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

short story

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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Writing everyday in October: Snap!

Writing every day in October: Snap.

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When I found the roll of film in the drawer, I honestly thought it would be so out of date that there wouldn’t be any images on it, but something told me to take it down to the chemist and get it developed anyway. The woman behind the counter said it would be ready to collect within a fortnight. I had almost forgotten what it was like to wait for something, particularly in this day and age where everything we could want right now is just a click away. To have to wait was in a really silly way exciting, particularly as I couldn’t remember putting the film in the drawer in the first place.
On saying that, this most important thing got quickly forgotten. After a week I had put all thoughts of the film to the back of my mind as I got on with the everyday, mundane things in my life, going to work, coming home, cooking a meal for Lilly, catching up with emails, losing myself in the online news and then bed.
It was at the end of the month when I was getting my daughter, Lilly ready for her dance class that I came across the photo collection slip. Again, part of me was going to screw the slip up and dismiss the idea that there was anything salvageable on the roll, but then Lilly asked what it was in my hand so I explained about how we used to take films to chemists or photo shops to be developed and that there may be some waiting at our chemist.
Lilly got so excited about the prospect of finding a surprise that I got caught up in the excitement that only a child can conjure.So I promised Lilly that I would wait until after her class and that she could be with me when I collected the photos; but I also warned her that she may be disappointed to find all the photos to be blank.
Lilly, ever the optimums, an emotion that is in abundance in the young, but gets dismisses all to quickly as the years pass, said, Daddy, give it a go, you may be really, really surprised.
Although I was warmed by her enthusiasm, I was already bracing myself for her to be upset; after all, life, you know real life, has a knack of serving you up a joker when in the films its always the ace.
While Lilly was at her dance class I caught up on some work on my computer, while sitting in my car. I knew if I could get the right figures together and the spreadsheets to balance then I might be able to give her my undivided attention on Sunday.
As usual, the time went so much quicker then I had wanted it to and I still hadn’t got my work completed. All thoughts of quality time with tLilly got popped into the ‘to do later folder’ in my mind as I closed my lap top and went to pick up Lilly.
Now normally Lilly would come running out telling me all about what dance steps she had learnt, but this time she was so full of excitement about picking up the photos from the chemist. Unlike Lilly, my heart was preparing itself for disappointment. Already I was seeing myself apologising to Lilly as I showed her photo after photo of nothing but blank pictures.
In a blink we were at the chemist with Lilly almost bursting with joy as she handed over the photo slip. As a month had past, it took the chemist some time to find our pack. If i could have persuaded Lilly to leave and do something else I would have done but when Lilly has her heart set on something then she is totally committed in seeing her through; which reminded me again just how much she takes after her mother, Bella.
As soon as the assistant came back with our pack of photos I could tell it wasn’t good news. She did offer to show us, but I said to Lilly it would be better to look at them back home on the sofa, together.
When we got back home we sat down and Lilly opened the envelope and just as I had feared her face dropped as she looked at blank photo after blank photo. I was about to suggest ice-cream for tea, when Lilly turned the last photo and there she saw herself, six months old, being cradled by Bella, her mum, my wife.
In that moment, everything that was precious, every thing that was important was in that single photo that had survived when all the other’s had faded into nothing. Although there where other photo’s of Bella, this was the only one of Bella holding Lilly; work schedules and deadlines where quickly put in the ‘to do folder’ as I sat with Lilly and together we remembered her beautiful mother.

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Writing Everyday in October. Hate: Part 2

