Friday 2 November 2012

#FridayFlash - Forever

It was late in the afternoon in December. We lay on the bonnet of Petey's car, parked up in a clearing at the edge of the old town woods. We ate cheese sandwiches and drank weak tea, watching stormclouds drift down from the north. They brought snow that day, and we stayed there catching snowflakes on our tongues and eyelashes until our joints got stiff. We clambered, numb and half-frozen, into the car. We laughed and sang along to the radio while the ancient heater cranked into life, and we thawed in the front of his Datsun. He told jokes and I giggled, and everything seemed right with the world. Then the Rubettes came on and Petey got serious, taking my hands and telling me he'd love me forever, if only I'd love him too. We kissed and made the kind of stupid promises you make when you're too young to know any better.

That was thirty eight years ago. Two weeks later, Petey lost control on the ice and slid off the ring road into a tree. I cried for a week but life moves on, doesn't it? I met Tony at a disco at my art college and thought we'd be together forever. Three months later he finished with me - he mumbled something about the "weird shit" in my house and walked out, complaining of doors banging at all hours and the dog barking at nothing in front of the TV. Robert, a guy I met at the gallery, said the same thing and left after six months. Took me three more attempts at a relationship until I finally saw Petey too, outlined in starlight on the landing when I went to the loo one Tuesday night. I'd promised forever, hadn't I?

Now I'm a couple of years shy of 60, and Petey's still here. He spooks the little trick or treaters at Halloween, and he even scared off a couple of lads who tried to break in. Pity I can't tell the insurance people and get a reduction on my premium. He potters about when I'm out, and we sit and watch TV when I'm in. I don't always see him these days, he's faded as time's gone on, but I know he's there. I can smell the cheap leather from that old Datsun, or I hear his laugh in the kitchen when the dinner goes wrong again.

Folk just see a woman on her own, no kids or husband, and they ask if I'm lonely, but how can I be? I've got my Petey, haven't I? He keeps me company when no one else will come round, and if this cough is anything to go by, I'll be seeing him soon enough. I don't mind, not really. After all, we promised "Forever".

Thursday 1 November 2012


I'll lay it right on the table - I'm not doing NaNoWriMo this year. I can't. That's not to say I don't think it's a good idea - I do. I "won" in 2008 and 2010, writing my novels for Fowlis Westerby and Vertigo City respectively. Sadly I just don't have the time this year. Last year I kidded myself that I could do it, and I was going to try to write some of my Parrots & Piracy short stories. I managed 2000 words and gave up because my head just wasn't in the right place. This year, as much as I want to join in, I just know it'd probably drive me crazy with stress.

NaNoWriMo is a huge undertaking at the best of times but throughout November, I'll be working on my PhD, two assignments for my teacher training course, and I'll be prepping and delivering not one but TWO nightclasses on Photoshop and InDesign - that's in addition to my day job, Friday flashes, edits to make on my horror/fantasy novella, and various blogging commitments. If I try to insert a need to write 1,667 words per day...well I'll just about break.

Ali Luke has written a fairly comprehensive post about why you should, and shouldn't, do NaNoWriMo.  I'll just leave you by saying I'm not doing it, but I wish you the best of luck if you decide you want to....

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween, one and all! Yes, it's my favourite day of the year and as a writer of spooky tales, and someone who's studying spooky films for her thesis, it seemed only right to talk about something spooky today. However, rather than making a list of my favourite ghost stories, or horror films, which would be all too easy but also all too predictable, I thought it might be more interesting to list the top five weird things that have ever happened to me! There are a lot more than just these five, but these were unusual enough to warrant inclusion. They're in no particular order, and given the fact I don't remember actually being scared, just 'weirded out', I think I must have the psychic constitution of a concrete elephant!

1) Talking to a fictional character on a ouija board.
Last April, I went to a ghost hunt at Kielder Castle in Northumberland, where I was blogging about the event. A ouija board session was started in one of the downstairs rooms, and after a couple had apparently had a conversation with a deceased relative, someone (or something) spelled out my real name. I asked who it was, and the planchette spelled out 'Grey'. By now I'm pretty sure you're all familiar with Grey O'Donnell, the bounty hunter hero of my pulp Western, The Guns of Retribution. I was a little taken aback, so I asked him if he had a message. He said simply 'Thank you', and when I asked what for, he replied 'Life'. He said goodbye and that was that - and I found it completely weird! It was especially strange since neither I nor the only other person in the room who knew my real name were actually touching the board, and the other three people didn't know me, or Grey, from a hole in the ground. Question is, did I create Grey and imbue him with some form of life through the creative process...or did he come to me to tell his story?

2) Feeling a hand on my shoulder.
During another ghost hunt, I was in the pit beneath the Black Gate in Newcastle. It's allegedly a site of poltergeist activity, and people often report ouija conversations with a seventeenth century witch finder named Thomas in the area. We were doing another ouija board in the pit, when I suddenly felt something touch my shoulder, as though someone had tried to get my attention. There was no one near me and at the time, I had this stupid notion that a spider had dropped on me, but it would have needed to be a spider that weighed about the same as a small house cat to make the same impact! Was it a hand? And if so...whose hand was it?

