More to Me Than HIV

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More to Me Than HIV

First published in Gscene July 2020 For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library.For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library. For the project I spoke openly about my journey having being           Read more

More to Me Than HIV: GScene post Aug 2020

More to Me Than HIV is a project that aims to breakdown the stigma that has historically been attached to this virus.  When I saw my piece in last months Gscene to promote the More to Me Than HIV project, I was extremely proud, but a small part of me was filled with anxiety; but why should I feel this way? I have been on effective antiretroviral therapy since the Read more

More to Me Than HIV: first published in GScene July 2020

For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library. For the project I spoke openly about my journey having being             diagnosed HIV+ 32 years previous. Back then there was no treatment and a lot of fear and misinformation concerning how HIV was transmitted. As such stigma was rife, Read more

Blanche Street

J is for Janice

J is for Janice

Janice By Juile

Janice By Juile

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 what ever she wanted.

As a child she would demand the attention of the other children and to a degree, their parents too. Only a very few adults would see that when Janice acted sweetly, she was actually manipulating the situation for her own needs. When in sight she could be seen as being kind and gentle, but when the backs were turned she would be able to pinch and blame a wasp sting, steal and blame another child for the misdemeanour with frightening clarity and conviction. After a while some of those children learnt not to play with Janice, while others felt no other option but to take the blame.

Janice was never into killing animals, but when she met Nick, a senior boy, she was more then happy to guide him into committing such crimes. the very first time was after wining a gold fish at the funfair. Taking themselves off to a quieter  part of the park, Janice egged Nick on to tip the goldfish out on to the grass and together they watched it flap and gasp and flip and eventually die. After then Janice allowed Nick to go to third base.

Once Nick understood the rewards that could be gained from such actions he gladly explored ways of trapping other animals and bringing their lives to an end, always of course with Janice encouraging him to commit the crime with a promise of a treat straight afterwards.

After a while killing animals lost its appeal fro Janice an din turn for Nick too. Janice found that Nick had become too good at trapping animals or coaching them from peoples gardens and so they needed something more tangible, something closer to home to bait. And so Janice suggested her parents, the ones who had created such a monster with their smothering love and unquestionable believe that their little girl was nothing but perfect.

Now this project needed much more planning if they were to get away with murder, they would need someone to take the fall, while they made there escape. And so it was down to Janice to make friends with a lad who was new to town.

It didn’t take long for Janice to work her charm and within a few hours Janice, Nick and their new best friend, Jason were at Janice’s parents house, drinking from her father’s drinks cabinet, Janice and Nick secretly supping soft drinks while encouraging Jason to knock back another whiskey and coke.

Once Janice had Jason nicely inebriated, she stared to tell Jason how her parents were monsters who from a young age had treated her badly, kept her locked in the cupboard under the stairs, forced her to eat a meal that she had not been able to to stomach from the night before which would be reserved for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

As with all of Janice’s victims they fell under her spell and vowed to help her in any way they could.

As Janice’s mother was the main protagonist in Janice’s misery it was decided that she should feel the most pain. Much to Nick and Janice’s delight it was Jason who suggested poisoning her tea. His father had some stringent stuff in his shed that they could slip in to Janice’s mother’s tea and together they could watch her demise. As for the father that was easy too, slashing the brake cables on his car would do the trick, but they were all sad to know that they would only be able to wave him off and hear about his death later.

On both occasions the plan worked, and as an added bonus they were able to lay all the blame at Jason’s door. no matter how much he protested otherwise Janice was able to convince all who talked to her that they had tried to befriend Jason but it quickly became cler to her that he was a bad lot and as revenge he had killed her loving parents. Of course no one believed Jason’s story about Janice’s parents being monsters and so he was locked away fro everyones safety.   

and so began Janice an Jason’s long murderous career. Of course their crimes caught up with them eventually, with perhaps the most notorious being the modern day trunk murder which can be read in many true crime books and even found itself rewritten as fiction in the book, Blanche Street: where all the neighbours are a nightmare.       

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G is for Glenn

G is for Glenn.

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, House of Horrors, an all time favourite of my sister and mine.
I liked the skeletons that grew out of the monsters teeth in Jason and the Argonauts and seemed to always find those plastic skeletons either on a key ring or the like while on seaside holidays.

