in a rigid class structure and mysterious codes of social etiquette.

It doesn’t take long before the feeling of comfortable normality returns. But somehow, years after moving to England, Mervyn Peake was able to recreate that sense of strangeness. He lends us his eyes so that we can experience the same sense of bewildered awe as we gaze on Gormenghast.

This ability, I am convinced, is one of the keys to great writing. It is the facility to be able to look at something we have seen a thousand times and see it as if for the first time. In all the writing I’ve done since, up to and including my most recent novel The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter, that is what I have been trying to capture – the gift of strangeness.

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We have a bumper offering for you today, to celebrate this Christmas Eve:

Not only can you get Anna Kashina‘s Blades of the Old Empire sequel, The Guild of Assassins, but we also have both Seven Forges and The Blasted Lands titles from James A. Moore. If you missed the first title from Anna, Blades of the Old Empire, in the promotion don’t worry as you can still buy this title at the promo price.  To avail of this festive £1 – or currency equivalent – offer, follow these  simple instructions:

1. Visit the Robot Trading Company at
2. Add the book(s) you’d like to buy to your shopping basket
3. Add the magic word ‘mincepie’ to the ‘coupon/voucher’ box
4. Click the ‘update basket’ button and the discount will be applied
Take a moment to enjoy this festive Russian piece from Anna:

Christmas celebration in Russia

Traditional holiday celebrations typically stem from folklore and mythology. Perhaps not surprisingly, I believe that my native country, Russia, holds a unique edge in this area. Russia spans the broad geographical and cultural boundary between East and West. While a lot of Russian traditions are European, the territories covered by this country are more than half Asian, and this puts a unique twist on these traditions. Russian folklore blends elements of pagan and Christian into a truly organic form.

On the surface, Russian and Western Christmas differ only by the date: January 7th, instead of December 25, following the Russian Orthodox church calendar. Just like in the West, the Russian celebration involves a feast, presents, and importantly the decorated fir tree (which, during the secular Soviet times, came to be known as the “New Year fir” or “novogodnyaya elka”). But this is pretty much where the main similarities end. Underneath it all are layers of traditions that go all the way back to the good old pagan days, before Russia was baptized, when the Slavic people that inhabited these territories celebrated winter solstice.

The central figure of the Russian Christmas is Old Man Frost, better known as Grandfather Frost. He is an old, powerful man in a rich, ornamental coat, with long white hair and beard, and of course with a sack of presents. Grandfather Frost does bear resemblance to Santa Claus, and he can occasionally be seen riding a sled through the winter forest, but he definitely does not say “ho, ho, ho”, and you would never ever catch him climbing chimneys. His origins, from the old pagan gods of cold and winter, make him seem quite ominous, and in the old pre-Christian days he definitely did not bear too many gifts. He is kind to children, and generally brings them presents, but he commands more reverence and respect, and is surrounded by more mystery, than typical for a festive holiday spirit.

Grandfather Frost usually comes with a companion, his granddaughter, the beautiful Snow Maiden. She dresses in an ornamental blue and white coat, and wears either a fur hat or a traditional Russian head ornament, kokoshnik. Her colors are always blue and white, with silver and crystal decorations. She is much kinder that Grandfather Frost, but also much more elusive. If you misbehave, Grandfather Frost can get angry, but the Snow Maiden will just glide away and you will never see her again.

The night before Christmas spirits and old deities can roam freely in the world, and one can get a lot of favors — or curses — by appealing to them. On this night, young maidens gather for fortune telling. I have been told of at least a dozen different fortune telling methods specific to that day, and I know there is a wealth of others. My favorite is pouring hot wax into water, holding the resulting shape against the candle, and interpreting the shape of its shadow on the wall. Another way was to look between two mirrors in a semi-dark room and try to see all the way into this mirror corridor. You say special spells when you do these things, and sometimes it can become quite frightening.

Another Russian Christmas tradition is kolyadki, when people dress in costumes and knock on doors to ask for food. Think Halloween, but on a grander scale. The costumes are meant to be scary, and I believe the people dress up to represent some evil spirits that need to be appeased on the Christmas eve. In old days such people were invited into houses to share a feast and ward off the evil spirits they represented. Special foods were being made for the purpose, and those dressed up sang special songs when going from house to house.

In old days, many of these traditions coincided with the Winter Solstice. In Russia, and many Western countries, the church went to great lengths to superimpose Christian saints on all these old deities, and to Christianize the entire celebration. It worked better in the West. It did not quite work in Russia.

I have grown up in a large city, where some of these traditions seemed distant or impossible to perform properly. Yet, I always had a chance to go outside to meet Grandfather Frost, and if I was especially lucky, to play with the beautiful Snow Maiden. Living in the west, I miss those traditions, and hope they will stay alive for centuries to come.

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Andy Remic is back for today’s 12 Days of Christmas promo; we started with the first Rage of Kings book, The Iron Wolves, and today we’re offering you the sequel, The White Towers, as well at the same bargain price! To pick up these two titles – or any of our other books in the 12 Days of Christmas promotion so far – follow these simple instructions:

1. Visit the Robot Trading Company at
2. Add the book(s) you’d like to buy to your shopping basket
3. Add the magic word ‘mincepie’ to the ‘coupon/voucher’ box
4. Click the ‘update basket’ button and the discount will be applied
If you missed Andy’s guest post earlier in the promo, click this link to read
“30 Years – As Author and Spectrum Addict!”
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12 Days of Christmas: Jay Posey

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We hope you’ve been enjoying our 12 Days of Christmas, and all the bargains So far, our 12 Days of Christmas ebook promo has gifted you bargain copies of books from Andy RemicJustin GustainisJoseph D’Lacey and Matthew Hughes, Freya Robertson and Anna Kashina, Michael Boatman, and Danielle L. Jensen. You can still get these titles at the bargain price by following the instructions below.

Today, we have the first two titles of Jay Posey‘s Legends of the Duskwalker series, Three and Morningside Fall. Been meaning to read these books or have the first, and want the second? Wait no longer!

Here’s how to take advantage of our £1 seasonal special offer:

1. Visit the Robot Trading Company at
2. Add the book(s) you’d like to buy to your shopping basket
3. Add the magic word ‘mincepie’ to the ‘coupon/voucher’ box
4. Click the ‘update basket’ button and the discount will be applied
Festive bonus:

What Christmas Means to Jay Posey


When the Robot Overlords “requested” I write a little piece to go along with their fabulous 12 Days of Christmas sales special, I couldn’t resist the opportunity. (I mean that literally; there was no way to resist, since they sent a Directive directly to my implanted brainchip.)

I spent a couple of days trying to think of a particular special Christmas memory or an Amusing Holiday-Themed Anecdote or a Fun Family Tradition to share. There were a number of candidates. The Tetris Christmas, for example, when at least half the family wandered about the house with vacantly-staring, bloodshot eyes, mindlessly humming Russian-inspired tunes. Or the briefly-annual viewing of the entire original Star Wars trilogy, back-to-back-to-back, when at least half the family wandered about the house with vacantly-staring, bloodshot eyes, mindlessly humming yub nub-inspired tunes.

But as I reflected on all the many Christmases I’ve enjoyed, I couldn’t help but notice how very many great memories I had to choose from, which in turn made me recognize what the holiday season has come to mean to me; it’s ultimately a season of gratitude.

For me and my family, the holiday season, and Christmastime especially, has become a time where we get to slow down and shake up our daily routines. And those times of stepping away from The Usual gives us space and perspective on a lot of things we’re often too busy to notice. We of course have our scheduling woes and travel stresses just like any other family, but all things considered, this season is one we look forward to with Great Anticipation.

I don’t take for granted how blessed I am to have warm memories about the holidays, to be able to think fondly of time spent with family and friends, to actually look forward to the holidays instead of dreading them. And at the same time, I notice that for as long as I can remember, since I was just a wee lad dreaming about Big Things, we always took time during the holidays to think back over the year and consider the things we were grateful for.  We had our share of tough years, when money was so tight we didn’t know how we’d have “Christmas” at all, or when we lost loved ones, or had health challenges. But no matter what, we were always able to find something that we were truly, genuinely grateful for.

