Happy Halloween from the Grim Reader

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A friend of mine had fun idea to invite a few folk I chat with through social media to draw an image of their favorite horror movies using a drawing program on their Mac or PC. I wanted to get as many as possible for this but unfortunately October has been a crazy busy month for me personally and I haven’t had much opportunity to promote the idea. The few that did contribute receive my undying gratitude for their efforts and their works are featured below (my effort is the one above :-P).

Social media is a scary place sometimes, and there are a lot of unpleasant folk out there, but there are also some very good people too, people I enjoy conversing with about books, movies, horror, music, anything really. I am grateful for their friendship and the support they give to this site.

I also want to give a shout-out to all the other bloggers and websites out there that bust a gut in  promoting artists from all the different scenes and genres. I have only been doing this for around 6 months, I love it, but it is time consuming and when I finish my degree next year I have no doubt that things will definitely slow right down. I am a one man show. I study full-time at university and am a husband and father of two. I have spent hundreds of hours trying to get the word out about books, publishers and writers that I love and respect because I love the genre and the people involved. There has been a huge amount of support from friends on social media and other bloggers and so I just want to take this opportunity to say thank you to you all. Have a great Halloween and keep on reading, because without you I am nothing.

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  1. Hocus Pocus by Jessica McHugh – visit the McHughniverse and find out about Jessica’s books and more here.

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2. The Shining by Joe Young – Joe is a fellow contributor at Ginger Nuts of Horror and is a dab hand with computer art as you can see.

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3. Halloween by Michael Patrick Hicks – Michael is another fine author. Find out more about his work here.

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4. Children of the Corn by Lydian Faust – I love this one. I love them all but this movie is one of my faves. Find out more about Lydian here.

Thanks for stopping by 🙂

BTB Storytellers episode 10: Erik Hofstatter talks RARE BREEDS

 

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Originally from the Czech Republic but now residing in the UK, Erik Hofstatter is a writer whose work continues to impress. I really enjoyed his short story collection ‘Amaranthine & Other Stories’, released earlier this year (you can read my review here) and his recently released novella ‘Rare Breeds’ through Dark Silo Press is one of my favorite novellas of 2016. I reviewed that a couple of weeks back too so check it out here. Hofstatter is a writer you never know what to expect. Each release is very different from his last, exemplified perfectly by ‘Rare Breeds’ which has more than a couple of WTF moments! I found myself lost within this story of Aurel and Zora and the bizarre twist that occurs left me quite speechless. This book is impossible to put down and the ending is one of the very best I have read this year. It also features some great art inside that adds even more darkness to the tale.

I was stoked when Erik agreed to write a Storytellers piece about this excellent novella. Find out more from Erik Hofstatter in the links at the end of this terrific piece and thanks, as always for the contribution.

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Rare Breeds

By

Erik Hofstatter

Hemoglobin is the protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues and returns carbon dioxide from the tissues back to the lungs. It’s also a title of lesser-known and underrated Canadian horror flick. The film is adapted from H.P. Lovecraft’s short story The Lurking Fear (concerning a prominent but incestuous Dutch family, inhabiting tunnels under their abandoned mansion after mutating into goblin-like creatures due to years of inbreeding) and stars Rutger Hauer. Despite its many flaws and onslaught of negative reviews, the B-movie holds a special place in my heart. My childhood best friend liberated a VHS copy from his parents and we watched it in secret in my room. I was about thirteen. The deformed grotesques induced nightmares but at such tender age, I failed to grasp the deeper meaning of the film—I was only terrified by the visual aspect. When I re-watched it years later with more matured eyes, the film awoke a philosopher in me and I began to ponder bloodlines and families. I recall a visceral scene, forever embedded into my memory. When the creatures are finally confronted in their tunnel by the community, they attack everyone—except John, the main character. He scoops up a body of one of the fallen islanders and carries it to the deformities. They feast together as he realises that they share the same appetites and that he is in fact, a lost descendant of their family. John’s girlfriend is crying, begging him to come with her so they can go home. He veers around, gazes at her with one eye blue and the other brown (a hereditary eye trait of the Dutch family) and says: “I am home.” I adore that scene. I thought that was the heart of the film. The acceptance of who you really are and where you belong can be a beautiful tragedy.