Photo from: pppics.com

Photo from: pppics.com

Writing Everyday in October: Hate Part 2.
Writing everyday in October, Hate.
Part two.
The very next day Ronny was surprised to hear someone shuffling around the flat below him. With his ear pressed against a glass which in turn was pressed against his threadbare carpet, Ronny tried his best to make out who it could be. After a while Ronny guessed it must have been the last tenants mum. He made this assumption as the television was on day and night with the favourites programs being reruns of Miss Marple and Columbo, games show’s, Pointless, Only Connect and fifteen to One. In-between these programs the person was an avid fan of the news channels, with a particular interest in news programs about war and any other other destructive topic.
At first Ronny thought that his new neighbour sounded like a kindred spirit, but he quickly put such niceties to one side as he reminded himself just how much he had enjoyed destroying the previous tenants life. With his mind made up, Ronny began his insult of hate by phoning up a whole host of companies, from funeral directors, to double glaze sales men and asked them to visit him; each occasion he gave the address of the person living below.
Ronny then waited for the appointed time he had made his arrangements, watched each tradesperson go through the front door and then got on his hands and knees, with the glass once again press against the floor. Much to Ronny’s annoyance, the new tenant welcomed each of the visitors in, chatted with them for a while, sometimes making them a cup of tea and each occasion the person left without any fuss.
Ronny tried his next trick which was to turn his television and radio up to the highest level while stopping about in his boots but this became more of an annoyance to himself then to the tenant below. Ronny decided that they must be deaf and so gave up on that idea.
After some thinking, Ronny started on his next idea. First he got a bucket, squatted over it and forced the insides of stomach. As his diet mainly consisted tinned food and beer, the smell was rank, making even Ronny gag. He looked in the bucket and quickly realised what he needed to do was to make himself go more, much more.
For the first time in weeks, Ronny left his flat, crept down the stair well and made his way outside. His first stop was the local Pharmacy where he bought six packs of Lax-u-go: super strength. The assistant had told him that one capsule should help any problems, but Ronny just grunted, paid for his goods and left. His next stop was the local fishmongers where he bought some king size prawns and was delighted to hear that needed to be eaten that day. His last stop of point was the ironmongers where he bought a funnel and a length of pipe.
Once he was back at his flat, Ronny placed the prawns on the windowsill; next he went into his kitchen and opened up an array of tinned luncheon meats, tinned potatoes, tapioca, and mushy peas. Ronny then plonked everything in a big bowl and settled himself in front of the telly. At times Ronny had to stop himself from throwing up as he forced the food into his mouth, taking great gulps of beer to wash the fuel for his next prank down.
With just about every scarp of tinned spam and tapioca consumed, Ronny felt he could not move but manged to stumble over to the windowsil and grabbed the plate of prawns. Logic told him he should at least cook them, but Ronny’s plan to traumtise the old woman below had consumed him to the point of no return and so he chomped down on the raw prawns, eating the shell, head and tails. Finally he felt he had reached his limit and fell back into his chair, and stored at the blaring television.
At three in the morning, Ronny was woken up by incredible stomach cramps. Although the pain was crippling, Ronny managed to force a smile as he thought how horrified his neighbour would be when they saw the gift he had made himself was poured through their letter box.
But first Ronny needed to get his gut into action. Each step made him wince as his insides gave a sharp poke, but Ronny knew it was all going to be worth it.
To be continued…

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writing Everyday in October. Hate (part 1)

Writing Everyday in October: Hate. (part 1)

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Ronny hated everybody and everybody who had ever had the misfortune of meeting him hated him back.
The thing with Ronny was he had the knack in spotting someone’s weak spot and digging in deep with some nasty comment. No one was except from Ronny’s vile tongue. He would ridicule someone if they had a lisp, by exaggerating their speech and spit all over them. If a mother’s chid had a visible birthmark, he would pretend he had some dark ages faith and say they their child had the mark of the devil and should have been drowned at birth. One of his neighbours who had a mild tick had become one of Ronny’s favourite victims; whenever Ronny saw the neighbour, he would mention the tick and go on and on about how about how prominent it was which in turn made the tick so much worse. Ronny who had taken great delight in turning the tick into a trauma until eventually the neighbour had a complete break down and tried to burn down his flat. Ronny was even waiting outside the block of flats when the neighbour was taken away. Ronny took great delight in pointing and shouting, “He’s a fucking nut case that one, someone should give him a ticking off!”

As time went by, Ronny spent less time going out and more time staying in but this didn’t stop the hate. He would take great delight in phoning people up at random and telling them that they were being watched and to be very afraid. On one occasion a new neighbour had moved in below Ronny. Once Ronny knew they worked night shifts and needed to sleep during the day, he made sure he played his television and radio on full blast off and on throughout the day. Each time the neighbour complained, Ronny would have the music off and say it must be coming from somewhere else. When he saw he was getting such a stressed out reaction, he kept upping the hate campaign. As well as the noise, he would make appointments for double glazing men, loan sharks and unwanted pizza deliveries to be made when he was sure his neighbour was in a deep sleep. Things came to ahead when he pretended to be his neighbour called up the gas company and fire brigade saying he could smell gas coming from his downstairs neighbour’s flat. On that occasion the fire brigade had to kick down the door. A week after that he heard neighbour had taken his own life. After that the flat stayed empty for some time. Ronny in turn decided that he too would have a break and wait for a new tenant to move. Being able to witness just how powerful his hate could have an effect without having to leave his flat was something Ronny wanted to do again and again and again.

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Writing everyday in October: Waiting

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I remember quite clearly, well nearly. I’d had this huge argument with a neighbour. What the argument was about now I am not so sure. It could have been over my apple tree hanging over her side of the garden. I just don’t think her taking apples is right, do you?…Hang on, I’ve just looked, I don’t even have an apple tree! No, what was it? Was it she who came round and complained about my washing machine being on at an unsociable hour, is 3 p.m. unsociable? or did she say i had the full spin on at 3 a.m …oh I remember now it was…no hang on, it’s gone. You see, the main problem I’ve been having is lack of sleep, which all started when I had an argument with my neighbour about…no, it’s gone again.