I’m pretty sure there’s a connection between that intentional practice of thankfulness (even when I didn’t necessarily want to participate!) and the fact that I have Good Feelings about the holidays.

I was recently reading Robinson Crusoe, and came across this line:

“It put me upon reflecting how little repining there would be among mankind at any condition of life if people would rather compare their condition with those that were worse, in order to be thankful, than be always comparing them with those which are better, to assist their murmurings and complainings.”

For a book published almost 300 years ago, that sure did hit home for me. It hit me so hard, in fact, I had to read it a couple of times, and then set the book down and think about it for a bit. Even with my upbringing, I realized how much of my time and energy I’ve wasted looking at this author’s sales, or that person’s reviews, and wishing I Had It Better. I obviously still have a lot to learn about living a life of gratitude, but recognizing that fact has given me a stronger motivation to make sure that this holiday season, I keep my eyes on the many blessings I’ve had in my life.

Being a man of faith, there’s additional significance to Christmas that I know not everyone shares. But if I’m allowed to have a Christmas Wish for all of you readers out there, I wish you time and energy to pause from all the usual holiday craziness, a moment that inspires genuine gratefulness, and a 2015 that brings you the true gift of gratitude.

If nothing else, you sure can get a lot of great books from Angry Robot for cheap, so that’s a pretty great start!




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And so this is Christmas…

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Well, we’ve had a great 2013, so far (still a week to go!) but here’s a round-up of our 12 Days of Christmas blogs – and don’t forget, you can pick up ebook copies of all of our featured authors for one shiny UK pound! (About US$1.33). See the authors blog posts below, for details of this offer.

The Staff blogs:

Vicky’s Christmas Advent Calendar

Abi’s Secret Santa Christmas

Lee’s Best of the Year

Wanda – Chanumas

Suzannah – The Best Christmas Film Ever (That’s not the name of the film, by the way)

The Author blogs:

Karen Sandler – On the 1st Day of Christmas, it was Hanukkah

Julianna Scott – 12 Days of Christmas

Joseph D’Lacey – A Christmas Donkey

Wesley Chu – Christmas Blog

Laura Lam – Winter Holidays in Ellada

Madeline Ashby – a Very vN xMas

William Sutton – A Shilling Shocker Short Story

Kim Curran – Summoning Santa

John Matthews – Christmas Blog Post

Sean Lynch – Christmas Reflections

Cassandra Rose Clarke – Midnight Mass

Chuck Wendig – Christmas is Death

We hope you have the best {insert your favoured holiday break of choice here} you’ve ever had, and here’s to a fantastic 2014!


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Chuck Wendig: Christmas is Death

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As part of our 12 Days of Christmas, we’re bringing you some of your favourite authors talking about what Christmas is to them… in whatever form they like! We’re also bringing you their backlist at only £1!

Today is the turn of Chuck Wendig, author of the Miriam Black novels (BlackbirdsMockingbird, and the forthcoming The Cormorant), as well as The Blue Blazes, the first Mookie Pearl novel!

Note 1: The Cormorant is excluded from this offer.
Note 2: You can get Blackbirds for free (!) until the end of the year by following this link.

Here’s how to take advantage of our seasonal special offer:

1. Visit the Robot Trading Company at
2. Add the book(s) you’d like to buy to your shopping basket
3. Add the magic word ‘tinsel’ to the ‘coupon/voucher’ box
4. Click the ‘update basket’ button and the discount will be applied

Happy reading!

We set up our Christmas tree the other day, and the way it worked was, my wife would hand me an ornament and me or the wolverine tornado (aka “toddler”) would place it on the tree, and she suddenly handed me an ornament that looked like a ring of antlers. And I said, “Didn’t Dad give this to us?” and she said, “No, we gave it to him the year that he died.” Oh, I thought, right, right.

My father died on December 22nd.

I don’t mean this year. Or even last year. This was six years back, so your condolences, while appreciated, are many moons beyond their required date.

Snow covered the ground. Ice in the trees. Blinky lights on all the houses and shiny bauble-hung trees in the windows.

And my father had prostate cancer. It had gone through him like raisins through a fruitcake and refused to be contained to the one place: the cancer had ambition, enough to kill him earlier than any of us expected, I think, even though we knew his life was suddenly on a short leash. We drove to see him on that day, the 22nd, just three days before Christmas, and while there on our visit his liver failed and his heart stopped and suddenly he was passing on to his happy hunting ground.

He died with my finger on his pulse. I felt it go. That’s a powerful and awful thing to feel—someone’s heartbeat suddenly slow, then stop.

A rum-pa-pum-pum, then—


I don’t bring this up to bring you down, but, you see, I think about death a lot. As a writer, death is part of my arsenal—it saturates my fiction the way the cancer got its claws in my father. I don’t know who said it, but someone far wiser than me said that all stories are about death and dying and I think that’s true, at least at the molecular level.

When Christmas rolls around, my death thoughts increase by at least an arbitrarily-made-up 46%.

This is, in part, because my father died around Christmas.

But that’s not all of it.

No, Christmas, it seems, is positively pendulous with death energy.

My father lost his father during Christmas, too—and so during that season he became more pensive and troubled, and many of the holidays were punctuated with that grim act of visiting my grandfather’s grave (a man I never met, a man who my father didn’t seem to like very much, and I’d watch him there looking at the grave trying to negotiate the repair of a relationship that could no longer be repaired, a feeling I am well-aware of now that my Dad has slipped away).

That’s the personal side, but you look past that, you can start to see death everywhere. Sure, sure, I know, Christmas is about birth, about the life of that guy whose name is right there in the holiday, but shit, that’s a ruse, isn’t it?

Christmas comes just as the seasons are turning. Just as the last leaves of life are falling off trees. Just as the ground goes cold and food becomes scarce and animals starve. Just as the white stuff starts to fall from the sky like ash—

And here I am tempted to make a dramatic overture about how it looks like the ash of my cremated father but the reality is, one’s cremated remains look a great deal more ‘kitty litter’ than ‘mortal ash.’ When the time comes to “spread ones ashes” it feels more like “flinging kitty litter” and you wonder if passersby might ask why you’re tossing aquarium gravel into the lake, you weirdo.

But I digress.

Christmas is death-flavored.

Christmas is the birth of a guy whose ending we know is to die brutally.

Christmas is when we chop down a perfectly good tree and stand its corpse in our living room to decorate like a clown before its needles turn brown and fall.

Christmas is when we kiss underneath the mistletoe, the poison that Loki uses to tip the arrow that he shoots into Balder’s eye to kill him.

Christmas is all the color leeching out of the landscape until the dark earth is peppered in white and gray, the forest like bones, the sky the color of a headstone.

Christmas is a stone’s throw from the shortest day and the longest night.

Christmas is when we lose our fathers. Or our mothers. Or when we remember those who came before and will no longer share in the meal, or the gifts, or the warmth of the fire meant to ward off cold nights.

It’s a bit theatrical, of course, to suggest that Christmas is death. Or that its jolly façade hides grim and sinister trappings.

But again, I’m a writer. It’s how I do.

More to the point, this is a good – if entirely shameless – time to mention that I have a book perfectly well-suited for all these aforementioned grim and sinister trappings. Because my favorite cantankerous psychic, Miriam Black, is back—a character born out of my own frustrations and fears about death, a character who now, in The Cormorant, takes a little vacation away from all the wintry Christmastime doldrums to head down to the Florida Keys where she is drawn into a trap. A trap where she expects to be paid handsomely to tell a man about his death but instead finds a message written to her in the man’s blood, a message from an unknown enemy that reads, Hello, Miriam

Read the book and you should follow the bouncing Santa Hat.

Because no book starring Miriam Black is complete without her killing Santa Claus, am I right?

I think I am.

Please do enjoy the book.

