Monday, December 09, 2013

Fangtooth and Voyeurs of Death

Now I have the rights back to both these books, I've re-released them both on Kindle. Fangtooth was previously only available as a limited edition hardback and as a paperback.

After the death of his wife, Bruce Holden moves to the quaint coastal fishing village of Mulberry with his son, Jack. He is hoping for a fresh start, but the locals greet their arrival with mixed reactions, from friendliness to open hostility. Bruce puts it down to them being outsiders, but when a tourist is killed while swimming, the real horror is unleashed. There's something ravenous in the sea. Something that's coming ashore in search of prey. Now Bruce and Jack find themselves embroiled in a nightmare where humankind is no longer at the top of the food chain. 

First there was the Creature From The Black Lagoon… 
Then there was Jaws… 
Prepare yourself for Fangtooth.

Herein are found a diverse mix of the sinister, erotic, strange and surreal. From the foreboding alleyways of Venice to a bleak Scottish island, the horror is never far away. A young boy fixes dead things. You can't always judge a man by the cut of his suit, especially when the suit isn't made of cloth. A relaxing cruise is anything but once the passengers start to die, only to then come back to life. And a trip to the past has dire consequences for the future. Now turn the page and join the voyeurs of death.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Sanctuary (or to some, a shed)

I've spent the last week building a Summerhouse, which is to be my new writing retreat. It's a cabin that I don't have to trek through the woods to reach (unless I use my imagination). Some people might call it a shed, but regardless of what it's called, I hope that it will help inspire me to write more. It can be hard to write in the house, surrounded by distractions, so I hope that it helps, otherwise I'll have to turn it into an outdoor bar and get drunk instead ;)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Guest post by Eric Tomlinson

Jumping through hoops is for circus animals

Life would be so much easier if I could learn how to jump through hoops. Not doing has been a character flaw I’ve had since birth. Teacher’s told me to question everything and then became irate when I asked why?
Where others backed their books, did the assignments and prepared for lessons, I was the kid doing his homework in the playground, a few scribbled lines instead of a page. Term marks were one of those hoops I didn’t understand.
The school said I was intelligent and had to work hard so that I could go to University. I had other ideas. I wanted to work and had no intention of staying in school for any longer than I needed to, far too many rules.
Even when I started working, the first thing I was told was “You’re really bright. It would be a waste not sending you to college, maybe even university.” What was wrong with these people?
Once, I even tried to do what they asked and went back to school. I’m big, loud and noticeable. When I’m bored, I become even more noticeable. When I’m in a room with a halfwit, who doesn’t know the subject they’re teaching, I’m obnoxious.
Probably the main reason I started to write is I love to entertain. Of course I’d like to get rich from it, but I need to enthral and make people laugh. I can be a show-off, always craving an audience.
I wrote, wrote and wrote again until I believed I had something worth showing to the world. The time had come to publish. After a few queries I found the route to the audience was barred by publishers and agents.
No problem, I’ve got a good product (I thought.) After a few rejections, I started to research more about what these people wanted. I knew it had to be modern (tick,) well written (tick), grammatically correct (tick), targeted at the agent’s market (tick).
Then I started to notice the weirder conditions coming out in blogs, tweets and interviews. “If I see ‘was’ on the first page, I reject it.” “If I can touch two -ly words with two fingers, I give it two fingers.” One
that really cracked me up was, “I hate books with a character called Isabel who is called Izzy.”
To the best of my knowledge I’d never break a law, but I don’t get along too well with rules.
Mathematics is governed by laws, such as, BODMAS. Publishing appears to be governed by rules. When the runaway successes of recent years ignore them, there’s little incentive to join the game.
For me, when a story is done. It’s done. I’m not going to revisit it to rework the style, remove or add characters because somebody else feels it might help. I need to file the job away and move on.
This is why I decided to self-publish; I’d rather have a smaller audience now, than keep waiting for the gate-keepers to give me a chance to play on the big stage.
What’s it cost so far?
I don’t count the cost of the writing course. That was about three hundred pounds and proved the best money I’ve ever spent. I loved it and when it finished, I seriously considered going back to do it again.
I needed an editor to work through the story with me, a cover and ISBN’s. So far, that totals six hundred and twenty-five pounds. As leisure activities go, I think this is acceptable.
The biggest cost by far, is time. That’s a commodity I don’t have enough of.
Writing time is my most precious. I try to guard that, but often find I can only manage twenty- thirty minutes a day. Oh, the delight of a client at the end of the train line, rather than up the M6.
The editing, I originally thought was boring, but now appreciate as part of the creative process. Michael Angelo didn’t hack David out of a block of stone with a single massive chisel. He used increasingly finer, more delicate tools. I swap from screen, to paper, to Kindle as I progress, going around the loop about three times.
Preparing the documents for publication has been fairly trivial. The Kindle format took a couple of days. Createspace will be easier next time, taking about five days. One of my biggest glitches was that I’d not included the first three pages, copyright, title etc. They took hours to get right.
By far, the most begrudged cost is the time spent marketing. I know I should love it. Whilst I’ve already hinted I’m an extrovert. Seeking an audience has always been on my terms. Marketing is staying active, regardless of how I’m feeling.
If I didn’t see Dawn French and Richard Madeley doing Breakfast TV, I’d feel hard done to. They have to get up, wear makeup and appear cheerful at that god-awful time. Hang on, that’s how my day starts …

