Merry Christmas from me and everyone at Curmudgeon Avenue, I hope you have a fun and festive time.
Books make great presents, don’t they?
Here is my present to you, TWELVE FREE BOOKS!
Click HERE to download a free E-copy of any (or all of these Christmassy winter tales).
I will keep this post short and sweet (I’m sure you have mince pies and Christmas TV to be getting on with). I’ve been feeling tired probably because of MS, the time of year, and I’m still getting over the publication of MY HALF-SISTER’S HALF-SISTER!
In chapter nine, we find out why Halloween was once banned at Curmudgeon Avenue, and how Harold and Edith brought it back with their comedy-drama style.
Chapter 9: The Halloween Party
On this particular week in Whitefield, the streets were filled with the colours of Halloween. Orange pumpkins both produce and plastic, the ghostly whites of costumes, and skies of purple and grey before (bonfire night delivers a modern-day fog). Say what you like about the people of Manchester, they know how to enjoy themselves, (particularly in Whitefield, where as you know, it is any excuse to get wasted).
‘I should have let Patchouli have this party. I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for when I said yes to our Ricky,’ said Edith, from under a pile of fake cobwebs. (Erm, yes, you should have Edith, and yes, you did know). ‘Edna would not have allowed this. No way. She would not have allowed a party at Curmudgeon Avenue.’
(I miss Edna).
‘Edna?’ said Harold while pretending to carve a pumpkin. ‘It’s a shame your sister isn’t here, Edith, she could have answered the door to the trick-or-treaters. She wouldn’t have had to get dressed up! In fact, Edna could have gone trick or treating herself!’ Harold laughed at his own joke while spraying the kitchen with stringy pumpkin flesh and sticky seeds. Edith did not like Harold’s teasing about Edna, but was unable to make it stop.
‘Be careful, Harold, I’m going to make pumpkin soup with those insides… Put them in the bowl, will you?’
‘Yes, boss,’ said Harold. (Oh dear, that is another annoyance).
After another trip to the off licence, (with Edith’s purse), Harold insisted on making his signature dish – Radcliffe Hors d’oeuvres (mini cheddars with a blob of Primula cheese spread on the top). Number One Curmudgeon Avenue was ready for its very first Halloween party. But first, Harold and Edith had to eat their tea – Manchester speak for the evening meal. Edith had made the pumpkin soup she had been talking about. Edith was quite capable of preparing food, as you know, her previous husband Reg was very well fed. But pumpkin soup was something she had never tried before. You see, Halloween was not popular in Edith’s family up until today.
Now, I have a kitchen, but I’m no cook (why would I be? I’m a house). However, I do know that folk should be careful with fibrous starchy squash fruits (especially if the person eating them has a delicate digestive system and shares a bedroom with you, such as Harold).
‘It was my mother’s birthday on Halloween,’ Edith said in between orange slurps.
‘Oh, really? I expect you had lots of fun growing up then?’
‘No Harold, I mean don’t forget, Halloween wasn’t as popular back then as it is now.’
‘I blame the Americans,’ said Harold.
‘When Ricky was little, it got popular, but it was still Mother’s birthday.’
‘Oh, I’m sure you had a grand old time bringing him round to see his grandmother.’
Edith felt a bit guilty thinking about her own mother in this way. The truth was her mother had been a real narcissist and Halloween was banned. She would manipulate the entire situation months in advance so that her birthday was all about her, and nothing about Halloween. Fair enough you might be thinking to yourself, it is probably the same for the folk whose birthday is on Christmas Day or any other such festival. But Edith’s mother never returned the favour. Even her own daughters had their birthdays purposely forgotten by their vain mother.
And you thought Edna did not do birthdays anymore for age preservation reasons? No, it was because Mrs Payne had been a bit of a cow about them. But Mother was dead, and Edith was having a Halloween party in her house.
‘Edith, are you alright?’ Harold said. ‘You haven’t said anything for ages, it’s not like you!’
‘Oh yes, I was just thinking about Mum… and Dad…’ Edith put her spoon down, and looked into Harold’s googly eyes, wanting to confide in him about her parents’ tragic end. She had never discussed the shock before. ‘Harold did I ever tell you …?’ But her voice trailed off, drowned by the sound of singing in Manchester voices, ready to party, and ready to get their Halloween on.