My sister had some great gothic children’s books, one was a collection of the original Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales, with great illustrations. My favourite was the Sea Witch from the little mermaid, she was the stuff of nightmares! The other book my sister had was about dwarfs and giants. The one story I liked my sister to read to me was about a group of dwarfs who kidnap a princess. The scene that will never leave my brain is when the princess complains that the carriage seat is too hard, the dwarf jumps out of the carriage, plucks out his eye, throws it in the air and sees a filed of wheat…poor princess!
From their I discovered the Pan Books of Horror. I loved the covers and the blurb on the back as much as I liked the stories themselves.
The very first horror story I wrote was at school and leant the first rule of horror is you need to build the tension, let the feeling of dread creep in. Of course once you have mastered this then you can experiment every which way.th

Over the next few years I wrote bits and pieces for myself, two of my favourites were a take on a Mills and Boom style story called The Quite Storm, the other was a typical slasher horror. I loved those 1980’s horror films that were based on a holiday or date: Halloween, Friday 13th, Happy Birthday to Me, Black Christmas, My Bloody Valentine, April Fools Day, Mother’s Day! So I wrote mine based on nursery rhymes, a sample of which can me found on here under, All Fall Down.th-1

A couple more years passed and I was looking for a project to learn something new when my husband Keir spotted a creative writing class at Brighton City College. My tutors, Ruth and Maria said, for your first project we don’t want you to write we would like you to draw a rough plan of the street you grew up in, followed by us naming who lived in each house. From there grew my collection of short horror stories called Blanche Street.
Blanche Street, where all the neighbours are a nightmare. My friend Andrew Nimmo Helped me upload my e-book onto Amazon, while my friend Linus created a brilliant webpage advertising the type of synopsise of my ten tales in the style of the ones I admire from PBH.
My late mother-in-law, Hazel Bottrill created some brilliant art work for the stories, The Fall of Derrick Houser, Dead Famous, and the book cover. My other talented friends also contributed some brilliant images to go with the Blanche Street Tales, Angus Stewart: Filth, and publicity photo for back cover, Davey Sutherland: Frank, Sarah Prades and Kristan Akerman and three new pieces from Darren Menezes: Sugar Almonds, The Nightmare and Some Mother’s Son.
Finally, I found online a great editor, Jenny Prince, who through fresh eyes and is at present getting the book in shape for its (self publishing) into paperback.
More information to follow.Book cover copy-25

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Somebodies Son.

Somebodies Son.

P1080145The moment I walk into the chemist and see her I know she is my mother. I wait and watch her in the security mirror. When she turns the corner I bump into her, knocking her handbag and its contents to the floor. Dropping to my knees I apologise, “I’m really sorry. Are you okay? Here’s your purse.”

She’s so grateful she doesn’t notice me slipping her notebook into my coat pocket. As she wanders off she leaves behind a scent that is unmistakably Mum.
Only when I’m safely back in the side street do I allow myself to look at her little notebook. The cover is black, crinkled like crocodile skin. I run my thumb over the gold lettering, M.a.r.g.a.r.e.t. A tingle ripples up my hand. Over the years I have thought of many names for my mother, but it makes perfect sense that she’s called Margaret. Margaret’s are strong, honest, and reliable… just like that Mrs Thatcher.
On the first page mum has written her name, Margaret J. Lawrence, 11 Blanche Street. Her handwriting is so neat, I wish she had been around to teach me.
She’ll be home soon, if I’m quick I can surprise her. How pleased she’ll be to see me waiting. I catch sight of my scruffy face in a shop window, I can’t remember when I last shaved or washed. Mum will help transform me back into her son. Perhaps we’ll even make it on the front page of the Ipswich Star, “Long Lost Son, Home at Last.”
When I eventually get to Blanche Street my heart sinks. Opposite the row of tatty run down terrace houses is a dirt track where a couple of burnt-out cars and a white van is parked. This was not what I had been expecting. In dreams I saw us together living in a country cottage with roses around the door or perhaps a detached house with a long gravelled driveway. I’m puzzled. What could have happened to my mother for her to end up living in this hellhole of a street.
The front door is locked and the curtains pulled tightly shut, a good sign, you never know who might be skulking around in an area like this.
I think of mum, she looks so much different to what I had imagined. She’s aged more than I expected, but that doesn’t matter as greying hair can easily be dyed back to blonde. When we are together I will help her with her makeup. Her lips will be rose pink for daywear and poppy red for when we go out on the town.
***
Want to read more? check out the full tales at blanchestreet.co.uk for link to buy the book.