Amara's Daughter by E H Howard
One Liner:
Swords, Sandals and Sex – High fantasy on speed
Carved from ice with blades of fire, the rigidly feminist state of Serenia breeds heroes. Unimaginably perfect, Amara the Magnificent, the legendary Ultimate Warrior is their greatest.
Five years since Amara’s mysterious disappearance, her daughter, Maryan, struggles to escape her mother’s formidable shadow. Shunned by most, her only friends are oddball characters from the edge of society.
The Queen sees Maryan as an asset to the nation, a pawn to play with and a pretty bauble to appease the neighbouring king, but lurking beneath the surface, an ancient terror plots to wipe out Maryan’s bloodline.
Friend, lover, and more, Amara’s Daughter is a turbulent, rite of passage story tracing Maryan’s growth from naive schoolgirl to the woman destiny needs her to be.
On the arena floor, Asti dropped her full weight through her knee on Barag’s windpipe. A short stab wedged her tiny scissors deep into the man’s left eye. She stood up and pounded them into his brain with her heel.
In the silence that followed, she pointed at the Queen. “If you won’t honour our traditions, maybe it’s time for us to change the leader of our nation.” Keeping her back rigidly straight, she marched purposefully across to the shadow of the tunnel.

Nobody moved and nobody cheered. The body of the fallen man twitched in a growing pool of blood.

Living in Cheshire with my wife and our two dogs (Milly and Molly,) I’ve run a successful computer consultancy for many years. The business continues to thrive and I feel blessed that people pay me to solve complex problems for them.
One day, we hope to spend a portion of our year on the Greek islands, where I would love to spend most days writing, but for now, I’m content that with three adult children, I’m being presented with grandchildren at a fabulous rate.
I split my writing time between short stories and novels. I love to take the challenge of creating a viable story in a reduced number of words for flash competitions.
At the top of my list of all-time favourites are CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein. Following them are Robert Jordan and Trudi Canavan, with a whole host of modern writers cramming up behind, including Kim Harrison (Hollows series), Margaret Stohl/ kami Garcia (Caster Chronicles) and Ben Aaaronovitch (Rivers of London.)



Amara's Daughter is available from:

Twitter: @ehhowarduk

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mini Promotion Blitz

After the last promotion blitz that I did for The Kult, I decided to plan another one for the second book in the series, Killers. Using the results from last time, I am using the following places for ads to promote the 99c sale:

June 25th: Bookbub
June 25th: Ebook bargain news
June 25th: Indie Book Bargains
June 27th: Bookblast
June 28th: ENT
July 1st: Kindle Books and Tips

Three of those are prepaid ads, which have cost $325 ((£211). ENT charge after the promotion, asking for 25% of the money from the sales their ad generated. 

For the last promotion, Bookbub ran the The Kult as a horror novel, this time Killers is being run as a thriller. 

The results after the first day are excellent and any reservations I had about promoting the second book in a series have been blown away. total sales: 811 8 sales rank: #150 Paid in Kindle Store

Sales of the first book, The Kult at full price, 42

Barnes & Noble sales rank: 30 (won't know actual sales there until Smashwords updates)

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Paid Promotion Blitz Experiment

My experiences with paid advertising have been mediocre, but in those cases, it's usually been a single random add posted now and again. Now I've planned a promotion blitz with my novel, The Kult, starting next weekend. I'm using lots of sites to see whether combining them over a few days will work better (of course what works for one book won't work for another and there are lots of variables).

 So first, the stats. The Kult has been out for a few years now, but I've decided to give it a big push. The story has been filmed by an independent production company and is currently in post production. On it has 28 reviews and an average of 4.4 stars. On it has 25 reviews and an average of 4.4 stars too. (On Goodreads it has 191 ratings with an average of 4.02).

