J is for Janice

J is for Janice From the day she was born, Janice was given everything she wanted. She didn’t need to cry for too long before either her doting father or loving mother would be at her side, fussing over her with reassuring words of comfort and kisses on her forehead. From this moment on Janice knew that she was a very special person and because of that she could have Read more

I is for Impossible

I is for impossible. Having blown out her one hundred candles, with a slight relieve that her dentures didn’t come flying out covering the butter icing, Alice was quite exhausted and glad to be back in the solitary of her room, where she lit up a stogie and sat back in her chair. As much as everyone had made a great fuss over her centenary birthday, with just as many making Read more

H is for Hipster

H is for Hipster. The reason the new eatery stood out so much to Donald, was its choice of setting up shop in a part of town where the most exotic experience to be had was a mangey charity shop for a local cat charity. But that’s how these Hipster cafe’s start isn’t it, they move into a place with low rent and once they are established others move in. Read more

G is for Glenn

G is for Glenn. I’ve always loved horror stories. Skeletons have been at the forefront. I had a full size paper, glow in the dark skeleton and then a bit later the poster on the opposite side of my bed was of a skeleton on a motorbike, which I thought was great! I think i got it after seeing th esketon riding a motoabike in the Hammer Horror, Doctor, Terrors, Read more

F is for Fur

F is for Fur. Roger lay in bed, every time he opened his eyes the room span madly making him shut his eyes tight again. Downstairs he could hear the others getting on and knew that he too had to get up. Ever so gradually, Roger held both hands tight round his face as he lifted his head off the pillow. With his eyes still tightly shut he made the familiar Read more

Writing 101: (Day 4) Loss, Part 1

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Day Four: Serially Lost

Today’s Prompt: Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.This doesn’t need to be a depressing exercise; you can write about that time you lost the three-legged race at a picnic. What’s important is reflecting on this experience and what it meant for you — how it felt, why it happened, and what changed because of it.

Today’s twist: Make today’s post the first in a three-post series.

Our blogs are often made of standalone posts, but using them to take readers on longer journeys is an immersive experience for them — and you. It allows you to think bigger and go deeper into an idea, while using a hook that keeps readers coming back.

 

15 min writing exercise.
Loss.

It is said that children learn about loss through the life cycle of keeping an animal. I have some very clear memories of experiencing loss through these situctions when I was very young. When my mum and dad split, my dad, sister and I moved in with my nana (my dad’s mum). During that time we had several animals. My first memory is very vague about a black cat called, Sooty. My sister and I used to dress him up in her dolls clothes and push him a round in her pram…I think he ran away, but after I recently asked my sister about this, we are now not too sure if the truth was that Sotty had passed away.

One day my dad brought back a load of goldfish, by the next morning all but one of the goldfish had died. We were told that the last goldfish left had killed off all the other fish, so we called him Tarzan! Tarzan lived for years, on one occasion he had jumped out of bowl, but we popped him back in and he carried on living. I think he lived for a good 8 or 10 years.

My Nana also kept budgerigars. One morning (when I was still very young) I came down to find the budgie (I think it was called Kimi, come to think of it, I think all of my nana’s budgies were called Kimi) laying on the bottom of the cage. I ran upstairs and told my nana and sister that the budgie was asleep on the floor of its cage and wouldn’t wake up. That was to be my first clear memory of loss.

A much more gruesome memory of loss come from another memory around the same time. I think my dad had bought two rabbits, one male one female ands built a single hunch for them both. In no time the pair were mating like…rabbits!
Not long after a whole batch of baby rabbits were born. To this day I don’t understand why a hole was in the floor of the hutch my dad had made (lazy dad!) was left with a hole was small enough for one of the baby rabbits to full through, but not bigger enough for its head. Remember that famous bunny boiling moment in the film Fatal Attraction when there’s lots of screaming and dramatic music? That’s how I the scene plays out in my head when I ran down to see my rabbits only to find one of the bunnies hung to death.

My Nana (who had lived through two World Wars and already bought up her two children on her own, wasn’t s fazed by the sight and just dug a hole and told me to bung the dead rabbit in the hole! I’m not sure if my memory has expanded on that situation, but I’m sure that scene happened more then once!

So, that’s my first blog on loss. It’s no wonder my favourite writing genre is horror!