When I began writing Rare Breeds almost two decades later, I decided that the story would be my tribute to Lovecraft. A dysfunctional and (possibly) incestuous family is involved, residing on a close-knit island community and harbouring a multitude of depraved secrets. The story is set on Isle of Sheppey (ideal location for inbreeding, I hear!). Like John in the film, Aurel was the one that “got away” from his deranged clan. He relocated into a faraway town and blended into society. However, he still yearned for an heir of his own and after a multitude of failed relationships, he finally married Zora—a woman significantly older than him and burdened with a daughter from a previous marriage. She was reluctant to provide Aurel with kids, blaming age on her refusal. A vital detail Aurel did not consider. He seeks solace in the arms of his twin sister, Cornelia, who dwells in abandoned tunnels. Aurel shares his frustration and together they formulate a cunning solution to satisfy his cravings. The novella explores many subjects that intrigue me, including sleepwalking, astral projection, and genetics.

As I wrote, the story adopted a more complex form. I drifted with the current, away from my original destination. One night, I stumbled upon a shocking genetic condition. The article stated:

“Approximately one in eight childbirths are thought to start as multiple pregnancies and occasionally cells from the miscarried siblings are sometimes absorbed in the womb by a surviving twin.”

I figured that this riveting discovery would enrich the story. It was mind-blowing. I completed the first draft within three months and was pleased with the metamorphosis. What began as a simplistic tale of incest morphed into something much more sinister. The piece covers a vast distance in its puny length, ensuring the reader will be entertained with every page (if you feel otherwise, you may tweet me but I’ll just put my Russell Crowe on, shout: “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?” and throw a sword in your face). I’ve sent the original version to my beta readers and although the feedback was positive, I disliked my own style. The sentences flowed but the stream was contaminated with awkwardness that had to be eliminated. There were also several incidents where suspension of disbelief proved impossible. When I pitched the synopsis to Brian Kaufman of Dark Silo Press, he confirmed my fears. I assured him of my intention to strip the manuscript and include a full rewrite. To my good fortune, he embraced the suggestion and the project was accepted. Together we licked it into shape and I’m proud of the result. But still, the irony remains. You can read the finished product in under an hour, yet many readers are oblivious to the aeons we sacrifice to produce manuscripts. Writing is a hungry beast and consumes many hours. The blood, sweat, and tears writers pour into their art are often overlooked. But the sacrifices are willingly made. It’s who we are. It’s what we do. We are Rare Breeds.

Visit Erik Hofstatter at his website here.

Visit Dark Silo Press here.

Pick up a copy of RARE BREEDS from here.

Visit Erik Hofstatter’s Amazon page here.

Find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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Book review: Pretty, Pretty Princess – Shane McKenzie

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Shane McKenzie strikes me as the type of writer not afraid of experimentation. In the past few months he has gone from hardcore horror with ‘Monster’s Don’t Cry’ to this bizarre little number ‘Pretty, Pretty, Princess’, recently published by Blood Bound Books.

I think it is one of those books you will either like or dislike from the off. Thankfully, this is just the sort of daft, hilarious tale I was looking for. It feels like more of a long novella rather than a novel and it works really well. If you can imagine a cross between Manga anime and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ then you are halfway there to understanding what you are getting yourself into.

The story revolves around our bizarre leads Gavin and Prince Francis of Granada. Francis is a loveless loser who wanders from his wealthy kingdom into the realm to promote P.E.T.P (an acronym for Princes for the Ethical Treatment of Princesses!). On his travels, Francis is accompanied by his wise-cracking pig Gavin (the real star of the show). Gavin is a foul-mouthed, ass-kicking, pork-sword wielding hog that has the filthiest of mouths and the shortest of tempers and steals every scene in the book with his great dialogue and no-nonsense attitude.

‘Pretty, Pretty Princess’ is a bizarre, bloody, highly-sexed homage to Disney, in a weird way that it makes a mockery of the entire organisation and its visual output. McKenzie has a wild imagination and the story is highly entertaining, leaving this reader with a huge smile on his face. Featuring a host of interludes in the way of songs this book isn’t for the easily offended, but those wishing to try out something completely different should really give it a go. I can imagine Shane had a hell of a lot of fun writing this and I know I sure did when reading it.

Pick up a copy of this book from here.