‘Halloween’s coming. Halloween’s coming… concrete chips! Concrete chips!’ then Wantha turned to Toonan, slapping her on the arm.
‘What’ve concrete chips got to do with it? You’ve got it mixed up with the school dinner song!’
‘OW! Well, what are the words then? Know it all!’ Toonan’s words were lost amongst the sound of Harold prizing the back door open. He had done too much of a good job sticking the fake cobwebs up.
‘Oh! Come in!’
‘What’s up with youse?’ Wantha said, from behind Toonan (part of the costume). ‘It doesn’t look like a party in here, c’ mon get some tunes on!’
‘Oh, come in, come in, I haven’t had the chance to put my costume on!’ Edith said, and then she took in the Halloween vision before her. ‘Oh! Patchouli! What have you come as? You look very…’
‘Goth. I’ve come as a Goth Ediff,’ said Patchouli from behind a fishnet veil and lashings of black eye makeup. ‘They do my head in, well they used to before the Banshee got bulldozed uptown. Ever go in there Ediff?’
‘Can’t say I did, no.’
‘Thinking they were better than everyone, dressing ‘alternative’ but looking like their best mate! Horrific! That’s why it makes a good Halloween costume.’ Patchouli, the ultimate old rock chick, obviously had a grudge to bear.
Edith noticed something else, Wantha and Toonan wearing a combination outfit.
‘Sorry Ediff, we asked for a horse, but they only had this left,’ Toonan’s eyes studied the kitchen floor in shame. Edith took in the image of Wantha and Toonan in their elephant costume. It was like a pantomime horse, but it was an elephant.
‘Sorry Ediff,’ said Wantha. Ricky Ricketts pushed past the two straight to the fridge.
‘Did Harold get the beers in Mum?’
‘No, I did,’ said Edith. ‘Aren’t you getting dressed up?’
‘No. I don’t get dressed up, out of respect for Granny.’
‘Good man,’ said Harold (it had nothing to do with him) then let out one of his first pumpkin fuelled farts. Edith reappeared downstairs wearing a sheet with two eyeholes cut into it, she was the token Halloween ghost. ‘Little Ghost’ Wantha and Toonan kept calling her.
Then it was Harold’s turn to reveal his costume; a second hand Beetlejuice with matching grey wig. Harold’s spectacles threw his audience. ‘Harold, why have you come as Doc from Back to the Future?’ said Toonan.
‘I thought you were doing the food for tonight, Toonan?’ Harold diverted while letting another fart out.
‘I did!’ Toonan narrowly missed the offensive smell. ‘Look!’ Toonan ripped open a bag of jelly worms. ‘See, Halloween food!’
Harold let out another fart, this one reached Toonan’s nostrils. ‘Ew Harold, have you just farted?’
Harold, of course, denied it.
Well, the night proceeded with as much Manchester merriment and Halloween high jinks that you can imagine. They ran out of beer, and Toonan and Wantha went together to the nearest off licence in their elephant costume. Amongst the tomfoolery and fun, Edith sought Prosecco fuelled confidence in Patchouli, who remained dressed as a Goth and was unlikely to remember what Edith had said. She flopped down on the leatherette settee next to Patchouli, who was minding her own business and having a disco nap.
‘The thing is,’ Edith hiccupped. ‘My mother wouldn’t have liked this. A party on Halloween…’ Edith hiccupped again in Patchouli’s face, disguising the silent but deadly wind released from Edith’s bottom.
‘Why ever not, love?’ Patchouli asked with concern.
‘Oh, because she didn’t like this sort of thing, not on her birthday, anyway… Did you know… Did you know how she died? How she and my father died?’ Edith’s eyes were wide, and Patchouli was doing her best to listen. ‘She got squashed by an elephant. They both did, in their static caravan.’
Of course, Patchouli already knew, but she had to entertain Edith, in her ghost costume, partially discarded in favour of her standard floral head to foot ensemble.
‘If Halloween was her birthday, why didn’t she like it? Patchouli asked.
‘Well, she wanted it to be just a birthday, it had to be all about her,’ Edith revealed the pattern of behaviour she had fallen into. Patchouli touched her forearm.