Now I've already reduced the price from $2.99 to 99c to avoid any mishaps for the planned week, and I'm promoting utilising the following sites: 

May 11th 

May 12th

May 13th

May 14th

May 15th 

(I've also contacted the following sites, but promotion is not guaranteed and I've not heard back from them at the moment: and

Of course I'd love any help people can give me by reposting any ads or links they see during the promotion.

The total cost of this promotion blitz is $613 (£393) and to recoup my costs I've got to sell 1751 copies. I'll post the results after the event. And here's a couple of links to the books: 

Barnes & Noble

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The subconscious mind and acupuncture.

Have you ever turned left when you should have turned right, or vice-versa? Ever wondered why? I did this last week when taking my son to the hospital at Liverpool. Although we make the trip a couple of times a year, and although I know the way perfectly well, at the end of my road, I turned left instead of right, and it wasn’t until I was a hundred yards or so along the road that I realised my mistake and turned around. But my question is ‘why did I turn left?’ Did something happen subconsciously that made me take the turn? Did my subconscious know something that I didn’t, such as if I’d turned right as I was supposed to, we might have been involved in a traffic accident? I’d like to believe that we do things for a reason, even if we don’t know what that reason is, and that sometimes, a far greater power steps in to help us avoid incidents. Of course I could have just not been concentrating, and I’ll never know for sure, but it would be nice to think someone was watching out for us.

As anyone who has read my blog knows, I sprained my ankle in a mudrun last year, and I’ve been plagued by problems with it since. In order to help my recovery, last week I went for some acupuncture. I also had treatment for my hip, which is also painful, and although I was a little sceptical, I must say that a couple of days later, the pain has noticeably lessened, which is a good thing as next Sunday I’m competing in the Mad Monk run. I will be going back next week for some more treatment, but I wonder who first thought it would be a good idea to use people as pin cushions to help treat them, and who was the first person to actually let them do it? It sounds more like something a sadist would do, but as long as it works, I’m quite happy to continue with the treatment. 

Now although these two things are about different things, they are tied by another strange occurrence. When I was in a running shop in Chester a few weeks ago having my gait tested and buying some new running shoes, the lady serving me mentioned that if I hadn't tried it, then acupuncture might help with the pain from my sprained ankle. I didn't think much of it until a week or so later I was on a course and the instructor mentioned that he had just been for acupuncture, and that he swore by it. Again it seemed that someone or something was guiding me to give it a try, so I obtained the details of the person the instructor used, and well, if you've read this far, you know the rest. 

Serendipity. Chance. Good fortune. Divine intervention. Whatever it is, things often fall into place for reasons we cannot fathom. Shakespeare said it best when he wrote: “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Deadfall (new cover), marathon training and a short break

I recently hired Karri Klawiter to design a new cover for Deadfall (she has previously done covers for The Kult, Killers, Day by Day and The Heist, The novel hasn't been available in paperback since the previous publisher closed up shop, but I'm preparing a new paperback version that will hopefully be available soon.

For now, Kindle and Smashwords ebook copies are still available:


A team of mercenaries race to an abandoned mining village to rescue two children held hostage by rogue ex-soldiers. But the kidnappers are a ruse, the real threat more terrifying than any of them could imagine.

Aided by a couple of unsuspecting eco-warriors, mercenary team leader Amber Redgrave must fight to survive against foes that don't sleep and don't feel pain.

Now as the body count rises, so do the stakes, and when the dead won't stay dead, there's going to be hell to pay.


I recently decided to enter my first marathon (I think all this exercise is either my mid-life crisis or the fear of my own mortality. Either that or I'm just going crazy): The Lock Ness Marathon in September. It's still around five months away, but my training has already hit an obstacle when my previously sprained ankle started playing up again. I don't know whether this was compounded by changing my running style, as I have tried to adopt a midfoot strike, which involves different muscles to those I was using previously. It's supposed to be a more efficient way of running, as my previous style was more of a heel strike, which is like putting the brakes on all the time. I will have to reserve judgement until I can run again. 

I also had my running gait analysed at Up & Running in Chester, and as I assumed I do slightly overpronate, but not as badly as I feared. While there, I purchased a new pair of shoes (Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13), but I've not been able to try them yet. But as I'm running in the next Wild Warrior race, The Mad Monk next month, I really need to get training again (this one involves yet more obstacles and an open water swim across a river), but I don't want to rush it and make the pain worse, so I'll just have to settle for less impact exercises such as cycling for now, just to keep my fitness levels up to scratch. 

