The temperature dropped about 10 degrees today, so I’m guessing that’s summer over. Therefore it seems reasonable to remind folk about my five Xmas scares in ‘Frightful’. It’s also a nice little intro to my writing if you’re having a look for the first time.
For a few days you can download FRIGHTFUL for FREE! Xmas has come early!
Hi all. Just a quick update and promo. ‘Unlucky Numbers’ – one of my suspense / horror short story collections – is currently free to download for a couple of days. Here’s the link if you’d like to get it:
Just a quick one to let you know that the latest ebook is out. BITTERLY is essentially a short story collection, but with a difference. All twelve stories are set in the same sleepy village. Story 1 and story 12 are basically bookends – they act as prologue and epilogue to the larger tale of a moors fire that unleashes something ancient and evil from the hillside and into the village. The ten tales in between are ten separate instances of suspense and horror, in some way or other brought about by whatever it is that’s ‘in the water’, or ‘blowing in the wind’. They can be read as isolated tales or as part of the bigger picture. It’s entirely up to the reader. So, something a bit different; who knows if it’ll work, but I’m proud of all twelve pieces!
A CHARACTER BY ANY OTHER NAME MIGHT STILL MEET A GRISLY END!
Naming characters is an interesting part of the writing process. Sometimes it’s absolutely crucial to get the right sounding name – and I can agonise over it for days – and sometimes it’s just a case of picking something that sounds age appropriate, and not too similar to one that I’ve used before.
Then there is the other way of naming characters, and I’ve done this once before. Naming them after readers. Only because they want me to, of course! There’s a couple of characters in Portentous 2 named this way, and I’d like to do it again.
Here’s the situation. At the end of next week, my latest short story collection, ‘Bitterly’ comes out. All the stories are set in the same village, so it means there’s quite a large cast – quite a number of new names to conjure up.
If you would like your name – or part of it – to feature in the book, then here’s the deal. Give me an Amazon review, on any of my other titles before the end of April 15th, and I will use your name for a character. It would also be useful if you messaged me about it, so I have it confirmed that you would like me to use said moniker! Of course, it goes without saying that the character would no way represent you (no intentional similarities to people living or dead blah blah blah) as they are already written. I’ll just swap out the name.
This could be a bit of fun, so if you fancy it, let me know!
I started ‘The Deleted’ last summer, put it down for a little while, then finished it in February. I say that straight off the bat, because a couple of people have asked if I wrote it with COVID-19 in mind. Not at all. Hadn’t paid it any attention when I typed THE END, and it had yet to reach the UK at that point. And yet, there are some parallels to social distancing, which wasn’t a phrase I (we) knew at the time, so you won’t find it in there…
The main plot of the novel centres around the internet-based computer game of the title. The premise of the game is that you walk through villages and towns, streets and alleyways, and the whole point is to not touch anyone. To not rub shoulders with a passer by. If you knock them at all they become agitated, and if you touch them too much they delete. To do well in the game you keep your distance. Sounds oddly prophetic now.
I guess when I was looking at a fear to exploit in this book, I was thinking of the idea of personal space. When the characters in the game ‘Delete’ then they come for you in real life and invade your space, and possibly worse. Personal space is a big deal at the minute – all two metres of it – and there are some uncomfortable moments in the book where that is violated. More uncomfortable than intended, I guess, given the current climate. There’s nothing much scarier than the combination of other people and an invisible threat.
Coronavirus aside, there are other points I’d like to mention about ‘The Deleted’ in a ‘story behind the story’ way. (Potential spoilers coming…) The book is from the perspective of mum-of-two, Laura Chance. The behaviour of her estranged husband, Martin, is one of the things she has to deal with. However, for the first month of this story’s existence, and probably for the first five chapters at that time, the gender roles were the other way around! Martin was going to be the character raising two teens. Laura was going to be the wayward parent with all the problems. Martin was going to find some solace at work with a character called Nel…
So why change it? I think it was because as it went on, Martin was basically a version of me, and I wanted to guard against that. Plus, I’d written a couple of female-led stories in ‘A Very Bad Year’ – MOG in particular – that got me thinking about a mother’s bond with her kids. I opted for the swap, the switcheroo. I probably didn’t do justice to being a mum, in the way I might have been able to from a dad perspective, but I still think the novel is richer for having a female protagonist. I think I made the right call.
Another thing. I mentioned a character called Nel a couple of paragraphs ago. She became Sean in the novel. However, at first it was a switch from Nel to Niall, retaining the approximate sound of the name. Sean was called Niall all the way through writing, probably until the last two chapters! Then I remembered that one of my main characters in ‘Corner House’, Coop, had the first name of Niall, and I thought that I should make the change in ‘The Deleted’. It was then a big ‘Find and Replace’ job – Sean for Niall! All good in the end!