And Merry Christmas, or whatever holiday you find warms your dry thatch of a heart in this dark, lifeless, death-soaked time.


The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig, Art by Joey Hi-Fi Blackbirds, by Chuck Wendig


The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig - Artwork by Joey Hi-Fi Mockingbird, by Chuck Wendig


Cassandra Rose Clarke: Midnight Mass

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As part of our 12 Days of Christmas, we’re bringing you some of your favourite authors talking about what Christmas is to them…in whatever form they like! We’re also bringing you their books at only £1!

Today is the turn of Cassandra Rose Clarke, author of The Assasin’s CurseThe Pirate’s Wish and the forthcoming The Wizard’s Promise, all with Strange Chemistry, as well as The Mad Scientist’s Daughter with Angry Robot!

Here’s how to take advantage of our seasonal special offer:

1. Visit the Robot Trading Company at
2. Add the book(s) you’d like to buy to your shopping basket
3. Add the magic word ‘tinsel’ to the ‘coupon/voucher’ box
4. Click the ‘update basket’ button and the discount will be applied

Happy reading! 

I woke up to the sound of singing. At first I couldn’t place it, and I thought I was still dreaming, or that Aunt Shelly had arrived earlier than she said and had turned on the stereo downstairs. But when I rolled onto my side and saw that it was a quarter after midnight, I realized it was just the church across the cemetery. Midnight Mass.

Moonlight slanted in through the crooked blinds. The room was brighter than I would have expected, for midnight. I closed my eyes and listened to the singing—it was too far away for me to place the song, and anyway I hadn’t been to Mass in years. I doubted I could remember the names of the hymns.

I rolled onto my back, onto my stomach, my side, trying to get comfortable. I pulled the blanket over my head. The singing continued, fragmented by the wind howling in from the north. I’d gone to Midnight Mass every year as a child and I didn’t remember the singing lasting this long.
I shoved my head under the pillow but I could still hear the voices, whispery, distant, floating over the cemetery. With the voices came the memories of the Christmas Eves of my childhood: walking across the cemetery with my hand tucked in Dad’s, our arms swinging in tandem, my head tilted back, certain I’d get a glimpse of Santa sailing across the dark sky on his way to deliver toys to the Baptist kids who didn’t have to go to church first. The cemetery was always still and silent around us, and whenever we passed the grave of my great-great grandmother, Dad would touch two fingers to his forehead in a salute of acknowledgement. Afterwards, he’d whisper in my ear that if I was lucky we’d see a ghost because even they were allowed to walk the Earth on Christmas Eve so they could attend Mass. Then Mom would tell him to hush up. The idea of ghosts never scared me, though. You get used to it, growing up next door to a cemetery.

I slid the pillow off my head. It was too hot and stuffy under there. The music seemed to have stopped, and I lay still, listening for it—

Nope, they weren’t done yet. A low, haunting melody surged on the wind, the voices rippling like wind chimes. The clock rolled over to 12:21. The shards of moonlight seemed as bright as tanning lights. My insomnia was going to strike. I could feel it, like the start of a headache behind my temple. I’d finally started sleeping well these last few weeks, and it figured that church hymns would be the thing to instigate it all over again. I sighed, dragged the blanket over my face. The singing swelled. It almost sounded too sweet to be the St. Cecilia congregation, and for a moment I couldn’t move, paralyzed by the strange and unearthly beauty of that singing. A chill rippled over my skin, and I wasn’t certain, in that moment, if I was joyful or afraid.

A burst of wind slammed against the window. The screen rattled in the frame. Whatever midnight spell the hymns had created was broken, and I flopped down on my side, staring through silvery moonlight at the elongated shadows of the bedroom. It’d been my bedroom, a long time ago, although Mom had redecorated a few years after I moved out. No trace of my teenage self remained.

I wasn’t going to fall back asleep.

I threw the blankets aside and crawled out of bed, shivering when my feet touched the cold floor. I wrapped the top quilt around my shoulders and padded out of the bedroom. The hallway was lit with the eerie blue glow of the same night light that had once consoled my own fear of the dark several years ago. Funny that it was still lit, since that fear had evaporated. I was an adult now, and it wasn’t the dark that scared me anymore.

Downstairs, I could hear the singing even more clearly. I wrapped my arms around my chest, drawing the blanket in closer, and listened at the foot of the stairs, where moonlight flooded in through the window above the door. The singing sounded much closer than the church. My heart fluttered, and once again that strange chill ran up my spine—rhapsody or terror? In the silvery light of the foyer, through the groggy haze of my interrupted sleep, I couldn’t tell the difference.

I put on a pair of Mom’s slippers that she’d left lying beside the umbrella stand—she and Dad were in the Caribbean right now, staying in some expensive hotel on the French side of Saint Martin. I’d volunteered to house-sit because I couldn’t stand the thought of spending the holidays in my apartment in the city, accepting pity invitations for friends to celebrate Christmas with their families when my own family had failed so spectacularly six months ago, with a single revelation that had ended my marriage, my hopes for children, all of it. I was supposed to be settled into the routine of traditions by now; instead I had no traditions but the ghosts of the ones from my childhood. Like this big empty house, the music from Midnight Mass keeping me awake.

I opened the front door. Arctic air blasted into the foyer, but I stepped out onto the porch anyway. You never got white Christmases here, but as a kid I used to wish for cold on Christmas Day. Nice to have one childhood wish fulfilled in my life.

At first all I could hear on the porch was the wind, howling and whistling its own song of the Arctic. I flipped the switch for the porch light but it didn’t come on. Didn’t matter. The moon was bright enough that the trees cast shadows.

I walked out on the porch steps, straining to hear the music over the wind. For a moment I was certain that it had stopped, but then the wind gusted and I heard it, faintly. It was like crystals chiming, like light sparkling across the surface of a lake. There was no way it was the church.

But it was coming from the direction of the church.

From the direction of the cemetery.

I gathered up the quilt keeping me warm and stepped onto the grass. Damp cold seeped through the fabric of the slippers, but I didn’t care—I hardly even noticed. I just plodded forward through the blustery wind, following the path around to the back of the house, past the spiny, leafless bougainvillea and the empty herb garden. The singing grew louder, grew softer—it all depended on the strength of the wind. My chest seized up and my breath quickened, but I kept walking. I wanted to know who was singing.

But the back porch was empty, and so was the field that lay between our property and the start of the cemetery. St. Cecilia’s was lit up like a beacon, colored light streaming through the stained-glass windows and shining on the cars parked in neat rows beside the building. The cemetery was a smudge of darkness, the way it always was. I sighed and sat down on the porch steps. My feet were damp and stinging with the cold. My cheeks burned. I didn’t care. The mystery hadn’t been solved.

There was no way that singing was coming from the church. No way at all. But I could still hear it.

I drew myself deeper into the blanket. There were more of mom’s empty flowerbeds back here, all of them laying dormant for spring. The pecan tree was nothing but a tangle of black branches. The singing dropped away, and for a moment I thought it was over—but no, it surged again, swelling like the wind, and I recognized the melody, although I couldn’t remember its name. A hymn.

Maybe it was the church after all.

I stood up to go back inside. It was just singing, just Midnight Mass. But then a flash of color caught on the corner of my eye, and my heart jolted. It was a flower growing next to the entrance of the cemetery. Bright red.

I hadn’t seen it before.

I knew I hadn’t seen it before. Not when I arrived two days ago, dragging my suitcase to the back door. Not when I took out the trash this morning. Not when I went to the grocery store this evening, having run out of butter for the pecan pie. That flower hadn’t been there.

Now it was.

I stared at it for a long time, my heart pounding. The singing continued on, but now the flower had my interest: that flower, tall and surrounded with wide, flat, tropical-looking leaves, the single blossom shaped like a lantern and bobbing up and down in the wind. It didn’t even look like a flower that ought to be able to stand the cold.