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Writing Everyday in October: I Love Trish.

Ipswich 143 - Version 2
The taste of blood slid across Howard’s tongue as the Norwich to Ipswich train rattled along the track. For the last half hour he had nervously bitten his nails, all in the pursuit of the latest high. Howard’s best mate, Kes, (everyone called him Kes, because he was always high as a kite) had raved about the mind blowing time he’d had the other night at the Caribbean Club. Some bloke had offered Kes a new kind of high at the club toilet and he said he was off his head all night, “It’s called Trish. Think ecstasy, crossed with a trip and dib-dab of speed.”
Even before Kes had finished yabbering, Howard was hooked. Kes had said he was going to meet up with a guy called Chef and get some Trish for the weekend. That had been a couple of days ago. With no job worries, Kes will still be off his face on Trish, thought Howard.
As the train pulled into Ipswich’s train station, Howard pulled out the crumpled piece of paper from his jeans pocket on which Kes had scrawled.
9 Blanche Street, Ipswich. Ask for Chef. Say, “I love Trish.”

When the train finally pulled in to Ipswich, the seasoned travellers rushed from the platform and grabbed the waiting taxies. With no sign of a bus, Howard began walking towards what he hoped was the town centre. Half way he bumped into a young couple and asked if they knew where Blanche Street was. The woman shrugged her shoulders, as the bloke said, “You sure you want that part of town mate?”
Howard nodded while trying to ignore his growling stomach, all he wanted was to grab his stash of Trish and get back to his bedsit in Norwich.
Recognising the nervousness pouring out of Howard’s body, the man shrugged his shudders and said, “It’s no more than ten minutes away, just off Cemetery Road.”

Having followed the man’s directions, Howard turned into Blanche Street and instantly understood what the man had meant. The street was a row of pre-war dilapidated terraced houses. As he walked down the street, Howard’s stomach tightened; with most of the street lights broken it was difficult to make out the door numbers.

As he crept past one house he heard a man shout, “Madeline, Madeleine!” which caused Howard to quicken his step. Each house he passed seemed to be more decrepit than the last: that was until he reached number seven. The bottom half of the door had been boarded up. Bare wires hung where the doorbell had once been and the upstairs windows were smashed.

Again Howard felt his gut jolt, but there was no way he was going back home empty handed. Taking a deep breath he raised his hand to knock on the door, only for it to suddenly fly open. A dark silhouette of a very, very big man filled the door frame.
“Y,y,y,you Chef? Said Howard?

With no ready response, Howard tried to steady his voice without much success and said, “I,I,I,I,I love Trish.”
The man stepped back and nodded for Howard to enter the gloomy lit front room.

The first thing to hit him was the overwhelming stench of stale cigarette smoke, greasy takeaway food and something else, something rotten. While trying to manoeuvre passed the minefield of beer cans and overflowing ashtrays, Howard knocked a half-eaten takeaway box off the oversized leather armchair: spilling its contents onto the threadbare carpet. Dropping to his hands and knees, 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.”
Howard jumped to his feet, brushed the grease from his hands on to his jeans and then followed the man through the middle room, into the kitchen.
Hanging from the centre of the kitchen celling was a bare light bulb highlighting the cobwebs that strung from every corner, the floor felt sticky beneath his feet. Howard glanced round the near barren kitchen. The only other furniture was a tatty pine wooden table, either side sat two mismatched chairs and a bar stool. Chef nodded at Howard and grunted, “Sit.”

Like a well trained mongrel, Howard quickly obeyed, pulled out the chair and sat himself down.
Chef flung open the fridge door and said, “Beer?”

Howard stared at the man’s huge hands that gripped the rusting fridge door, his fingernails caked with black grime. A trickle of bile shot from Howard’s empty stomach into his throat causing him to nod as he tried his best to swallow his sick.

Grabbing two cans from the fridge, Chef slammed one can down in front of Howard, cracked open his own and drained the contents before Howard had even opened his.

“Get that down yah, it will stop you from being so fucking jumpy.”

Howard tried his best to stop his hands from shaking as he opened his can, only for the contents to spray all over his face.
Howard slurped at the frothing can as Chef laughed while he grabbed another two beers from the fridge. As he sat down at the table he said, “So, how’d you hear about me, was it London Tony?”

