23 December 2022

All Things Father Christmas - including Santa and NORAD

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images via Pixabay

Here I am, back again with my traditional Christmas post, because, as with all good Traditions, it has the right amount of fact while not taking itself too seriously. And at the end of yet another tumultuous year, we do need a bit of not taking oneself too seriously! 

Let it raise a smile as snippets are retold over a glass of something warming and yet another brandy-laced mince pie.

Wishing all my readers, of this blog and of my novels,
a wonderful festive season, whatever your beliefs. 


Who will be leaving gifts at your hearth? 

Here in the UK it is definitely Father Christmas who will be visiting, and despite his title he has nothing to do with Christianity, or parenthood, or even humans. It is the spirit of Mid-Winter, a personification clothed in evergreen, wrapped in holly and ivy, and garlanded in red berries and mistletoe. 

Striding in from the myths and mists of pre-history, this jovial spirit arrived at the solstice to partake in the mid-winter frivolities. The people welcomed it with entertainment, plied it with food and alcoholic beverages, and gave offerings so that it might not linger too long but instead beat smooth a path for an early spring.

Not a terrible lot changed when the Roman Legions clanked up the beaches to make a home in these lands. They brought with them Saturnalia, a festival of light. Homes were garlanded with evergreen, and a good deal of partying was undertaken beneath the watchful eye of their god of agriculture, Saturn, often depicted carrying a scythe. So far so good.

Enter Christianity and a need by the early church to leverage ‘Jesus the Christ’ against entrenched Paganism. No one knew the birthdate of Jesus of Nazareth, so the Pope of the time decided Jesus should be given one. The Pagan equinox celebrations of spring and autumn had already been coveted, so why not align the day to the biggest Pagan celebration of them all? A bishop from the Middle East, recently raised to sainthood for his good works, was also pressed into action: Nicholas (more or less). In the face of such worthiness the Brits remained steadfastedly wedded to their eat, drink and make merry.
The Romans assimiliated or left for sunnier shores, and the Saxons and Jutes invaded from Germania, bringing along their Woden and winter’s Father Time. They also believed in eat, drink and make merry, so they fitted in quite well. 
A few centuries later came an invasion by the Norse and Danes (Vikings) who also believed in eat, drink and make merry (you might notice a pattern developing). They brought along their own version of Woden Odin who, during mid-winter, took on the manifestation of Jul – Yule – in that he was portly, white-bearded signifying age, had the ability to see into people’s minds and know if they’d been good or not-so-good, and rode a horse, Sleipnir, which travelled at terrifying speed due to it having eight legs. 
Father Christmas as we know him was beginning to coalesce.

Saint Nicholas didn’t truly put in an appearance on British shores until the islands were invaded yet again, this time in 1066 by ex-Vikings, the Normans. However, no matter how the populace was “encouraged” to be pious, once out of the church doors after celebrating Jesus’ birthday, eat, drink and make merry remained the national stance. 
Not even the Puritans, who in the mid-17th century took the field and the country during the English Civil War, could fully ban Christmastide – ie the eat, drink and make merry – though they certainly gave it a determined try. In retaliation, Father Christmas, as he was by then well known, made appearances in Mummer’s Plays, basically to raise a glass or an obscene gesture (or both) to the Puritan Parliament. 
And what happened to the Puritans? We happily waved them off to America (more or less).
1836 book illustration of Mummers entering a house, led by Father Christmas, and including St George and the Dragon.
A group of Mummers entering a well-to-do Victorian house, Father Christmas leading. Note his holly staff & crown, and drinker’s nose. Assorted characters in the troupe following include St George and the Dragon, England’s patron saint. Illustration, by Robert Seymour, from ‘The Book of Christmas’ by Thomas Kibble Hervey, 1836. Image in Public Domain via Wikimedia.
It was in America, after the War of Independence in the 18th century, that the populace began to embrace a certain Sinterklaas from the Dutch tradition of Saint Nicholas, doubtless because it wasn’t British. (How's that for holding a grudge?)
In 1810 the New York Historical Society held a dinner in honour of Saint Nicholas, and twelve years later Clement Moore, drawing on Norse and Germanic folklore, wrote a poem A Visit from St Nicholas which was subsequently published as The Night Before Christmas. Thus Santa Claus came into his own, wearing the vestiges of Father Christmas/Jul. Even the reindeer and sled mentioned in the poem came from the Sámi people of Lapland, who the Norse peoples to the south of them firmly believed were ‘magicians’.