At the moment I can’t think of any other little insights for ‘The Deleted’, but if I do I’ll post them.
For now, stay safe, and stay out of the way of other people – in real life as well as in fictitious and sinister computer games…
My new novel ‘The Deleted’ is now available on Amazon download. It tells the story of the Chance family and how they get caught up in a sinister computer game that bleeds into real life and won’t let go of them…
Amazon haven’t quite got their shizz together at the time of writing, and have yet to include the ‘look inside’ feature or the page count. Not sure of an accurate page count after formatting, but I’m confident it’s around the 300+ mark. As for a look inside, here’s the prologue:
LUKE THRELFALL KNEW HE NEEDED TO LEAVE. There was a man outside the pub who was tailing him, had walked all the way from Luke’s house to the main door of the Darby Inn. Now all it took was some punter loitering in the entrance – fumbling over his smokes or propping the door open for a prolonged chat with someone on the street – for him to slip inside.
It. Probably best to think of him as an it.
They were in the alcove at the front of the pub that housed the pool table, and although the windows were frosted in part with the name and crest of the Darby Inn, Luke had seen it shuffle by, it’s fat bald head unmistakeable. Since then he’d not really been engaged in what Dermot and his two mates were doing, but only had eyes for the intermittent swing of the vestibule door by the entrance. He thought of that little entrance nook as being like a time locked chamber; it might get through the front door but then it would be delayed slightly in that cramped space. But not for long.
He had to tell Dermot he was leaving.
He waited for his friend to stand up from his shot. He held the cue like a staff and shook his head. ‘Can’t believe I missed that pot.’
‘Derm – I’ve got to go.’
‘What? We’ve been here for like, an hour.’ His t-shirt tightened across his chest as he turned square on to Luke. He was a head taller than him.
‘It’s just pubs, drinking; you know it’s not my thing.’
‘Yeah, I do know. Ollie’s sat on his own over there having to suffer texts from his girlfriend because you won’t play doubles.’
‘Derm, I don’t even know how to hold the cue properly.’ The vestibule door swung open. Luke fixed on it. He only breathed again when he saw it was a couple of girls. ‘Thanks for the invite, but I’m heading off.’
Dermot moved him away from the edge of the pool table so that Ollie and Matt didn’t overhear. ‘Look, I’m just trying to get you to be more sociable. Uni is over for the year, you’ve got the whole summer ahead of you. I can’t have you staying indoors twenty-four hours a day, playing computer games.’
‘I like computer games.’ It came out more defiantly than he intended.
Dermot raised an eyebrow, stared at him like a gauntlet had been dropped. ‘Alright, Luke the Lord. You’ve done nothing but play on your phone anyway since I picked you up. If you’re going, you’re going. Are you gonna call a cab?’
That would mean waiting. Tempting fate. The vestibule door swung open again. A middle-aged man came through, rubbing his hands. No confused-looking bald guy. Not yet.
‘No, I think I’m going to walk.’ Or run, he thought. Initially it will involve some running.
‘It’s about three miles back to your mum’s. Call a taxi. If it’s because you haven’t got a number-’
The vestibule door swung again, and this time Luke got a glimpse of him – it – now a step up and under the roof of the Darby Inn. It looked at him, eyes alert and anxious, fixed in the expression it had worn ever since Luke had pushed it over.
‘I’m going now. Bye.’ Luke turned and headed for the back door.
‘You haven’t finished your drink!’
Luke glanced back, intending to tell Dermot to finish it for him, but then he saw it had found its way in and was walking towards him, adjacent to the bar. Luke flapped a hand of acknowledgement at his friend and hurried through to the far side of the pub.
There was a slight bottle neck by the toilets, and he had to push past a girl to get through the gathering and out into the open air. All sorts of abuse was hurled at him. He didn’t mind; as long as no one grabbed him and held him up. He trotted through the car park and onto the pavement before turning around.
It was still to fully extricate itself from the building. It needed someone else to push open the back door. Somebody would eventually, but for now it meant Luke had a lead. Only a short one, and he would run part of the way home to extend it, but at least he now felt a little more at ease.
It would give him another entry to add to the forum. His first meaningful one had been yesterday when it had appeared in front of his house. Then when he had pushed it over in his driveway. Now he could build on that and say he’d been part of a pursuit.
Not right now though. First he had to get himself back, safe behind a locked door. He didn’t hang around to see if it made it onto the car park; he’d had enough excitement for one evening.
He turned left, in the direction of home, and started running.