Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Nigel hated being lumbered with the Christmas shift. Sure, there was extra pay, but it meant missing out on a trip to his parents’ place, to get stuffed full of turkey, spuds, and sprouts. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he was a doctor or a copper, someone who really mattered. But no one was going to break into an office block on Christmas day, regardless of the lone security guard. The whole business was a waste.

He sighed and contemplated the limp, prepackaged turkey sandwich sitting next to the surveillance monitors. As attempts at festive spirit went, all it was doing was to remind him of what he was missing. Not that he could have escaped that feeling, with the Christmas tree across the lobby lit up like the headlights of a hundred cars. Nigel would have switched it off, but he had special instructions to keep it on. Seasonal spirit was apparently part of the building’s brand.

A flash of green made him look up from his monitors. The lights on the tree turned to red, then back to green, before settling on white again. Nigel blinked. Those lights had been white for the past four weeks. He hadn’t even known that they could change colour.

The lights flickered. Nigel sighed, took a box of fuses and spare bulbs out of his desk, and got up from his seat. He might not like the tree, but he’d get in trouble if it went out. His footsteps echoed around the empty lobby as he approached the problem.

The flashing stopped as he got close. Probably one of the bulbs was loose, but which one? It would take forever to go through them all. He peered at the nearest one, which was stark white. He fiddled with it, testing in case anything was loose, but it seemed perfectly secure. The next one, also white, was the same, and the one after that. None of the bulbs near him showed any colour. How had they managed to change before?

The light started flickering again. The effect was erratic, a mix of long and short flashes. Staring at them close up made him feel dizzy. Maybe he could get away with unplugging the lights for a bit, as long as it was to fix the problem.

Nigel pulled the plug out of the wall. The lights kept flashing. For a moment they turned red, then green, then back to white again. Nigel stared in confusion at the plug in his hand. Was there a battery pack he was missing? No, it couldn’t have fitted in the plug, and there was nowhere else for it to go.

Intrigued, Nigel put the plug down and took a few steps back. Watching the lights of the tree blink on and off reminded him of happy days when he was in the Scouts, decoding Morse code messages sent by flashing torches. He’d loved the neat little puzzle of it, noting down the dots and dashes, then translating them into letters. In fact, now that he paid attention, the flickering looked more and more like Morse. There were four dots for an “H”, a dot and a dash for “A”, dot-dash-dash-dot for “P”…

He hurried back to his desk, grabbed a notebook and pencil, and watched the tree. There was a brief blaze of green and red, then the flashes started again. Nigel noted them down, delighted to find that he still remembered all the codes:


Nigel laughed. He had no idea who had done it, or how, but that was a lovely little thing to hide away in the wiring of the lights.

“Happy Christmas to you too,” he called out, but it didn’t seem quite enough, so he took a deep breath and started into a chorus of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”. His voice echoed around the lobby until it sounded like a whole choir was singing, like Christmas eve in church, a time full of joy and anticipation.

The lights stopped flashing. Nigel plugged them back in, just to be on the safe side, and enjoyed the warming glow.

Back at his desk, he unwrapped his sandwich and took a bite. Turkey and stuffing, just like Christmas was meant to be. He smiled. His parents would be sitting down to Christmas dinner right now, and it was nice to think that, in a way, he was eating with them.

Meanwhile, amid the snows of the North Pole, a little man with pointy ears switched off the security monitor he’d used to watch Nigel, smiling as he did so at the thought of a job well done.


Merry Christmas everybody!

If you’ve enjoyed this story, then you can read more like it in my new collection. One Cog Dreaming collects all 52 of this year’s flash stories in one place for easy reading. There’s a shipwrecked sailor in a land of talking animals, a steampunk rebel in a city with only one rhythm, a spaceship hurtling towards disaster, and much more. The e-book comes out on 1 January, and you can pre-order it now.

And we’re back…

Posted: January 5, 2015 in writing life
Tags: , ,

Happy New Year everyone!