I really missed not being able to run over the last couple of days though as we had a short break in Greenacres at Porthmadog. I was itching to run along the beach (featured in the picture below), but knew that I had to restrain myself. Anyway, here are a couple of photos I took while there:

It was quite strange seeing a little sunshine while on Black Rock Sands, but then having snow-capped mountains in the distance. 

This second photo is of Llyn Celyn, a large reservoir in the valley of the River Tryweryn in Gwynedd, North Wales. The water was so calm that it resulted in this perfect mirror image. 

Monday, March 04, 2013

Win a special limited edition novella, The Heist

I'm running a very special competition to win 1 of 10 physical copies of my new release, The Heist. These are a special limited edition as there are no other physical copies available, and they are not for sale (ebook Kindle copies are available to buy from and 

Each copy is signed and numbered and I'll be giving 6 copies away. Instructions to win one are below, but it's easy to enter and just requires either signing up to the newsletter, posting on Twitter etc, or a combination of all possible ways. 

Good luck to all those who enter. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

After a vicious robbery at a theme park, callous gang leader, Greg Armstrong blows up a rollercoaster to aid their escape, resulting in eighty-seven deaths. Months later, Kurt Vaughn and his family are enjoying a day out geocaching, but Kurt is about to discover that there’s more to the treasure hunt than he realises as the caches supposedly lead to the stolen money, and the crooks are on the trail. Now Kurt and his family find themselves pawns in a far more deadly game. 

Novella approximately 24k words.

(For all budding sleuths or those who like puzzles, there's a puzzle at the end of the story that if you can work it out, gives you details of a webpage where you can play a mini, interactive text adventure. It ideally requires a Java enabled web browser for one part, although it will work without.)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Horror and Dark Fiction in the U.S. Guest Blog By JG Faherty

Today I have a guest post by JG Faherty, whose work I would highly recommend you check out. So without further ado, take it away, JG:

You folks reading this may not know me, but Shaun Jeffrey does. That's why I'm guest blogging today.

Shaun and I go way back, although we've never met. We became acquainted via the internet (no dirty thoughts – it was a writer's critique group!) and grew to be friends. This happened because we enjoyed each other's writing and shared a love of horror and what I call dark fiction, which can cover everything from straightforward mysteries to mystery-action adventure with a supernatural twist.

Shaun has graciously allowed me to hog his blog today because I'm promoting a new novel, The Burning Time. It's a supernatural tale involving country magic, good-vs.-evil, a town under siege by a malevolent being, and a touch of Lovecraftian mythos tossed in for good measure. You folks in the U.K. can purchase it on Amazon or But that's not what I want to talk about today.Today I want to talk about the similarities and differences between U.K. horror and U.S. horror. At least as I see them.

I don't know about your side of the pond, but over here some people find it difficult to read U.K. writers. Oh, sure, you've got the big names who do well: Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, Tim Lebbon. And I'm sure we've got a few names who you'd recognize immediately: Stephen King, Peter Straub, Dean Koontz. But we both have many other writers, fine writers, who seem to get lost in the shuffle or overlooked because of the which side of the Atlantic they write on.

Now, right off the bat, let's do away with the silly claims that it's all about language. Sure, there are some differences. Your writers use 'ou' instead of just 'o' in certain words (color vs. colour) or 's' instead of 'z' (realisation vs. realization). Some of your slang is different ('er' or 'erm' for you, 'um' for us when expression hesitation; you use 'bloody' as an adjective to express strong irritation or to emphasize foul language while we usually just add a second naughty word). But it's not like we speak two different languages (Cockney aside; I mean, who the hell can understand that? It's worse than trying to decipher Australian slang!). Seriously. I'm pretty sure you're understanding everything I write for this blog, and if I read a sentence like "Tim realised Derrick was a creature from another planet right before the bloody arsehole shot him in the leg." I'm not sitting there scratching my head in confusion. Furthermore, with the way our planet is turning into one big community, thanks to phones and TV and Twitter and Facebook, we're sharing plenty of common slang and definitely cursing at each other in common ways.

So language is off the table. Is it sensibilities? I doubt it. If you read the horror and dark fiction genres, you're not easily offended, man or woman. Just check out Sarah Pinborough's website and blog, or her facebook page. She looks like an angel but curses like a sailor. And she's written many a bloody, gory scene in her novels to go along with the terrifyingly suspenseful ones.