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Writing 101: (Day 3) Write about three favourite songs

Day Three: Commit to a Writing Practice

Today’s Prompt: Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?
Nailing Brahms’ Hungarian Dance Number 5 on your alto sax. Making perfect pulled pork tacos. Drawing what you see. Or, writing a novel. Each requires that you make practice a habit.
Today, try free writing. To begin, empty your mind onto the page. Don’t censor yourself; don’t think. Just let go. Let the emotions or memories connected to your three songs carry you.
Today’s twist: You’ll commit to a writing practice. The frequency and the amount of time you choose to spend today — and moving forward — are up to you, but we recommend a minimum of fifteen uninterrupted minutes per day.

 

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Writing 101
Day 3 write for 15 minutes about a song that means something to you.

Hazel o Connor as been a constant songsters from the first time I saw her on top of teh pops singing D-days in a black bra. my sister’s friend, Lulu had bought the single but didn’t really like it so she gave it to me. My best mate, Gary also liked Hazel O Connor, that song reminds me of how we each had a scrapbook album dedicated to all things Hazel, I wish I still had it, it would be a real time capsule of that time. I can honestly say no other singer/songwriter has been as constant in my life.
Around this time Gary and I went to our firts pop concert to see Haze, she had a support band called Bumble and the Bees, Hazel had just released her third album, Cover Plus, I didn’t really know any of the words but sang a long anyway, there was a girl in front of me who scowled, but I didn’t care. There is a song from that album called Animal Farm which had the film playing in the background. I would later read that book because of that song and really loved it, I also read 1984 and Keep the Aspidistra Flying. Gary and I had a great trip to Norwich and met other Hazelnuts, as us fans are called. Hazel’s mum, Joyce was waiting for all of us, Gary and I had Hazel O’ Connor printed on T-shirts, I remember Joyce saying, “ohh, lovely
T-shirts. I had a badge over the ‘o’ in Connor as I had misspelt it as Conner.
We had a great day going round Norwich Museum. There was to be a bigger Hazelnut’s gathering the next year called “We’re All Grown Up”, i had bought tickets, but ended up cancelling it as I had met a guy called Tim Brown. When we met I had a cup of tea he had a coffee, guess which song I connect with him! He later made up for it by taking me to The Windmill Theatre in London to see Hazel in a play about a couple who end up in the underground after a nuclea bomb. Hazel’s onstage boyfriend was coerced into taking blame for the bomb and his suicide was televised. He had his blood drained from his arm while Hazel sang a song, very grim!
I really liked Hazel’s next Album, Smile but it was during a time when her work was not being promoted by her record company due to legal wrangling, but it’s a great album. There were a good few years between taht time when I though Hazel had stopped making music altogether, but that wasn’t the case. Years later When I was seeing a guy called Wayne he had got me tickets to see Hazel at a hall in Derby. he wasn’t feeling so great so we just sat and listened to the music. it was around this time I found Hazel had made two more albums for the German market, with on elf my favourite songs, My Friend Jack being made into a video.

15 min free writing

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Writing 101: (Day 2 ) A room with a view.

Today, choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could — and tell us the backstory. How does this specific location affect you? Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you’re aching to explore for the first time?

Today’s twist: organize your post around the description of a setting.

Giving your readers a clear sense of the space where your story unfolds will help them plunge deeper into your writing. Whether it’s a room, a house, a town, or something entirely different (a cave? a spaceship?), provide concrete details to set this place apart — and to create a more immersive reading experience. A room with a view.

I’m also using this prompt to write todays story:

Don’t think about how your characters sound, but how they see. Watch the world through their eyes — study the extraordinary and the mundane through their particular perspective. Walk around the block with them, stroll the rooms they live in, figure out what objects on the cluttered dining room table they would inevitably stare at the longest, and then learn why.”

— Dinaw Mengestu

As part of my university course I wrote a poem called: I Married a Werewolf. Every now and then I think about turning that poem into a story, so for todays challenge I am going to go to the flat where the werewolf lived.
I’m giving myself 2 x 30mins to get this first draft down.

Image taken from: holy-groundpage.blogspot.comNo one really believed her story. Yes, of course great care was made to calm and care for the victim as she told her tale of abuse; however, the part about her husband being a werewolf? Well, of course that wasn’t true. Over the years we have had many people coming in claiming to be all kinds of people or legendary creatures, particularly on Halloween night.

