Monthly Archives: September 2014

Free Story

The team at Fireside Magazine have opened their Year Two archives to the public.  Previously, you would have needed a subscription to read any of the stories.  What this means is that there are a wealth of them now available for FREE.

My contribution, a Twilight Zone-ish tale entitled A TRICK OF THE NIGHT (first published Issue 9, January 2014) is available to read online here.  If you do read it, feel free to share your thoughts.

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Ella’s story and mine – an update and excerpt

I haven’t spoken much about my novel on here.  It’s been sitting for a couple of years, untouched, while I’ve been writing short fiction.  Recently, somewhere around the start of August I think, I decided to dig it out and take another look.  Before I knew it, I was neck deep in another round of edits (boy, there have been many, oh so many, over the years).  The plan this time is to finally lay this thing to rest, one way or another.  In a little over a month I will be returning to full time work after a three year stint as a stay-at-home parent.  So, it would be great to have it finished by then.  Fingers crossed.  It’s slow going at the moment, with sixty thousand words done and seventy thousand still to go.

The novel is about a twelve-year-old Scottish girl, Ella Bradburn, who loses her mother.  When she turns to her father for consolation and doesn’t find any, she retreats into a world of fantasy.  At first, it feels safe and comforting, but the lines begin to blur and Ella finds it increasingly difficult to tell what is real and what is not.  In fact, she is soon convinced that a mysterious creature she saw on the day of her mother’s death is now hunting her.

The original title was The Other Side but that is going to change by the end of this current round of revisions.

Thematically, I wanted to explore fantasy and escapism, and ask the question, “When does it stop being healthy and become dangerous?”  As writers, we spend a lot of our time locked in our imaginations, and over the years I’ve questioned whether or not this is a healthy obsession or, in fact, quite damaging.  Where is the line?  Is there one?  Ella’s story is in some ways mine, too.

Here is a short excerpt, roughly 700 words.  Cushion is the name of a seagull Ella has started having conversations with.  The scene builds toward the introduction of the soapshark, another creature of Ella’s creation.

Part II, Chapter V
“In the Bath”

There’s mum, Ella thought.  Buried in some indiscriminate hole in the ground filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell and not even a single hobbit in sight.  Then there is me, standing on quicksand and sinking deeper by the day.  She’ll spend her eternity dead and lonely, staring up at some coffin lid.  I’ll spend mine looking out one window or another and wetting myself.  I understand, mum.  I get it now.  There are other ways to die.

And what are you doing about it? a voice asked.  It was Cushion.  You’re dragging dirt down on top of yourself.  Climb out, Ella.  Climb out now, and fly.  Before you can’t.

There was a noise on the other side of the bathroom door.  A solid something hit one of the doorposts in the landing.  Ella heard George swear, and then his footsteps receded into her bedroom.

She eyed the brass sliding lock and was relieved to see it was engaged and that she was protected to some extent inside the bathroom.  He could kick down the door if he wanted, of course, and he seemed just about mad enough to do that, or maybe huff-and-puff on it like the Big Bad Wolf in the story of The Three Little Pigs.  God knows, she wouldn’t last very long in her house of water and bubbles.  But George had wanted her in here in the first place.  Out of the way.  Washing the pee from her legs.

That had been an hour ago.  Breakfast had long since gone cold in the kitchen, the bubble bath mountains had slipped back into the lukewarm water, and the bar of soap she had started out with now lay across her pale, wrinkled fingers, moulded into something that resembled a dead but still mean-looking fish.

As if to check that it was dead, Ella lowered the hand holding the soap slowly into the water and then pulled the hand away.  The fish did not float on its side as dead fish were wont to do, but sank to the bottom of the bathtub instead.  Further confirmation – as though she needed it – that death did not always show itself in the usual ways.

