Wednesday 28 December 2022

Just because it's Twixmas...

... and here is the second half of the story...

Rudolf Saves Christmas - Part 2

Just before midnight on Christmas eve Rudolf and two teams of reindeer were ready to fly.
    Rudolf stood tall, antlers casting a long shadow in the starlight. “Mrs C are you ready?”
    The elderly lady straightened her shoulders. “For anything,” she said.
    “Dasher you’re in the lead and you leave four minutes after us.” He eyed each of the trainees in their harnesses. “Keep pace with your partners and follow Dasher’s lead. And concentrate.”
    Rudolf strolled across to his own place at the front of the team leading Santa’s vehicle. Harness on, he turned to his team. “Prancer, Cupid, Vixen keep an eye on each of your trainees and keep pace with me.” Lastly, he looked to his right. “Are you ready for this, son?”
    “Yes, Pa.”
    Rudolf looked ahead and stomped a front hoof into the snow. “Mr Claus, let’s away!”
   In a second and with a flurry of soft snow the sleigh was slicing through the freezing air at the speed of the world. It took less than a few moments of human time to be circling above Moscow.
    “Steady down, Rudolf,” shouted Mr C.
    Rudolf lessened his pace as he spotted Gorky Park just ahead. He circled once again and brought the sleigh to a smooth landing just as the clocks began to strike midnight. A few more steps and the sleigh halted on the snow-covered grass.
    Rudolf looked up to the bright star, second on the right.
    “Blitzen, are you there?” He pushed his thought through the air to his colleague on the Communications Desk. “Blitzen?”
    “Yes, I’m here,” came an irritated response. “I’m running this desk and this keyboard single-hoofed you know!”
    “OK, calm down? Any sighting of the Jo-Jo Boys?”
    There was a pause. “Got yeah! Just north, northeast of you. They’ve been hiding in the grounds of the Church of St John the Warrior. Heading your way right now.”
    Rudolf glanced back to his team. “Brace yourselves. Elves make ready.”
    Suddenly, from behind the trees, three leering faces appeared. In the next instance, the Jo-Jo Boys were clambering all over the sleigh and trying to drag the heavy parcel sack off the back.
    Rudolf glanced at his son. “Hold still,” he whispered.
    A trio of wild screeches came from behind. Rudolf turned and watched. Thirty elves were clambering out of the parcel sack and swarming the three boys. In seconds they had each of the attackers on the ground. The excited screams were gradually replaced with the sound of hammers on strong metal tacks as the Jo-Jo boys were systematically pinned to the ground.
    Rudolf grinned, but he still couldn’t remember where he had read about overcoming an assailant using this method. Nevertheless, it worked. He released himself from his harness. The next bit was just too good to let anyone else have the task.
    He strolled around to where the Jo-Jo Boys were pinned to the ground, immovable.
    “So, you really think you can steal Christmas from the world?”
  The response from the three wrinkled and aged choir boys was a chorus of defiant whimpers.
    Rudolf shook his head. “Christmas lives in hearts and minds, the presents are just a human manifestation of that. Take as many of these empty boxes as you want, but you can’t steal thoughts and feelings.”
    He pulled from his collar a tiny scroll and as it unfurled it became a large fluffy blanket, big enough to cover the three boys. Attached to one corner was a note addressed to the Moscow Police which read :

    Please escort these naughty children back to Myrna where they belong.

    Rudolf strolled back towards his harness. “Job done, Mr C,” he said as he nodded to Santa Claus.
    “Thank you, Rudolf.”
    Back in harness, Rudolf lifted his head towards the stars. “Blitzen, where’s Mrs C with the real present sack?”
    “Straight ahead and two stars to the left. She’s running a little behind, but take that route and you’ll meet her there.”
    Rudolf stomped his right hoof into the snow. “Get a message to the city police, Blitzen.”
    Santa tightened his grip on the reins. “Rudolf, let’s away.”

The blog will be back with weekly articles as usual on January 10th.  Until then, enjoy this holiday season.

Tuesday 27 December 2022

Just because it's Twixmas...