Is it political or economic differences? No. That may have been true a hundred years ago, but no longer. You have a Queen and a Parliment; we have a President and a Congress. But we share a common problem – most politicians are damn crooks! Plus, we're all in the same economic downward spiral. Jobs are scarce, we hate our bosses, the rich are always trying to screw the middle class. Other than Europe mucking around with the Euro and trying to create a global currency, the only difference is who we have to pay our taxes to.

So what is it, then? Well, I have an idea. It's style.

The U.K, style for horror and dark fiction involves more suspense; things don't always start with a big bang and then rocket page after page, adventure to adventure, until a climax is reached. The pace is often slower, with a steady, suspenseful build up to the climax.
Here in the U.S., much more of our writing is rapid and fast from the start; even the pace of the language is faster.

Now, I'm not blaming you for this. I can blame you for Simon Cowell and haggis and the unexplainable popularity of Indian food, but not for the differences in our writing. This one falls entirely on us, much like Justin Bieber and the Kardashians.

America is a land of instant gratification. Fast food (we invented McDonalds so we could eat on the go), fast music (we corrupted classic heavy metal into speed metal), and fast movies/television (we took the rapid style of MTV videos and made it an essential part of all movies and TV shows). And we've done it with books, too. Nowadays, you have about ten seconds to grab a reader's interest or he/she is gone. Attention spans over here are like those of children on sugar highs.

Sure, there are some American writers who have succeeded while sticking with the more traditional suspense model – what Charles L. Grant called 'quiet horror' – but they are few and far between. Peter Straub. Charles L. Grant. Ray Bradbury. These are writers who did – and still do, in Straub's case – build a story slowly, using atmosphere like a main character. Every chapter didn't have to be the literary equivalent of a Quentin Tarantino or Guy Richie movie.

Here's the problem, though. In the U.S., most readers want that rapid-fire style, because it's the only thing that keeps their attention focused on the book. For us, it's like going back and watching the movies of the 40s or 50s. Tooooo Sloooooow.

We don't know how to sit down, relax, and just read.

This is a particular problem for me, as a writer, because I tend to prefer the slow, suspenseful model. Not that I'm writing with the same pace as Masterpiece Theater – god help me! But I do like to create layers, to build to climaxes instead of just slapping readers with one after another.

This is probably one of the reasons Shaun and I grew to appreciate each other's writing. He knows how to do this, too. He doesn't shy away from blood and guts, he doesn't forget to include the chapter and ending climaxes that make your hair stand on end or keep you wondering who the killer is until the very last page, but he does build to those climaxes. He sets the stage, he uses setting and feelings and tiny, hidden clues to make you climb that ladder before you suddenly realize how high you are and you're about to fall off.

A book is like a roller coaster. There are two kinds: the ones that race up and down the hills with two speeds – fast and really fast. Then there are the ones that go slower up the hills, so you feel each vibration, each clink and clunk that makes you wonder if the tracks are falling apart and you're about to tumble to your death. That steady uphill climb also give you time to think about exactly how high you are, and how steep and dangerous that eventual downhill run is going to be. It puts that knot in your stomach as you wait.....

It's called anticipation, and it's what's lacking in a lot of U.S. novels today. It's a style I wish more writers would return to.

Think about movies. What scared you more, The Exorcist or Saw? Sure, Saw was bloody, but did it leave you frightened afterwards? Or how about the difference between the original Alien and the foolishness of Alien vs. Predator?

Suspense. It's what makes horror and mysteries truly terrifying.

So, if you like to be frightened, like to be kept on the edge of your seat, let me recommend some books to you:

By me (gotta plug myself!): The Burning Time, Carnival of Fear, The Cold Spot
By Shaun (gotta plug my friend!): The Heist, The Kult, Voyeurs of Death
By other writers: The Hidden (Sarah Pinborough), Julia, Shadowland (Peter Straub), Something Wicked This Way Comes (Ray Bradbury), Pressure (Jeff Strand)

Besides THE BURNING TIME, JG Faherty is the author of the Bram Stoker Award®-nominated GHOSTS OF CORONADO BAY. His other books include CEMETERY CLUB, CARNIVAL OF FEAR, THE COLD SPOT, and HE WAITS, along with 50-odd short stories. Although he is American to the core, he does enjoy Guinness, fish & chips, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and British heavy metal. As a child, his favorite playground was a 17th-century cemetery, which many people feel explains a lot. You can follow him at,,, and

Thursday, February 07, 2013

The Heist

After a vicious robbery at a theme park, the callous gang leader, Greg Armstrong blows up a rollercoaster to aid their escape, resulting in eighty-seven deaths. Months later, Kurt Vaughn and his family are enjoying a day out geocaching, but Kurt is about to discover that there’s more to the treasure hunt than he realises as the caches supposedly lead to the stolen money, and the crooks are on the trail. Now Kurt and his family find themselves pawns in a far more deadly game. 