The sound of hammering shattered the stillness.  Ella jerked up straight and sent a wavelet over the edge of the bath onto the tiles.  She wondered what he was doing next door but was a little afraid of finding out.  Maybe he was demolishing her bed, meaning that from tonight she would have to sleep on the hard wooden floor.  Or maybe he was tearing up the floor to look for the snow globe, with the intention of smashing it with a hammer right in front of her as punishment for her behaviour at breakfast.

Please don’t let him find it, she thought, though she knew that if he did happen upon that loose piece of flooring under the bed there was nothing she could do to stop him.

Reaching between her knees, she scooped up the bar of soap and lifted it out of the water.  The short time it had spent immersed had smoothed its edges.  As the pounding continued beyond the bathroom door, Ella went to work on it once again, thinning the body, reshaping the tail, drawing out the snout, and tapering the dorsal fin until it looked less like a common fish and more like a miniature shark.

Oh what a vicious-looking piece of soap you are, she thought.

When she went to lower the soapshark into the water, she suddenly had second thoughts and laid it on the bath corner instead, facing the door.  The noise from her room seemed louder now, angrier.  She glanced at the backs of her fingers and noticed there were soap crescents underneath her nails.  They look like frowns, she thought absently.  Then she flipped both hands over, curled in her fingers, and the frowns became smiles.  Flipped them over again, and the frowns returned.  But it wasn’t a good enough distraction; the hammering kept on, and on.  And so, leaning back, she eased herself below the surface of the water until it encased her entire body and the noises became muffled and faraway, like sounds from a dream… [end of excerpt]

How I Spent My Summer…in Derry

It

There will be no short story list for August.  I’ve read a few, but not enough to warrant posting on here. Instead, I’ve been rereading the classic horror novel, “It” by Stephen King. It’s been twenty years since I first read this 900+ page tale about childhood and monsters, and although I went into this, my second reading, with some enthusiasm I did not expect to be as blown away as I have been. I’m loving every page. Even those sections I remember being weak, such as the dark, historical interludes about Derry and some of the adult-POV stuff have been riveting this time around. I didn’t expect that at all.  And even if the ending disappoints this time as much as it did in the Nineties (I’m 200 pages from it at the time of posting) I will be catapulting this novel back into my top 5 or even top 3 favourite King novels regardless.  Now, to find time to revisit “The Stand”…

10 Books That Have Stayed With Me

Over on Facebook this has been doing the rounds for a while.  Since my FB page is private, I thought I’d post my list publically, here.  Here are the ten books that have stayed with me for whatever reason.  They may not be the best books written by those authors but they had an effect and influence on me at the time of reading.  They are ALL worth checking out, however.  I have to say, it was hard to whittle the list down to just ten, and there are many authors who I greatly respect missing from it (Bradbury and Bukowski to name just two) but these are the individual books that really jumped out and grabbed me.  Here goes:

1) “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R Tolkien (Tolkien was a god to me in my early teens, and this trilogy set me on the path to writing).

2) “Misery” by Stephen King (My first King novel. He’s written better but you never forget your first).

3) “The Long Walk” by Richard Bachman (Simply because it’s a brilliant novel).

4) “Watership Down” by Richard Adams (Easily dismissed as The Lord of the Rings with rabbits. It shouldn’t really work as well as it does, but this is a masterpiece).

5) “The Girl Next Door” by Jack Ketchum (This novel destroyed me. I cried. You don’t forget that).

6) “October Sky” by Homer H. Hickam (Autobiographical novel – part of a trilogy, in fact. Wonderful story, rich characters, passion on every page. I instantly became a fan).

7) “The Dice Man” by Luke Rhinehart (I’d never read anything like it before, and I haven’t since. Mindblowing).

8) “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” by Patrick Suskind (A dark classic. The writing is breathtaking.)

9) “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand (This true story of survival is a brilliant, humbling read. Film version due to be released this year).

10) “Westlake Soul” by Rio Youers (Brave, ambitious, written with confidence and heart. A thing of beauty).