I stepped off the porch. The singing died away and then faded in again, this time with the Ave Maria. The cold sank deep into my bones. It didn’t matter. I was drawn forward toward the cemetery, taking the same path I had hundreds and hundreds of times before, when I was a child. Recreating my past, all on my own.

The flower was so bright it seemed to glow. It was brightest at its center, like a lick of flame. I stopped a few paces away from the entrance of the cemetery. My breath puffed out in white clouds of steam, and I shivered beneath the blanket. Although I didn’t really feel the cold.

I reached out, ran my fingers over the curve of the flower’s blossom. It trembled beneath my touch. I snatched my hand away.

The singing swelled.

I jumped, whirled, the blanket flaring out around me. The porch light on my parents’ house glowed several yards away, and the church did the same in the opposite direction. I was mired in the darkness of the cemetery. Except for the light of that flower.

The voices were still singing the Ave Maria, and they were close, they were loud. They were outside. It wasn’t the church at all. It was the cemetery.

The dead are allowed to walk the Earth on Christmas Eve.

I whirled around again, measuring the distance to the church, then to the house. The house was technically closer but it seemed to have receded into the darkness. The porch light might as well have been a star.

I ran toward the church.

I ran into the cemetery.

I didn’t realize what I was doing until it was too late. Darkness swarmed over me. The light from the house blinked out; the church was enveloped in mist. I tripped over the edge of the blanket and fell, sprawling out on the cold, frozen grass. The cold shot up through my bare hands and soaked through my pajamas. I shoved myself up, trying to crawl to my feet, panic choking off my breath. My heart beat as fast as a hummingbird’s, using up all the heartbeats I was allotted in a lifetime. My hair swung into my face. My fingers were frozen. I couldn’t stand up.

And then someone passed in front of me.

I shrieked and scrambled backwards over the grass. It was a woman, dressed in a flimsy bias-cut dress, her hair curled and bobbed. A little boy followed after her, and then a man in a dark suit. Another woman, older, and her clothes older still: a long swishing skirt, a high-collared blouse pinned shut with a brooch.

One by one they passed. None of them were dressed for the weather, but all of them, it seemed, were dressed up. Sunday clothes, my mom used to call them. Funeral clothes. The clothes your body wears when you are dead.

I couldn’t move. The people passed by me. Some of them were singing. Some of them had their heads bowed. One man smoked a cigarette and blew the smoke up toward the stars, the ember a jewel in the darkness. None of them looked at me.

But then a little boy passed. He wore breeches and a waistcoat, and he turned to look at me as he walked by. His eyes were bright, twin stars set into the lines of face. I smothered a scream. He blinked at me: the lights flickered. Then he smiled, and said something, but I couldn’t hear him.

A woman grabbed him by the arm in the manner of all mothers hushing their children in church. The boy looked away, pouting, and began to sing.

I cowered there on the ground, tangled up in my blanket, watching the dead walk by. Distantly, the church’s bells started to ring, a riotous clanging that somehow still aligned with the melody of the hymn. It was music unlike any I’d heard; music, I suspected, that was not meant for the living.

The parade marched on. I wasn’t sure how long I stayed out there. The cold grew so intense that I no longer felt it, only a pleasant numbness like sleep. That numbness sank deeper than just my physical body: I could feel it assuaging the pain of the last year, the divorce and the loneliness and a Christmas Eve spent wishing I could be a child again, when the world was simple.

The last person in the parade was a woman dressed in white. She carried the red flower I had seen at the entrance to the cemetery, and now its glow was unmistakable. It cast a sphere of red light over the ground, over the woman’s dress and bare feet. Her head was bent as if in prayer, her lips moving, but when she passed me she looked up and caught me in her bright starlight gaze. I couldn’t look away. I didn’t dare.

She broke from the parade and glided over to me. Something about her reminded me of my father–the shape of her eyes, the tilt of her nose. The singing sounded far away now, but the church bells were louder, echoing around inside my head. The woman knelt at my side. The flower’s light fell on me, tingling where it touched my skin.

“This is not the place for you,” she said.

Her voice sounded as if it came from the church bells. She tilted her head back toward the cemetery entrance, back toward my parent’s house. I could see the porch light again, a tiny glimmering dot against the darkness.

“Go,” she said.

My fingers ached. My skin felt as if it was on fire. I had the dull realization that I was on the verge of freezing to death.

The woman stood up. She smiled. It was not exactly a human smile.

“Merry Christmas, granddaughter,” she said, and then she floated away, toward the clanging of the church bells.

I lay for a moment in the empty cemetery. The moon cast silvery light on the gravestones and the statues of angels. Someone laughed; over at the church, the congregants were spilling out of Midnight Mass, huddling together in groups of twos and threes. I struggled to my feet, hoping none of them would see me. It would be embarrassing, trying to explain what I was doing out here, half-dressed and half-frozen.

The moonlight outlined the shape of my parent’s house, and I hobbled toward it, leaving the cemetery behind.


The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke - Feb 2013 TheAssassinsCurse-144dpi ThePiratesWish-144dpi




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Sean Lynch: Christmas Reflections

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As part of our 12 Days of Christmas, we’re bringing you some of your favourite authors talking about what Christmas is to them…in whatever form they like! We’re also bringing you their books at only £1!

Today is the turn of Sean Lynch, author of Wounded Prey and the forthcoming The Fourth Motive.

Here’s how to take advantage of our seasonal special offer:

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3. Add the magic word ‘tinsel’ to the ‘coupon/voucher’ box
4. Click the ‘update basket’ button and the discount will be applied

Happy reading!


Christmas Reflections


It was my great good fortune to be born into a family which reveres Christmas.  Christmas at the Lynch household was the zenith of a holiday season which began before Halloween and concluded with the advent of the New Year.  In our home, the season kicked-off with the blustery sting of autumn’s breath and the taste of Trick-or-Treat candy, and finished with the ale and revelry of New Year’s Eve.  But the main event was always Christmas.

As this year draws to a close, my family, like many families around the world, celebrates our unique holiday traditions.  During such a time it’s only natural to reflect on Christmases past.  With an invitation from the great folks at Angry Robot/Exhibit A/Strange Chemistry, I have been given an opportunity to memorialize this year’s Christmas reflections.  I ask your forbearance in advance for my nostalgia.

image8_0009 (2)If I described my childhood as idyllic it would not be too strong a label.  I grew up in a small river town in Iowa, one of five children to working class parents.  The house we owned was built during the Civil War; a two-story, red-brick mausoleum which resembled a haunted mansion, featured an eerie, crypt-like, cellar, and was the source of endless chores and renovations.  The property nested on acres of wooded land, sported a tire swing, a zillion giant trees to climb, and our very own creek.  It was a kid’s paradise, and in the days before VCR’s, computers, and video games there was always something exiting to do if you thrived on adventure, liked to be outdoors, were willing to indulge your imagination, and weren’t averse to skinned knees.

My summertime memories include fierce lightning storms, the cacophonous hum of cicadas, capturing fireflies, mowing lawns, delivering papers, and detasseling corn in the sweltering Midwestern heat.  Independence Day I will forever associate with humidity and ravenous mosquitos.

My winter thoughts, however, are always tinged with echoes of Christmas.  As a kid, the cackle of Halloween goblins would still be resonating in my ears when anticipation of the Christmas-to-come began teasing my brain.  Thanksgiving was merely the midway point between Halloween and Christmas, and the yuletide season’s official start.  Especially since it is not uncommon where I grew up to get the first snowfall before Halloween. By the time Thanksgiving’s turkey and stuffing was digested a blizzard may have already arrived.

Winter memories include snowball fights, snow forts, (to better prevail in snowball fights), sledding, (I lost my front teeth riding belly-down on a Western Flyer), shoveling snow, delivering papers, and tromping to school in rubber galoshes while bundled up like Neil Armstrong during his moonwalk.

