Archive for 12 Days
As part of our authors’ 12 Days of Christmas, which will start on Friday 13, the AR/SC/EA team have been given space to blather on about what Christmas means to them.
Here’s Angry Robot’s Senior Editor, Lee Harris, and later today will be Wanda from our New York office!
Over to you, Lee…
OK. This is going to be one of those annoying Best Of lists that crop up everywhere at this time of the year. I’ve read more novels for pleasure than I did last year (I didn’t get close to my – rather pathetic – target, but I found the time to read more), and I’ve enjoyed more TV and comics, conventions and audio dramas.
These are my favourite things I’ve consumed this year. They’re not necessarily this year’s releases.
So – my Top Threes of the year (in no particular order):
Novels (and I’m not including any Angry Robot books here. You can safely assume that all 24 made my Best 3 of the Year list, too).
London Falling by Paul Cornell
Urban Fantasy police procedural at its best. Paul is one of those annoying individuals who excels at everything he does. He’s multiple Hugo-nominated for his screenwriting and comics, and has won Hugos for the SF Squeecast (which he co-hosts with a number of other writer/fans). See – he’s even better at being a fan than the rest of us! And the most annoying thing? He’s a thoroughly nice chap, and so it’s difficult to begrudge him any of this. Expect London Falling to be on many shortlists this coming year.
Terra by Mitch Benn
It’s difficult to do comedy novels well. It’s more difficult to do science fiction comedies well. Mitch Benn nailed it with his first novel. Swine! It’s too early to say if he’s going to steal Douglas Adams’ crown, but you can be sure he’s got one eye on the sceptre and another on the escape route. And possibly a third on a beer and some cake – who knows?
The Girl With All the Gifts by MJ Carey
MJ Carey is the cunning pseudonym of Mike Carey, author of the Felix Castor series of urban fantasy novels, and far too many top quality comics to name (but Lucifer, Suicide Risk, X-Men, Hellblazer are among them). The Girl With All the Gifts is, I think, his best work to date. It reads like Ishiguro, if Ishiguro were better at genre. It deals with a topic that I generally never read, as I thought everything had been done on the subject (and done to death), but I was wrong. And no – I’m not going to outline what that subject is. Spoilers, sweetie. Read More→
As part of our authors’ 12 Days of Christmas, which will start on Friday 13, the AR/SC/EA team have been given space to blather on about what Christmas means to them. Earlier today we had our intern, Vicky, and now it’s the turn of Abi Pukaniuk, our Production Controller!
Remember to check out each day’s post to discover whose books are reduced to £1 in our Pre-Christmas Sale of Madness!
I regard myself as one of those Christmas Geeks: I get excited when it hits December; I rally the troops to get everywhere decorated; and am always singing Christmas songs. I also LOVE to wrap Christmas presents. An ambition of mine is to set up a stall in the local shopping centre and get people to pay me to wrap their presents. I am quite good at it, and always go the whole hog with ribbon, bows and all sorts.
This year, I was put in charge of the work Secret Santa. As a Production person, this task fits my skills. But what a hell of a job! It didn’t just include the Angry Robot team in Nottingham, but the whole Osprey Group. In total, that means about 50 people in Osprey’s Oxford office, approx. 25 people in the Watkins London office, 5 people in the US office, and then the 5 Angry Robots.
At the start I was excited and straight away created the Secret Santa draw box!
(Pretty good if I say so!)
As people pulled names out of the hat, I thought I should be organised and write down who everyone has. Then, no-one should have themselves, and I can make sure all the presents get to their final destinations correctly!
The Christmas party was the day the Secret Santa presents were handed out. Just from the Oxford and New York offices, I had 3 Santa sacks of presents to get to London. Once we were at the restaurant, I had another Santa sack full of presents containing the presents from the Watkins office and Angry Robot team.
With everyone mixed on 5 tables, it was a task to get everyone’s presents in table order to start dishing them out. But I had managed to persuade a good colleague and friend of mine, who always likes a laugh and loves to dress up, to help me out…
Please have a round of applause for Martin, aka Mrs Claus!
If it wasn’t for this guy, I would have exploded from the stress of organising the Secret Santa.
If you are organising a Secret Santa in the future or currently, good luck, and I hope you don’t have such a huge task like I did! But at least, it was successful and hasn’t put a dampner on my Christmas spirit!
As part of our authors’ 12 Days of Christmas, which will start on Friday 13, the AR/SC/EA team have been given space to blather on about what Christmas means to them. Bonus day for you with Vicky Hooper, our fantastic intern, and Abi Pukaniak, our Production Controller! First up is Vicky, and remember to check out each day’s post to discover whose books are reduced to £1 in our Pre-Christmas Sale of Madness!
I adore Christmas. I love everything about this season, from the first leaf fall to the day itself. This time of year is so magical and I love the way it brings people together, the cheer and the good spirit it can bring out.