The Coca-Cola Company? Bah humbug! Late to the party.  Father Christmas, even Santa Claus, were wearing red before it showed up with its non-alcoholic beverage. But it had, and still has if its vivid red pantechnicon is anything to go by, damned good copywriters.
Which finally brings me to NORAD. Yes, the North American Aerospace Defence Command based in Colorado Springs. 
In 1955 Sears Roebuck & Company, also based in Colorado Springs, placed an advertisement in the press inviting children to phone Santa. Except the phone number was misprinted. Guess who was inundated with phone calls? CONAD – the Continental Air Defence Command and forerunner of NORAD. Despite being in the grips of the Cold War with personnel supposedly watching for in-coming missiles from you-know-where, the Defence Command put diplomacy to the fore and gave radar updates to children on the progress of Santa from the North Pole.

And thanks to the late Colonel Harry Shoup, Director of Operations at the time, it still does. Check on Santa’s progress at https://www.noradsanta.org/ Arrive before Rudolph gathers the other reindeer, and visit the Elf Village where there are activities and games to keep you and your little ones enthralled.

So, wherever you are, and whatever spirit of Nature you believe in, be sure to eat, drink and make merry this festive season. It's a Tradition.

With grateful thanks to Wikipaedia, History Today, Time-Travel Britain, Museum of UnNatural Mystery, and NORAD for their assistance in producing this tongue-firmly-in-cheek blogpost.

31 October 2022

Garlic and Silver Bullet at the Ready: It's Halloween!

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Halloween fiction, as its contemporary street "decorations", can be cute or can be gory. 

Or thoughtful. 

Or unsettling. 

Its aim is not to make readers flinch, but to make them read on, knuckles tensing, while the hairs on the back of the neck prickle and rise. 


Its main ingredient is dread, the anticipation of the inevitable, signalled at the edge of vision by a series of tiny markers that may, or may not, be fact. It is the... not knowing. The... should we laugh, or should we run? 

Inevitably, it starts with normal life. Or what passes for normal.


Fine art assessor, Kristin Jeffries, arrives at an address to report on a group of paintings. Why is police tape hanging from the door? Should she trust the anxious client who admits he's not the owner?

Dizzy females are often portrayed as idealised victims in Halloween fiction. Yet, some rise to match the all-pervading inevitability of their situation.


Elaine haunts auctions held in crumbling country mansions, dreaming of a find that will make her and Gary rich. An iron-banded trunk has no key. What might it contain?

Short fiction can play to its constrained time frame, introducing the reader to genres not usually considered wedded to the Halloween theme.


Dark tales for a dark night. Don't look here for happy endings, just an unsettling sense that, once opened, there's more that might arrive, unbidden.

I trust you enjoy your Halloween. If Halloween has not enjoyed you.

8 September 2022


The British Monarch's Royal Standard

It is with sadness, and inevitability, that we hear of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II at the age of 96 years.

She was the longest ever reigning monarch of these islands, and will be sorely missed. Her sense of country, and of duty and of service to her country, will not be surpassed.

“The Queen is dead. Long live the King!”

5 September 2022

The mystery of the missing Mystery - launching the paperback of THE FOREVER HOUSE

The paperback of The Forever House is finally live! Hurrah!!

And yes, it is a Mystery, the first of my titles which can truly be placed in the genre, though mysteries have been woven through the subplots of a number of my novels, as has History. The two come together in The Forever House
...Reading the inked imprints of a manual typewriter was like going back in time: the conveyance between the builder and the first buyer, the landowner and the builder, the faded copperplate handwriting of a previous land conveyance, J. Tunstall, Esq, Farmer. The names of vendors and purchasers were all present, just as they would be on the deeds to this house. So where were the deeds to this house?
I live in an early 1950s property, and have all the old conveyances to it. It was while scraping away a previous occupant's wallpaper that I discovered a message on the plaster, and the fictional storyline began to seep from the walls and into my imagination. In the writing, it became the book's opening scene.
Carrie Haynes and her husband are inveterate house renovators, never enjoying the fruits of their labours, always selling on their completed properties to start afresh on a new project. The Forever House dates from the 1920s, and was to be their final project, their true home.

But forever can have many connotations; the love, the sadness, the hopes and regrets of previous occupants can be locked within the rooms, beneath the wallpaper. As Carrie delves into the history of the part-renovated dwelling, she does more than learn about her Forever House, she learns about herself and those around her. Is she strong enough to break free from the ties that bind generations? Those which history has silenced?

I love old houses. ...has character... isn’t merely an estate agent’s tagline. Cottage or castle, the phrase imbues the presence of the past within its fabric.

The Forever House is now available as an ebook to purchase, is free to read within a Kindle Unlimited subscription, and finally to read in papeback. 
"...a cracking good story with lots of twists and turns..."

Enjoy your reading.

31 July 2022

Some skills we hone. And some we mess up.


After taming new wordprocessing software to my will (ooh, calm down there...) the good news is that the interior of the paperback of The Forever House is finally finalised: headers, footers, blank pages, et al. 