BTB Storytellers episode 9: Lindsey Beth Goddard talks ASHES OF ANOTHER LIFE

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I thought I’d throw a couple of Storytellers episodes at you this weekend seen as it is rapidly approaching Halloween. The first of which is a spotlight on Lindsey Beth Goddard and her most recent release through Omnium Gatherum called ‘Ashes of another Life’, an emotionally haunting tale that is perfect for this time of year (I will have a full review of it soon).

Lindsey Beth Goddard has been published in a whole host of magazines and anthologies, from ‘Morpheus Tales’, ‘Dark Moon Digest’ and ‘Girls Rock Horror Harder’ to recent appearances in the ‘Fresh Fear’ anthology and ‘The Black Room Manuscripts Volume II’. As well as writing prose, Lindsey also writes poetry and you can find links to her work at the bottom of this article. As always thanks to Lindsey for taking the time to stop by and chat with the Grim Reader.

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ASHES OF ANOTHER LIFE

By

Lindsey Beth Goddard

Hm. Let’s see. What can I say about this book? For starters, it was more difficult to write than I had originally anticipated. The character development got pretty intense for a novella. I dove into my characters’ heads and plucked out only what mattered most, the traits I felt would make the biggest impact on the reader.

I started with a manhunt, drizzled in some bloodshed, sprinkled in a horde of undead burn victims, seasoned the whole thing with the charred and crumbling remains of a haunted past, turned up the heat and let that baby simmer… for a full year. Yeah, it took me over a year to write those 34,000 words. Don’t judge me! Ashes of Another Life is a melting pot of madness and mystery.

The plot has a lot of interwoven elements that (I hope) serve to thicken the suspense. No single character can be summed up as simply “good” or “evil”. The villains have their reasons – motives to their mayhem, you could say- and that’s exactly the way I wanted it. What better way to demonstrate the complexity, the corruption, and the utter destruction living in a cult wreaks upon the people involved?

The Sweet Springs cult is my own creation. You won’t find the town of Sweet Springs, Arizona on any map. The cast is purely fictional. Yet the idea for this story came from a brutal reality: the true-life horror of a cult known as the FLDS.

In late 2013, I became obsessed with reading the biographies of former FLDS members. I pored over these non-fiction accounts of child marriages, molestation, growing up poor and polygamous, the oppression of women, the mass killings of dogs and cats in the community (as ordered by the prophet to eliminate the distraction of pets). I developed a strong respect for those who found the strength to escape this warped religion.

I was fascinated by books such as ‘Escape’ by Carolyn Jessop, ‘Lost Boy’ by Brent Jeffs, and ‘Stolen Innocence’ by Elissa Wall. I could not believe how these people had been abused by their church and what they had gone through to escape its clutches. And there you have it: the other reason this little book was a challenge to write. I wanted to expose the ideology and seclusion of this long-protected cult in my story, but I didn’t want to paint my characters in a way that would exploit or demean the real-life survivors, who had inspired me with their brave testimony.

I hope I handled the subject matter with finesse, all while scaring the pants off my readers. I hope the terror sticks with my readers long after the book ends, just like the stench of burning corpses my main character can’t seem to unsmell.

Ashes of Another Life began as a novelette, but Tara Jane’s story needed more depth. Having lost my only sister in my late teens (the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through) I thought to myself: Use that anger. Use that grief.

What if this character, this girl who escaped a dangerous cult when her family burned to death in a fire, what if she can’t forgive herself for surviving? What if she is plagued by thoughts that she could have saved them, could have done more – utterly haunted by the memory of the fire?

Ashes of Another Life went from novelette to novel. Then, when I took out my axe and chopped away the fat, a novella was born. Just like Goldilocks, it took me a few tries to discover what was “just right”. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

Writing is a journey, and I enjoyed this one. I’d be lying if I said my head never hit the keyboard in frustration. A year is a long time to spend on a novella. At least, I feel like it is. In the end, though, it was totally worth it. It’s a damn good book. I highly recommend it! 🙂

 

Pick up a copy of ASHES FROM ANOTHER LIFE from here.