There are some things that we just naturally associate with Christmas, and then there are the personal touches, the films we always watch at this time of year, the books we re-read when the nights get longer, the food we can’t wait to see come into the shops… So, to celebrate my appreciation of all things Christmassy, here is my personal advent calendar of my favourite Christmas delights:
Day One – You open up a little picture of a red truck to reveal…
The Coca Cola Trucks. That feeling of excitement and anticipation you get when the first Coca Cola Christmas advert comes on TV. Holidays are coming!
Day Two – You open up a picture of a tree in a window to reveal…
Decorated Shops. The twinkling lights, the displays in the windows, the huge trees, Christmas music playing in the air, pine and caramel scents drifting round town, the Christmas market… Magical! At Christmas, town centres transform from bustling, stressful places to wonderlands. Ok, stressful wonderlands, but it’s still lovely.
Day Three – You open up a picture of an owl in a Christmas jumper to reveal…
Harry Potter. There’s something so Christmassy for me about Harry Potter – the books and the movies. Is it the magic? The Christmas jumpers? The fact Dumbledore looks a bit like a pointy Santa Clause? Anyway, they’re an essential Christmas staple for me.
Day Four – You open up a picture of a teddy bear wearing a wooly hat to reveal…
Winter Clothes. I love winter clothes! Big hats, wooly jumpers, stripy gloves, leg warmers, big warm boots… and if they come in Christmas colours and Christmas designs, so much the better. Pyjamas with robins on them? Snowman socks? Can’t get enough!
Day Five – You open up a picture of a fat, very satisfied looking mouse to reveal…
Sprouts. HA HA HA, just kidding! What I meant to say was cheese. ALL the cheese. Round cheese, flat cheese, baked cheese, blue cheese, smelly cheese, sharp cheese, mild cheese, cheese with breadcrumbs on top. Cheese.
Day Six – You open up a picture of a flame in the shape of a smiling face to reveal…
Howl’s Moving Castle. A very personal one here. This is my favourite book, a childhood favourite, and so full of magic, humour, romance, adventure, mystery and joy that it’s just perfect for Christmas.
Day Seven – You open up a picture of a steaming cup of coffee to reveal…
Christmas Coffees. I can’t get enough of them. Each year, Mission Christmas Drinks begins… an attempt to try every speciality seasonal drink that I can in the coffee shops around my town. Don’t forget the Christmas cakes and pastries too!
Day Eight – You open up a picture of a star to reveal…
Baubles. I like the kind of tree that tells a story – not symmetrical and colour-themed, but warm and friendly, a bit haphazard and lopsided, with as many different decorations as possible. The best baubles are the ones that mean something to me, something handmade or bought on a holiday, something that commemorates an occasion, or something silly that just reflects me or my husband so well. One of my favourites is the bauble that marks our wedding. This year, I’ve created a decoration from a pencil top, a little Robin Hood to celebrate our home of Nottingham. Do you like him?
Day Nine – You open up a picture of something blue with a hooked nose (what is that?) to reveal…
The Muppets Christmas Carol. What’s Christmas without the muppets? Songs! Dances! Beaker! Cheeses for us meeces!
Days Ten to Fifteen – You open up pictures of various woodland animals reading books to reveal..
Stories. Christmas is the time for stories. Well fine, every time is time for stories, but especially at Christmas, when the nights are long and magic is in the air (I mentioned I like cheese, right?). So here is your mission for days ten to fifteen: find stories set in the past, stories about true love, stories about magic, stories of family, and at least one fairytale. Enjoy!
Day Sixteen – You open up a picture of a cookie to reveal…
Cinnamon. This has to be the world’s greatest spice.
Day Seventeen – You open up a picture of a very tiny pizza to reveal…
Miniature Food. Party food… why do tiny versions of things always seem so much more special? Not to mention that feeling when you break into the special Christmas selection biscuit tin!
Day Eighteen – You open up a picture of dice to reveal…
Day Nineteen – You open up a picture of a lace bookmark sticking out of an old classic to reveal..
Pride and Prejudice. I’m not sure why this is such a Christmas essential for me. Is it all the balls and parties? The tale of true love? Probably just the fact that I’ve become used to watching it every year. Whatever it is, Pride and Prejudice is a must watch for me, and part of my personal Christmas tradition. Which is your favourite adaptation? The BBC one has my heart.
Day Twenty – You open up a picture of a clapperboard decorated with tinsel to reveal…
Going to the Cinema. This is something I don’t tend to do at other times of the year, but for me Christmas is really the time for going to the movies. Perhaps it’s because a lot of the big films that I’m interested in come out at this time. This year I particularly loved Gravity, and of course Catching Fire! And I can’t wait for the second Hobbit film. What have you seen this year?
Days Twenty-One to Twenty Four – You open up pictures of Christmas scenes to reveal…
Christmas Traditions. I love Christmas and so I also love many of the traditional things about it – the Christmas dinner, opening presents, seeing family and friends again. And I love the new traditions too, and my own personal traditions, and all the things people do to remind them of what they love about this time of year. Whether celebrated religiously or not, for me Christmas is special because of what it means at its heart. It’s about love and joy and happiness and family, and how could that not make you smile?