Novella approximately 24k words.

(For budding sleuths and those who like puzzles there's a bonus puzzle at the end of the story that leads to a webpage to play a mini text adventure. It ideally requires a Java enabled web browser for one part, although the game will work without.)

I'd wanted to write a story that involved geocaching, and this is what I came up with. Now as geocaching is basically a form of treasure hunting that involves GPS, I thought it might be cool to try to incorporate a puzzle based treasure hunt. I achieved this by creating a mini text based adventure that can be found by cracking the code at the end of the story, which leads to a webpage where the interactive element begins. I hope people enjoy it!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Warhammer 40k, Heldrake

Okay, the next model I've attempted to paint, is the Heldrake. The Heldrake is a mechanical flying creature, a Chaos fusion of flesh, metal and bone which preys upon both troops and vehicles alike. With a pair of huge claws that it uses to rip apart enemy units, the Hell Drake utilises surprise tactics to swoop down from the skies and deliver enemy troops to their doom. This one is fitted with a baleflamer, which spews daemonic fire.

It took me about three days to finish painting ( I made the mistake of assembling most of it first, which made it trickier to tackle), and I decided to have a little fun with it and mix it up so that it's not all one colour. All that's left to do now is the base.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Warhammer 40k, Chaos Cultists

Over Christmas, I've been painting my son's Warhammer 40k figures from the Dark Vengeance set. It was very relaxing painting them, although it did take me a long time. I think each small figure averaged about an hour to complete, and there were twenty of them in total! So far I've painted the Chaos Cultists, the Chaos Space Marines Dark Apostle (which was bought separately), and the Dark Vengeance Helbrute. As this is my first attempt at painting Warhammer figures, I know I've got a lot to learn, but these are my results so far.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas

Well another year is almost over, and in the spirit of giving, here's a free Christmas gift in the form of a short story. Hope you enjoy it, and Merry Christmas one and all.