….. Wanna find out what happens to Howard and the other residence of Blanche Street? why not pop over to the homepage www.blanchestreet.co.uk and click on the doors and then hurry yourself over to the Amazon link  to and get stuck into ten terrifying tales: http://www.amazon.com/Blanche-Street-Where-neighbours-nightmare-ebook/dp/B00OWFK1SA

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Writing Everyday in October: The Tenner

Trace the journey of a ten pound note through the lives of five owners. What was exchanged during the transactions? How much (or how little) did the transaction mean to each of the people involved?

Trace the journey of a ten pound note through the lives of five owners. What was exchanged during the transactions? How much (or how little) did the transaction mean to each of the people involved?

Saturday night at the hole in the wall and Jerry takes out an extra tenner, put it in the back of his wallet telling himself that no matter what else he spends tonight the tenner will be marked as taxi money only. There was no way he is going to end up dazed and soiled with his flatmate’s one night stand stepping over him the next day, taking an incriminating shot before leaving the flat and posting it on Facebook.

(click here) Six hours later…200

Pissed and hardly able to say his name, mainly because he had forgotten it, Jerry staggers into the kebab shop and screams as he shields his eyes to the bright fluorescent light. Although he can’t remember his name, he can remember to ask for extra chilli sauce of his shish kebab. Jerry knows that all he needs is some food inside him and then he’ll feel much better. It is only when he reaches for his wallet and finds it gone does he’s world start to tumble down. With no food to fuel his brain, Jerry loses all memories completely, from what club he’d been to, to where he lives. Jerry promises himself (again) that he’ll never, ever drink this much ever, ever, ever.

Meanwhile, outside The Ritzy…

Linda has had a horrible night. First she had a steaming row with her best mate, Gazza over a bloke who looked okay, but as soon as the cold air had hit it quickly transpired he was too pissed to remember his own name, let alone where he lived and had staggered off towards the local kebab shop, not realising that Linda had stayed back. Meanwhile Linda was hanging outside The Ritzy, hoping Gazza would come out too so they could go home and make up over a curry pot-noodle.

Ten minutes later…

After arguing with the bouncer that she was in fact not that drunk and promised she would not end up causing another scene in the club, Linda gave up and decided to go home alone. it was then she saw a wallet on the ground and picked it up to see it belonged to the drunk who had staggered off to the kebab shop. The good part of Linda thought about trying to find him, but when she saw the tenner folded neatly in the back of the wallet, she thought, Oh fuck it, took the tenner, dropped the wallet in the nearest bin and made her way to the taxi rank.

Outside the taxi rank…

Underneath the blanket was huddled Jamie and his dog, Wordsworth. Unbeknown to the ignoring crowds above, Jamie had a lot of interesting tales to tell, but no one had time to stop and listen. If he was lucky, he would get the occasional coin thrown, but what he really needed was a lucky break to get enough money for  and his dog Wordsworth to get the train back home to his mum and dads, but Lady Luck, The Good-fairy Godmother and his Guardian Angel had all been on an extnded holiday for what felt like years. However! Tonight Jamie’s luck changes when he watches a ten pound note fall to the ground as a pissed passer by precariously past him and plonks herself into a cab.

Then the drug dealer appeared…

Growing up, Jamie had been an avid fan of the kids TV show, Jamie and the Magic Torch and had eventually convinced himself he was the real life, Jamie. At first his parents had humoured him when he came home with a dog and said its name was Wordsworth, they even ignored his late night sessions spent under his bed shining his torch at the floor, but when it became apparent he had a serious problem with drugs, so they had kicked him out. Life on the streets was no picnic for Jamie, but his drug dealer was always popping past and doing cheeky deals with Jamie.

Jamie was delighted to have the tenner, but it was far too little for a train ticket home, so Jamie was greatly relived to see the drug dealer who who had the powder that enabled Jamie to travel once agin (Unfortunately without his magic torch as he’d pawned that a long while back) ’d pawned a long time ago) to better, kinder worlds beyond this realm.

With the deal done…

The drug dealer slipped off into the shadows and broke the one cardinal rule of drug dealing, don’t take the stuff yourself. With his newly acquired tenner, the drug dealer got out his bag of the latest street drug, Trish, rolled the tenner up and took a hearty snort of the powder and promptly collapsed. Gradually his fingers unraveled as Trish took hold and pulled him into a nightmare not that dissimilar to a short story called, I love Trish in a book, called, Blanche Street, you dear reader can downloaded from amazon.co.uk.