As part of our authors’ 12 Days of Christmas, which will start on Friday 13, the AR/SC/EA team have been given space to blather on about what Christmas means to them. First up, here’s Publicity Manager Caroline Lambe – feeling strange, writing about herself in the third person but how and ever.
Remember to check out each day’s post to discover whose books are reduced to £1 in our Pre-Christmas Sale of Madness!
This is nostalgic indulgence, but for those with an interest, here’s what an Irish Christmas means to me.
There are many notable events that signal the beginning of Christmas in Ireland. These are moments that reduce me to childish glee, and utterly unashamedly!
The order can be interchangeable but the two key moments revolve around RTÉ, our national broadcaster. Larry Gogan is a 2FM (equivalent to BBC Radio 1) DJ who has been there since the year dot, literally in the world of 2FM seeing as he played the very first song, on 31 May 1979! (“Like Clockwork” by the Boomtown Rats, if you’re interested to know) Larry is an Irish institution, and he has the honour of annually playing The First Christmas Song on 2FM. It mightn’t be part of his own show, they’re crafty – trying to get us to listen to other shows, waiting on Larry to pop up – but it’s generally during the first week of December. A personal favourite of Larry’s is “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues although you never quite know what he’ll go with. This year, he played the song that was most frequently requested in 2012, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”. Listening to Larry’s preamble on the 2FM website at the end of November this year, excitedly waiting to hear which song was chosen – and then singing along at the top of my voice – I felt like I was at home whilst sitting in my house in Leamington Spa. It certainly brought the traditional start of my Irish Christmas to England.
The Late Late Toy Show
As anticipated as Larry’s First Christmas Song is, there is no greater moment in an Irish Christmas than The Late Late Toy Show. The Late Late is a long-running talk show, first broadcasting in 1962, that originally had interviews and features with politicians, writers, musicians, comedians, and audience involvement in debates on topical issues. A quite serious affair with lighter moments, it is known for being a forum for controversial topics, at the time, including an AIDS special, a feature on the contraceptive pill – when it was still illegal in Ireland, and women’s rights. But, at Christmas, the set is transformed into a winter wonderland and the presenter embraces their inner child to run amok, certainly true in the case of the mighty Gay Byrne and the current presenter, Ryan Tubridy.
From 1975 when the first Christmas edition was aired, it has been a vital part of an Irish Christmas. It’s a time when every child in Ireland is allowed stay up past their bedtime. Santy letters are written based on the toys shown. Audience members dress up as elves and wear fake beards. And, the presenter wears a Christmas jumper. As I’m writing this, I’m discovering how hard it is to convey how much a Christmas jumper can excite a nation, but it’s part of our Christmas and the ‘big reveal’ of the presenter’s jumper – and the opening of the show – creates much excitement. This year’s Toy Show was broadcast on Friday 29 November, and for the first year was available online, meaning Irish people all over the world could watch. My fiancée, his parents who were over for the weekend, and I, gathered around the laptop, Christmas tree lit, glasses of wine in hand, and watched 3 hours of children taking over the Late Late Show as they reviewed toys, sang songs, danced, played instruments, and made the nation jealous. Every child (and adult, let’s be honest) in Ireland wants to be on the Toy Show!
It is the stuff of dreams, and it makes dreams come true, every year. This year’s highlight belongs to eight year old Domhnall O’Confhaola who was on the show, seemingly to review the latest soccer video games. As Ryan quizzed him on his favourite player, Ireland and LA Galaxy’s Robbie Keane, Domhnall spoke intelligently, and very sweetly, of Robbie and his love for the sport. I have seen no greater moment this year on TV than when Ryan Tubridy introduced Robbie Keane to the stage, and Domhnall met his hero. I highly recommend watching this YouTube clip of the moment…try keep your eyes dry, I dare you: Domhnall meeting Robbie Keane.
This year Ryan also had a co-host, Fergal from Cavan who wrote to Ryan asking if he could take part as he suffers from the debilitating illness, Middle Child Syndrome. Being a sufferer of this dreadful disease myself, I was delighted for Fergal that he got to have his moment in the spotlight, and he did a wonderful job introducing the kids’ bike brigade:
John Joe, the horologist, has also gone down in Toy Show fame, and if you’re already on YouTube watching the other two clips, you need to check this one out: John Joe, the horologist.
Kids love it, obviously. Adults love it because they revisit their childhoods every year with the tradition, and in turn watching other children enjoy it. But there’s something for everyone in the audience (like that, any Irish readers?!) and a common occurrence is the Toy Show Drinking Game, unofficial of course. The Late Late Toy Show, a programme for all the ages!
A new-ish feature in the Irish Christmas Calendar is the start of Christmas FM. Yes, a radio station dedicated to playing Christmas songs, 24/7. A temporary licensed station, it started in 2008, and the slogan says it all: Bringing You the Magic of Christmas! Each year the station has a chosen charity, and works towards raising as much money as possible, over a limited period. In 2011, over €117,000 was raised for Focus Ireland which works towards ending homelessness, a particularly poignant campaign for this time of year. This year’s charity is Aware, which assists people affected by depression. A fantastic station, which has introduced the Irish nation – at home and abroad – to classics such as Frank Kelly’s parody of the 12 Days of Christmas and the dreaded tear-jerker Christmas Shoes. I don’t think anyone will thank them for introducing Christmas Shoes to us! But Christmas FM is fast becoming a vital part of an Irish Christmas, and we do thank them for that!
