A.J. Walker


iGift - Secret Santa

In the Poised Pen Writing Group we do a Secret Santa every year. We get given a prompt and then we write whatever we want on that basis - be it a poem, prose, a play or whatever.

This year my prompt was 'And Bob's Your Christmas Uncle'. And here it is for your Christmas delectation.;
Crash Bang Christmas App!


Crash, Bang, Christmas App and Bob’s Your Uncle

Margo looked across the sticky coffee table at Jenny shaking her head. ‘What I hate most about Christmas is all this time wasted trying and failing to think of a gift. What are you like getting ones for your rellies and your friends?’

Jenny laughed, ‘I was the same until last year myself. All those thankless hopeless minutes, hours and days spent agonising over what would mum want this year. And I could never remember what I got her last year, which always made it a bit like roulette on Christmas Day in case I’d got her the same thing again.’

‘Has that happened!?’

‘I don’t think so. Unless she doesn’t remember either or is a damn good actress. If anything I’d suspect the former.’

‘I always struggle with Uncle Bert and dreary Deirdre from Number 34. I usually get him socks or a tie. I’m pretty sure he wears sock, but I’m not sure about ties, other than at funerals. Deidre gets Ferrero Roche or a Chocolate Orange and is always too excited by the experience - she’s either dead simple, a chocolate fiend or just dead and hungry.’

Jenny slurped her special Christmas Frothy Cafe Latte with Reindeer Juice and Christmas Spices. She wasn’t at all sure about it. But it was Christmas, so she’d decided it’d be rude not to.

‘What are you brothers and sisters like? Mine always get me pathetic gifts, which - if they are not drinkable - end up in the Purple Bin before January is through. I can’t even imagine where they find the tat from sometimes. Mind you I’m pretty sure my gifts to them suffer a similar fate. Although I think they have different colour bins than us.’

Margo took a sip from her Cafe Americano with an extra shot and almost sat bolt upright with the hit. ‘Woah!! Anyway, what happened last year to help your pressie purchases then? Did you get a butler?’

‘Ha! Hardly, just 89p for an App from the App Store. It’s called iSanta3000 you must have heard of it. I’m sure it’s been discussed on “Loose Women” and Radio 4 and 5. Pure genius taking the risks out of the Christmas run up and the fear on Christmas Day.’

‘Don’t watch Loose Women. Isn’t that just for men, that show?’

‘Not seen it myself, much,’ Jenny coughed. ‘Anyway it’s an app for your smartphone which uses an amazingly complex algorithm, apparently developed in the North Pole, to select the best possible gifts for you and yours. You need to fill in appropriate information to as many of the questions you know the answer to about each of the people you’re buying a gift for such as;

‘Age; Sex; Sexual orientation; religion; what sports do they like; do they wear hats; do they read; do they like films or art galleries; do they paint or sculpt; do they own a dog or a cat; do they own a guinea pig or an alpaca; what’s their favourite TV show/film/comedy/musical; what was the last gig they went to; what did you buy them for the last 3 years (if you remember); are you not on speaking terms/on speaking terms or best buddies; how much do you want to spend? etcetera.’

‘Not sure I know all that for most my buddies or even my family.’

‘Well, it’ll give a good stab anyway, but the more you put in the better it’ll be.’

‘89p. It’s worth a go. In fact why don’t I buy the app for everyone else as a present to guarantee better presents for me next year too? Mind you I’d probably have to supply them with a page of answers to those questions to help them out.’

‘Ha! Yeah, I bet your mum thinks your favourite TV show is Loose Women.’

‘She knows me better than that. I think.’

The young barista who hadn’t even started developing acne yet finally came to remove some of the stickiness from the table. But Jenny wondered if it was worth her accidentally spilling her Christmas noxiousness so she could swop if for a skinny latte.

‘I tell you what. You buy it now and I’ll give you my answers to all the questions and then you’ll see how good it is. It’ll get you relaxed for the coming week or two, and you can order everyone’s pressie from that very chair before you can say “Bob’s your Christmas uncle”.