...I have the opening part of a little Christmas story for you.  This first appeared on the Facebook page of the UK Crime Book Club on December 20th.  Enjoy...

Rudolf Saves Christmas - Part 1

’Twas the night before, the night before Christmas, and all through the barn a studied silence reigned. Rudolf held his cards close to his chest as he glanced around the table at his opponents.
    “I’ll raise you five,” he said, his left hoof pushing a pile of carrot slices towards the already substantial pot.
    “I’m out,” said Prancer.
    “Me too,” groaned Cupid.
  “Hey! Mister Cardsharp, we’ve got work to do,” shouted Vixen as she sidled up to Rudolf and placed her right hoof on his shoulder. “Serious work,” she said, winking seductively.
    Rudolf grinned.
    “Not that kind of work,” trilled Dancer as she pirouetted the length of the floor, her Fuschia-pink tutu quivering as she moved. She halted at the table and struck a pose. “Donner and Blitzen have just returned from the annual trial run with a damaged sleigh.”
    “That’s right,” added Vixen. “Blitzen thinks they hit some sort of forcefield above Moscow. Mr C suddenly lost control of the sleigh, it tipped, he fell out and the wrench of the shift did for Blitzen. He’s dislocated his right shoulder. Donner’s exhausted. She had to take the full weight of Mr C, the dragging sled, and support Blitzen all the way back.”
    Rudolf threw his cards on the table.
    Cupid flipped his competitor's hand face-up. “Typical! Bluffing again Rudi,” he said.
    “Never mind that,” said Rudolf. “What about the Boss, is he OK?”
    “Slight concussion and a bloody nose,” said Dancer as Mr Claus ambled up to the table and plumped down onto the only available seat.
    “We crash-landed in Gorky Park and when I came too…” Mr Claus dabbed at his still bleeding nose with a much-blooded handkerchief. “It’s the Jo-Jo boys,” he said as he fished out a scrap of paper from his pocket and handed it to Rudolf.
    “It’s a long time since we’ve heard from those three,” said Rudolf as he flattened out the note. His gaze followed the lines of text. “They want all the world’s presents,” he said looking up at Mr C. “Delivered to Gorky Park and if they don’t get them, they’re coming for you.” He turned the note so that Mr Claus could read it for himself.
    “That dratted Bishop from Myra! Why couldn’t he just keep his miracles to himself?” Mr Claus frowned and dabbed at his nose.
    Rudolf shrugged. “We are where we are,” he announced sagely. “We’re smarter than those three pickled Choir Boys and we will beat them.”
    “And how do you propose we do that?” Dancer supplemented her question with a twirl.
    “We give them what they want, but we set a trap.” Rudolf grinned. “Dancer, I want you at the communications station. Get looking at the footage from the Star Cameras. Vixen rally the elves. Boys, you’re all with me. We need to examine the damaged sleigh and get the spare one ready to fly tonight.” Rudolf started to make his way to the entrance to the barn.
    Dancer nodded and smiled. In a moment she had shimmied across to the large bank of monitors. Headphones on, she set to work.
    “And what do I tell the elves?” Vixen demanded. Her left hoof tapping the cold stone floor.
    Rudolf paused for a moment and then turned to Vixen. “To get every single empty box we have and wrap it. And if there aren’t enough, tell them to make some more and wrap those. Prancer, Dasher, and Cupid, you’re with me.” Rudolf led his colleagues out of the barn and into the freezing night air to look at the sleighs.

    In the infirmary, Donner and Comet were tending to a stricken Blitzen writhing in agony in his stall.
    “Stop whinging,” shouted Donner above the noise. “OK. Comet, hold on and pull!” Blitzen let out a terrifying scream of pain as his shoulder clicked back into place.
    Donner stood up and shook her head. “OMG. Boys! What wimps they are.”
    “Good job they don’t have to birth a calf,” added Comet. “Then they’d really know what pain is!”
    Blitzen groaned and turned his head away.
    Donner collapsed down on the straw.
    “You look all in,” said Comet. “Any injuries I need to take care of?”
    “No, just a few bruises where I hit the ground, but that’s all, I think.”
    “Get some rest and I’ll bring you some food in a couple of hours.”
    Donner managed a fleeting smile and a nod...