Hurrah! and all that jazz. Do you like the Half Title page? I thought I did quite well with that.

However, just as when reading a good-news missive from an agent or editor, we know there's a but lurking in the wings.

The but isn't so much lurking as staring out from that embarrassed pink border which should not be there. I am so used to working with covers for ebooks that is what I've done, whereas the height & width specifications of a paperback are not the same. The trick, I now realise, is to create the paperback cover first and pull the ebook cover from it. And it is no compensation to read that I am not the first to mess this up, not by a long chalk.

But there we go. Some skills we have to hone more than others.

Smirking alone on its Amazon page, you'll find the ebook HERE.

Thanks for not throwing cabbages. I will get there - eventually.

1 July 2022

A Brilliant Break and a Brilliant Review

We've had a few days down London way - Windsor Castle, Kew Gardens, Stratford-up-on-Avon - and doubtless I'll be writing about the visits when I get myself back on an even keel.

I returned to a mountain of washing and a garden going rampant after much-needed rain, but found awaiting me a brilliant review for The Forever House by Terry Tyler, writer of dark suspense and member of Rosie Amber's Book Review Team.

...I did enjoy this book, and read it in just three days.  It's so well-written...  

...The story did not develop as I was expecting it to - it turned out to be something completely different...

...a nicely rounded-out novel with complex relationship dynamics...

Check out the full 4* review HERE.

The Forever House is currently only available on Amazon (global link) to purchase or read for free as part of the Kindle Unlimited subscription. 

Regarding news on the paperback...[pause for silent scream followed by much gnashing of teeth]... there was a slight problem with page formatting which I should have foreseen but didn't. However, new software is loaded and now I am home I shall lock the office door so as to concentrate on taming it. 

I'll keep you posted. 

31 May 2022

Ebk Launch: THE FOREVER HOUSE and its first #Review


Hang out the flags! Yes, Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee is upon us, but so is the release of The Forever House, on Amazon Kindle at least. Subscribers to Kindle Unlimited can download it free. What's not to like?

Global Amazon link: https://mybook.to/ForeverHouse

Moreover, it has its first review, and a 5* at that!

"Linda Acaster writes with great elegance and tension. In this story of grief, crime and mystery she draws the reader in, all without a wasted word. As a reader, I followed Carrie's journey as she strove to find justice for a seemingly forgotten child and the child's mother. Family relationships, past and present, are delicately explored, and the ending is apt, hopeful."

It's enough to warm the cockles of my heart - as the saying goes.

The paperback is currently being formatted. Follow the blog to hear when it becomes available.

If you are looking in on the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, either within the UK or via global television coverage, join me and mine as we crack a bottle of fizz and toast 'The Queen' who has willingly served her country and the Commonwealth for 70 years.


13 May 2022

Book Launch: THE FOREVER HOUSE #psychologicalthriller

The Forever House is now available for pre-order via Amazon – global link:

Many thanks for all the good wishes received after last month's heads-up. It's good to know so many are interested in my up-and-coming novel, which will be – traa-laa! – launching to a less than unsuspecting world on Monday 30 May.

Originally, it was scheduled for the first week in June, but someone forgot there was a certain little celebration taking place in the guise of the Platinum Jubilee. One does not cross swords with the Queen – ahem!

So what's The Forever House about? First a recap of the blurb:

Resisting family pressure to sell the too-big house Carrie and her late husband began to renovate, she is determined to carry through their shared project to prove she can manage alone.

And she can, until a discovery beneath old wallpaper chills her to the bone.

As her need to know more becomes all-consuming, Carrie’s family fears she's tipping into irretrievable obsession. Can she be dissuaded, or must she take that final step? How far is too far to right a wrong?

Early readers are calling it ...deeply moving...  ...an enthralling read... which is most satisfying.

Yes, yes, that's the blurb, but you want to know what the novel is about – right? Of course you do. Novels are rarely just about their front-end story; they're about what that story carries in its subtext.

Having lost her husband before the novel begins, Carrie is working her way through the grieving process. All their married life, she and her husband have renovated houses, slowly climbing the property ladder. This house, with its large kitchen and huge garden, was to be their Forever House, the one they didn't sell but made into their long-lasting home. Except life isn't fair, and now she faces it alone.

As she continues with the refurbishment, the papered-over cracks of an earlier family begin to reveal themselves in the fabric of the house, and long-held questions within her own family start to surface, until the strain of denial in exchange for a quiet life is no longer an option, on any front.

The novel launches on 30 May in ebook format to purchase through Amazon, and to read via Kindle Unlimited for subscribers. A paperback will closely follow.

Order your copy now: https://mybook.to/ForeverHouse

30 April 2022

Announcing the Cover Reveal for a new #PsychologicalThriller - THE FOREVER HOUSE

And about time, I hear you shout. Well, here it is, the cover reveal for The Forever House.