‘Your mum would have wanted you to be happy like all mums do.’ As Patchouli spoke, Edith shut up and listened for once. ‘Now your sister isn’t here at the moment, so you have to embrace the people around you, right here, right now. You’re happy with Harold, aren’t you?’ this mention of Harold to Edith sent her right back to her ruminations.
‘Yes, but he doesn’t know about the elephant incident, or at least I didn’t think he did… And in any case, I’m not altogether sure if Mum would have liked me being with Harold.’
‘Now Edith, come on, time is precious, just enjoy the here and now. And Edith, everyone knew about the elephant incident, it was on Granada Reports.’ (What a lovely woman Patchouli is; though it was probably the here and now that caused the hob incident).
Edith started a lengthy, gushing speech about how Patchouli had been right and their new friendship. As you can imagine, there was a lot of ‘so anyways’, she didn’t stop for breath. Edith nearly exhausted the room of oxygen she was talking so much. Patchouli patiently listened, but eventually returned to her disco nap in the living room. Edith carried on talking for longer than was reasonably necessary.
‘Oh, there you are!’ Harold said, rather too loudly as he barged into the living room.
‘WHAT! Where’s the fire?!’ Patchouli woke and jumped out of her skin with a face more Alice Cooper than Siouxsie and the Banshees.
‘I didn’t know where you were Edith, Toonan and Wantha want to get the apple bobbing going,’ Harold looked more like a mad scientist than a rambunctious spirit.
‘Harold!’ Edith said in uncharacteristic assertive tones. ‘I want to speak to you about a huge shock I had when my parents died.’
Harold expelled the remaining pumpkin gas from his gastrointestinal tract. His head wobbled, and his eyes bulged out so far that they touched the inside of his spectacles. Harold and Edith stared at each other for longer than was reasonably necessary. He was saved by the person least likely to save anyone.
‘Harold, get your arse to the shop, will you? We’re running out of sweets for the trick-or-treaters,’ Ricky shouted from inside a plume of cigarette smoke and stolen aftershave.
‘I thought Toonan brought all those jelly worms?’ said Harold, but Ricky ignored him. Harold did as he was told, but only because he needed to get away from Edith and further mentions of elephants, parents and massive shocks. There would be another huge shock for Edith if she found out the truth. Harold had lived this lie for too long. He had already resigned himself that it would do more harm than good if Edith knew the truth. It was the elephant’s fault, not his. The front door slammed behind him.
‘See,’ said Edith. ‘He’s not interested in talking to me,’ Edith sighed in Patchouli’s general direction. (Typical Harold, it could have been the carpet’s fault, as long as it wasn’t his).
‘Oh, Edith, lighten up love, will you? And help me get this corpse bride hat off before people start accusing me of being into The Chameleons,’ Patchouli was back in the land of the living.
‘Oh, it’s stuck to your head!’ Edith said. ‘What’s it stuck on with?’
‘Superglue I think,’ said Patchouli. Well, Edith (still wearing her white sheet) started tugging, fussing and pulling Patchouli’s hat. Then, more trick-or-treaters knocked on the door.
‘Don’t worry, we’ll get it!’ Toonan and Wantha said.
‘Quick put your head on! Ow, watch me trunk!’ they opened the door, not to a trick-or-treater but to a very tall, very handsome, smartly dressed man.
‘Oh Haha, what’ve you come as?’ Toonan said, from behind an elasticated elephant’s trunk.
‘Pardon?’ the man said, with very slight tinges of a faintly French accent. Wantha could not resist stepping away from Toonan to have a proper look at this fine specimen who had rattled the door knocker of Number One Curmudgeon Avenue. She was wearing the back half of the elephant. Braces held up the baggy grey trousers, (skin-tight around Wantha’s voluptuous hips), Wantha smoothed down her hair.
‘Hello, would you like a gummy worm?’ Toonan asked as the smart-looking handsome and tall man took in the scene before him. Two parts of an elephant, one with hair like a lion’s mane and a backside like a rhinoceros. The other still wearing the elephant’s head and holding what appeared to be confiscated Halloween treats. Then he heard it, well, they all heard it…
‘Push, no pull,’ said Edith. ‘No, stay still Patchouli. You try and sit in the chair, and I’ll pull.’
‘PUUUULLLL,’ shouted Patchouli, which was followed by a nauseating ripping sound. ‘Ow! Ow, you got my scalp, Edith!’
