And just in the nick of time, too. I really need to stop leaving book-writing to the last minute. Never mind. Apparently it’s not awful, either! Good to know.
(According to my editor, it also contains ‘the stupidest joke ever’, so keep an eye out for that one. You’re welcome. And yes, I’m going to get that quote framed and hang it on my wall forevermore.)
So it’s all submitted to Amazon and the preorder requirements are filled. Phew! It was looking a bit dicey for a while there. Totally my own fault – I just couldn’t get Christmassy enough to write it before a couple of weeks ago. OK, one week ago. Two days ago. Whatever, I got it done. Get off my case.
I hope you’re all getting excited for Christmas!
If not – if you don’t celebrate it or, like me, your day-job involves dealing with the Christmas rush – I hope the idea of murdering Santa makes you smile, even a little.
It’s available for preorder here. And just for you, here’s a little snippet:
Every year since I’d turned 14, I’d spent Christmas in Hell. Not the metaphorical Hell like most people – I didn’t have an annoying family to put up with during the holidays. I actually made the trip Down Under. Satan puts on quite the spread – mushroom burgers, grilled artichokes, seitan roast – plus her personal chef makes just about the best mashed potatoes in existence. If you ever get an invite to Christmas dinner with the devil, I would recommend that you go. (And not just because Satan doesn’t deal all that well with rejection.) Sure, it was kind of hot in the belly of The Underworld, but it wasn’t any worse than in my seaside shack in Australia at that time of year. At least the devil had air conditioning.
Things were going to be different this year, though. Death had other plans for me.
Stomping loudly around my bedroom (making damn sure that the two ‘men’ – to use the term loosely – who were waiting downstairs could hear how annoyed I was), I pulled clothes from my cupboard and shoved them into a backpack. I couldn’t even take a proper suitcase, oh no – we were going to be trekking through an arctic wasteland on foot, so I couldn’t even bring real luggage. I grabbed thermal tights and a puffy jacket, stuffing them into the bag without bothering to fold them.
Although I’d tried to argue at first, I was now resigned to my fate. I was going to kill the most beloved figure in history. And at Christmas, of all times.
Thumping down the stairs, I dragged my bag behind me. Henry, who was currently a gorilla, and Death, who was currently one of my least favourite people in existence, watched me re-enter the kitchen
“He’s not as nice as you think,” Death said, obviously still trying to placate me.
I glared at him. “It doesn’t matter how horrible he is, if I kill him then I’ll be a monster! I’ll be the girl who ruined Christmas!”
“You’ll certainly ruin Christmas if you don’t stop moping,” Death said.
I stuck my tongue out in response. OK, not my best comeback. Whatever. He’d had a lot more years of practise at being snarky than I had.
“This doesn’t need to be such a big deal,” said Henry. I turned to glare at him. Henry was the shape-shifting Department official who’d supervised me on my last botched quest. (Not my fault that it was botched, I should point out – it just wasn’t the quest I was meant to do, and so The Department refused to issue me a licence to practise magic until I performed another task of their choosing, which this time involved snuffing out St. Nick. And just in time for Christmas, too. Great. Tis the season to be jolly. And commit murder.) I still hadn’t quite forgiven Henry for not bothering to check in with head office before taking me on the wild goose chase of a quest that Ed had led us on.
Urgh, Ed. My face contorted into a scowl at the mere memory of him.
Henry caught the look on my face and took a worried step back. Although I hadn’t actually been directing the look at him, I didn’t bother to tell him that. He deserved to be a bit scared.
Clomping into the kitchen, I plucked another of the muffins Henry had baked for me (to try and butter me up before telling me about this new quest) from the bench and bit into it. Yes, OK, it was delicious. Hummingbird. And he’d gotten the cupcake to icing ratio correct – 50:50. But I was not going to be distracted by these delicious baked goods. He’d need to bribe me with more than this to make me like him again. Like maybe a shiny new licence that didn’t come with strings attached. Where by ‘strings’ I mean ‘a death certificate’.
“All packed?” asked Death.
“Yes,” I said. “Although I wasn’t quite sure what to bring. My usual murdering outfit is in the wash.”
“I didn’t think you had a specific outfit for it,” said Death, raising his eyebrows. “Don’t you usually just murder when the mood strikes?”
I glared at him. “That is not something you should joke about.”
Not around a Department official, at least.
He raised his eyebrows. “Right. Yeah. Joking.”
“How are we getting there, then?” I asked, trying to change the subject.
Henry frowned at me, probably thinking I seemed a little too enthusiastic about leaving all of a sudden, and wondering why I was so eager to change the subject. He answered nonetheless.
“The Reaper will conjure us a portal.”
Oooh, The Reaper. Someone was trying to suck up to Death by using his official title. I guess when you worked in The Department of Magic and Death, having an ‘in’ with Old Grim probably helped your chances of promotion.
Hunh. Work. The whole reason I was going through this shemozzle. Although my ramshackle abode was largely self-sufficient (powered by magic and surrounded by a big vegetable garden), I still needed a little bit of extra cash for buying rare magical herbs, candles, spell books and soy lattes. Although I’d recently befriended the owners of the café/magical bookstore Witch’s Brew in the nearby town of Gretchen, I wasn’t sure if we were close enough for me to just take their products without paying. And I wasn’t going to try it, what with them being the local magical law enforcement and all.
Anyway, up until a week or so ago, I’d made my money by working as a clairvoyant. I’d always been able to see ghosts, and had no moral qualms about making money from other peoples’ grief. It wasn’t like I was a fake or anything. I was going to be seeing ghosts everywhere I went anyway – they seemed to seek me out. I figured I might as well take the curse of seeing dead people and turn it into something lucrative. Communing with the dead on behalf of the unsighted non-magicals, hosting séances, you know – it was a nice little sideline.
Until Henry showed up in my kitchen and announced that if I wanted to continue, I was going to have to get licensed. That was when this whole farce began.
“When are we leaving?” I asked. The sooner we got there, the sooner Santa could be dealt with. I might even be done in time to spend the holidays stuffing my face with Satan. (Not, like, stuffing my face with Satan. Just, you know, eating Christmas dinner at the same table as her. Although she is pretty hot. I wouldn’t be totally opposed to stuffing my face with her, that’s all I’m saying.)
“Now,” said Death. “Hang on to your muffin.”
We walked outside, me trailing behind the others, down my garden path and out into the open space between my house and the small cemetery across from which I lived. I looked around, sighing, wishing I could just stay here and wallow alone. At that moment, Death opened a portal in front of us and motioned for me and Henry to step through.
Time to start running, Santa.