We have many quirks in Ireland, in general, but a Christmas highlight is the Donegal postman who predicts the festive weather based on the movement of cows in the hills of Donegal. I kid you not. It doesn’t matter that he’s rarely right, we all still wait for his forecast! Good man, Michael Gallagher, only for ya! And yup, that’s his book cover there.
By the time we’ve had Larry play the first Christmas song; the Toy Show’s been on; Christmas FM is on-air; and Michael’s made his predictions, you can be sure it’s almost December 8. THE most important day in the Irish Christmas Calendar. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception. You may think I’m about to talk about the Catholic Church in Ireland and why this is important, it being Christmas and all, but no. Not at all. December 8 in Ireland is viewed as the official start of Christmas. If your Christmas tree isn’t up before, it’ll certainly be put up on the 8th. Even more importantly, it means…Culchies on Tour. The 8th is the traditional Christmas shopping day in Ireland and with most primary schools closed, the tradition of rural folk visiting the ‘big schmoke’ for the day is still alive and well. Dubliners just love it when the city is filled with ‘culchies’ up for the day. And speaking as a ‘culchie’, we just love it, too!
A Lambe Family Christmas
These are all events, and moments that I treasure. Thanks to the internet, I’ve still been able to have most of these moments part of this, my first year living in England, but nothing beats being at home.
Watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the Gene Wilder version, of course) with my family; making mince pies as my mother’s record player gives us the festive songs of Andy Williams, Slim Whitman, Perry Como, and more; being snowed in or unable to leave because our rural roads are never gritted…and being not-so-secretly pleased as it means more time just being at home; visiting relations and spending time with my family. My brother, sister and I still share our childish excitement of Christmas: Áine and I are annually awake at 5am* (OK, OK, I’ll admit that it’s usually earlier), when I creep into her room and we lie in bed pretending to sleep, giggling loudly, hoping everyone else will wake up. If we last until 7am before waking the house fully, my mother is very lucky, but we’re the lucky ones. She loves Christmas and has passed that fun and excitement on to us. She also cemented my love of books every Christmas with presents, and how Santy always knew to bring us books, I’ll never know. But then, that’s the magic of Christmas!
Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas!
Nollaig Shona Daoibh Go Léir
*I should mention that I’m 29, Áine is 24 and my brother, Shane, is 32…whaddya mean we’re not children anymore? It’s Christmas!
It wouldn’t be Christmas without an Angry Robot 12 Days of Christmas Advent Blog, and this year we’ve decided to not only bring you some of your favourite authors writing about Christmas, but also, whopping great big savings on their books! Here’s the deal:
Every day from Friday 13 December until Christmas Eve, authors from Angry Robot, Strange Chemistry, and Exhibit A will be posting their thoughts, memories, festive favourites, across all three sites. Each day, we will then release that author’s ebooks on the Robot Trading Company for sale – FOR ONLY £1 – using a special code which will be featured on all their blog posts. Their books will also be reduced across various ebook retailer platforms.
We’re not going to tell you which authors are featuring…that’s the best bit of an advent calendar, not knowing what’s coming next! So, stay tuned and remember to check back each day for the author’s blog post PLUS special price promo code.
To start this off, we’ve asked a few members of staff to bring you their festive favourites. First up is…me…later on today; hope you enjoy!
It’s been a busy year for Angry Robot, with the team growing in size over the last couple of months. The latest member of the editorial team is Amanda Rutter, who joined this month, and is building the list for our YA imprint, Strange Chemistry, which launches in September 2012. Here are some of Amanda’s highlights of the year.
Best of 2011
by Amanda Rutter
So, it has been a very odd but amazing end to the year for me. I quit my ten year career in accounting to move hundreds of miles away and take up a new career in publishing. A consequence of this means that my beloved blog, Floor to Ceiling Books, has come to an end – and my chance to give out some end of year awards has also gone. Then Lee asked me to produce a piece for the Angry Robot 12 Days of Christmas and I thought ‘Here’s my chance!’
Without any further waffle, here are my categories and award winners (and do feel free to disagree and provide your own responses in the comments section!). Read More→
A couple of days ago, we ran this picture, expertly drawn by our very own Anne Lyle, and asked you to come up with a caption – the winner gets an ARC of Anne’s debut novel, The Alchemist of Souls, a full 3 months before the book’s on-sale date!
And the winner is Psychomacologist with:
Too late, Christmas Tree realised her fairy lights were blinking “I want you inside me” in binary…
With honourable mentions to:
Alex with Angry Robot was confused by Traffic Light Tree’s mixed signals.
Ben Love with Red, yellow, green. You’re giving me mixed signals, baby.
Erin with You’re much fancier looking than the usual dead-tree editions.