The tall, handsome man took a step back to look at the door number. ‘Sorry, I think I have the wrong house.’ And with that, he got back into his expensive-looking car and drove away down Curmudgeon Avenue into the Manchester night.
‘Who was that?’ said Harold on his way back from Mrs Ali’s with sweets and gossip that he had already forgotten.
‘Yeah, Wantha, who was that?’ said Ricky Ricketts with sudden interest.
‘We thought it was a trick-or-treater, but it was just some posh bloke who got the wrong address,’ Toonan spoke with jelly worms hanging from her mouth underneath her elephant trunk.
‘What’s going on?’ Patchouli and Edith appeared out of the living room, and everyone burst into laughter. Edith was still wearing her ghost costume, but Patchouli, not only had black eye make-up running down her face but a nice round bald patch where Edith had ripped off her Halloween hat.
‘Oh, Mum I’m sorry, you look like a cross between Uncle Fester and Friar Tuck!’
Teacher by day, fantasy writer by night, West Caldwell was forced to live in secret long before werewolves and vampires accidentally outed themselves on social media, causing a worldwide freak out. One slip of his rare Omega magic bound Topher Greer to him against his will. Now that magic threatens to fracture even further—just as shapeshifters are being abducted off the streets of Austin, Texas.
Topher Greer, EMT and former prisoner of the most dangerous vampire coven in Texas, is one of the few who can sense the presence of undead blood. He’s been marked for death by the Vampire Nation—who hold his brother hostage. Things with West Caldwell are… complicated. Pack law doesn’t forbid relationships between newly changed werewolves and their sires. But West has more walls around his heart than a high-security vampire prison.
To avoid the coming war and save his brother, Topher will have to turn to the most unlikely of allies—and untangle the feelings between him and West Caldwell for once and for all.
BOUND is part of the Blood Moon, Texas Shifters series. Sizzling hot romance. Guaranteed HEA.
Fabulous. I knew I was bound to love this one, and it arrived just in time for October’s spooky season. West and Topher are bound together (initially, without Topher’s consent). This magic moment saved Topher from the vampires, but will West ever know if their love is for real? Meanwhile, vampires and werewolves toil against their natural instincts and there is talk of an alliance – because the humans are after them. A great plot and I enjoy Kat Kinney’s writing too. I was immersed in a world where vampires and werewolves are crossed to make varewolves, I learnt how to spell ‘whuffed’ and was treated to a thread of ‘You’re the biggest fantasy nerd’ – two characters teasing one another really normalised the supernatural for me (and made me smile). What starts as a story about rule-breaking shapeshifters becomes a narrative of family values and loyalty.
WOULD YOU RECOGNIZE A REAL SCREAM AT HALLOWEEN?
Norah Lewis ignored her brother’s screams in the haunted house that night. Because none of it was supposed to be real. Not the blood. Not the butcher knives. And not the bodies.
Tormented by survivor’s guilt and seeking answers, Norah secretly plans to retrace her brother’s final steps.
But the killer hasn’t chosen his hunting ground at random. And his sights are set on the hordes of thrill seekers still lining up to visit the notorious haunted house.
This time, Norah will run toward the screams—no matter the cost.
A great cover, a great plot and a chilling end. The Thicket is a serial killer thriller about one of the most haunted (fictional?) places in the US. The story starts with brothers and sisters Brandon and Norah visiting The Thicket (which is run like a ghost train without the train); the siblings are separated and the plot opens up. The book has Halloween and horror themes throughout and the crushing of pre-pandemic contemporary life – (Facebook pages with amateur sleuths and other threads which tore at the survivor’s mental state). An exploration of sibling guilt, teenage friendships and loyalty. Why have I knocked one star off? I think this book made me feel a bit old as I got ‘lost’ a few times. Get lost in The Thicket this Halloween!
Paddy – if that is indeed his real name – has taken the reins of the Windy Mountain Tasmanian Tiger Museum, only to discover the previous manager left the building in a coffin.
Then he finds out that the devious owners don’t actually want him to succeed anyway.
The old men’s dogged determination isn’t good news for a third octogenarian who has the only legal dog in town, but stuff him.
Oodles and Wish-Wash have good reason not to like The Mayor anyway and if he won’t help, they are prepared to break the law.