A gush of wind took the tenner out of the dealer’s hand and something very unusual happened in one of Glenn’s story, a happy ending! You see, the wind caught the tenner, took the rolled tube high into the air and as it unraveled, it floated down, landing in front of Jerry.

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Writing everyday in October: True Story

Writing everyday in October: True Story.

IMG_3734

Some childhood memories are still very clear to me, particularly the time I lived in Blanche Street. I was seven, my stepbrother was six and our dad decided to give us an opportunity to murder. It was the 1970’s and everything seemed more brutal back then and very much so in the house we all lived in Blanche Street, two adults, three children, one baby in a two bedroom terraced house with no bathroom and an outside toilet.

On this occasion my stepmother had seen a mouse dash under the electric airer; a tin, oblong, upright contraption with removable wooden slats which also double as her weapon of choice to cane us with.

My dad seemed to take great relish in his plan. First he blocked off the door of the lean-to kitchen and the yard outside. He then got a large wooden mallet and said to my stepbrother and I, “When I move the airer, who ever sees the mouse first, grab the mallet and smash it.”

My stepmother with my half sister in her arms and sister stood behind the barricade in the middle room while my dad slowly moved the airer. To be honest, I don’t think I really knew what was going to happen next but when the terrified mouse shot out, I screamed, my stepbrother screamed, my stepmother, sister and half sister also screamed. I tried jumping over the barricade as my dad grabbed the mallet and smashed the mouse into oblivion . Some images never leave you, particularly childhood horrors like that and they still have the power to make me cry.

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Blanche Street: 17. Food for Thought.

P1070918I started my creative writing journey in earnest by joining a creative writing class at Brighton City College. It was in the second class that my tutor, Ruth Glen set us a task by showing us two photos. The first was of a woman in black headdress, the other photo was of a flowing river that looked golden in colour. As I was sitting at the very back of the class I mistook the headdress to be a black balaclava. My imagination then decided the balaclava was made of rubber (kinky!) and the river was polluted (political!) From these two ideas my story, Food for Thought, an ecological disaster warning story was quickly written. After many rewrites, those two main images that sparked my story were played with; the head to toe rubber outfits stayed, but the polluted river was cut as I wanted to create an enclosed environment.

Food For Thought is my favourite story out of all of the collection for many reasons, with the main one being that it allowed me to create a story well away from Blanche Street and into a different time realm altogether.

With no time to stop he grabbed some toast from the table, kissed his mum on the cheek while grappling to open the front door. As his foot hit the floor, Adam nearly slipped. Looking down he saw that the familiar grubby slab stones of Blanche Street had transformed in to a highly polished white floor. Spinning on his heels, Adam found the front door had gone and was replaced by a large white door: its single porthole staring menacingly back at him.

From here, both Adam and the reader are asked to take a leap of faith as they are dropped into a world where comedy and horror sit happily side by side as the true meaning of this ecological disaster story unfolds.

As with all my stories I think carefully about the names I give my character’s to suit the story; as Food for Thought is an ecological warning tale I decided to give all the main characters ‘earthy’ names: Adam, Dale and Ainsley. According to the Old testament’s story, God created Adam, the first man, from clay. Adam’s new work colleague’s name, Dale, means valley while the person at the end of the story who clears up Adam’s mystery of where he, is called, Ainsley which means meadow or clearing.

I was particularly interested in writing an ecological based tale as at the time of writing the first draft there were many stories in the press that were (and still are) real cause for concern. These included the return of foot and mouth disease, mad cow disease, bird flu and the threat posed by Frankenstein Food aka GM crops. All of these things were rich pickings for me, but I also wanted to have some fun spiked within the horror and so I turned to Dolly the Sheep for some inspired inspiration which allowed me to clone the much more iconic Dolly Parton. I included Dolly Parton and Whitney Huston as I had read there was a bit of a spat between these two gay icons over who sang, I Will Always Love You, best. Dolly wasn’t so bothered as she gained huge royalties, but I did enjoy giving that supposed row a bit of an airing. Before Dolly and Whitney make their appearance I introduce the readers to  three brilliant Carry-On comedy icons in the shape of a rubber clad Barbra Windsor, Kenneth Williams and Frankie Howard. For extra scares a clone of  Anne Widdecombe make an unsavory  appearance.
I did have Dolly singing a bit of that famous song both her and Whitney share in common but after a little research I discovered that is a breech of copyright, but song titles are allowed.
Another big no, no in fiction is to wrap up any story with “it was all a dream”. This may be okay for classics like Alice in Wonderland, but readers tend to throw their arms up in the air accompanied by a long, “Nooooo!” With this in mind I didn’t want to have Adam waking up in his bed, in Blanche Street and so I put all the blame on Oliver Reed…. want to know more? then please download the book at amazon.co.uk/Blanche Street: Where all the Neigbours are a Nightmare. at the bargain price £3.59