3) There was someone behind us.
I went to Wales in 2008 with my parents, and one of our trips was to the Llechwedd Slate Mines. It's a fascinating place, if you ever find yourself in that neck of the woods, and one of the things to see is the mine workings that lie about ten storeys underground. In the first room, we were standing in a group looking up at one of the slate workings, and the staff turned off the lights so we could experience exactly how dark it would have been in its heyday. My mother and I were standing right at the back of the group and we both turned around at the same time, convinced that someone else was standing behind us. The lights came back on and there was no one there, and no one in the room had moved, so who, or what, was it? Having seen The Descent, I can only speculate...

4) The woman on the landing.
In my last flat, I lived on the second floor at the top of the building. There was a landing outside my door, and every now and then, I'd feel like I wasn't alone if I went onto the landing - usually at dusk, and especially in the winter. I usually chalked it up to an over-active imagination but on one particular occasion, I had to venture out onto the landing to go downstairs to the toilet. I practically threw myself down the stairs, such was my discomfort at being out there and my hurry to get back to my flat, and as I was passing underneath the landing on the lower staircase, I got a peculiar mental image of a blonde woman, dangling from a short rope. Even stranger, the name 'Miranda' popped into my head. I turned it into a story, The Stairs, which is in my Checkmate story collection, but that landing never stopped freaking me out.

5) The doll who moved on his own.
One of my previous boyfriends was a huge fan of Final Fantasy and for his birthday one year, I bought him one of the collectible figures of Squall from Final Fantasy VIII. Thing was, Squall wouldn't stay where you left him. I remember seeing him in my boyfriend's bedroom, then going into the bathroom and finding Squall lying on the edge of the bath. Given my boyfriend was in the back garden at the time and I was the only one inside, I found it a little strange that Squall should beat me to the bathroom. He kept turning up in all kinds of places, including the shed, and we never did get to the bottom of it. There was some sort of presence in that flat, one that definitely didn't like me, and it used to make my boyfriend's kitten go nuts, but I have no idea if it's still there.

How about you? What weird experiences have you had?

Monday 29 October 2012

The Next Big Thing

As far as I can tell, I've been tagged three times to do the Next Big Thing meme, by Cathy Russell, Richard Bon and Andrew Reid. So I figured I might as well give it a shot...

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing

What is the working title of your book?
The Necromancer's Apprentice.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I'd just watched The Sorceror's Apprentice with a friend and me being me, I said "Wouldn't it be cool if that was a necromancer instead of a sorceror?" and the idea ran from there. The male sorceror became a female Necromancer General, and the army of mops became mummies. I'd had a mental image of a place called the House of the Long Dead kicking around in the back of my mind for a while, and now I had a home for it.

What genre does your book fall under?
It straddles the boundary between horror and dark fantasy. The world in which it is set is part fantasy city/part Ancient Egypt, but it's got bloodthirsty mummies as well.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Charlie Cox would make a good Jyximus, the apprentice, and I'd like Sigourney Weaver for Eufame, the necromancer, but I'm not sure about the rest of the cast. I'd want Tom Hiddleston in there but that's purely because I think he should be in everything.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
"An over-ambitious apprentice uses illicit knowledge to raise a mummy army of assistants...except this army will settle only for blood."

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I've got an editor who wants to work on it already so I think I'll be doing the indie press route. I've got no problems with self publishing or the traditional route, but I quite like the indie press approach. You have the contact with the publisher, so they handle the formatting, cover etc., but you're more than just a tiny cog in a huge machine.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I don't really know, I didn't time myself, but it must have been a few months. It's only a novella though so it's not like I've churned out 80,000 words in four months. I'm currently running edits before I send it out to the beta readers.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
There will no doubt be Harry Potter comparisons due to the fact my apprentice starts off in an academy of magick, but it's inspired a lot more by Fantasia and The Mummy. I tend to be more inspired by films than books but that's what happens when you're a film student.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The Sorceror's Apprentice! Actually I'd have to say Disney, since there are elements of both Fantasia and Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty in there. But for encouragement to actually write it, then I have to say it would be Carrie Clevenger and Nerine Dorman. I don't think I'd have finished writing the first draft without them prodding me along.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
There are mummies in it! Not enough people write mummies these days.

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I'm not tagging anyone specifically but if you fancy a go and want to discuss your current work, then feel free - but drop me a link in the comments so I can read your answers!

Sunday 28 October 2012

Halloween Anthology

It's almost Halloween (oh I'm so excited already) and I'm happy to announce that I have a story in a new Halloween-themed anthology! My mummy-with-a-difference story, Anonymous, can be found in the Penny Dreadfuls Halloween Special, which will be FREE on Amazon until Wednesday - how's that for a Halloween treat?

You can grab it in the US or UK for the Kindle - if you don't have a Kindle, then you can get the free app for your PC or smartphone. I've got it for my Android phone and the app's not bad.

Edited by Benjamin Knox, the blurb reads thus;

Thirteen deliciously ghoulish tales will make your Halloween Night that much more fun and creepy. Hide under the blankets with a flash light, stifle a scream, suppress a giggle, as some of the rising stars of horror and dark fiction bring you a collection of chilling and terrifying tales you'll never forget!

And isn't that a wonderful cover? The art is by Carmit Manor Massimino.

Grab your copy and enjoy a ghoulish scare...