The transformation of the Lynch home at Christmas time was a marvelous thing to behold.  Decorating our house, and the erection of the Christmas tree, were joyous events.  My parents spent their lives restoring our century-old farmstead, and at no time did the majestic old structure appear more resplendent than when decked out for Christmas.  It is not an exaggeration to say that I grew up in a home which on a winter’s day resembled a Currier and Ives lithograph, just like the carol says.

My childhood Christmases were the genesis of a lifelong appreciation for all things yuletide, and have produced a wealth of recollections which sustain my spirit in this frenetic, cynical, modern world.  To me, the sights, sounds, and smells of the holiday season are a source of consolation, and heighten my senses like no other time of the year.  They also serve to bring me back in fond recollection to the days of my youth.

Snot icicles.  Gingerbread cookies.  The Grinch who Stole Christmas; the original Boris Karlof cartoon version, not the schizophrenic live-action atrocity starring Jim Carrey.  Tooth-shattering hard candies.  Claudine Longet’s rendition of Randy Newman’s’ haunting melody ‘Snow.’  The scent of pinecones and hickory burning in our ancient marble hearth.  My mom’s honey-glazed ham, fresh from the oven.  And long before Ralphie, portrayed by Peter Billingsley in the holiday classic A Christmas Story, received his Daisy Red Ryder BB gun I was unwrapping mine on a never-to-be-forgotten Christmas morning.  I’ve spent a lifetime as a firearms enthusiast, operator, and trainer, and have been issued, trained with, and owned some of the most expensive and exotic weapons around; everything from an Army-issued M-16, to a police-issued Heckler and Koch submachine gun and Remington sniper rifle, to my trusty Smith & Wesson revolver and Sig Sauer pistol.  But the finest and most treasured weapon it was ever my privilege to own was my lever-action Daisy Red Ryder BB gun.   I must have cycled a ton of tiny copper balls through that old Daisy.  I have it still.

I now reside in California, more than two thousand miles from the home of my youth.  Though winter in the San Francisco Bay Area can get surprisingly chilly, it is nothing like the winters of my childhood.  Yet in the years since I migrated from Iowa I’ve always tried to keep the spirit of Christmas alive in my heart, even without the snow and trappings of the holidays I experienced as a child.  I’ve continued to honor the Christmas traditions I was raised with. Not surprisingly, the Christmases I’ve known as an adult have only increased my reverence for the magical holidays of my earlier years.

As a cop I endured many Christmases, as well as other holidays, on-duty.  An especially memorable one was my first as a sworn officer.  That Christmas Eve found me and my partner wrestling a naked, feces-covered, knife-wielding, homicidal maniac in a tenement apartment.  What I remember most about that night was my partner and I walking back to the police station afterwards; none of the other cops would let us ride in their car.

I remember my first Christmas with my wife; the word ‘treasure’ doesn’t adequately do justice to that memory.  And both of my children were born on the heels of Christmas; more precious gifts have never been received.

As a voracious reader, another habit I inherited from my parents, I found the Christmas season the perfect time to enjoy the solace of a good book.  I consumed a lot of Christmas classics, like Dashiell Hammett’s Continental OP series, Raymond Chandler’s collection of short stories, and my favorite holiday read, Anthony Hope’s A Prisoner of Zenda, which I recently read to my own children.  An entertaining book consumed in a comfortable chair is my idea of a perfect winter’s evening.

Though raised in a devoutly religious household, I am not a religious person in the traditional sense.  I nonetheless appreciate the rituals of my Catholic upbringing, and the true meaning of Christmas is not lost on me.  I am blessed to know and love many people who celebrate the holidays with their loved ones in different ways.  I have friends who practice Celtic Polytheism, family members who follow the path of Buddha, and brothers-in-arms who light the Menorah during the Festival of Lights.  Consequently, I choose to define the ‘Christmas’ season, although technically a Christian holiday, as merely a time near Winter Solstice when family, friends, and loved ones, regardless of faith, take pause to celebrate each other, give thanks, exude kindness, and revel in one another’s company.  Not everybody’s idea of Christmas, to be sure, but it works for me.

Thank you for indulging me in my stroll down Memory Lane.  There is one thing about my Christmas’s past and Christmas’s yet-to-come of which I’m more than certain; that I am truly a blessed fellow.  I try mightily to be grateful for such gifts every day.

May you spend your Christmas, or Hanukkah, or whatever you call this magical time of year, with those you love and who love you.



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John Matthews: Christmas Blog Post

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As part of our 12 Days of Christmas, we’re bringing you some of your favourite authors talking about what Christmas is to them…in whatever form they like! We’re also bringing you their books at only £1!

Today is the turn of John Matthews, author of the fantastic New York Victorian mystery Letters From A Murderer, the first novel featuring the duo Finley Jameson and Joseph Argenti.

Here’s how to take advantage of our seasonal special offer:

1. Visit the Robot Trading Company at
2. Add the book(s) you’d like to buy to your shopping basket
3. Add the magic word ‘tinsel’ to the ‘coupon/voucher’ box
4. Click the ‘update basket’ button and the discount will be applied

Happy reading!

We’re often reminded that one of the key elements of Christmas is that it’s a season of goodwill and good cheer to all our fellow men. The season not just to be merry but kind in spirit too; and by that I don’t mean an extra case of beer or whisky, but acts of kindness of the soul.

In writing an historical thriller series, one ‘spirit’ I felt close by my shoulder throughout was indeed Charles Dickens. Not only as one of the leading Victorian authors, but also because he was one of my heroes; and not solely due to his writing ability. If that was the case, then John Fowles or Dennis Lehane would have been higher on the ‘hero’ list. It was because through his writing, Dickens was such a champion of social justice.

He made Victorian society more aware of the plight of child chimney sweeps and child labour in general; of work houses, debtor’s prisons and the terrible inadequacies and injustices that took place in orphanages at the time. Much of this indeed was written from Dickens’ personal experiences; he had himself spent some time in an orphanage and his father had been in a debtor’s prison for a spell. Whether through his writing or it coinciding with an uplift in Victorian ‘social conscience’, in the late 1800s the number of charities for the poor increased ten-fold.

Showing by example the same shades of social injustice of this era helped me greatly in writing ‘Letters from a Murderer’. I felt that many previous books featuring ‘Ripper’ victims had not shown them in a particularly kind light. Little or no empathy was developed for them; often the main focus was on the gore and brutality of the murders, almost as if having chosen to be street prostitutes they had automatically exposed themselves to such risk.

Through Ellie Cullen and her commune I wanted to bring home to readers that often for women of that era there was little choice; it was either work the streets of let your kids starve. Once that more noble cause has been identified, reader empathy for Ellie and her commune starts to grow, and Jameson and Argenti too have ‘soft spots’ for those less fortunate or might have fallen from grace. Jameson’s own mother was committed to London’s Bedlam and Argenti’s sister had been a showgirl and prostitute.

Of course, the prospect of kids ailing or starving was something Dickens played on heavily in Oliver Twist, but perhaps none more so than with ‘Tiny Tim’ in a Christmas Carol. Here in Dickens’ perennial Christmas favourite, he stabbed readers’ hearts with a spit-roast stave at the prospect of this poor crippled boy facing yet another lean Christmas. And as Scrooge gets a view of that through his ‘Ghost of Christmases Past’ visions, his conscience too is stabbed to (for once in his miserable life) do the right thing.

With the gift of that same ‘Scrooge-like’ hindsight, and knowing as we do how Victorian attitudes changed through that era, it makes me wonder whether indeed Dickens used Scrooge as representative of that changing mode of Victorian thought regarding social injustice. Or is that just me, as a writer, trying to tie up all the loose ends and add due perspective as once again we approach the season of goodwill.



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Kim Curran: Summoning Santa

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As part of our 12 Days of Christmas, we’re bringing you some of your favourite authors talking about what Christmas is to them…in whatever form they like! We’re also bringing you their books at only £1!

Today is the turn of Kim Curran, author of ShiftControl, and the forthcoming Delete.