How far is too far to right a wrong?


While family members think Carrie should sell the too-big house she and her late husband began to renovate, Carrie is determined to carry through their shared project to prove she can manage alone.

And she can, until a discovery beneath old wallpaper chills her to the bone.

As her need to know more becomes all-consuming, her family fears she's tipping into irretrievable obsession. Can she be dissuaded, or must she take that final step?

How far is too far to right a wrong?

Promotional images and texts for social media are in their final stages and will start appearing in the next couple of days.

The ARCs are back from beta readers, and comments are about to be compiled. As soon as I am certain the book is ready to roll, a pre-order facility for the ebook will be uploaded to Amazon, and you'll hear about it here.

The intention is for it to be available free to subscribers to Kindle Unlimited for the first few weeks - which means it can only be purchased through Amazon. Sorry if you prefer to purchase via other retailers. This will become available, I promise.

And finally, as you can probably tell reading this, Blogger has decided to have a minor meltdown, making correct sized text and line spacing a lottery [rolls eyes]. It certainly chooses its moment. So apologies for a less than stellar reading experience.

28 February 2022

Writing News: yes, there is some, finally.

Image by Olga Volkovitskaia via Pixabay
I’m a right one for crossing genres in my writing; I never learn. The mystery cum psychological cum women's fiction novel I have been working on, seemingly for an aeon, finally passed its finishing post last week. Or it would have if I’d managed to hit all the steps for a satisfying ending.

Unfortunately, the initial read raised questions, and critique partners agreed. The problem is that my mind is wedded to the ending as written, despite my knowing it won’t fly. So, what to do?

If in doubt, stick to the plan – which is to spend this week working through the comments I made on the script as it was being written. And there are plenty of those to consider. By the time I reach the final chapter, or where the final chapter should be, I am trusting to have clicked back onto the rails so as to be able to steam smoothly into Ending #2.

But back to what the novel is about. Its title is The Forever House, and here’s the tagline and blurb:

In searching for a lost child, can a recently bereaved woman find her true self?

While her family thinks Carrie should sell the too-big house she and her late husband had begun to renovate, Carrie is determined to carry through their shared objective to prove she can manage alone. And she can, until the surprise of finding a child’s drawings beneath old wallpaper turns to disquiet.

But is she reading more into the drawings than is there? Are her misgivings merely revealing the long-papered cracks of her own marriage? Or, as her family fears, is her need to discover the identity of the nameless child tipping her into obsession?

I’ll give an update next time.

20 January 2022

Welcome to 2022 and MORE Reading with Kindle Unlimited!

Image by Ri Ya via Pixabay

And here we are, already sighting the end of January in a brand new year. How did that happen?  

Well, there have been issues: health (meh…), slothfulness (definitely). I’ve written a couple of articles for the Medium digital platform since the New Year, but the current Mystery novel, so close to its ending, is still tapping its foot in frustration. Then I was distracted.

Yes, I know, shiny things… tiny minds… But this one I thought I’d share.

I’m an author, which means, by default, I am a reader. Over the years my purchased reads have fallen into two distinct categories: paper for non-fiction – it’s much easier to add Post-It notes to numbered pages than attempt to do the same digitally – and ebooks for fiction, which I can carry around with me and read in bed without my hands cramping or my arms falling off due to the weight. But I’m a slow reader, and I’ve never subscribed to Kindle Unlimited because I don’t read enough to warrant the subscription. Except, today I just did.

The UK Amazon store is offering two trials: two months for free, or three months for 99p. I’ve plumped for the three months. Will I cancel on the subscription date in April? Probably not. Even if I run the paid subscription for a further three months (£7.99 per month) that means I’ll get six months of KU reading for just over £4 a month. I’m from Yorkshire; we think about these things. Besides, I pay more than that a month for the ebooks I purchase.

Will I now splurge on a mass read? Probably not. There are time, concentration, and thinking considerations. What I will do is look at the more expensive novels – on principle I do not buy an ebook with a price tag equating to its hardback. As I’ve said, I’m from Yorkshire. But I don’t mind borrowing them. So why don’t I borrow them free from the local library? Because I only own a Kindle and not a tablet, and municipal libraries in the UK offer ebooks only in ePub format. I am not reading a novel on my laptop sitting at a desk I’ve sat at for most of the day.

I also intend trying out books which come with audio narration. Yes, I’ll need my laptop, but I can lie comfortably on the bed or even do housework jobs. We shall see.

Doubtless many readers will be rolling their eyes at my finally climbing another digital rung, though if you are like me and have been thinking about a KU subscription but not bothered to act, you have until the 31st of January to grab the extended trials, otherwise the usual one-month free kicks in.

Enjoy your reading, no matter how you do it.