This is a funny, sometimes touching story with a quirky character around almost every corner.
Lie of the Tiger is book 1 of the Windy Mountain series. Each book has its own story.
But if you enjoy this one, Blokes on a Plane (book 2), Whitey and the Six Dwarfs (book 3), Blokes in Donegal (book 4), and Blokes in the House (book 5, inspired by the events of 2020), await with many of the same endearing characters.
Lie of the Tiger is free as part of this PROMOTION until 31 August
I read Lie of the Tiger last week and it really made me smile. And! I had never heard of a Tasmanian tiger.
Here’s my review:
Lie of the Tiger is a quirky satire about a Tasmanian tiger museum. The book is educational (I had never heard of this extinct cat) and funny. Yes, it is because John Martin has a funny way with words. Character names are playfully chosen Wish-Wash and Oodles, and later Sergeant Stretch (especially when someone stretches out their arms to catch him). The plot is engaging. To keep his job, Paddy must succeed in reopening the museum, but this means proving that these stripy wildcats are still alive and well near Windy Mountain. Recommended for cat lovers, big cat conspiracy enthusiasts and readers with a sense of humour.
Apologies, I did promise to write a blog post about an interesting conversation I had with my sister-in-law. This will be about books, reading and why we choose to read certain books. I haven’t written the post yet because I’ve been really suffering with fatigue. I’ve got MS, it’s just something I have to put up with.
At least I can still read. And write! Another reason I am worn out at the moment is I am writing my next book. This is about a woman trying to find her way in life after lockdown. Although I am enjoying writing it, I am drained!
Have some free books on me, have a great weekend, Samantha 🙂
A convention of comedy-drama is that the narrative ends with a marriage. See Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Love’s Labour’s Lost, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing and Two Gentlemen of Verona.
And more recently, last Christmas’s Gavin and Stacey Christmas special on the BBC ended with an unanswered proposal.
Ha! I bet you thought this post was going to be about Mr Henthorn and me; well, just for fun, here is a photo from our wedding day captured at the moment I realised he had forgotten to organise the ‘signing the register’ music:
Blimey, I don’t look happy do I? I can’t remember what music was supposed to be played, but we signed that certificate in complete silence and it’s been fab ever since.
Being me, is like living in a sitcom, and so it has been a natural process to write the Curmudgeon Avenue series about a house that detests its unlikeable owners.
I am just coming to the end of writing the final instalment of Curmudgeon Avenue ‘A Curmudgeonly Christmas’ which I am hoping to release the week between Christmas and New Year. 2020. (Don’t you agree that the week between Christmas and New Year is a time for curmudgeons to unite?)
I am hoping to put this on pre-order soon, but until the week between Christmas and New Year, here is an excerpt:
Chapter 6: He Learnt From The Best, He Learnt From Wantha.
Tuesday morning came around as so often they do in Whitefield. September had robbed the residents of Curmudgeon Avenue of an Indian summer, and thoughts were starting to turn to Halloween, bonfire night, (and dare I say Christmas).
Wantha Rose was on the warpath yet again. But like a glamorous soap opera actor, she skulked around the street until somebody paid attention to her, keeping her anger just under boiling point.
‘Toonan!’ Wantha shouted through her sister’s letterbox. She rang the doorbell. And after a short wait, the door swung open to reveal Small Paul wearing pyjamas and carrying a bottle of anti-bacterial spray and a dishcloth.
‘Hiya, Wantha. Toonan’s at work, sorry.’ Small Paul started spraying and wiping the letterbox and doorbell button that Wantha had just touched (which looked a bit rude, to be honest. He should have waited).
‘Oh, FFS!’ Wantha was gutted that her sister was not at home. She watched Small Paul polishing his door furniture. Seemingly, he was in the mood for talking (again).
‘I’m not sure what time she’ll be home, but if you need anything, Sis,’ (he got that off Toonan). ‘Then, I would love to chat.’
Wantha glanced towards the front of Genevieve’s delicatessen-cum-cafe, where her husband, Ricky Ricketts was at work. And even though Ricky could not see her from that angle, Wantha made a showy and sassy attempt to enter Toonan and Small Paul’s house.
I know it’s really short, but it was super hard to find a bit I could share, because there is a massive secret about to be revealed on Curmudgeon Avenue.