‘Deal. It’s a deal. Right, I’ll download it while you go and get another couple of drinks. Just bin that concoction, I can see you're struggling. If you still want something Christmassy beside the coffee you could get us a couple of mince pies while your up there.’

Jenny smiled. ‘Oh yeah, you read my mind. Perhaps you don’t need the iSanta at all.’

‘Hardly, when it comes to coffee and cake you are completely transparent.’

The next half an hour was spent with Margo reading out the questions and Jenny answering them, usually flippantly.


‘Yes Please.’

‘Sexual orientation.’

‘Usually horizontal but open to suggestions’

‘Gift cost.’

‘Unlimited of course.’

‘Let’s call it twenty quid.’

Margo had to admit that it was easy and fun to do. The interface was neat and smart looking. And linking it through to her Amazon account made it lie somewhere between inspirational and scary.

‘Right, that’s it.’

‘Ready to go? You got to press “Santa Recommends” and wait a few moments for the magic algorithms to do their fancy stuff. It really is incredible. I’m so excited. ’

‘I can tell. You on commission for this or what?’

‘I wish. If I had a pound for every time a friend bought this; I’d have a pound!’

‘Okay, I get it. Let’s see what this little Santa recommends for you. I’m not buying you a vibrator again. Not after last year. I still can’t believe your Gordon thought it was a smoothie maker when he saw it.’

‘Ah, poor Gordie. He’s never been very good in the kitchen.’

Margo wanted to say something else, but held her tongue.

‘Right, I’ve pressed it. It’s doing something.’

Pretend wheels whizzed around like a fruit machine. She saw pictures of cars, palm trees, speed boats and houses. It seemed unlikely given the £20 limit she’d put in. She held it out in front of Jenny.

‘It’s slowing. It’s algo-thingy is getting there. Come on Santa baby, you can do it for Auntie Margo. What’s Jenny wanting for Christmas, more than anything else. Come on you can tell me.’

And then it buzzed in her hand, the perfunctory shake saying it had finished. She squinted at “Santa’s Grotto Pick for Jenny of Speke” and groaned.

‘You’ve got to be kidding me. All that info, all that time and sweat and it’s come up with that!’

Jenny laughed. ‘Yeah, it’s weird. I’ve only ever seen it come up with socks for everyone. Still, I could do with some new ones and I do hate buying my own. So yeah, the iSanta has it right again! Socks it is.’

Margo wanted to drop Jenny’s phone into her new coffee. ‘You’re telling me we've done all that for it to tell me socks, and that it always says socks?!’

‘I’m not sure it’s always socks. It has been for me though. And I didn’t look back last year. Everyone got socks and everyone was dead happy with them, I’m pretty sure.’

‘And your getting them socks again this year?’

‘Oh yes, it’s given me the same answers again. I’m getting creative and using sports socks for the sporty ones and plain M&S ones for mum, and for dad I’m getting joke/quirky ones. He’ll love ‘em.’

And so it was that for Christmas 2016 both Jenny and Margo bought socks and socks and socks for all their families and friends that year. And no one was disappointed. Or even appointed.

Margo read the reviews on the App Store for the iSanta and it was apparent that it only ever said socks; although there were reports of the App crashing on the occasion it looked like it was going to suggest something else. She was unsure whether it was a sign of age or growing senility but she found the Sock App (as she tended to call it) a new and comforting part of Christmas.

She even typed in a little review on the website giving it 5 * and saying that “for Christmas it really is The Morecambe and Wise for the App Generation”.


‘Bob’s Your Christmas Uncle’
AJ Walker

Sanderson Filibuster - AH

Yay I won my fave flash fiction competition last week, the wonderful Angry Hourglass. It was for a mad Christmassy story which was almost entirely dialogue. It was fast and fun to write; 'Sanderson Filibuster’s Amazing Shopping Emporium (somewhere off the beaten track)'

Check it out here.