Official website:http://www.LindseyBethGoddard.com

Social Media:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLindseyGoddard
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindseyBethGodd
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+LindseyGoddard/posts
Tumblr: http://lindseygoddard.tumblr.com
Blog: www.DirtyLittleHorror.com

Book review: Some will not sleep – Adam Nevill

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Adam Nevill is one of the writers responsible for my love of reading horror fiction. I remember some years ago getting an email from Amazon with book recommendations. Among the recommendations was the novel ‘The Ritual’ by Adam Nevill. I loved the cover and so had a read of the synopsis. I was sold! Nevill’s book took me on a frightening journey into the Scandinavian wilderness as a small group of friends seek to reconnect with each other. This harrowing tale is full of macabre images and has some truly frightening scenes. After finishing this I was forever going to be a Nevill fan.

‘Some will not Sleep’ is a collection of eleven literary horror stories that span Nevill’s career and serves as a proverbial feast of elegantly crafted horror fiction from one of the very best in the business. What strikes me most about this collection is that even the earlier stories show a writer in total command of his prose. Nevill’s work is always a pleasure to read and I love how his stories crescendo steadily towards unimaginable horrors. The writing is sublime, often thoughtful and atmospheric. Nevill’s characters are fully realized, always, and even in shorter works it is easy to become attached to them. There is great variety on show with this collection, the stories contained within ‘Some will not Sleep’ are varied in both scope and tone, featuring intriguing plots, a lingering sense of dread and the constant feeling that something isn’t quite right. It isn’t often that I read a short story collection and enjoy every entry, but with this book I did. Personal favorites were ‘ The Original Occupant’ and the fantastic opening tale ‘Where Angels Come In’, though I was totally engrossed reading every one. At the books end there is an essay from Adam that tells the story of how this book was created and a little bit about the horrors that lurk within its pages.

On top of all this it’s clear that Adam Nevill is a writer who takes great pride in his work. This shows through both the editing, layout and the wonderful cover image. ‘Some will not Sleep’ is released on Halloween and I can see no better book to ring in this wonderful time of the year. Excellent stuff.

Pick up a copy from Adam’s website, where you can get this collection in gorgeous hardcover here., or buy from Amazon here.

Guest post: John McNee talks about the value of crap horror!

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I love it when writers whose work I have enjoyed chip in with a guest post. Today, John McNee, author of ‘Prince of Nightmares’ (Blood Bound Books) which I reviewed here talks about Shaun Hutson and crap horror, in general, highlighting the value it provided him as an aspiring writer. John is the author of the before-mentioned ‘Prince of Nightmares’ as well as ‘Grudge Punk’ and ‘Petroleum Precinct: Grudge Punk 2’.

Before we progress with this great piece, please listen to this snippet from ‘Prince of Nightmares’, read by John McNee by clicking the link below. This book is great nightmare fuel and should be on everybody’s Halloween reading list! Thanks heaps to John for contributing this great article.

John McNee reads from Prince of Nightmares.

INHERITANCE, HUTSON, HUNGER AND THE VALUE OF CRAP HORROR

by 

John McNee

As writers, as readers, as human beings, as a society, we perpetually underestimate the importance of crap horror. I don’t mean so-bad-it’s-good entertainments like ‘Troll 2’ that manage to endear through their own ineptitude and provide a few laughs along the way. That stuff works, just not the way it’s supposed to. I’m talking about the stuff that doesn’t work. The books, films and TV shows that are just a bit shit. The kind of stuff that’s neither good enough nor bad enough to be treasured by anyone. But it can still be worth something.

Ask an author or film-maker in the horror community about their influences and you’re going to see a lot of the same names and titles listed (especially around this time of year). There are authors and film-makers we aspire towards. There are works we long to equal. But inspiration doesn’t work so logically and to pretend it’s only great books and great films that get the our creative juices flowing is totally false. The artists of the world owe a debt of gratitude to a lot more trash than they’re letting on.

To give an example that I know will outrage some people…

As a kid, I used to read a fair bit of Shaun Hutson, not because his books were good, but because I thought they were crap. Novels like ‘Captives’ and ‘Breeding Ground’ had more than enough sex and violence to keep an adolescent mind interested, but even that didn’t make up for the woeful plots, cardboard characters and dreadful dialogue, in my eyes. Yet the local charity shop was full of his books every time I walked in. I thought they were embarrassingly bad, but I couldn’t deny that Hutson was a hugely successful author. And to a young kid who aspired towards a career in writing fiction, this was tremendously encouraging. “If someone as shit as this can not only be published, but amass a huge fan base,” I thought, “Then there is hope for me.”