A copy of the ARC will be winging its way to Psychomacologist (if that is your real name). Alex, Ben and Erin all win a consolatory grin.
A list of all the entries can be found in the comments, here.
Just in case you hadn’t noticed – and to be fair because Angry Robot readers are brighter than the average droid you probably did – there’s a crafting revolution going on. From Etsy to your local knitting shop, people all over the recession-hit western world are rediscovering the pleasures of doing it oneself. This Christmas, always one for an internet trend, we’d like to suggest a “make” for you of our own – with these deeply festive Angry Robot Christmas Snowflakes.
Making one isn’t so very hard, we reckon, our reasoning being that if we can make them without severing any major arteries, so can you. You’ll need a printer and appropriately sized paper (you can resize to suit), a pair of scissors or sharp craft knife… and Your AR Snowflake template (PDF) – don’t forget to right-click or alt-click, as is your wont.
So here’s all you have to do:
1. Download the PDF.
2. Open it up and print it. It’s set to just go onto some UK A4 (letter) but you may want to resize it to fit the paper size your printer can handle. Big is nice, weeny means you’ll probably lose a thumb trying to trim it, but feel free to experiment.
3. Fold it up (NB, you don’t need to cut the circle out first, unless you really want to). You might just cock the folding up first time but don’t worry about it. First, fold in half horizontally, then along one edge of the grey-tined segment. Then fold again so the grey-toned segment is on top. Fold the segment beneath it back the other way so it’s a “Z” in profile not a flattened spiral.
4. Using your preferred hacking implement, trim off all the grey parts, leaving the white. You’re going through 12 layers, so watch it!
5. Unfold. Wow, it’s like Christmas day already. Do a few, using different coloured papers, stick them up somewhere, and marvel at your crafting skills every 20 minutes until Twelfth Night. Then throw them in the recycling bin.
David’s highly-anticipated debut novel – Giant Thief - is published in February, and believe us when we say there’s a lot of interest in this book (quite rightly – it’s an enormously enjoyable read). Here, in a charming tale of seasonal celebration, we meet the Santa Thing…
A Study in Red and White
by David Tallerman
Illustrated by Duncan Kay – visit him at duncankay.blogspot.com.
Poised on snow-slicked roof tiles, the Santa Thing scents the wind.
The air reeks of snow. It licks across raw, red muscle and sinew, testing cavities and meaty crevices. The cold reminds the Santa Thing of home – and for a moment, it recalls older winters, deeper frosts, the uncluttered, frozen eons before shape and form and roiling, sickly life. An age when it seemed nothing would ever claw its way from the utter chill to crawl and mewl. An age when there was no need for subterfuge.
No time, no time for memory. Not tonight, most special and rich.
Here there’s a simple way down – a jut of hollow masonry beckoning. Once, they burned fires in those depths. That recollection brings no comfort. But this is a different age, and the blackness welcomes. Too narrow, though, for this current shape. No space for the Santa Thing’s ebon hooves, no room for the curlicues of bone that splinter its face and cluster round its head. Change is needed, as it has changed so many times before.
It’s a matter of a thought – for the Santa Thing is thought as much as matter, idea more than either. Flesh softens to jelly, to dripping wax. Muscle expands, contracts. A hundred bones click free. As they relocate, their note is faintly like the ring of bells.
Quick as light, quick as sorrow, the Santa Thing spills into darkness. It flows through gloom, where ancient ash still clings – slops into multicoloured light. A tree, strung and adorned. One of their Signs. Once the decorations were mistletoe sprigs, once the lights were candles and a ward. But humans don’t remember as the Santa Thing remembers. Now those flames are pretty and pointless. Though they sting the running jelly of its eyes, they can’t keep the Santa Thing from entering.
Shuddering like an oil-slicked bird, the Santa Thing takes back its form. Already its helpers chitter from the shadows at its presence. Their half-life goes hard on them. They exist only for this moment. Now that it’s come once more, they scud and shudder round the walls – flicker across cheap furniture, hung stockings, clumsily wrapped parcels.
The Santa Thing lets the moment drag, let’s them drive themselves to the brink of frenzy with anticipation. Only when they seem about to tear themselves apart does it speak, its voice rich and foul with the pressure of ages.
“Gud ur Bad?” asks the Santa Thing. “Gud ur Bad?”
In unison, they shriek their answer.
The Santa Thing shakes its flayed head in mock censure. How they struggle, these humans – these bags of unshifting meat and forgetting. How they neglect the old rules, the forms laid down millennia before they skulked into the world.
Bad? Bad it is.
Its helpers quieten now, stilled by awe and all they understand of fear. So much waiting, just for this moment. Their dust-mote eyes stare from every patch and stripe of murk. The Santa Thing gathers itself, reaches deep into the roiling galaxies within its form. Time stands on edge. Bladders swell, organs secrete, and arteries aslant from space drip piceous fluids.
Upon the brink of two realities, the Santa Thing releases.
To its own eyes, impulse and sensation spew and spray across the walls: A word of anger here, a casual blow there, an urge to hate drying in a filthy birthmark. To its eyes, a map in space and time charts pain across the patterned wallpaper. Its colours are rich, delightful. Yet, for those who’ll live out this portrait, nothing they’ll ever see. If only they could register its beauty, perhaps they could resist its lure.