Jim Bloor stared out of the grotto window at the shoppers ambling past outside, probably spending far more than they could afford in the pinnacle of consumerism, otherwise known as Christmas.
                There was no way Jim was going to get himself into debt in order to buy some crap that the recipient probably didn’t want and didn’t need in the first place. No, he had far more important things on his mind.
                “Santa, are you listening?”
                Jim stared at the kid standing opposite him. He looked about seven years of age, the centre parting in his hair giving him a quite severe expression. “Ho, ho, ho,” Jim said, “and who have we here?” He glanced at the piece of paper stapled to the wall at his side that listed the kids in the order they were lined up outside the department store grotto. “Oh yes, Simon. And what do you want for Christmas young man?”
The boy stared with wide eyed wonder. “I’d like a...”
Jim stopped listening. He nodded in all the right places, but if the truth be told, he hated all these greedy little kids. When he was young, he was lucky to get a piece of fruit and a wooden toy. But then it wasn’t the kids fault as much as the parents for buying him everything he asked for. He glanced at the boys Mum and Dad standing in the doorway, grinning from ear to ear. They pulled out a camera to take a picture, but a six foot elf (six fucking foot. The store couldn’t even be bothered to get that right) pointed out a sign that said photos were not permitted as Santa’s helper was the only one allowed to take pictures, which they could then purchase for five pounds. That was on top of the five pounds they paid for the honour of their bundle of joy meeting Santa and receiving some plastic piece of crap made in China for a few pennies.
Their smiles faded for a moment, but then the father begrudgingly pulled out his wallet.
Once the photograph had been taken, Jim reached into the blue sack and pulled out a gift that he passed to the kid. “Now be a good boy, Robin—”
The kid frowned. “Simon, my name’s Simon.” He glanced back at his parents, lower lip trembling petulantly. They stared back at Jim as though he had just murdered their little one.
“Ho, ho ...” fucking “ho. Of course it is. Simon. Santa makes a mistake now and again, you know the world’s a big place and there are a lot of kids’ names to remember.” He smiled at the parents in the hope that they would understand.
The kid’s father scowled. “Money we’re paying you think he’d do the job properly,” he grumbled to his wife.
The kid tore the paper off the gift, threw the wrapping on the floor and pulled his nose up at the cheap action figure that he held up between two fingers.
An itch started beneath Jim’s fake beard and the extra padding he was wearing made him feel hot and sweaty where it pressed against his stomach. If it wasn’t for the money he wouldn’t be doing this job. And the more he thought about it, the more he realised the money didn’t cover the grief he had to endure. A trickle of sweat rolled from underneath his Santa hat and he wiped it away on his sleeve. As he brought his arm back down, his sleeve snagged the fake beard and pulled it down.
The kid stared at him for a moment, and then his lower lip started quivering. Next second he started bawling his eyes out.
“Outrageous,” the father said. “I want to see the manager.”
“Come here, Simon,” the mother added, holding her arms out to comfort her son.
“Right, time to move along,” the six foot elf said, ushering the family out. The green tights accentuated his skinny legs and knobbly knees. He looked like a string bean. The kid’s dad glanced back and gave Jim a final withering glare as though it was his fault. Jesus, he was only doing his job. What did they expect for five pounds?
“He had to find out one day,” Jim shouted after them. He then sat back and snorted loudly. He wished to God that his problems could be so minor.
A few minutes later the manager stormed into the grotto. His face was as red as Jim’s coat. “I’ve just had my ear chewed by an angry parent. You’re fired. Get your things. Security will escort you from the building.”
“You can’t do that,” Jim said. “I didn’t do anything.”
“You spoiled a kid’s dreams. Probably scarred him for life. I think that’s enough.”
“But I need this job.”
“You should have thought about that before.”
“Before what?” Jim raised his hands in a questioning manner. “I didn’t do jack shit. It was one kid with some stuck up parents making a fuss about nothing.”
“That’s all it takes. Pack your stuff.”
Jim stood up and shook his head. “But I need this job for my kid.”
The manager shrugged. “I’m sorry. I know what you’re going through, but you’ve brought this on yourself.”
“You haven’t got a clue what I’m going through,” Jim spat, but he knew it was useless arguing further. Department store Santa’s were two a penny and stupid as it seemed, people would be queuing up to take his place.
“Well you can shove your job up your ass,” he said as he stormed away, tugging the beard off and flinging it to the ground. He thundered past the crowd of people waiting outside. “And what are you looking at?” he shouted. “Santa has left the building.”
Mum’s and Dad’s shielded their kids and tutted loudly. He heard murmurings of ‘disgraceful’ and ‘shouldn’t be allowed’ as kids started bawling.
Jim quickly changed into his own clothes and then exited the store. Outside he stared at the twinkling lights that adorned the street and the shop windows. He resented the fact that he was probably paying for them through his taxes when he could hardly afford to pay the bills for his council flat. If his life was a book, then it was a shitty read.
He stomped along the pavement, muttering underneath his breath at the unfairness of it all. Christmas. It was a crap celebration anyway. How could any responsible parent fob their kids off with such lies? They were only setting them up for heartache when they found out the truth. And they were instilling in their kids the belief that it was alright to lie. That’s it was okay to believe a fat old bastard broke into their house each year and left presents. The reality was that if anyone broke in, it would be to take, not to give. Christmas was a joke, but he wasn’t laughing. It was no wonder the world was in such a mess. Parents lied about so many things. The tooth fairy, Santa Claus, compatible organ donors. A tear rolled down his cheek. He pictured his daughter, Rebecca, still believing that a heart would be found in time.
Jim was doing his best to help, but it wasn’t easy.
He spotted the family up ahead that had just resulted in him being sacked from his job. They were standing on the corner of the street. The father was talking on his mobile phone. Anger coursed through Jim’s veins as he watched them. After the father put his phone away, he kissed his wife on the cheek, looked at the watch on his wrist and said something to her before nodding and walking away.
Jim followed him at a discreet distance. The man walked past the shops and entered the multi-storey car park at the end of the road. He walked through the doorway and started up the stairs. Jim jogged after him, the smell of piss tainting the air. Half way up, he caught up to the man and without hesitating, he pulled the extendable baton from his coat pocket and whacked the man over the head as hard as he could. The resultant shock coursed through his arm and he watched as the man collapsed and tumbled back down the stairs. Jim jogged after him and crouched beside the fallen man and struck his head again for good measure. Then he checked he was still breathing. Satisfied that he was alive, he searched the man’s body for his wallet and took out a credit card. He then pulled out a prefilled organ donor card and pen from his own pocket and copied the man’s signature as close as possible onto the card and then put both cards back in the man’s wallet before exiting the building and heading for a callbox where he rang for an ambulance.
He knew that if the man wasn’t registered on the organ donor registry they might not take much notice of the card, but if it was pointed out to the family that he was carrying the card, then hopefully they would acquiesce with his wishes. But all of this was dependent on the man making it to hospital while still alive, and then being pronounced brain dead so that his organs could be harvested. Then there was the issue of compatibility. It was all a long shot, and so far, none of Jim’s attempts had been successful.
But it only took one, and he wasn’t going to stop trying. Of course, some of the victims had died after being struck, so their organs were useless, and others had survived without severe brain damage, but he had slowly honed his skill of judging how hard he needed to strike the victim to produce the results he required.
After making the anonymous call, Jim hurried home.
When he arrived at the flat, he hung his coat up behind the door and walked through into the lounge. His wife, Tracey looked up. “You’re home early,” she said.
Jim didn’t have the heart to tell her that he had been sacked, so he shrugged. “It was a slow day so they let me go early.”
Tracey frowned. “A slow day at Christmas?”
“How’s Becky?” he asked, changing the subject.
“She’s okay.”
“Any calls?”
“No, should there be?”
Jim shook his head and stared at the small, artificial Christmas tree in the corner of the room. A set of LED lights twinkled away on the branches, the glow reflecting from a few sad looking baubles and lengths of tinsel. It looked pathetic, and they only erected it to try to maintain the festive spirit that none of them felt.
Jim walked across the room and knocked on his daughter’s bedroom door and then entered. The curtains were partially drawn, and grey light filtered through the gap, illuminating his ten year old daughter’s face, accentuating her pale skin. She sniffled as he entered, and turned her head on the pillow to look up.
“Hi Dad.” She produced a faint smile that faded on her lips.
Jim sat on the edge of the bed and leaned over to kiss his daughter’s forehead. “How you feeling, sweetie?” He squeezed her hand. She felt so cold.
“I’m okay.”
She started panting slightly and Jim stroked her hair.
He sat with her, praying to hear the phone ring, but it remained tauntingly silent. After a while he left the bedroom and picked up the receiver, just to check that it was still working. He contemplated calling the hospital, but he couldn’t question them about new possible donors without giving away his misdemeanours.
He collapsed onto the chair in the corner of the room and stared at the window. Darkness pervaded the grey sky and the temperature had dropped. All across the city, lights twinkled in myriad houses, where happy families sat preparing for the big day. Jim knew that if a donor wasn’t found soon then his daughter probably wouldn’t see Christmas.
 Raised voices attracted his attention, and he realised there were Carol singers at his door. He listened to the words as they sang Joy to the World.
Tears rolled down his cheeks. Tracey came across and squeezed his shoulder.
“It’s not fair,” he said. “Why us? Why our Becky?”
“I don’t know. It’s just the way it is I guess.”
“No God can exist that would let this happen. She’s just a baby.”
The carollers stopped singing and there was a knock on the door. Tracey walked across the room and opened the door to give them some money.
Jim contemplated the lyrics he had just heard:
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
Well they were certainly cursed. How many more people was he going to have to kill in order to try to save his daughter?