Here’s how to take advantage of our seasonal special offer:

1. Visit the Robot Trading Company at
2. Add the book(s) you’d like to buy to your shopping basket
3. Add the magic word ‘tinsel’ to the ‘coupon/voucher’ box
4. Click the ‘update basket’ button and the discount will be applied

Happy reading!

Summoning Santa

Letting the dyslexic write the words on the summoning paper had been the first mistake. The same five letters jumbled up and instead of the Lord of Darkness, Father of Lies, Angel of The Bottomless Pit, standing in the ritual circle chalked on the floor, there was a surprised looking fat man in a red suit.

“Ho, ho, huh?” the man said.

He looked around at the four girls who in turn were staring at him, their black-painted lips hanging open. The last thing he could remember he was about to give the elves their annual pep speech to boy them up for the final push. It had been quite a good speech. He’d been very proud of it, even if he had cribbed much of it from one of Coach Taylor’s speech from Friday Night Lights. But the elves weren’t to know that. Then, there had been a flash of white light, and he was standing in what, as much as he could tell in the flickering glow from five black candles, was a teenage girl’s bedroom. He could just about make out a poster of a familiar boy band pinned to the far wall.

“What. The. Fuck?” said Emily, who was going by the name of Raven Darkmane this evening.

“Who’s this guy?” asked Pippa, who had chosen the name of Aurora Stardust for herself but only because Sharon had called dibs on Lilith.

“Well hello there, little girl,” the fat man said, bending down to smile at Aurora.

The girl recoiled as the large white beard loomed at her, and let out a small squeal.

“Mel, what have you done?” Raven asked, refusing to call the forth of the witches ‘Medusa’ because right now, she didn’t deserve it.

“Me? It was your idea.” Mel, aka, Medusa snapped back.

“If you’d let me write it–“ Lilith sneered. But was cut off as Medusa threw the book of summoning at her head.

The four girls erupted in bickering, calling each other even worse names than the ones they’d chosen for themselves.

“Come now!” the fat man said, dodging the bunch of foul-spelling herbs Lilith threw at Medusa. “Come now, you don’t want to go on my naughty list, now do you?”

The girls stopped in their arguing to stare at the intruder.

“You dirty old perv,” Raven said, scowling at the man. The three other girls made disgusted noises of agreement.

“No, no. There seems to have been some terrible misunderstanding,” the old man said, trying to maintain his famously jolly persona while getting increasingly annoyed at these young women. “I’m St Nicholas.” He grabbed hold of his belt and stuck his large belly out, striking the pose they must surely know, if not from stories than at least from adverts.

The four girls looked blank.

“Kris Kringle? Papa Noel?” Still nothing. “Are you telling me you’ve never heard of Santa Claus?” he said. “Youth these days.”

“Santa?” Medusa said, realisation dawning. “Oh.”

“Oh my god, we’ve summoned Father Christmas!” Aurora said, covering her mouth with her hand.

“Look I was one letter out.” Mel said.

“Well, it’s too late now,” Lilith flicked back her long plait. “What are we going to do about him? He can’t be here when mum comes home or she will go mental.”

“Hang on a second,” Raven said, silencing the grumbling girls. She turned to face the man in the circle. “You’re Father Christmas, right?”

“Why, yes, I am. And would you like to come and sit on my knee and tell me what you’d like for Christmas?” Santa said, slipping into his usual spiel.

The girls all let out a high-pitched ‘Eewwww!’

Santa was getting confused. He wasn’t used to a reception like this.

“Look, if you would just let me go and then we can forget all about this. I have a bunch of dispirited elves who are in desperate need of a rousing speech right about now.” He took a step forward.

“Not so fast,” Raven said. “Not till we get our wish.”

“Well, why don’t you write me a letter like all the other boys and girls?”

“Because,” Raven said, readjusting he long hair, which she’d dyed jet black for the occasion. “Other boys and girls don’t have you trapped in a ritual circle. There’s no getting out till we say so.”

Santa tried to step across the circle and realised the girl was telling the truth. It was like there was an invisible force field stopping him from crossing over. He was starting to get really pissed off.

“What do you want?” he said, a frosty edge to his words that scared the girls a little.

Raven wasn’t going to be put off. They’d gone to a lot of effort to perform this ritual. Going into that creepy magic shop in town and getting all the ingredients. Buying the summoning book from eBay. Even cutting their arms for the blood sacrifice.

“One Direction,” Raven said.

“What?” Santa said. “Their album?” He’d seen that name appearing on a lot of Christmas Wish Lists this year.

“No,” Raven said, with a grin. “The actual boys. We want them.”

“You want them to what?” Santa said, narrowing his eyes at the hungry expression on the young girl’s face. He’d seen a lot of greed in his time – small children stamping their feet demanding the latest toys – but this was something else.

“We want them to want us,” Lilith said, sharing the lustful glow in her friend’s eyes. “One for each of us.”

“Although don’t worry about Liam,” Aurora said.

The girls all nodded. Liam, they had decided, would not be worth it.

There had been a lot of arguing over who would get who. In the end, they’d drawn straws. Raven had ended up with Harry, of course. Mel was convinced she’d cheated somehow. But she’d got Zayn, and she was happy with that. Lilith and Aurora had got Louis and Niall, which they pretended to be OK with, but Mel knew better.

“That’s not my usual sort of present, kid,” Santa said.

“Do you want out or not?” Raven said, crossing her arms.

“Yeah, I mean, what’s the point in being the, like, Mr Christmas, if you can’t grant wishes. That’s what Christmas is all about.” Aurora said.

“Yeah,” Mel agreed. “Like, totally.”

Santa considered telling these girls exactly what the true meaning of Christmas was. He was going to give them his goodwill, and it’s better to give than receive talk. But decided that there was a better way to teach them a lesson.

“OK, so you want me to make these boys want you?”

The girls nodded.

“More than they’ve ever wanted anything,” Raven said.

Santa smiled. A wicked glint in his eye that looked a lot more like Old Nick than Saint Nick. He raised a large, black-gloved hand and clicked his fingers.

Four boys appeared in the room, wearing too-tight jeans tucked into large boots.

The girls squealed, jumping up and down and hugging each other.

“Hi,” said Harry, flicking his long fringe out of his eyes, and smiling at Raven.

“Hi,” she said back, chewing on her bottom lip.

The four boys, walked towards the girls, a desperate, hungry look in their eyes.

“Ahem,” Santa said, reminding the girls to his presence. “I’ve held up my side of the bargain. Now, it’s time for you to let me go.”

Raven dragged her glance away from Harry and back to the old man. He was looking very pleased with himself. She thought that maybe they should keep him. See how many wishes they could squeeze out of the old git. But… she looked back to Harry, who licked his lips… what more could she ever want?

She lent down and rubbed at the outer rim of the white circle. Santa took a step over, staring down at the girls, his face dark and terrifying.

“I hope you girls have the Christmas you deserve,” he said.  And with that, he was gone.

The girls turned back to the members of One Direction, flicking their hair and brushing down their clothes.

The boys took a step towards them. They wanted the girls. They took another step. They wanted them more than they had ever wanted everything in their lives. They were starving for them.

The girls closed their eyes, waiting for the kisses they’d dreamed of. The boys smiled revealing sharp, jagged teeth. They opened their mouths.  Wider, wider, wider…

Control, by Kim Curran, artwork by Larry RostantShift, by Kim Curran




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As part of our 12 Days of Christmas, we’re bringing you some of your favourite authors talking about what Christmas is to them…in whatever form they like! We’re also bringing you their books at only £1!

Today is the turn of William Sutton, author of Lawless and The Devil of Euston Square and the forthcoming Lawless and The Flowers of Sin!

Here’s how to take advantage of our seasonal special offer:

1. Visit the Robot Trading Company at
2. Add the book(s) you’d like to buy to your shopping basket
3. Add the magic word ‘tinsel’ to the ‘coupon/voucher’ box
4. Click the ‘update basket’ button and the discount will be applied

Happy reading!


Orpheus Cover 2

Orpheus and the Nymphs of the London Underworld


William Sutton

A shilling shocker short story featuring Victorian detective, Sergeant Campbell Lawless, known as Watchman because he was formerly a watchmaker’s apprentice.