At first I ignored it. Not the neighbour, the not sleeping bit. I was so sure my neighbour was spying on me after that incident that I can’t quite remember that I decided the best thing to do was to keep an eye on her. Where my bedroom window is, I can see right in to her garden. I’ve now got the dressing table mirror set up so I can nearly see her back door. I can almost watch her come out, which gives me enough time to duck out of the way. She hasn’t been out yet, or at least I don’t think so, but when she does I’ll be ready for her.

It was only when my back started to ache that I realised that I had gone three whole days without sleeping a wink!

If only I could remember what it was she had done in the first place that had started this whole thing…oh, it’s right on the tip of my tongue, but it keeps slipping away again. Now, you must understand, I’m not paranoid, I just know that if I stop watching then she will take her chance and come out and….Damn If I could just remember what it was she had done.… I had stepped into my garden, she then said…no, it’s gone again.

I feel really pleased with myself, you know I’ve stayed awake now for twelve days.
In the beginning I found it difficult, but in the beginning I took an hour off from looking while I had my dog, Ginger, stand by the window while I gathered a few supplies, food, water and a bucket to you know what in. I knew that if my neighbour even glanced up at my house, then Ginger would have barked, but she was quiet, that is I mean, Ginger, not my neighbour who did that thing that I can’t quite remember. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen Ginger in days, I would go and check but who would keep guard of the window? Oh I’m sure she’s fine. She’s very clever, if I had the time i would teach her to do those tricks that woman who cheated on Britain’s Got Talent got her dog to do. Ginger is a good dog, a clever dog; she would have got into her food cupboard by now, that I’m sure off.

Yesterday I suddenly became aware of a terrible smell. At first I thought it was the bucket but was really surprised to find out it was me! I think that’s why Ginger stays out of the bedroom.
Ginger?! Ginger?! No, she’s having one of her moods, I can well imagine she’s curled up on the rug downstairs.

It’s funny the things you get use to, the routine of looking, the smells getting ever more pungent, not just from me but from downstairs too, I think it’s the bin, it has to be the bin, what else could it be? My hair is quite matted, I should have grab a brush at the same time as my other supplies, but it’s not essential, not when I have this important task at hand.
Nothing is more important to me then catching my neighbour, if only I could remember what it was she had done, perhaps when she come out into her garden I can ask her.

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Writing everyday in October: Don’t Scream!

After all that screaming, the quiet seems deafening. Looking around, nothing is normal. That stain over there will it ever come out. Strange the things you think of as important but on the grand scheme of things that stain that has a life of its own is the least of my worries, and yet I do worry, always have. Worried what my mother thinks, worried what the neighbours think, worried what my more successful sister thinks, worried what people at work think, Blimey, I even worried what the cat thinks!

I wonder if it’s the same rule as red wine? What was it my mother swore by, salt on the stain or was it white wine that has some kind of magical power. I would give her a call but she’ll only ask why its so quiet. I could look it up on the computer, but that is stain splattered too! Such a messy screaming match!

Seriously though, bleach is the only thing that’s going to shift it, I’m so pleased I managed to get out of the house yesterday and got the weekly shop done… there will be a fresh bottle under the sink…and some clean cloths, but that is such a waste. I’ll get the rag bag out from under the sink and use them.

Now as I sit here I feel so calm, something that has been missing for months! The neighbours will be pleased. I almost want to pop round and tell them, knock on every door and say that  all those months of shouting has now come to an end, but they will find out soon enough.

Maybe it will be best if I just leave things as they are, I wonder if it will be like on the television detective shows when they have those all in one white paper suits.

Oh my! I’ve just seen myself in the mirror, I’ve still got the hammer in my hand, I thought I was feeling quite relaxed now that the shouting is over, but I can’t loosen the grip, thankfully it isn’t that heavy. Not much more then a toffee hammer, but it has done the trick, shut him up once and for all. All that screaming, all that shouting; looking at him you wouldn’t think he would have said boo to a goose, but behind closed doors…

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Writing Everyday in October: Telephone.

IMG_3655Telephone.

The toilet had been a place to step out of the engulfing fog more then anything else. Thankfully it wasn’t one of those rank smelling ones Jess found herself in, in fact it looked like it had only been recently opened to the public.
Not wanting to look like a creep, Jess stepped into a cubical, tipped the toilet seat down with the tip of her shoe, and sat down. She was about to get her phone out of her bag when she saw a phone number neatly written at the top of the door. Jess paused as she went to call her parents to tell then that this time she had left George for good this time, but instead she found herself punching in the numbers from the toilet door.

It was only when the phone started to ring that she realised what she was doing and hung up. She then scrolled through her list of M’s until she got to Mum & Dad and pressed dial but only got the engaged tone.
Thinking how silly it was to be sitting in a public toilet, Jess stood up when she heard someone else come in the toilet. Without thinking why, Jess called out, “Hello?” but no one answered. She tried again, but whoever it was ignored her call and went into the cubical next to her.