A sound. A stutter of shock. The Santa Thing has let itself be distracted. Something has sneaked up on it, noiseless until the very last moment. Even as it spins, the Santa Thing twists, reforms, tries to become what they have made of it.
Still, the small creature framed in the empty doorway looks afraid. It shouldn’t be here, it knows. Fear strikes it dumb. Its lips tremble … a name hangs there. Not the Santa Thing’s, but familiar. The name is a prayer. The prayer remains unspoken.
The Santa Thing hears nonetheless.
Forgive me, Father Christmas.
But the Santa Thing is father to nothing. Knowing what awaits this small creature, knowing what the new year will bring, it smiles its mouth round moist, shivering words.
“HaPee KrisMus. HaPree KrisMus, Litul One.”
The Santa Thing doesn’t wait for a response. Even for a thing that lives between the cracks of time, there’s much to be done this sacred night. It melts instead back into the darkness, a memory already fading and mixing with illusion in an infant mind that will never be quite sane again. Embracing the chill night wind, the Santa Thing flees for a star-slick sky, smears its long silhouette across a bulbous moon.
And in its wake, fluid with echo, a sound that might be laughter.
Anne Lyle is going to take the world by storm with her debut novel The Alchemist of Souls in April 2012. For her 12 Days piece, Anne created a piece of festive robo-fun.
A prize to the writer of the best caption (as determined by whoever happens to be in the office at the time). Post your captions in the comments section. The competition ends tomorrow, and a winner will be chosen on Thursday (just in time to miss the Christmas post, but it’ll be something to look forward to).
The winner will receive an Advance Reading Copy of Anne’s book – 3 months before the book goes on sale!
Lee’s Dead of Winter (Winter, 2012) has been described as True Grit meets True Blood. It’s a bit early to show you a sample chapter, so how about a short story of Lee’s, to be getting on with? A Christmas ghost story written in a classic 19th century style. Honestly – we spoil you!
The Shadow in the Hall
by Lee Collins
Before beginning this record of events, I feel it necessary to impart that I, being the daughter of a physician, am not a stranger to the disciplines of science and logic. Whereas many of my sex might succumb to their passions in similar circumstances to the ones I will describe hence, becoming altogether hysterical and perhaps incontinent, I remained steadfast in my adherence to the rational nature inherited from my father. It may be somewhat presumptuous on my part, but I find myself occasionally entertaining the belief that, had he been alive to witness the events, my father might have felt some measure of pride in my composure and handling of the extraordinary events.
Somewhat ironically, it was the occasion of his death, premature and unexpected, that thrust my mother and myself into the extraordinary circumstances. My father’s will designated my mother as the primary beneficiary of his estate and accounts. However, my mother’s financial sensibilities were overshadowed, perhaps to a fault, by her timid disposition toward uncertainty. This condition was unquestionably worsened by my father’s unexpected death. Thus, where we might have remained in a life of reduced but not unsubstantial comfort, she felt it best to set up for sale our luxurious estate in a neighbourhood well-reputed for its learned and industrious residents and take up our abode within the bowels of the city. My mother was a woman of some notable skill with a needle and thread (a skill she had endeavored most stubbornly to impart to me) and thus found work with a tailor. The tailor’s shop was in the lower level of a three-storey building which fronted a tributary street, a modest place he had purchased some ten years prior. His apartments were directly above the shop. I never entered his residence, so I’m afraid I cannot give a description of its layout or furnishings. I will comment, however, that whatever mysteries it contained did not appear to play any substantial role in the events which occurred in our living quarters. Read More→
Joey Hi-Fi has already delivered what will surely prove to be one of the best covers of 2012 (see right, and click to make it bigger, if you haven’t already seen it). The words on the inside of the book are easily as good. So, here, a full four months and change before publication, is the opening to Blackbirds. Enjoy…
Chapter One: The Death of Del Amico
from Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
Car lights strobe through busted motel blinds.
When the lights come in, Miriam regards herself in the dirty mirror.
I look like something blown in off a dusty highway, she thinks. Dirty, torn jeans. Tight white tee. Bleach blonde hair, the roots coming up, those dark, earthen roots.
She puts her hands on her hips and cocks them this way, then that. With the back of her hand, she wipes away a smear of lipstick from where Del kissed her.
“The lights need to be on,” she says to nobody, foretelling the future.
She clicks the lamp by the bed. Piss-yellow light illumines the ratty room.
A roach sits paralyzed in the middle of the floor.
“Shoo,” she says. “Fuck off. You’re free to go.”
The roach does as it’s told. Itboogies under the pull-down bed, relieved.
Back to the mirror, then.
“They always said you were an old soul,” she mutters. Tonight she’s really feeling it.
In the bathroom, the shower hisses. It’s almost time now. She sits down on the side of the bed and rubs her eyes, yawns.