I can’t say the last few weeks have been as quiet as the blog. Laura and I have had three Christmas celebrations, two stays with my brother and his family, and one gaming convention, all in the space of a fortnight. I’ve eaten and drunk more than is healthy, exercised less than I should, and generally enjoyed letting it all go for a couple of weeks.

Festive highlights have included:

  • watching my dad laugh hysterically while my nieces rolled him around in a half-inflated air mattress and shouted ‘sausage roll!’
  • lots of playing with Lego – I got two new sets, then immediately took them apart to build an airship
  • listening to the finale of Radio 4’s hilarious Cabin Pressure
  • this lovely pair of notebooks from my brother and his family:


Hopefully by tomorrow I’ll have something more coherent to say than ‘look, I’m still here!’, but I’m still fighting through the junk food fatigue, so for now that’ll do.

Hope you all had a great holiday. What were your highlights?


With Christmas coming, it’s time to watch my all time favourite fantasy film. More dramatic than Conan the Barbarian. As heart-wrenching as Pan’s Labyrinth. Only a fraction of the length of Lord of the Rings. I refer of course to Muppet Christmas Carol.


I’ve made my case before for Muppet Christmas Carol being a fantasy film, but to recap, there are ghosts, talking animals and whatever Gonzo is. There’s magic, prophecy and travel through time. There are alternating potential realities. Sure, it’s also a kids’ film, a comedy film and a musical. But this is quite clearly fantasy, and proof of how misguided people are when they try to treat fantasy as some nerdy, shameful thing to brush away into the corner. Fantasy happens any time we break the rules of reality and let our imaginations run riot, and just because something doesn’t feature swords and sorcery doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of the label.

It helps that Dickens’s Christmas Carol is a beautiful yet creepy story with a classic redemptive character arc. It helps that the Muppets are timeless characters of whimsy and wonderful design. It helps that the tunes are delightfully catchy. But it’s when you bring all of that together that the magic really happens.

If I only watch one festive film, it will be this. If you aren’t already, you really should make time in your Christmas schedule to watch it too.

What festive classics will the rest of you be watching? I bet most of them are fantasy.

Of course I got books for Christmas. I’ve been getting books for Christmas since I first learned to chew on a page, and I have many relatives who share my love of reading. This year’s haul includes a book of Star Wars origami patterns (thanks N, L and S) and a whole bag of Guy Gavriel Kay from Mrs K’s aunt (thanks Sheila!).

All your GGK are belong to us

All your GGK are belong to us

I’m already back at the computer, as I found that my brain started itching for routine after only a week of rest and over indulgence. So I guess that one of my aims for this year will be to make the most of that impulse, rather than giving in to the part of me that’s prone to slacking off. Though obviously R&R will be allowed.

So what books did you lot get for Christmas? What are you looking forward to reading this year? And what good intentions do you have for the year ahead?

Holiday time!

Posted: December 23, 2013 in writing life
Tags: ,

Today I’m winding down for the Christmas break. I love writing, but even the things we love can burn us out if we don’t rest sometimes. So, before I vanish for a week or two I just wanted to say have a very merry Christmas or Yule or whatever you celebrate. And here’s a couple of little pieces of jollity to see out the year.

Merry Christmas!

A lot about Christmas looks like a fantasy story. Whether it’s the magic guy who comes down the chimney with presents, the otherworldly snow scenes in greetings cards, or the shared wish that just for one day we could make the ordinary world vanish. The original Christmas story has a lot to inspire fantasy authors too, whether it’s signs in the sky, the epic journey of the wise men, the chosen one born in the stable, the prophecies, the angels, or the villainous Herod.

My favourite Christmas fantasy story is a more modern one, at least by biblical standards. Narrated by a hook-nosed goblin-like creature of uncertain origin, featuring travel back through time, glimpses into the future, ghostly apparitions and talking animals, I watch it every year. It is of course the Muppets Christmas Carol.

Last year I was too ill to eat Christmas dinner, but I still managed to watch this fabulous tale. And in case you were considering not watching it this year, here’s a reminder of why you should:


Because however hard they commercialise this time of year there’s still some fantasy in it that can lift us up. And after all it’s only five more sleeps ’til Christmas.