Just the other day we had two Jesus’s a vampire and one bloke who was convinced his elderly aunt had been attacked by dust. Those type of cases are all in a days work, but this one needed much more care. You get to know the different levels of fear and this one was off the scale.
While two of my colleagues helped the victim, it was up to me and P.C. Colin Bridges to investigate the victims story further.
The place was situated a few blocks away from the seafront, up the road from The Hospitality Inn Hotel. From the outside the house was just like many of the other dingy flat conversions around here that have started to rot. The thing is, when a building starts to rot so do the people inside.

The first thing we noticed was that the hall lights didn’t work properly, just flickering off an on as we made our way up the dark dank stairwell. Someone with incontinence was also adding to the smell. As we made our way to the top of the building the smell changed, a damp smell but not human, something much more earthy that neither I, nor Bridges could immediately put our finger on.
As we made our way to the top flat entrance, the pungent smell engulfed us. Bridges turned to me and said, “Wet dog”.
As soon as he said it, the smell hardened itself in my brain.
A few years back we had investigated a place where this couple were experimenting on a pack of dogs in their house in Portslade. with that image fixed, my hand automatically reached for my truncheon. The Portslade job had been messy, the dogs filled with a mix of fear and anger while their owners were just as aggressive.

Bridges had the owner’s key in hand and so very gently slipped the key in the lock. The only sound was that of a TV playing in the distance and our controlled breathing. Bridges looked at me and nodded and he turned the key in the lock then quickly pushed the door open.
The rush of hot stale air hit us both, Bridges nearly gagged. With our hands over our mouths we stepped into the hallway. Layers of ripped wallpaper laid exposed, it looked like someone had made numerous starts at decorating but had given up. The hall carpet was equally warn; it was impossible to say what colour or patten had originally beneath our feet.

With his truncheon raised, Bridges pushed open the first door to the left, it was the bathroom. Compared to the hall it was immaculate. The white tiles, bath, toilet and sink all shone. A strong smell of bleach filled the air; the sterile room felt eerily out of place. My mind went back to the victim who had come into the police station, I had really hadn’t thought too much about it, but her whole body oozed of chloroform.
As I reached for the door handle, Bridges flicked on the hall light which made me stop. Claw marks covered the door, not something made by a cat scratching, but something much bigger. I stood back, nearly knocking into Bridges and nodded at the door. It was then we both noticed the claw marks reached right to the top of the door frame. My first instinct was to call for backup. I’ve seen some weird stuff over the years: an old woman found weeks later in her flat in Hove, swallowed whole by a Boa constrictor, a couple who apparently spontaneously combusted, leaving just their slippered feet behind, that was another smell you never forget, like sweet pork; and now there’s this.

I cocked my head to one side and listened but there was no sound coming from behind that door. Looking back at Bridges, he nodded for me to open the door. As I did so, I was instantly knocked back by the over powering stench of death, it’s a smell that never leaves you. I’ve known Police officers who have left the force and years later they can still recall the smell by just mentioning a particular case.

The room was in complete darkness, but even then I knew there was a body in the room that had been dead a good while; the air was sickly sweet with an under current of excrement.
With one hand covering my nose and mouth, I reached for my torch and swept it across the bare floorboards and stopped when the torch beam found a naked man, flat on his back. On closer inspection the light glistened on what looked like a silver cake slice sticking out of his chest.
Further inspection showed the room was a carnage of broken furniture. It quickly became apparent that someone had tried to barricade themselves in here with little success. Looking over towards the window I saw blackout blinds keeping all light out of the room. As I went to open them my thoughts went back to the woman who said she had killed a werewolf, the claw marks on the door, the silver cake slice and the blackout blinds to keep not sunlight, but moonlight out of the room.
Pulling the blind up, the full force of the moonlight flooded in giving a grizzly spotlight light on the corpse. His body was coved in deep claw marks: this was not the perpetrator.
Without saying a word I gestured for Bridges to take a step back and to keep walking. Calling through to the station my worst fears were realised as the sound of static poured from my radio.

 

 

Here is my original poem which has a very different tone to the story that has just flowed today.