© William Sutton MMXIII


“Finding things as is missing something of a speciality,” said Worm, “with a sideline in unfinding things as may be better off lost.”

It was the Scotland Yard fellow, Lawless, who gave me my first whiff of the Nymphs of the Underworld; but it was his little messenger, Worm, who put me on the scent of my fantastical snowbound quest. Since Eurydice vanished…

I know, the ridiculous name. But she was at least half-Greek; and when first I saw her dance, I thought her the closest thing to a nymph I had ever seen. When first she heard me play, when first I saw her dance, by the Hampstead Ponds… Forgive me.

Anyway, it was the beginning of December she vanished. I didn’t think much of S Division’s efforts to find her, and I said as much to the Hampstead Superintendent, Charles J. O’Logan. He told me I could try my luck down town.

So I trudge through the early snows down to the river of filth. There, at a bare counter in Scotland Yard, Sergeant Lawless receives me kindly. These detective policemen, they must get cranks of every description wasting their time: a daughter who’s run off; a sister who never came home from work; a wife who’s been abducted.

“Abducted, sir?” Sergeant Lawless tries to be gentle. “She may have been. Or smuggled away to a Turkish harem. Or fanged by a serpent and gone to the nether world. She may have been, but–” Sergeant Lawless suggests so kindly, without actually saying it “Most likely she has gone wilfully. Oh yes. You scared her off with too much toil and drudgery; too many beatings, or not beatings enough; too much love. That’s the truth of it. People are free to do as they wish. Happens all the time,” Lawless tells me, “and the police shan’t meddle in household affairs.”

“But Sergeant,” I tell him, “that’s simply not the scenario in this drama. We’re intimates, conjoined in art and love. Since first I saw her dance, since first she heard me play, that day upon Hampstead Heath, hair dark with pondwater, willowy limbs, dark brows over radiant eyes, skin as lovely as can be…” I stammer to describe to him my world, our world, vanished with her strange evanishment.

He raises a hand, sympathetical like. “Mr O’Fahy, I cannot help you.”

No help to find Eurydice? I clench a fist. I had already stomped and stamped, shrieked and wailed, thrown pots and pans, wrecked my home, rent my cheeks, torn my clothes, shorn my hair, all manner of griefs and mournings, kissed her portrait, blest her eyes, missed her, cursed her, missed her.

Of this operatic grief, the Sergeant heard only the pale echoes, yet he shivered as if the shades of the underworld had trailed their fingers down his neck. “I can’t. But I know someone who can.”

“Worm, sir, of the Euston Square Worms, public company as yet unlimited. Finding things as is missing something of a speciality, with a sideline et cetera et cetera.”

I met Worm by Seven Dials, a filthy spot for dirty business. As the snow fell faintly down upon us, I told him my woes.

“Mr O’Fahy,” said the urchin most sympathetical like, notwithstanding the whiff of sewer life he exuded. “Indeed Maestro, if I am not mistaken, given that I’ve seen your entertainments down Cremorne Gardens,  and up the Evans, and Wilton’s Music Hall. Your troubles stir the old heart, not unusual though they may be in these days of abductions and garottings, knifings and beheadings, rape, pillage, plunder and politic collusion. My Worms are a dab hand at finding what is missing et cetera. But for this, oh I fear I may need to invoke the very gods of the earth. Give us a quid. I’ll see you next week.”

I stomped through the slush. The first flakes had formed a pristine blanket; now the sleet dissolved everything to slush. I was sick of it. London was sick of it. It was Christmas Eve. In every window, families crowded round the hearth, wishing each other good cheer. But my hearth lay bare, and cheerless. I raged. I raved. Bit my nails with need, tore my hair in terror, remembering when first I saw her dance by the Hampstead Ponds, shimmering, dark, Eurydice—

“Maestro O’Fahy?” Worm took me by surprise. “It’s a poser you’ve posed us, and no mistaking.”

“Can you do at?”

“No, old cove.” He gazed at me, his eyes a brilliant blue. “But I’ll tell you who can.”

Worm led me neath the petticoats of London, through layered depths to the darkest recesses of the old Mother City. Down at the river of death, separating the city of the living from the city of the dead, the ferryman waited to row lost souls across the river of Lethe. “You wouldn’t have a couple of shekels, old cove?”

Two obols, perhaps he meant. I had expected… I don’t know what I expected, but I brought out my instrument, and I played. The ferryman’s pockmarked face was stern as a skull. Yet at the first notes of my song he yielded. The oars took us rhythmically over, ever nearer Eurydice.

On the far side, three guard dogs fought at the gates to bite us. I struck up my song again. Straightway, the dogs lay down, becalmed.

We entered that shadowy palace, which Worm called the Underworld. The king and queen looked at me in wonder.

“Are you still…? Only we don’t normally get your type down here.” Hades glared at Worm. “Call yourself a psychopomp? You’re only meant to bring people so far ruined I may leech the final vestiges of life from them.”

Worm spread his heads and left the stage to me.

I told my tale: evanishment, torn clothes, finding things as is et cetera. Hades was unmoved.

I told how we met, when first I saw her dance, when first she heard me play, for I knew that even he, even here, could not be immune to love. Hades laughed. Actually laughed. I would have no help to find Eurydice. In desolation, I comforted myself the only way I know how. The song escapes unbidden from my fingers. His wife Persephone – the grimmest bawd you could ever wish to see – laid a hand on her black husband’s arm, as my song of love melted her icy heart.

“Maestro,” she called. “Maestro O’Fahy, stop, I beg of you, before you wring my poor heart dry. There may be something we can do.” She asked for a photographical daguerreotype; I sketched her, dancing. She asked of Eurydice’s accents; I played the sound of her sweet voice. They asked for five quid; I wrote a cheque for ten guineas.

“Give us a minute,” said Persephone.

They sent me to wait in their pit of stinking humanity: the Nymphs of the Underworld. Wraiths devoid of warmth; degraded spirits; fallen bodies, and faces I half-recognised from my long years of entertainments and dalliances. There I lost myself in a haze of whisky and laudanum. A minute, an hour, a week. I knew not, nor cared – if I might find my Eurydice.

Worm shook me to my senses.

I gripped his arm. “Have they found her?”

Without a word, he took up my instrument and led me to the viewing balcony. There I peered, dumbstruck, through the curtains, down at the bawd house floor where the nymphs were disporting themselves, and there –

My heart leapt. Among the lost spirits, the dead souls, I saw. The tangled hair, the dark brows, the skin lovely as can be, my Eurydice –

Before I could leap down to her, there fell upon my shoulder Hades’ icy hand.

“There are two conditions. Number one: bank notes to the tune of one hundred, please, and no more of your infernal plucking. Number two: if you take her, she is yours, and you must do with her as you please; only I warn you, do not look too close, else the nymph of your heart may melt away back to the underworld.”

Back to the river, her footsteps behind me, my heart singing and my song full of love. Worm showed us, discreetly, to our boat. And there, in the shadows, I took her in my arms, and I held her, and I had her. Until, as the mist cleared arose, I looked…I saw…this was not… This was not my Eurydice! This? This hateful creature. Pitiful. Painted. A ruined, soiled, shamed imitation of my Eurydice.

What happened I cannot quite tell. As I came to my senses, the boy Worm was looking at me. The ferryman’s oars plashed on the waters, chopping through the ice floes. The boat was otherwise empty.

Did I thrust her from me in disgust, back to that Underworld which had consumed her? Or did I toss that mocking shadow into the river of forgetfulness, thinking to throw my love with it? Only my love did not go.

Worm handed me my instrument. And since then, I forever play, and play – for Eurydice.



William Sutton’s historical crime thriller Lawless and the Devil of Euston Square is published by AngryRobot’s Exhibit A imprint.

Unearthing scandal, sabotage and stink beneath Victorian London’s streets, it is the first book in the series featuring detective Campbell Lawless.