If you missed it, the book that precedes ‘A Curmudgeonly Christmas’ is free and available via a BookFunnel promotion here:
I am a voracious reader, always adding adding and adding to my reading list, and two years ago, I joined BookFunnel which lead to me joining a lot of author mailing lists. Now HERE is mine!
But enough about me, here’s why I think fans of my series, Curmudgeon Avenue need to join my mailing list.
The residents are idiots, the city is in lockdown. Will they cope with the global pandemic?
Available free to mailing list subscribers is Curmudgeon Avenue #5.5 ‘Curmudgeon Avenue’s Manchester Lockdown’ . Get it by clicking HERE
The reason this volume is free to my mailing list, is because I had hesitated writing about the big global mess, but eventually I gave in (mainly when the phrase ‘new normal’ started popping up). Personally, I would not make light of Covid-19 but, folks need a bit of lighthearted escapism.
And when I say folks, I mean fans of Curmudgeon Avenue.
Curmudgeon Avenue is a social satire about a house that dislikes its owners.
So come on down, join my mailing list and grab yourself a free book, innit! (As Tanya Rose of Curmudgeon Avenue would say).
Hello, me again, honestly, I have something good to say.
The other day, I received an email from ACX (the audiobook marketplace) to say that I had received an audition from a narrator for my book Curmudgeon Avenue!
In the past few years, one of the ‘things’ that folk have been saying to me is ‘why don’t you do an audiobook?’ I was a bit ambivalent, how do I do this? I’ve got enough to do! Writing, marketing, physiotherapy, MS surviving, everything! I have spoken before about the amount of overwhelming advice on the internet about being an indie author… anyway, eventually, I got round to investigating ACX.
I found it easy to set things up, there are a few options for sorting out the money side of things – can I be completely honest, I did not expect anyone to want to take a chance on Curmudgeon Avenue (the reason I thought this was because, on the set up form, I was asked how many Twitter followers I have ‘eg. 10,000??’ !!) I thought I would have to be’ better known’.
HOWEVER, giving things a go has worked, six weeks later, I am honoured to announce that voiceover actor Lindsay McKinnon otherwise known as Theatre of the Mind Productions is going to narrate Curmudgeon Avenue – I am starting to talk about it now in anticipation of its release! Lindsay has narrated the book in exactly the same way that I imagined when I wrote it – the house is talking with a real disdain for its guests, and the voice given to Edith and Edna is hilarious! Especially the bit where Edna covers her face with her turtleneck jumper! I am so looking forward to sharing this version of Curmudgeon Avenue with everyone.
I am reading ‘The Butcher’ by Nathan Burrows at the moment, I am 3/4 finished, it is really funny, and a good story. I am blogging about it today because the free link is available from BookFunnel for two weeks only.
Here is the blurb, that I borrowed from the BookFunnel promotion:
More about The Butcher by Nathan Burrows
Remember that nice joint of pork you devoured for your Sunday lunch? Well, what if it wasn’t pork…?
Emily Underwood has just started work as an inspector for the Environment Agency. As the new girl, she’s struggling hard to find her feet, and one or two minor disasters don’t help. From machete-wielding restaurant owners to rioting football fans, her first few months don’t go as expected. Then she meets two lovely gentlemen from the country..
Frank is a butcher, and Tom runs a small pig farm with its own bucolic abattoir beyond the roses and sheds of their ramshackle farmhouse. Business is booming, and the brothers are doing quite well, in spite of the lack of labour, or even the rather conspicuous absence of pigs.
From the author of Blind Justice, this deliciously funny dark comedy will change the way you look at sausages forever.
First, let me give you the link to some free books about diaries (I admit to being nosy so I am really excited) https://books.bookfunnel.com/wypm03adg9/8ad4t5b81w
I have read one of them ‘The School Report’ by Simon Northouse, here is my review: What a fun, short book. This book will make you laugh out loud, a collection of school reports enhanced (I hope) for your amusement. Brought back memories, made me smile, and I enjoyed the nick-names.
Even the book description will make you laugh: A humorous look back at school reports of yesteryear when teachers could speak their mind without fear of retribution, litigation or trolling. (this is from the page)
Happy reading Samantha xx
PS don’t forget to click on the BookFunnel link for the free books