I married a werewolf.

(shape poem)

Yes, I married a werewolf
He said I was his to own
He told me he could not wait
For us to be all alone

The wedding was at midnight
My husbands such a loon
He said he had to see me
By the fullness of the moon

The wedding was just perfect
He said I looked divine
Blinded by his sweet nature
I just did not see the signs

That night his anger roused
As he put me in my place
He used me as his punch-bag
Careful to avoid my face

His mood would change in a flash
He said I was all to blame
With each clenched blow came the scream
“You women are all the same!”

The next morning filled with guilt
He promised me he would change
Begging for my forgiveness
Again, again, and again

One dark night I found new strength
By the waxing of the moon
I found the fire deep inside
I would make him change his tune

My werewolf husband came home drunk
And crawled into our bed
I coldly pushed knife to heart
Now it was I seeing red

No one really understood
The thing I had to do
But if you were there
If you were me
You would have
Killed him
Too

 

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Writing 101: (Day 1) Building a Blogging Habit

I’ve signed up to “Writing 101: Building a Blogging Habit.” which will give me daily prompts to write everyday to get me back in the habit of daily blogging/writing.

Today I was told: To get started, let’s loosen up. Let’s unlock the mind. Today, take twenty minutes to free write, and don’t think about what you’ll write. Just write.  

Day one, write for 20 mins about anything.

And for your first twist? Publish this stream-of-consciousness post on your blog.

Here’s my 20 min scribbling. 

Brighton 19: horror comes to the seaside, is the working title of my 2nd collection of Urban Gothic stories Brighton 19 follows on from, Blanche Street: where all the neighbours are a nightmare.

I have about three or four stories that have been waiting in the wings ready to be discovered by me again and whipped into shape.
This time the tales are set in 1980’s Brighton, (the last collection was set in late 1970’s Blanche Street). This time, instead of a street, the tales all take place in a large house that has been turned into flats.

The final story of Blanche Street was set in Brighton with the door number 19, hence the title: Brighton 19.

 

Janice with her chosen weapon of choice: laced whiskey.

Janice by Julie Peterson.

I really liked my character, Janice, which my friend, Julie brought to life with her drawing.I have a feeling that Janice will be making a return visit in this collection.

As part of my creative writing course I undertook in 2003 at Brighton City College, I wrote a story called Nursery Crimes, it was also called, All Fall Down, because Geneses have an album of the same name. The story, Nursery Crimes was inspired by the slasher films of the early 1980’s. The film, Friday the 13th is a strong influence, as well as Agatha Christie’s story, Ten Little Indians.
In this story, a group of friends are reunited at 19 Brighton, (before it was transformed into flats), in each room is a different nursery rhyme. As the friends backstory unfolds it transpires that they, along with their teacher, Miss Hickory, who lived down Dickery Road, by The Dock were responsible for another pupils death.
Someone is lurking in the darkness, extracting their revenge in the shape of nursery rhymes. Fear for the person who’s nursery rhyme is, There was an old woman who swallowed a fly, that’s a grim end!
Other tales so far are and eco tale about a filthy rain storm, a man who is so hated that even death has turned his back on him and then there’s an old man, recalling a childhood horror that only now he can talk about as he and his mother wait for the blackbirds to sing.

With the 101 project daily prompts I am really looking forward to getting this project on the road.

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Death and the Seaside

11 In the beginning the first few drafts of Happy birthday to me were a much longer as i tried to get an idea of who my main characters were. I had a good few paragraphs exploring the parents relationship which was on patchy ground but eventually all that was cut. This story was also being written as part of my dissertation for my MA, at that stage I had all the stories happening in one house over a period of years and the travelling trunk which pops up as a main character in, Filth and Dead Famous was to be a thread within all these stories. After my MA I dismantled all the tales back to my original concept of the tales being in different houses in the infamous Blanche Street.

I became fascinated by the amount of deaths that happen because people dig holes in the sand and then get buried alive and because of the nature of sand there is no evidence of where the hole was which was truely frightening. It was around this time I was told about two brothers and one had buried his brother up to his neck which ended in tragedy, it was this story that I wanted to explore further and give it my own twist.