Photo prompt for Angry Hourglass Week 120
by Ashwin Rao



The fabulous anthologies from the FlashDogs, of which I'm proud to be a part, are currently FREE to download on to your Kindle from Amazon. FREE! That's a ridiculous state of affairs. You could 'buy' them now for free and never read them. The decadence.

Or even better purchase them now and only read them when they they go back up in price. Then you can enjoy the apparent savings as well as the books. Mad, I tell you.

The only downside of the Kindle versions are not getting the books with these fabulous covers on your bookshelf (hats off to Tamara Rogers for them - mucho kudos!).

The books - 'An Anthology', 'Solstice:Light and Dark' and 'Time' - are cram packed with excellent writing from the dogs of flash, just click on the books to see them - and then download them. Read and enjoy over the Christmas break. Or even next Christmas.

SolsticeDark200wTime FD3 cover200

Pain and the Angry Hourglass

It was my turn to judge again for the always fabulous Angry Hourglass challenge run by the lovely Rebecca - aka Lady Hazmat. "Lady Hazmat" seems quite apt for some of the stories in this week's challenge a mix of nasty and nice: chocolate coated arsenic.

The AH

The photo prompt was from Ashwin Rao as usual and was of a lady doing yoga against a city skyline (of Seattle, I think?). It's always amazing how different the stories can be from the same photo and this one was no different from usual, but how do you get so much murder and mayhem from this photo? Well, you just do. We're a weird bunch us writers aren't we?

Ashwin Rao

I've been in quite a bit of pain due to a dodgy knee this week, breakfasts of Ibuprofen and lunches of Co-codamol so I was relieved to see fewer entries to go through this week, though I don't know why it was lower than usual. Just a coincidence when I needed it. Or perhaps the photo just inspired too much death and destruction for people to handle.

Anyway, I've done me judgy thing, sent off the results and I await the posting of them later.

Thanks to all who entered for the great reads. And thanks to those who didn't for leaving me with a little less to do than usual. In other news... my knee is getting better. Huzzah!

And if you ain't seen it before get on Angry Hourglass it's every weekend and you get a whole 36 hours to get your 360 words down. It's always a high quality of writing and so is a tough one to win, but anything difficult is all the better when you succeed. So... Keep writing folks!


Poised Pen Secret Santa

Not sure I'll be getting too much writing done throughout December but there will be bits of flash I dare say, or micro-micro flash in terms of the FlashDogs daily #VSS365 on Twitter. One thing I will be doing though is for the Poised Pen writing group, where each year we do a Secret Santa. Instead of buying some tat for a fiver made of meat products we write a piece for someone else in the group based on some Christmassy theme or other. I've been given my theme and it's... well I can't say. Not screaming out at me yet, but no doubt some muse or stick of holly will hit me.

Dear Santa

The Secret Santa piece can be in any form (poem, prose, short story, play etc). I'm not sure about mine yet, but it won't be a novel or even a novella, but it will be longer than a FlashDog VSS365. Er, probably.

The only other creative writing I'll be doing this month is job applications and CV updates. I need a proper job. You know where I am, people!

Happy writing folks!


Post NaNo... Back to Reading

During November there was little time for reading with all the hours required for the NaNoWriMo writing challenge, so it is good to get back to it again. At the start of the year I set a target on Goodreads to read 26 books, it seemed reasonable to aim for a book a fortnight. I've already achieved that and now I'm aiming to get to 40 - which will be my best reading year for some many a year.

I just finished a book with a great little background to it; To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. A time travel book with a Three Men in a Boat theme; what could be finer? It was a good read and my 37th book of the year.

And now I'm on to a big hardback which has been on my shelves untouched for a good few years now.: The Years of Rice and Salt, by Kim Stanley Robinson. It won the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 2003.

TheYearsOfRiceAndSalt(1stEdUK) TSNOTD

It's very much been a year of books this year, rather than a year of Kindle. I've been trying to read some of the many books I've got on my shelves that I've never got around to. For too long I've been buying books even though I've got plenty of reading to in the house. I've tried to avoid second hand bookshops a bit more this year, not completely successfully.