The Deaths of December Susi Holliday. Blog Tour Extract.

Today (better late than never!) I am VERY happy to offer an extract from Susi Holliday’s brilliantly fiendish and festive novel The Deaths of December. Please be careful with your advent calendars this year….

The Deaths of December…

Prologue – The Photographer.

There’s an art to taking the perfect photograph. It’s too easy now – all those camera phones, those built-in filters. People snapping pics of their artfully arranged lunch, taking selfies in changing rooms – all twisted and pouty, angled down so you can’t see the chins, overexposed so you can’t see the wrinkles. That’s not art. Art is real. Art is the lines around an old woman’s eyes that tell a story without words. Art is sitting on a freezing cold bench in the darkness, waiting patiently for the sun to rise.

Grabbing that photo when the clouds are sitting softly, in perfect formation. Art takes effort. I still use a 35mm camera. I know they say that DSLRs and the like are just as good, but they aren’t. Digital is all very well, for convenience and sharing and all that kind of thing, but what you gain in the convenience, you lose in the essence. You need to feel. No matter what the situation, what’s going on with your own life, where you’ve got to be. You need to give your subject your full attention. Nurture them as much as you can. Even if all you’re doing is waiting for them to stop something, or start something new. Waiting for them to relax. To forget the camera is there. Sometimes you don’t even know you’ve got the perfect image until it’s developed. When you pull that sheet of paper through the fluid, carefully letting the liquid coat the film. You have to be patient, waiting for the picture to appear.

Hanging it up to dry. Waiting. Always waiting. It was difficult, at first. But I wasn’t going to give up on it. It’s like a calling. I have a job to do. This one took a lot longer than I expected. I had to wait almost ten minutes, keeping the camera poised and ready, but aware of my surroundings, of the danger. Feeling my heart thumping in my chest, trying not to breathe. Hoping that it would happen soon, and when it did, the fear drifted away, just long enough to allow me to adjust the lens one final time. Zooming in, getting the close-up. Click and wind. Then back out, for the entire, perfect scene.

Click and wind. The centrepiece of this one is red. A dark floral stain against the shocking white of the carpet. The image in the viewfinder is framed by the pale furniture, the delicately painted walls. Just off centre, a figure lies. Half curled, where he has attempted the foetal position. Seeking comfort at the end. Next to him, creeping towards me as if trying to escape its useless host: blood. So much blood. I feel an ache of sadness, but I push it away. I can’t let it crush me. I can’t let it stop me from doing my job. There is a special kind of silence, at the end. ‘I’m sorry,’ I whisper, as I close the door behind me and step outside into the icy white dark. Cold air against my hot cheeks. Calming. It took me a long time to perfect my art. But you know what they say. Practice makes perfect.

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