Tracey was watching the television when the call came. She immediately rang a taxi and then rushed into Becky’s room. “They’ve found a match,” she said, choking back the tears.
                Becky stared open mouthed. After a moment, she said, “Where’s Dad?”
                “It’s Christmas Eve, so he’s at work. I’ll ring him now and he can meet us at the hospital.” She proceeded to ring Jim’s mobile number, but it rang through to the answering service. She guessed he was busy playing Santa, so she left a message.
                By the time they reached the hospital, she still hadn’t managed to contact Jim.
“I want him here,” Becky said.
“So do I. But don’t you worry. He’ll be here by the time you come out of the operating theatre.”
“Of course.”
                She watched them wheel her daughter away, and then proceeded to the waiting room. She sat and stared at the door, then tried ringing Jim again. Still no answer. Magazines decorated a table top, so she picked one up and thumbed through it, but she couldn’t recall anything she read, so she put it back down. Her heart was racing and her fingers tingled. She couldn’t think about anything other than her daughter.
Movement caught her eye, and she noticed a nurse and a police officer walking towards her. “Mrs Bloor?” the nurse asked.
Tracey frowned and nodded. “This was delivered to reception for you.” She handed across an envelope.
At the same time, the police officer started to speak: “Mrs Bloor, I have some distressing news.”
Confused, Tracey tore open the envelope and pulled out a sheet of paper. As she read, tears filled her eyes, the police officers words fading into the background:
                My darling Tracey. You’ve got to believe me when I say that everything I did, I did for Becky. I love her with all my heart.
Merry Christmas, Jim. XXX