Spoiler alert:

In my story I made the brothers twins as I wanted to play on all the families grief and the surviving child’s desperation to make things right. As I continued to craft the story I asked the favourite writers question, “What if”. From here I asked, What if the twin that had died was the parents favourite, from here the story began to get very twisted as the mother, unable to cope with her favourite twin’s death leave the family home to convalesce at her parent home. This alone is quiet horrifying, the thought of a mother turning her back on her son, but made all the worse by the father who also favoured his dead son continues to make mistakes.

“Come on kiddo let’s get you home; we can order a take-away, sweet and sour pork’s your favourite, right?”
Chris has not spoken more than two words since the accident, but now he wants to scream. Take-aways have always been a treat, but now they are the norm. What is worse is that sweet and sour pork has always been Craig’s’ favourite dish, not his!

As well as this horror I wanted to create a nightmare for Chris as he starts to see things that may be coming from his fragile imagination or really are supernatural occurrences drummed up from his brothers untimely death.

With sleep pulling him ever deeper, he once again hears water rushing in under the bedroom door. The salty smell of the sea fills his nostrils as he prays for the water to stop. In no time the water beings to seep into the mattress. Unable to move, unable to scream, Chris holds his breath as the water surges over him.

The story ends with Chris praying to make things right. The ending is purposely ambiguous: has Chris given up his body for the ghost of his brother to take over, was the whole thing a nightmare from a single child?  Did the doctor give him something to alter his state of mind? or has Chris simply given up his personality in place of his grief. Of course with all stories of this kind, it is up to the reader to decide. Happy Birthday to Me.

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I Love Trish: A Cautionary Drug Tale

I Love Trish

I Love Trish.
I love Trish, it is one of my favourite tales from the Blanche Street Tales. This story was originally written as a trilogy, paying homage to those 1970’s style horror tales: Doctor Terrors house of Horrors, Tales from the Crypt and the Karen Black classic, Trilogy of Terror. When I was putting this collection of Blanche Street Tales together I revisited this story which was about a group of friends taking a new street drug and each experiencing some mind bending horrors. As I began to rewrite the tale I decided for all the horrors to happen to one person, Howard.
From the very start I wanted to create an environment that would alienate my protagonist, and so I have Howard on a train journey from Norwich to Ipswich and then of course on to Blanche Street where he meets the main villain of the piece, Chef. In the same way that horror films have the audience shouting to the victim “Don’t go into the wood/attic/cellar” I want my readers to be shouting the same to Howard as he gets in ever deeper all in his pursuit of Trish.

I wanted to create a new street drug and chose Trish in the same way other street drugs are given moniker, like Charlie for cocaine. The drug I made up takes the user into another realm altogether, dependant on what’s on their mind.
(spoiler alert) Unfortunately for Howard he keeps thinking and seeing an animal that will lead to his horrible demise by the end of the tale.
Howard went to clear up the partly chewed, greasy chicken bones only for Chef to yell, “Fucking leave it, get your arse in the back.” (I Love Trish).

I remember reading an article around the same time about an 80’s pop star talking about his drug addiction to heroin. He felt that because he was snorting the drug his drug use wasn’t as hardcore as those who injected; for me this was an interesting paradox that I wanted to include in my story. So I have Howard continuing to get in an ever deeper situation with the reader looking on as a concerned bystander, hopeful urging him to just get on the train back home.
He then reached back into the sports bag and produced a sterile wrapped syringe. For Howard, the whole situation suddenly got turned on its head. “I, I, I, wasn’t thinking of injecting it, I, I, I, mean I’ve never done that before Kes never mentioned needles.” (I Love Trish).

Most of the Blanche Street tales interact with each other, giving some extra information to the reader. (Spoiler alert) In the previous story, The Fall of Derrick Houser, Derrick’s home is flooded by the Chefs rubbish which has a distinctive smell of rotting flesh. My hope is that this will get the reader to think that the last scene in I love Trish is not only a horrible hallucination, but that the Chef is in fact chopping his victims up for his dinner. Howard also hears the painful cries of Derrick  calling out for his long dead sister, Madeline, as he passes number seven.
With his last ounce of energy, Howard threw his head to one side and stopped dead. The sound of a large kitchen knife being sharpened behind him became his soundtrack. (I Love Trish)
A filthy sheen from next door’s rubbish glistens on top of the water, filling the kitchen with a familiar stench. (The Fall of Derrick Houser)

