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

urban gothic

C is for clown

Take a lette rof teh alpherbet and write flash horror fiction within half an hour

www.evilclowns.org

C is for clown

C is for clown.
Her name was Fiz, well her name was actually Caroline, but everyone called her Fiz on the account that she was so god damn physically fit! Not that you would recognise Fiz these days, she’s changed. No scratch that, she has transformed into something completely different, not through her own choosing mind.
No one has any idea who was behind the nightmare, but there must have been a world wide group involved because the pandemic spread within days. I think Fiz was the first victim. As much as I miss her, I’m glad it was her who answered the door and saw the package, I know, I know, selfish comment, but she is no longer aware of who she was. To be honest, I’m not sure I would be able to tell her in a line up, not that I would want to put myself through that.
I’m running away with myself now, I need to tell you about the package. I guess Fiz thought it was a gift to her, admirers were forever leaving things on the front step, flowers, chocolates, one guy even left her a teapot, I think it was his way of being romantic, “Let’s meet over tea” something like that. It was a lovely teapot, makes a great brew and the spout never drips.
Sorry, I’m transgressing again aren’t I, where was I? Oh yes the package, it was plain brown paper and string, Fiz might have thought that was quaint, you know plain flicker.comand simple, I don’t think Fiz ever had anything plain or simple in her life, ever. She loved to accessories, I know, I’m digressing, but it will help you get a better idea of who Fizz was. Do you know those, Sobranie cocktail cigarettes? Fiz would coordinate her clothes to match the coloured cocktail cigarettes. She would make me laugh, her funny ways. The ironic thing about the whole situation is that she was never particularly funny, never cracked a joke. Don’t get me wrong, she liked to laugh, more of a titter when she’s had a little bit to drink of fizz but never, never loud, not like that time.
I’m running ahead aren’t I. So, it was a Wednesday morning, I was still in bed, so were our flatmates, Posh-Sarah and King Albert, both have excellent breeding but absolutely hopeless in a crises. I heard Fiz shuffling about downstairs, making herself a cup of tea, no doubt she had a pink Sobranie on the go as she always wore pink pyjamas. I then heard her go to the front door and then there was a long silence, I think she was drinking her tea, bit of toast, cigarette. Then I heard this terrible scream. All three of us came running down to see Fiz sitting at the kitchen table, parcel opened in front of her with Fiz herself holding the side of her face; we all thought she had been slapped.
Fiz was more angry then upset, it took a lot to pull tears from her face. She then pointed a finger at the sprung snake and tin on the floor. It was King Albert who picked the tin up. It transpired to be a joke, one of those fake tins that when you shake it you think there’s something inside, Fiz thought it was jewellery or something, but when she opened it out sprung a fake snake, hitting Fiz on the side of the cheek.
None of us thought much more of it, I think privately we all chuckled to ourselves but that was it. It wasn’t until later in the day that I noticed a white streak across Fiz’s face. At first Fiz wouldn’t believe me, she refused to get out her hand mirror to look, (which belive me was a shock in itself!) It was only when I picked up a magazine,Majesty or Posh I think and pretended to read it that I noticed from the corner of my eye Fiz sneaking her mirror out and having a look. She didn’t say anything, she just got up and went to her room. She was in their for an age, I mean it felt like forever. Eventually I tapped on her door and asked if she was okay. Fiz mumbled something then opened the door a fraction. I was shocked at her red eyes, she had been crying. I don’t think she knew what to do, so she just opened the door a little more and showed me the side of her face. The small white mark had spread rapidly, completely covering the side of her face.
I think Fiz was hoping that I wasn’t seeing what she was seeing, but when she quickly realised I did she yelled, pulled me into her bedroom and slammed the door behind me.
I’d never been in Fiz’s bedroom before, It was a lot messier then I imagined, knickers on the floor, a plate with some unfinshed dinner by the foot of the bed and an ashtray filled with multi-coloured tips. Okay, okay, I’ll get on with the story at hand. Together we went through every lotion and potion Fiz had but nothing would remove the white. It was only while she was trying her Joan Malone face wipes that I noticed her lips getting redder. At first I thought it was because she had been rubbing her face so much or that she was having some kind of allergic reaction to all the stuff she had spread across her face.
Fiz must have seen my face because she started to panic, she ran over to her dressing table and tried to scream, but her face just kind of froze. I was watching her transformation from across the room, reflected in the mirror, it was all so surreal, like I was watching something on the television. The red smear grew into a wide grin, while the white covered her whole face, blue stars sprang up and bled across each eye and her perfect nose blew up big and bulbous. I went to take a step closer to Fiz, only for this chilling chuckle gurgled from her open mouth made me slowly creep out of her room, close the door and run.

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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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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.

Frank-small-small-35

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.”

th-1

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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