There is more from Rudolf and his team Here

Tuesday 13 December 2022

It's December, it's getting cold outside and...

...I will be taking a break from blogging and most things bookish.  Christmas is just a couple of weeks away and this is my most favourite part of the year.  I love to spend time with family and friends sharing presents, meals, and conversation.

So, before I disappear, I would just like to thank everyone who has visited my blog this year.  Thank you for your continued support, your comments and your precious time.

A big thank you also goes to the readers of my books.  I hope you have enjoyed them and your support is greatly appreciated.

Lastly, may I wish you all the very best for this time of year and, if you also celebrate Christmas, have a happy and healthy one.



Tuesday 6 December 2022

The story behind my story...

 Allan Hudson, Monique Thébeau, Chuck Bowie
Yours truly, S C Eston, Angella Cormier
Pierre C Arseneault, Sandra Bunting, Jeremy Thomas Gilmer the thrilling new collection, Winter Paths...

In September, I was able to reveal the cover of a fabulous new anthology, Winter Paths.  You can read that post Here.
Today, I'm delighted to say that the book is now available in both print and e-format.
My tale this time is historical, but it tells the story of Marguerite, her family and her son, Eric.  And if you've read The Bookseller's Secret Octavo from the Autumn Paths collection, published last year, you'll recognise that last name.  Eric is the bar/restaurant owner in the village of Beauregard in central France.  
It is Eric who tells Alice, the central character in The Bookseller's Secret Octavo, that her father is renovating an old house at the edge of the village… And that story develops from there.
When we - The Seasonal Collective - decided to create the follow-up anthology Winter Paths, I knew there had to be a link back to the first story.
To begin with, I needed to figure out how I could do that.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that in small villages in rural France, the bar or local restaurant is always central to the life of the community.  That realisation accepted, it took a couple of hours to work out who Eric was, when he was born, where and who his parents were.  As the decisions were made, more questions floated to the front of my mind and were answered.  By the end of the afternoon, I had a whole family tree, some intrigue, the historical backdrop, and what I hoped were an interesting set of villagers.  Come and meet Marguerite, mother of Eric and the central character in my story in the Winter Paths anthology…


The village of Beauregard, 1981


IN THE MIDST OF A FIELD OF GRAY OSTENTATION, a single, plain gravestone stood sentinel, the recently carved and silvered characters gleaming in the cold winter sunshine. Marguerite stared at the words and numbers that would, henceforward, define the life of the most recent person to be laid to rest in that place.
        “So, there you are, Maman. Just a name, some dates and eighty years of memories in the minds of others.” She wiped away a tear with her gloved hand but remained transfixed as if some inescapable, transparent bond were keeping her shackled to the spot. Marguerite put the dark red rose that she was carrying close to her face and, taking a deep breath, inhaled the heady, sweet scent.
        “It’s time to tell the truth, Maman,” she said. She gazed up at the sky, the glare from the sun causing her to squint. “All of the lies have to stop. And they will. Today. I will make sure of that,” she whispered as she finally tore herself away.
        In the stark cold of that December morning, Marguerite made her way along the central path to a smaller, darker corner of the cemetery. The place was quiet, as always, and the sun provided no warmth against the barely zero temperature. In the shade, the hoarfrost clung to the grass and the bare branches of the trees – a fragile protective skin.

about the book…
Nine writers – Seasonal Collective - from both sides of the Atlantic, including best-selling and award-winning authors, have created a second miscellany of stories.

From the frozen north, across continents, space and time, these stories will mystify, enlighten, intrigue and perhaps bring a tear to the eye. With a linking theme of winter - in all its guises - experience the warmth of friendly hearts, find companionship and place, encounter battles, uncover secrets, meet ghosts and witness the strength of maternal love.

There’s a story for everyone in this thrilling new collection.

You can get the book using the link below

You can read more about the other authors and their stories in the series of books Here Here  Here and Here