From the point of Howard taking Trish, things get very strange, A strong influence comes from the hallucination scene in Trainspotting. A key scene in the film is when Renton has his nightmare as he goes cold turkey. I can still conjure up that scene very clearly now and wanted to have a go at creating a scene that the reader wouldn’t forget in a hurry. With feedback from fans of the book, I believe I achieved what I set out to do. *Throughout this story I wanted to pull the reader into a deeper, disturbing world which gets grimmer and grimmer as Howard spirals into his drug induced hallucination. For some reason at this stage I was reminded of Charlotte Bronte when in her novel Jane Eyer she address the reader directly: “Reader, I married him”, (Chapter 38) and it felt like a great device to use in this tale.
all he could manage was a flutter of his wings as he waited for his neck to be snapped. “If only dear reader, if only.” I Love Trish.

*want to know what that scene was? Just download the book to find out: www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B00OWFK1SA.9

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Creating Derrick (The Fall of Derrick Houser) Blanche Street Tale

7I was asked the other day which writers inspire my writing, along with Stephen King, Christopher Folwer and Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe is right up there. In his time Poe created soem of the most influential horror stories and poems including, The Tell Tale Heart, The Raven and The Fall of the House of Usher. It was this tale of a man trapped in his own mansion by a sudden downpour and the secrets of his home coming out of the basement to haunt him. It was this particular tale that inspired me to have my own stab at a Poe-esque tale with my reimagining of his tale with mine called, The Fall of Derrick Houser. (Derrick Houser is an anagram of Poe’s protagonist, Roderick Usher)
The Fall of Derrick Houser

The very first image I had was of Derrick’s breakfast table, with the jars of jam, butter and marmalade all laid out in military fashion, suggesting how Derrick likes order in his life, something that increasingly stops happening as the story progresses.

Art work is also an important tool to bring my stories to life, My  friend Sarah Prades created the ‘chapter doors’. For this story (along with the cover and the painting for Dead Famous), Hazel Bottrill created this brilliant piece of art. I particularly like the bread bin giving off its own subliminal message!

*

As I began to write this Blanche Street Tale, I kept hearing Derrick’s mum’s voice butting in, (my characters have a habit of doing that) and realised that even though Derrick mum was dead, I could still use her voice to give the reader a backstory of Derrick’s past evil deed.

“Mummy won’t be angry Derrick, just tell me what you have done.”

Originally I also used the lyrics from different songs playing on the radio to reflect what was happening to derrick and his surroundings , until I researched into whether this was allowed; it’s not. Unlike academic work were you can cite, a passage and reference it at the back, lyrics need the permission from the musician and then a heavy fee to use said lyrics, song titles on the other hand can be used and so I went down that road instead to set the scene before the big storm.
“Next up we have the Beatles with, Here Comes the Sun.”
As in Poe’s story I wanted to create an atmosphere of claustrophobia by trapping my protagonist in his own home and so I used the same device as poem and introduced a frightening thunder storm. This also allowed me to introduce another layer from the next tale, I Love Trish.

A filthy sheen from next door’s rubbish glistens on top of the water, filling the kitchen with a familiar stench.
More about the link to, I love Trish, in the next post.

With the storm brewing in my story, I was able to trap Derrick and just as his mother interjects snippets from the past, the house throws up its own memories.
The room had been decorated many times yet there they are, clear as day, faded bar marks of Madeline’s cot stretched along the wall.
As the storm clouds gather, the ghost of Madeline continues to make herself present. Again I wanted to have a nod to the works of Poe, this time from his brilliant Poem, The Raven

‘I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door.’
Edgar Allan Poe: The Raven

“Straining his neck he tries to look out of the kitchen window, but the dark clouds and heavy rain make it impossible to see what is tap, tap, tapping against the back kitchen door.”

Another literary influence for this particular tale takes Freud, Oedipus’s complex (where the son wishes to  kill off his father and marry his mother!) to the very extreme, but also Derrick’s mother is just as complicit and just as evil in her desire to have her son all to herself. But as in most of the Blanche Street Tales, this gruesome twosome evils deeds come back to haunt them both.
a Paperback version of Blanche Street will be published later this year.