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Writing 101: Day 12. Dark Clouds on the (virtual) Horizon

Day Twelve: Dark Clouds on the (Virtual) Horizon

Today’s Prompt: Write a post inspired by a real-world conversation.

We don’t write in a bubble — we write in the world, and what we say is influenced by our experiences. Today, take a cue from something you’ve overheard and write a post inspired by a real-life conversation. Revisit a time when you wish you’d spoken up, reminisce about an important conversation that will always stick with you, or tune in to a conversation happening around you right now and write your reaction.

Take time to listen — to what you hear around you, or what your memories stir up.

I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.

– Ernest Hemingway

Today’s twist: include an element of foreshadowing in the beginning of your post.

At its most basic, foreshadowing gives readers a roadmap to what will happen later in your post — a subtle detail planted in the back of a reader’s mind, like a telling piece of dialogue or a strategic mention of an object that hints at what’s to come. When an author tells us there are dark clouds on the horizon, we know something negative will happen soon.

This doesn’t mean your post has to have a Shocking! Twist! à la The Usual Suspects or Shirley Jackson’s classic short story, “The Lottery.” It just means you’ll give readers some clues as you go — a sense of what will happen next, information that might be important later, or a detail that you’ll explain in your conclusion.

We’re ready to go wherever you want to lead us.

Okay, so this a bit of a cheat, using a story from my Blanche Street Tales, but it fits in with the theme and went down a storm at The Brighton Festival last year as part of Tin Can Stories. So here it is:

Sugar Almonds: Based on true events.

“Come on”, said Juliet, tugging at Robert’s arm, “this looks fun!”
The pair grinned with delight at the sight in front of them. Unlike the modern funfairs that ran on the outskirts of town the rides here were more traditional: a carousel, ghost-train and ferris-wheel reaching up high above the trees.
Wandering around the various ‘try your luck stalls,’ Juliet thought that the evening could not get any better, even though Robert had failed to win her a goldfish.
After having a wonderful ride on the carousel the two walked to the far end of the funfair and saw a tent standing all on its own. On closer inspection they saw the tent belonged to, “Romany Rose Lee: Fortune-Teller to the Stars.”
Juliet peered through the beaded curtains covering the doorway and saw an old woman sitting behind a large round table, covered with a green cloth.
Juliet grabbed hold of Robert’s hand as the old woman gestured for them to enter her tent.
With her red headscarf tied tightly across her head, four inch, gold loop earrings and a face full of tramlines, ‘The old woman was really getting into her role,’ thought Robert.
“Cross my palm with silver,” said the old woman, her bony hand reaching across the table. Robert in turn dug into his pocket for change only for the old woman to cough and add, “Or a five pound note will do.”
Tucking the money in her bra-strap the old woman handed Juliet a set of tarot cards to shuffle. She then stroked Juliet’s hand as she took the cards back from her, smiled, then began to place them out in front of her and said, “You’re in love, you’ll have children, one, two, three, four!”
Juliet smiled at Robert, but then turned to see a look of true gravity on the old woman’s face as she continued, “Alas my dear before the night is finished you will experience a horror like never before.”
Juliet fled the tent with the old woman’s cackling laugh sharp in her ears.
Robert ran after his true love and whispered, “I love you.”
As they made their way back through the fair, Juliet saw just how rusty and unstable the ferris-wheel seats looked. The yells from the ghost-train made her quicken her step until they were back in the safety of the brightly lit food stalls.
Still a little shaken, Juliet turned to Robert and said, “What did she mean, I’ll experience a horror like never before?”
Looking at the rolling hot dogs, Robert smiled, “It’s all part of her act, they all say that.” Squeezing her hand, Robert added, “Come on, let’s get something to eat.”
Robert ordered a hotdog with onions, while Juliet settled for a candy-floss. Still a little shaken, Juliet asked if they could go home. Robert smiled, “Of course we can”
Not wanting the night to end too soon, Robert led Juliet through a tunnel of trees that gradually blocked out the moonlight. A shiver ran down Juliet’s spine, as the words of the old gypsy ran through her head, “Alas my dear before the night is finished you’ll experience a horror like never before.”
Her mind then added a long cackling laugh, “hahahahhaha” for extra effect.
Glancing up at the branches, Juliet saw claws ready to pull her up into their clutches away from her love, never to be seen again. She wanted to tell Robert, but deep down she knew she was just being silly. Robert was right, it was just part of the old woman’s act.
Taking a bite of her candy-floss, Juliet even allowed herself to giggle at how childish she had been to believe such nonsense. Rolling the sugar clump around her mouth, she bit down hard and mumbled, “That’s odd.”
Robert was too busy munching on his hotdog to hear what she’d said, and so she carried on. Juliet bit down on the crispy shells entwined within the sugar strands and savoured the bitter almond taste that squirted across her lips and tongue.
Having finished his snack, Robert stuck his mustard slicked tongue in Juliet’s ear and whispered, “I fancy something sweet.”
Pulling away, Juliet squealed, “This is far too nice, I’m keeping it all for myself.”
With that she scooped up a huge wad of floss and pressed it into her mouth, biting down on the crispy shell, savouring the bitter almond taste.
As she did so the branches of the trees parted and the glimmers of moonlight shone down.
Powerless to move, Juliet opened her mouth and released a long, silent, scream.
Unable to help himself, Robert let out a roar of laughter as he stared at what Juliet had thought had been crispy almond shells. For there cocooned amongst the sugary strands where bugs of all sizes, desperately wiggling but unable to get free. Tears rolled down Robert’s face when he spotted a half bitten carcass, its bitter yellow innards dribbling through the pink sugar strands.
As for Juliet? Her screams echoed into the night as the words of the old gypsy woman’s rang in her ears, “Alas my dear before the night is finished you’ll experience a horror like never before.”