She hears the squeaking of the shower knobs. The pipes in the walls groan and stutter like a train is passing. Miriam balls up her monkeys toes and flexes them tight. The toe-knuckles pop.
In the bathroom, Del is humming. Some Podunk fuckwit country tune. She hates country. That music is the dull, throbbing pulse-beat of the Heartland. Wait. This is North Carolina, right? Is North Carolina the Heartland? Whatever. The Heartland. The Confederacy. The Wide Open Nowhere. Did it matter?
The bathroom door opens, and Del Amico steps out, wreathed in ghosts of steam. Read More→
Lee’s The Corpse-Rat King is set to be one of the most popular debuts of 2012. Here, Lee talks about the way he celebrates… ummm.. about the festivities in his… ummm… he talks about December 25th.
ON THE 23rd DAY OF CHRISTMAS,
MY TRUE LOVE FINALLY TWIGGED…
Goddamn, but the idea of writing a blog about Christmas makes me sound like a fucking Grinch. It’s been a long time since I was anything but ambivalent about it, you see. I mean, I have little kids, and they love it, and so I gear up and slap a smile on for their sake, but really: I’m an atheist, so there’s the religious bollocks thrown out the window for a kick off; I’m married to a Jehovah’s Witness, and they don’t do Christmas on the perfectly reasonable grounds that they’d rather spend the entire year being nice to each other and getting together for social occasions and buying each other gifts when they’re needed rather than waiting anywhere up to 11 months when the defibrillator you asked for in January may not be quite so useful anymore; my oldest kid is 19, with a job, and if he wants something he just goes out and buys the damn thing; and as to getting together with family, well—my Mum’s dead, my father has little to no interest in my kids and knows how to show it, my brother’s in gaol and we stopped speaking long ago, the best grandparents my kids have are the parents of my deceased first wife, and the only other family we have is my estranged brother’s ex-wife and her kids, assuming you don’t count my wife’s best friend and her daughter who have been better to us than a whole lot of family but don’t actually share any sort of blood tie whatsoever. Still, most of the people we do call family don’t share any sort of blood tie whatsoever.
The village is what you make of it.
Which in our case means, not so much an extended family, really, as a collection of whomever managed to swim to the lifeboat when the Titanic went down.
So what do we do? I don’t want to just ignore the whole event—much as I might want to, dammit. I love giving presents and getting them in return, and being that this is Australia and not the la-la-sing-along-snowy-subzero-one-horse-open-sleigh wonderland most of you reading this inhabit, I love sitting on my patio in 40 degree heat watching my kids run around under a sprinkler while I down another mango beer and help myself to a second plate of barbecued dead beast and potato salad. (Yes, it’s a cliché, and yes, we all do it round here). But I also love my wife, and respect her more than all of you. Call me unmutual if you will, but I’d happily watch the rest of you go up in flames as long as she’s happy.
So: we compromise. We do the presents thing. We get together with those family members with whom we’d like to do the present thing. We don’t do decorations. We don’t do Christmas music, although, to be honest, that’s because we’ve got some actual musical fucking taste as anything. Jam your Bing Crosby and give me the Vandals or Mental as Anything any day. It ain’t really Christmas if Noddy Holder isn’t screaming it through the speakers. We don’t do cards, sorry to the hordes of kids who pass them round at school, although we happily let our littlies draw and distribute their own. We treat it like one big day off from the world.
So maybe I do sound smug and cynical in equal measure, but row your own boat: if you get off on the fake snow and jingly ballad stuff then really get off on it and fuck anybody who doesn’t get the joke. I’m getting old, and weird parts of me crunch when I walk, and it gives me the shits to have to barge my way through a crowd of crabby strangers to get my hands on some 20% off Lego at the best of times. BUT (and here’s the thing): if you must nominate a single day for the dispersal of good will to all and sundry (and have a listen to Tom Lehrer’s brilliant “National Brotherhood Week” while you do), then make the most of the one you choose.
And a Merry Every Day to all.
Cassandra’s first novel – The Assassin’s Curse (a fantastic adventure, starring a kick-ass lady pirate) comes out in September 2012, followed by The Mad Scientist’s Daughter in the spring of 2013. These are her first novels. Buy them, and tell your grandchildren you were there at the start…
An Illuminating Tale
I’m pretty sure most long-running sitcoms eventually have an episode in which one of the characters becomes involved in a Christmas light competition. Hilarity, electrocution, fires, et cetera ensue.
This happened to me in real life.
Well, not the electrocution and the fires. No one was injured. But one Christmas when I was around ten or so, my dad entered into a gentleman’s agreement with our neighbor-across-the-street (both of them spurned on by their children, i.e., me and my brother and our friends) to see who could set up the best Christmas light arrangement, with “best” in this context meaning “most similar to Clark Griswald’s house in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” I, having shown some marginal artistic ability at this point, was recruited to help.
My dad pulled out every single strand of Christmas lights that we had buried away in our shed. It was an impressive array. There were the usual miniature light strands that you can buy at the dollar store, both white and multi-colored, and the “icicle” lights that people in Texas are so fond of since real icicles are a sign of upcoming apocalypse. We also had a couple of strands of old-fashioned C9 lights — you know, the ones where you have to actually screw the bulb into the wire yourself. I was not allowed to touch these. They were older than me and, if my parents were to be believed, liable to explode at the slightest provocation.