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Sugar Almonds: not another urban legend

th-3I love Urban Myths/Urban Legends, those oh so familiar tales that are said to be based on true stories, but always happened to a friend of friend; from the fried rat found mixed in with the bucket of fried chicken and fries, to the cautionary tale of the young lovers, car broke down in the middle of no where then they hear on the radio of a mad man with a hook for a hand on the loose near to where they are parked. So when I head a story about candy-floss (to find out why candy-floss should be so horrifying, you’ll have to read the short story, Sugar Almonds) I knew I had a great story waiting to be written, but this one IS TRUE!
taking the template of young lovers out on a night out, I invented Robert and Juliette, (hey to call him Romeo would have been too much right?) and set the couple off on a romantic night that get’s a little bit drak when a gypsy tells Juliette,

“Alas my dear before the night is finished you’ll experience a horror like never before.”

th-1As with most of the tales in Blanche Street, neighbours pop in and out of each others stories, with Jed from The Nightmare, literally staggering into Juliet and Robert’s story.

“Juliet squeezed Robert’s arm as a lanky drunk bloke came staggering towards them ”.

Although this story is written in a fairy tale way, just like a good fairy tale (and an urban myth) the pay off at the end of such cautionary tales are less gore and more down to the final image which will refuse to leave your mind for a long time. It was when I was told this story with the exact ending I have used in this story that I knew i had a great story for the Blanche Street collection. I don’t really feel there’s much need to go into the story any more without giving it all away, so why not troll over to amazon.co.uk and download the book: Blanche Street: where all the neighbours are a nightmare.

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To Be Frank

CREATING FRANK.

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When I was a teenager I devoured the Pan Books of Horror series, loving the lurid covers as much as the stories inside. Back then I dreamed of writing my own horror stories, I had a couple of goes at school, but never really had the confidence to really go for it.

Fast forward to 2003 when I enrolled at Brighton City College and so begun my creative writing journey. the other day I dug out my work file and realised that it was then I wrote the first draft for my short story, Frank. My tutor, the brilliant Maria Ragusa set a task for us to create a character based on a part of the body; I was given a rotting tooth.Almost from the start, the character of Frank came to mind. His name was there from the start, a no nonsense man who believed his way was the only way and like the tooth he was rotten to the core.

This story is influenced by a whole host of books and films, including Pan Books of horror collection about a man who had died and gone to hell and was expecting an eternity of untold fear and punishment in the shape of fire and brimstone. Instead he was stuck in a windowless room, a bookshelf filled with outdated copies of Readers digest and a record-player,with one record playing several hours of Terry Wogan telling jokes, that was to be his hell. The Devil also appears as a really camp character who wipes his three prong folk with a silk hanky and calls the man “Ducky”, Christopher Fowler’s brilliant Faust based tale, Spanky which drove me on to write my own Faust type tale in which someone (usually a man), gives up his soul in exchange for his greatest desires and the segment from the Twilight Zone movie about a bigoted man who hates everythingth

 

With all these things in mind I created Frank, a bigoted skinhead who hates his wife kids, neighbours, Norwich football supporters and everybody else who steps into his path. The basic bones of the story wrote itself, with Frank being lured to a meeting place after reading a personal ad in the newspaper, by a man called Christopher.

“Are you a meathead? Tough-nut? Sadist?
Do you enjoy blood sports? Cruelty? Carnage?
Get in touch, let us make your favourite nightmares
a reality.
Box number 19120114.”

The box numbers, 19,1,14,1,14 I put in to give a clue to who Christopher really was: 19 = S and so on. Throughout the tales in Blanche Street, other neighbours pop up in each other’s stories. In “Frank’ there’s a nod to Nettie, he’s nosey neighbour and also one of his magazines is written about Jed Savage, from the short story, The Nightmare.
“In the past he had been rewarded by obscure subscriptions to magazines such as, The Nightmare: Jed Savage, Alien Possession.
More about that story later.

I also wanted to play on Frank’s weaknesses, where as Frank wants the meeting place to be a war bunker, he is faced with something far more disturbing to him.

“ Instead of a castle or war bunker there stood a ridiculously pretty country cottage: complete with red roses around the door.”

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As with all the tales in this book, there are some very disturbing horrors behind call the closed doors.

Also whereas Frank uses brawn and brawl to help him beat his victim, Christopher uses fancy words to disarm his victim.

