Christmas Ghosts – Free story for one week only!

Leinster Gardens cover CConcerning the Events in Leinster Gardens

(Title story from  Leinster Gardens & Other Subtleties (c) Jan Edwards)

The paving under his feet rumbled, setting shivers up through the soles of his boots. It was the Tube; only trains, he knew that. The ginger-moustachioed officer told him, as he’d sold Archie his ticket, how the Metropolitan Line ran right through the street, and laughed as he spoke of it. Archie had laughed along with him, though he felt less than amused now.

‘Number twenty-four.’ He checked the card again, sure that he had come to the right place. The door was solid enough beneath its ionic portico. The perfectly normal balustrade on either side of the perfectly normal step was all perfectly normal for a Regency terrace. But unlike the other residences in Leinster Gardens, there were no lights showing in any of its windows. Even without a Ball, and even if the family were not at home, servants would keep lamps burning in this kind of household. The only sign of life was a small tabby cat perched on the end of the balustrade.

‘This is all a bit wet,’ he told it. ‘Dashed poor show.’

The cat only stretched onto its toes and pulled its lips back in a silent hiss before slinking into the basement stairwell.

Archie looked at the lit windows all along the row, noting how a few drapes had been left daringly undrawn, the better to show off electrical Christmas lights; welcoming beacons for the late-night walkers. When he turned back to his dark destination he almost fell off the stoop, because in that short moment all things had changed. Continue reading

Winking Man – story for the season

2f421d41641caf4da74be26503b0963bMovement out there in the garden broke Kira’s reverie. Two ravens down from the high peaks bounced among the spindly branches of the apple tree and pecking at a woefully small sprouting of mistletoe. They croaked their displeasure into the cold air and flapped lazily to the top of the shed. A few feet below them several rabbits were hunched over the parsnip greens, their frantic mouths inhaling leaves with almost mechanical efficiency, only pausing momentarily as the hiker came into view.

He paused near the stables and seated himself on the stone mounting block with only a glance toward the hostel doors. Laying his battered rucksack and wooden stave on the grass beside him he slaked his thirst from a water bottle.

Kira watched him through the kitchen window, whilst still washing up after the previous night’s hostellers. She wondered if her peace was about to be disturbed. This was her job but she’d be lying if she claimed not to prefer the place to herself.

He was pleasing enough to look at – from what she could see at such a distance. Ex-military in bearing, despite a snowy pig-tail dangling between his shoulder blades. She knew his type. Old-timers yomping over the hills with ferocious intensity, testing themselves against weather, hills and inner demons.

She emptied the bowl and watched the water swirl out of sight, poking at small hunks of detritus to hurry them into the void. When she looked up once more the garden was empty. Man, rodents and corvids had all deserted her.

That didn’t sadden her in the least. Isolation was the reason she had taken a resident caretaker gig. She’d need to make the most of it. Come Friday the place would be heaving with hikers spending the pre-Christmas weekend wandering the hills in lieu of shopping. Mostly twenty-somethings possessed of the energy and freedom to indulge themselves in the run up to excess. Kira was retired, yet had much more in common with those free spirits than with her peers. Not that she had much family left, and few friends in her homeland after years of chasing the news across the globe with camera and notebook.

She wiped her hands, scanning the garden for signs of life. Not so much as a robin, which was odd when the bird feeders were usually awash with finches in the winter months.

She looked toward the Winking Man ridge, picked out against a pinking horizon and her shutter finger itched for action. She never tired of recording the phenomenon that had given the peak its name. The final rays of evening light seared through a natural embrasure over the three days of winter solstice; snapping open and closed as you approached.

She threw down her cloth and grabbing camera and coat, hurried out into the rosy light; taking the well trodden Winking Man trail. On the final stretch she stepped aside to catch the final few blinkings – and her boot slipped between boulders.

Her flayling hands grasped nothing more substantial than the breeze and she fell toward the drop-off with gut churning certainty.

A hand clamped hold of her arm, and halted her chaos mid swirl. Her line of vision was filled with the face of her hiker. A peaceable face, despite the puckered depression where his right eye should be.

Their short descent was taken in a silence broken only by the cawing of two black birds.

 

 

(written for an performed at the Renegade Writers xmas party)
(c) jan edwards

Sussex Tales Christmas

Sussex Tales final cover 2nd ed smallIt’s a one-legged Woozlum.’ My father assured me. ‘It’s a cross between an Oozlum and a Woozle. Very rare.’
I looked down at the row of small round holes that trailed through the snow next to our bootprints and snorted both amusement and exasperation. I loved my fathers’ elaborate jokes but there were times when he drove me mad. This one may have worked when I was five but not anymore.
The sledge was heaped high with dark-leaved holly, bundles of ivy, fir swathes and my favourite, the gleaming, orange/pink fruited spindle. I knew they were far more than necessary, but I adored the Christmas ritual of Gathering-the-Greens. It was only I that was really interested, but with my father’s help I always made an occasion of it. We had gathered evergreens for swags and left the sledge near the ram’s shed before heading toward the Top Close where two-dozen steers were kept on deep litter for the winter months.
It had snowed hard that morning, and the sky promised a lot more to come. Leaden cloud layers spanned the sky and a stiff wind was blowing from the north.

(Extract from Sussex Tales – Christmas Bird) (available here – paper and kindle)

 

December 2016 Alchemy Newsletter & Quiz

Enter the Alchemy Book Quiz!

The Alchemy Press

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It’s almost the end of 2016, time for reflection. The Alchemy Press has had a relatively quiet year with just three titles under our belt: The Complete Epistles of Penelope Pettiweather, Ghost Hunter by Jessica Amanda Salmonson; The Private Life of Elder Things by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Keris McDonald and Adam Gauntlett; and Something Remains edited by Peter Coleborn and Pauline E Dungate, an anthology of stories based on the notes left by Joel Lane after his untimely death. Click on the titles to read more about these titles, or visit the Alchemy website to discover our complete range of books.

From a personal perspective, Peter has experienced the ups and downs of the NHS as he underwent a series of investigations for cancer, culminating in surgery soon after our return from FantasyCon, which was held in Scarborough this year (and which, by the way, we both thoroughly enjoyed despite the…

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Should you be buying your friends’ books?

Buying more books – Misha Herwin

Misha Herwin

friends-books

It’s almost Christmas  and most of us are in the middle of, or have done,  our shopping for presents. For me much of this is done on Amazon. I scroll down wish lists, or remember books I think would suit the recipient and send off for them. A couple of days later, the doorbell rings and that’s another person ticked off on my list.

The best presents I can give my writer friends is to buy their books. A couple of years ago, this worked really well for me. “Sussex Tales” by Jan Edwards was a perfect choice for my sister, while both my husband and brother-in-law enjoyed Jem Shaw’s novel, “The Larks” about flying in the First World War.

My daughter gave her mother-in-law “House of Shadows” and my sister-in-law got a copy from my mum. Result!

None of my writing friends are, as yet, on the best seller…

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