Jess sat back down again and leaned forward enough to see a pair of black leather boots with a spiked heel through the partition.
Jess stared at the boots when suddenly her phone rang. Jumping up, she rummaged through her bag and saw it was, Mum & Dad calling. Now with someone else in ear shot, Jess felt really conspicuous as she pressed answer and whispered, “Hello.”

It was her mum on the other end, “Jess? Is that you? It’s a very bad line.”
Again, Jess found it difficult to speak up, without really knowing why. “Yes, mum, it’s me. I’ve left George.”

Jess’s mum raised her voice, even though it wasn’t necessary, “Sorry darling, You’ll have to speak up. George called said you and he had had an argument and that he was worried. He said you had taken the car. Jess, are you there?”
Jess raised her voice above a whisper as she heard the person next door move, their heels clicking on the tiled floor, “Yes, mum, i’m…” before she could continue, her phone bleeped telling her there was a call waiting. Pulling the phone from her ear, Jess looked to see the number was from the toilet wall, without thinking, Jess pressed answer. At the same time the person next door left their cubical and tapped on Jess’s door.

Jess held the phone to her ear, a voice said, “It’s time Jess, come on, i’m waiting for you outside.

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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 Nineteen. Free Writing.

Day Nineteen: Don’t Stop the Rockin’
Today is a free writing day. Write at least four-hundred words, and once you start typing, don’t stop. No self-editing, no trash-talking, and no second guessing: just go. Bonus points if you tackle an idea you’ve been playing with but think is too silly to post about.
I want you to let it all hang out. So does writer Anne Lamott. At the risk of turning Writing 101 into an Anne Lamott fan club, no one motivates me the way she does. Every time you sit down to write and think your idea is too stupid, too uninteresting, too random, or too unoriginal to be committed to the page, let Anne give you a gentle but firm nudge:

The rational mind doesn’t nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.
Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.
Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.
I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good at it.

You’ll never feel so good about writing down every half-baked non-sequitur that comes out of the recesses of your lizard brain. And if you’re tempted to reply, “That’s easy for her to say, she’s a famous writer!” I give you:

I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much.

Four-hundred words. One at a time. Go.

For an extra prompt I used, The Writer’s Block: a 786 paged book filled with photos, writing prompts and ideas… the prompt I picked is at the end of this tale. Please read the story first.

Photo by me
I don’t think I have ever known the house to be this quiet. Come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever known any place in my lifetime to have been this quiet. As I walk from room to room, I pick up sounds that must have always been there, but I’ve never been given the chance to take that much notice of them.

In the kitchen there is the soft humming of the fridge freezer, while in the front room there is the sound of the clock ticking. I have always wanted one of those clocks that chimes or one that has a cuckoo clock that pops out on the hour. Maybe now I can.

As I step into the backroom, I can hear the birds chirping in the garden, It would be nice to know which birds are making which noise; maybe later, now I have more time on my hands I could get a book from the library and find out just which birds visit the garden. I think you can get a tape that lists all the birdsongs, maybe that would be better.

As I take to the stairs, I am reminded of the creak the third step always makes followed by the seventh and tenth. Over the years I have thought how easy it would be to fix it, to hammer a nail in. I look at the nail-file in my hand; I’d forgotten I was still gripping it so tight. If I had a hammer I would fix those stairs right now. I would really hammer those nails in so the stairs never made another sound ever again.

Instead I’ll put it off for another time, for now I’m just really enjoying the near silence of the house as it talks back to me. The bathroom has its own way as much as the rest of the rooms in the house. Here it’s the dripping tap, it’s been like that for as long as I can remember. There is a big yellow stain where the water has dripped over the years. Makes you think what is really in the water that would cause such a stain.

The back bedroom looks over the gardens. Our garden faces another garden at the back. In all this time I have never met my neighbour. There have been times I’ve seen her pottering about when I’ve been up here, but she has never looked up. I have often made up stories in my head about who she is. Sometimes she’s married with a handsome husband and five beautiful children, on other occasions I see her as a spinster, having never met the love of her life, always dreaming of the one; and then I think that she’s trapped as I had been for so many years. On those days I shudder.

As I walk into the front bedroom, I smile at the sunlight as it streams through the windows. I have never liked this bedroom but today it feels so much nicer, quieter. In here the only sound I can hear is my breathing which is so much calmer now. I look onto the bed and see what I had to do to make the house a better, quieter place. I walk over to the side of the bedside cabinet, with one eye on the bed just in case, I carefully place the nail-file into the drawer, sit on the edge of the bed and pick up the phone.

“Hello, I would like to talk to the police.”

 

Photo by me

writer’s block,prompt

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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!

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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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