Ah Thursday, home of the Throwback Thursday. That’s kind of what this whole week has been like on here. (If you’ve been reading, thank you very much! Feel free to skip to the second paragraph. If not, read on…) The Kindle editions of my books are all free this week, ending tomorrow, and for each one I’m writing an accompanying blog post.
Today: ‘Something was Stirring’, my collection of Christmas horror stories.
Okay, this one is out of season, and so, rightly, not as many people have been taking me up on a free download of this one, but there are still some – those people who watch Die Hard and Home Alone regardless of the month – so I’ll plough on! (That was a snow joke.)
The tradition of telling scary stories at Christmas, while not so common now, goes way back, popularised by 19th century horror authors like MR James and Algernon Blackwood. It carries on in modern fashion through films – think Gremlins, Krampus, Rare Exports.
Last December, I wanted to get into the spirit and put out some scary stories for people to enjoy – you can still read them all for free here on the blog if you go back far enough.
‘Miracle on Rubik Utca’ is a Krampus tale and a sort of inversion of Miracle on 34th Street.
‘Ale House Tale of New York’ is set in real-life old time, sawdust on the floor pub McSorley’s (no relation), and features a mix of real and fake history.
‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’, named for one of my favourite Christmas tunes, sees homeless woman Leah and her faithful dog Hera face off against a malignant ghost who takes the shape of Christmas crooner Andy Williams and preys on the vulnerable. The serious side to this one is that in Glasgow (as in most cities), homelessness and poverty are continually rising, use of food banks is at an all time high, and benefits harder than ever to claim. Apparently, there’s no money left to solve our social problems now that it’s all been spent on more important things like nuclear submarines and bombs to drop on the poor people of other countries.
Despite the above paragraph, writing these stories was a lot of fun, and I hope the reader gets that too, even if it is May.
Break out the eggnog and download here.
P.S. This one features another great cover by my pal David Fleck.
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Hera sat beneath the reindeer skeleton. It was made of aluminium and flashing fairy lights; its innards were red and gold baubles. It towered three metres above, from bolted-down hoof to the tip of its great antlers, where the electric cable fed into the window of the department store. And in the space between its feet, under its hollow body, was a dry patch of pavement, free from the slush and brown grit of mid-December snowfall, free from tramping boots and swinging shopping bags. Here Hera lay down, her chin on her paws. She gave a long sigh which sent a jet of steam into the air like a boiling kettle.
Leah gave Hera one last look before stepping into the shop. Andy Williams was on the speakers. She squeezed between padded, many-layered bodies with flushed red cheeks glowing between hats and scarves and decorated with glittering snowflakes. Bags knocked knees and shins; curses were muffled.
She went to the pet department first, down on the basement floor beyond a crowded escalator of impatient late-night shoppers and bored kids still in their school uniforms who hung from the rubber handrails and kicked their feet against the glass and sat down on the steps only to be hauled back onto their feet by their mothers
Leah wore a large, loose puffer jacket – coming apart at the cuffs and shoulder seams – over an equally ill-fitting hoody and a few layers of jumpers and t-shirts. She was a patchwork of pockets and trapped, humid, human-stale air. She found some small, flat pouches of dog food and slipped a few up inside her jacket. As it was nearly Christmas she had a look at the treats and the dog toys too – nothing that squeaked. She settled for a plain old tennis ball, tucked deep in an inside pocket.