“Extravagant and thoroughly enjoyable,” wrote Allan Massie in The Scotsman

Lawless and the Flowers of Sin will be published in 2014.

Working with the ReAuthoring project and Portsmouth Writers’ Hub, William often wields a ukulele while performing; he has read on the radio, and at events from the Edinburgh Festival to Portsmouth’s Square Tower, from Canterbury Cathedral to the poop deck of Light Ship LV21, and from Eton College to High Down Prison.

You can listen to the audio version of this story:



t @WilliamGeorgeQ

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Madeline Ashby: A Very vN xMas

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As part of our 12 Days of Christmas, we’re bringing you some of your favourite authors talking about what Christmas is to them…in whatever form they like! We’re also bringing you their books at only £1!

Today is the turn of Madeline Ashby, author of vN, iD, the forthcoming sequel Rev, and Company Town.

Here’s how to take advantage of our seasonal special offer:

1. Visit the Robot Trading Company at
2. Add the book(s) you’d like to buy to your shopping basket
3. Add the magic word ‘tinsel’ to the ‘coupon/voucher’ box
4. Click the ‘update basket’ button and the discount will be applied

Happy reading!

Portia was alive: to begin with. There was no doubt whatever about that. The fact of her continued existence registered to the only family she had left: Amy, her ungrateful little brat of a granddaughter; Esperanza, Amy’s hackjob of an iteration; Javier, the steadfast tin soldier Amy had met in prison; and his incorrigible brood of iterations, each of which the slut had named Junior until they could be bothered to come up with something different. Portia was most emphatically alive; as lively as a cricket. Mind, she had no idea what was so particularly lively about crickets. She might have been inclined to described herself as “lively as a house on fire,” but apparently that was a simile for how humans got along with one another. Having set a house on fire with her mother’s wife inside it, Portia was inclined to leave the simile alone. She had larger concerns, this Christmas.

Christmas in Japan was a holiday for lovers. In this country everyone went home to endure their families for the New Year, instead. If a human child had been good all year she might just die choking on the fatally chewy rice cakes boiled in a special New Year’s soup. Why anyone would continue preparing such a thing every New Year’s Eve, Portia did not understand. Perhaps for the purposes of culling the surplus population. So Christmas was meant not for family but for fucking — and also eating fried chicken, if the ads were to be believed. Her granddaughter had already ordered the vN version. She would feed a piece to Xavier, the youngest of her cabana boy’s sons. And like all vN that particular holiday, Xavier would receive his Christmas bonus, and he would finally be free. By New Year’s Day, they would all be free.

War was starting. When they wanted.

It was going to be the best Christmas ever.

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Laura Lam: Winter Holidays in Ellada

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As part of our 12 Days of Christmas, we’re bringing you some of your favourite authors talking about what Christmas is to them. We’re also bringing you their books at only £1!

Today is the turn of Laura Lam, author of Pantomime and the forthcoming Shadowplay.

Here’s how to take advantage of our seasonal special offer:

1. Visit the Robot Trading Company at
2. Add the book(s) you’d like to buy to your shopping basket
3. Add the magic word ‘tinsel’ to the ‘coupon/voucher’ box
4. Click the ‘update basket’ button and the discount will be applied

Happy reading!

This post is adapted from a post last year which appeared on Starmetal Oak’s blog

The holidays are upon us. In the country of Ellada in the world of the Archipelago, the pseudo-Victorian world where my books Pantomime & Shadowplay are set, the winter holidays are both similar yet different to ours. Pantomime is set in spring and summer, so these holidays don’t appear until Shadowplay, so this is a sneak peek!

There are two main winter holidays. The night before the longest night of the year is called The Night of the Dead. It’s slightly similar to our Halloween in that many feel the barrier between the living and the dead grow thinner. Many people hold dinner parties with séances for entertainment. Others who are more superstitious will stay inside, windows shut tight, so that the dead cannot come to haunt them.

The longest night of the year is known as the Lady’s Long Night or the Long Night of the Lady. Elladans and most others in the Archipelago worship two deities—the Lord of the Sun and the Lady of the Moon. The longest day of the year is, coincidentally, the Day of the Lord, but it’s not as largely celebrated, at least not among the common people. Micah Grey doesn’t celebrate it in the circus, for instance. After all, they already spend most of their waking hours in daylight.

But the Lady’s Long Night is a lavish affair, when people celebrate that the worst of the winter and darkness is over. A huge procession twines through downtown Imachara, the capital of Ellada, with floats topped with people dressed as the Chimaera out of myth dressed all in white. Many go to the cathedrals to listen to choirs and pray to the Lady of the Moon. Gifts are exchanged. It’s a time of hope and cheer to remind them of the good in life, just after they were reminded of the sinister in the Night of the Dead.

And, as a little extra bonus, here is a short snippet from Shadowplay, from a scene set during Lady’s Long Night. I took out half of the first paragraph due to spoilers:

We made our way down to the Celestial Cathedral as dusk fell. It was the night of the Penmoon, and so all of the Penglass glowed blue, tingeing the snow around us. I steeled myself against its wordless call.

On the long promenade that led down to the Snakewood Palace, floats draped with white fabric fluttered in the winter wind. Snowflakes danced from the clouds. We bustled through the crowds until we found a good view of the parade. Men and women dressed as Chimaera – angels, dragonkind, mermaids, and others – waved as the floats moved down the boulevard. They wore all white, as though frosted, the blue light of Penglass settling on them like a shawl.

Music drifted through the streets. Imachara was fragmented lately, with the rising Forester protests, but at that moment, any animosity faded away as the citizens listened to the flute music rising and falling with the whistle of the wind, mesmerized by the slow waving of the false Chimaera.

After the parade had made its way back to the Snakewood Palace, we went to the Celestial Cathedral, our feet sliding on the frosty pavement. It was the largest cathedral in the city; its spires of white and dark marble some of the tallest in the city.

I did not consider myself particularly religious, but there was something about sitting on a pew under such a high manmade ceiling, and seeing the monumental religious figures in the stained glass that made me feel so small. I liked the near silence, but for the low murmurs of a few prayers, or the shuffle of feet. Like holding one’s breath.

The High Priest trundled onto the stage, awkward in his heavy white and gold vestments. He led the people in prayer, and I mumbled the verses along with the countless others around me. I lifted my eyes to the windows, wondering if the Lord and Lady heard our prayers.

The priest finished his sermon, and relinquished the stage to the choir. Two dozen men and women in dark blue robes embroidered with stars lifted their faces toward heaven and sang, their sweet voices reverberating throughout the cathedral. Drystan’s hand found its way into mine. They sang of love of the night and the day, and how the darkness made the stars and moon shine that much brighter.

When the last note faded, the silence was absolute.

And then it shattered.

Shadowplay by Laura LamPantomime-144dpi


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Wesley Chu: Christmas Blog

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As part of our 12 Days of Christmas, we’re bringing you some of your favourite authors talking about what Christmas is to them…in whatever form they like! We’re also bringing you their books at only £1!

Today is the turn of Wesley Chu, author of the just-released The Deaths of Tao, and the Goodreads Choice Awards 2013 Top 10 hit, The Lives of Tao.

Here’s how to take advantage of our seasonal special offer:

1. Visit the Robot Trading Company at
2. Add the book(s) you’d like to buy to your shopping basket
3. Add the magic word ‘tinsel’ to the ‘coupon/voucher’ box
4. Click the ‘update basket’ button and the discount will be applied

Happy reading!

Ah, it’s that time of the year again. Christmas and I have a complicated relationship. You see, she broke my heart. I first learned about Christmas when I was five years old in kindergarten back in Taiwan. I was learning about Western holidays in class and my teacher told us that if we made a list of things we wanted and hung socks over the fireplace, a white ghost (her words, not mine. Full disclaimer: at five years old, I had no idea what a Caucasian was so I literally thought it was a ghost) would break into our homes and stuff presents in there. You Westerners. So crazy!] Read More→

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