“He then waved his hand at the cottage and said, “Don’t be put off by the quaint abode, it’s a short lease.”

From here I wanted to take the reader into Frank’s perverse world of celebrating all things Nazi. In the beginning Frank is thrilled to see objects from the Holocaust, but as the reality of the objects become more real, Frank begins to feel more and more uncomfortable, but because Frank is rotten to the core (the rotten tooth remember), he quickly pushes such thoughts to one side as if closing a book. And so it was important for the horror to be ranked up, which I won’t go into here as it will spoil the story. Some feedback has said this story made uncomfortble raeding dur to it’s subject matter, but that really is what horror is all about, to take the reader to dark places. At the time of writing this tale there was a cleraer voice about homosexual men who had been sent to the death camps, but for many years after the WW2 when being gay was still a criminal offence these victims voise was left unheard, somthing Christopher picks up on when he says to Frank,“This one is covered in many different stains. I always think it is nice to have the emblem intact, the pink ones are so often more faded.”

To find out Frank’s outcome pop on over to Amazon.co.uk

Blanche Street can be downloaded to your iphone, ipad and computer from Amazon for the great price of £3.08.

Paper back copy will be out in the New Year.

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Creating Filth. (A Blanche Street Tale)

The making of ‘Filth’.

 

 

http://www.angusstewart.me

Photo by Angus Stewart
http://www.angusstewart.me

In my short story, Filth I wanted to play with the idea of how we can all be prisoners of convention. As a starting point I revisited Charlotte Brontë’s Jayne Eyre and in particular, the character of Bertha Mason, the first wife of wife Edward Rochester, who is confined to the attic as she is deemed insane. (a brilliant reimagining of Bertha’s side of the story was written in the novella, Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys.) I also re-read (The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gillman). The protagonist, Jane is also driven insane by her husband, John, who insists she takes ‘rest cure’ by doing nothing while confined in a room at the top of the house, covered in the aforementioned yellow wallpaper: a motif that I take a literary nod to in my story. “Black spores flowed from the trunk’s keyhole, clustering together. In no time the chair, windows and yellow wallpaper were completely swallowed.

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I was further inspired by Perkin Gillman’s short story. Just as Perkin Gillman made something as innocent as the yellow wallpaper frightening, I wanted the dust in my story to become just as menacing. Equally, I was interested in using this device to trap my main character. Unlike Jane in the Yellow Wallpaper who becomes imprisoned by her husband, I wanted my character to become imprisoned by her own unrealistic desire to keep her home as impossibly pristine as possible, with her constant fear of dust never far from her mind.

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By Charlotte Perkins Gillman

The idea first came about with thoughts of how back in the day so many homes would have a ‘best room’ that was only used on special occasions, like Christmas or for when an unexpected guest, usually a posh relative would come round and for some reason needed to be impressed.

Just like Bertha, my character was driven insane by her surroundings, but unlike Jane, she would be constantly on the go, mainly cleaning or worrying about dust and more importantly what the neighbours would think, particularly when a mysterious, filthy trunk that appears in her home.

“There was no way she could ask any of her neighbours to help remove it, they would only gossip that her home wasn’t so pristine after all.”

From here on in the main details of the story began to form, but I couldn’t think of a suitable name to fit the character I had in my head. I tried out a few names: Charlotte? Joyce? Chrissy? Judy? Susan? Nope, none of them fitted in with what I thought she looked like and so I turned to my trusty, Wordsworth Dictionary Book of Names. It was then I found the name, Nettie; for me the name conjured up images of something being caught, which fitted in perfectly with my character’s constant need to capturer an dispose of dust.
As I progressed with the story, I realised I had the making of another story about a trunk that I had been struggling to make work; the story would eventually become the Brighton based story, Dead Famous that appears at the end of the Blanche Street collection

Next Saturday 22rd November 2014: Frank and the Faust influence.  

 

You can download my short story, Filth, as a sample page for free and buy the e-book Blanche Street (where all the neighbours are a nightmare) by clicking the link below.

www.amazon.co.uk/Blanche-Street-Where-neighbours-nightmare-ebook/dp/B00OWFK1SA

The Yellow Wallpaper (short story by Charlotte Perkin Gilman

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