However, my dad wasn’t one to throw lights up willy-nilly. He designed. The C9 lights would go around the trim, along with the icicles; lights would also outline our roof and front-facing windows. But this wasn’t enough — in order to win the competition by a landslide, as was the goal, we were going to have to involve ornamentation. Plastic light-up Santas and electric candles in the windows and the like. My dad also decided that we should have a hand-lettered, hand-painted sign that read Merry Christmas.
He acquired the sign through the a deal with the art teacher at the local junior high. It appeared in our garage, a five foot by six foot piece of plywood, without warning one weekday afternoon. Handwritten. Unpainted. My dad handed me a couple of cans of paint and told me to get to it.
I spent days laboring over that sign, under strict orders not to let a single drop of letter-paint outside its lines. After all, some potential light-viewer might get out of his car, walk across the yard, and inspect our Merry Christmas sign up close, looking for flaws.
There was another problem with the sign, too, which was that those potential light-viewers, the ones who might be so offended by the notion that someone colored outside the lines, wouldn’t actually be able to read the thing after dark. So my dad drilled a chain of evenly-spaced holes in the letters, and we spent an afternoon poking lights through said holes in order to create a sort of Christmas Broadway sign. Better still, we used one of those light strands with the adjustable blinking patterns, so we could change it depending on our mood. Slow fade lights for quiet contemplation, running lights for excited anticipation, and so on.
In the end, our house was like a city block at night.
And our neighbor-across-the-street’s house? The one we were competing against?
A strand of blinking lights around the trim.
We built a freaking sign! We risked lightbulb explosion! I was forced to paint inside the lines! We spent weeks prepping our light display, and this dude spent an afternoon with a staple-gun and a ladder and called it a day.
I’m sure there’s a Christmas lesson in there somewhere — I mean, there has to be, right? Nothing happens around Christmas time without a reason. That’s what twenty-eight years of holiday movies has taught me, anyway. But I’ll be damned if I know what it is.
Chris is just a great author – his novel Dead Harvest (March 2012) will blow you away! But if you can’t wait that long, here’s a seasonal short story…
THE FINAL BOUGH
HASTILY PENNED BY CHRIS F. HOLM
IN A CRASS ATTEMPT TO EXPLOIT THE SPIRIT OF THE HOLIDAYS
I woke to the sound of slay bells.
Not that I recognized them as such at first. It’d been some time since I last heard them. During the Cabbage Patch Riots of ’83, that was. Management worked my fellow elves to the bone that year, trying to keep up with demand, and when the union finally struck, they sent a cadre of their Rock ’Em Sock ’Em ruffians to bust up the picket line. Me and the rest of the North Pole PD did our best to keep the violence from bubbling over, but our best wasn’t good enough. Ever since that day, I’ve walked with the help of a candy cane – and believe me, I was one of the lucky ones. Lots of pointy-toed shoes aimed skyward once the snow settled that day, and the bells chimed clear through to midnight, honoring the fallen.
Don’t let the red suit fool you – El Hefe’s no friend to the working elf.
Anyways, when I woke, I just assumed the godawful ringing was in my head – I’d hit the nog pretty hard the night before. Which explains how I wound up coming to Iin someone else’s bed.
She was a short drink of water, with a pair of getaway sticks that went most of the way to the floor. She sat beside me in the bed, wearing a saucy flannel nightgown and matching sleeping cap, her pointy ears jutting fetchingly out to either side. Not bad, I thought to myself. Now if only I could remember her name.
“I thought you said you were a cop,” she said, plucking a lollipop from a silver case and placing it between her luscious lips. “Some kind of big-wig detective, to hear you tell it.”
“I did?” I asked, rubbing sleep out of my eyes and trying in vain to remember anything of the night before. “I mean, I am!”
“Then shouldn’t you be going? Sounds like you’ve got a case.”
Damn. The dame was right. The slay bells meant one of our kind had been killed.
“Yeah,” I said, grabbing my pants, and my pointy blue police cap, its copper bell jingling. “Uh, listen – I had a great time last night…”
“Sure you did,” she said, flashing me a dazzling set of teeth – a rarity among elves. Our diet’s nothing but candy and Christmas cookies all year ’round – and it ain’t like working for Big Red comes with dental. My own teeth were pitted and scarred and too long past their last brushing, and felt fuzzy from sleep and candy both. “Of course, you passed out before anything happened. Drunk as you were, I’d be surprised if you even remember my name.”
Shit. She had me. Best to bluff. “Of course I do, sugarplum,” I said, pulling on my shoes and making for the door, beside which rested my trusty cane, “but if I told you what it was now, you’d just feel bad for trying to guilt me. Now if you’ll excuse me…”
I pushed open the door of her modest hut, and stepped out into the bitter cold. My bum hip and nogged brain throbbed in time. As the door swung closed behind me, she called to me, “It’s Holly.” Read More→