Sugar Almonds

Sugar Almonds

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Writing 101: (Day 10) Sanctuary in a Biscuit.

Day Ten: Happy (Insert Special Occasion Here)!

Today’s Prompt: Tell us something about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.

Free free to focus on any aspect of the meal, from the food you ate to the people who were there to the event it marked.

Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.

– Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

The biggest thing that separates you from every other blogger in the world is your voice. Finding (and being confident in) our voices is one of the biggest challenges in writing, and it’s easy to lose our voices when we’re worried about being liked by everyone, or when we compare ourselves to others.

While it’s true that embracing your voice will mean that not everyone loves you, the people who do will love you a lot. Exhibit A: The Bloggess. Is she the only person who writes about parenting, mental health, and cats? Far from it. Is her style for everyone? Nope. Does she have a huge cadre of loyal readers who are drawn to her unique voice? Definitely.

Write today’s post as if you’re relaying the story to your best friend over a cup of coffee (or glass of wine — your call). Don’t worry if it feels like you ramble a bit, or a four-letter-word sneaks in, or it feels different from what you usually publish. Maybe you normally speak more formally — that’s fine, too. Take a deep breath, tell the story in your own words, and send it out the virtual door.

Writing 101 day 10. Sanctuary in a biscuit

thThe mere thought of a Viscount Biscuit brings back a glimmer of  a good memory buried in a time long gone where horror, uncertainty, and abuse also lived. After my dad remarried he took my sister and I to live in the infamous Blanche Street. Misery became part of my everyday life, I felt awkward and alone at my new school, while home life was unpredictable, while fear of violence ruled. So it was a great relieve to know that every Thursday my sister and I would visit my nana for tea; a break from the madness, a return to normality.

Our tea was a simple affair, sandwiches, cups of tea, homemade cakes and the treat: a Viscount chocolate biscuit. The image is clear, green jewelled, chocolate treat, a striking reminder of something good in my life, the love my nana had for my sister and I. A weekly treat, a Viscount Mint Chocolate biscuit, something special to look forward to and for a while take all memories of angry words and cramped conditions of Blanche Street away.
With many years passed, I had forgotten how such a simple gesture of kindness had been core to my childhood memory and evoked so strongly in a green and silver foil wrapper.

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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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