I didn’t get that same sense of hope from reading Clive Barker or Ray Bradbury or Kathe Koja. These were geniuses, working at a level that I could never aspire to. Reading them was a privilege but a pain, because when I compared their writing to mine all I wanted to do was give up.

When I read Hutson, the message I got was: “Oh relax, it ain’t so tough.”

And that, I found, really helped to lift the psychological pressure – a gift that shouldn’t be underestimated.

I’ve since developed a more genuine fondness for Hutson’s work (his remarkable enthusiasm and influence defies criticism) but back then it was his worst writing that gave me hope.

By way of another example, let me ask you a question: Did you notice how nobody ever seems to talk about the 1978 horror feature ‘The Legacy’? Did you notice that?

If people do talk about it, it’s usually only because it’s the film on which Hollywood couple Katharine Ross and Sam Elliott first hooked up. It might also ring a bell to fans of the film work of The Who’s Roger Daltry, who meets a particularly gruesome end via the combo of chicken bone and amateur tracheotomy.

But the film itself does not have much of a reputation. Among those who’ve seen it, it is not commonly regarded as a good horror film. Which it is not. Not really.

And I don’t know what age I was when I first saw it. Nine? Ten years old? Either way: It absolutely terrified me. It wasn’t the chicken bone scene that did it (not just that), or the death by drowning one character endures when she goes swimming in a pool that suddenly freezes over (though that left its mark) or the villainous nurse’s creepy habit of turning into a cat.

It was the clean room. To give you a quick run-down of the plot – almost all of the characters are distant relatives called to a mansion where the elderly owner is dying and looking to pass on his ‘legacy’. This is explained to the guests as they sit on one side of a glass wall, their would-be benefactor on the other side, in a hospital bed hidden by white curtains, whispering instructions in a voice so distorted it barely sounds human.

Late in the film, Katharine Ross finally breaks into the clean room and approaches the bed. In a scene scored only by the hidden patient’s raspy breaths she reaches out a hand to pull back the curtain and finally expose his face…

…and I turned off the television. I went up to bed. And I didn’t sleep.

To this day, I’ve never seen the end of the film or what lay in that bed, rasping in that clean room. But when I think about it, I can still taste that same feeling of dread. It’s the kind of sensation a horror fan craves. It’s what we search high and low for. I’ve seen a hell of a lot of horror movies and less than a handful can claim to have shaken me up so badly.

And the film isn’t even very good! Try watching it now, in the cold light of adulthood, even a trailer, and you can easily recognise it for the hokum that it is. But it got me. Right place, right time. It scared the hell out of me.

Which is a lot more than can be said for all-but-forgotten late-90’s TV series ‘The Hunger’ (we’re onto my final example now). A production that utilised the sexy horror branding of 1983 Tony Scott film, but none of the characters, ‘The Hunger’ was an erotic horror anthology series that ran for two seasons between 1997 and 2000.

I first saw it 10 years ago when it made its debut on DVD. I wouldn’t say I had high hopes, but I was desperate for something. This was 2006, remember, in a time when horror was effectively absent from TV screens. ‘The X-Files’, ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel’ were over and our current glut of horror shows was many years away from getting started.

I needed something. I’d never heard of ‘The Hunger’ and decided to give it a go. With talent like Tony Scott behind the camera and actors like Terrence Stamp, Balthazar Getty, Jamie Foreman, Timothy Spall, Lena Headey, Karen Black and Daniel Craig in front of it (and that’s just the first two episodes) you’d think people would talk about ‘The Hunger’ more, but they don’t.

And, truth be told, they shouldn’t. It is (bringing us back to the theme of this article) a bit crap. Light on scares (and very light on sex) it quickly devolved from a half-decent first episode (‘The Swords’) into a ‘Red Diaries’ knock-off with less nudity and bucket-loads more pretension.

But was it worthless? No. Far from it. I have ‘The Hunger’ to thank for three things.

1. Terrence Stamp as The Host, playing a variation on the Crypt Keeper, delivering nonsensical monologues about love and greed while wandering around a decrepit mansion (replaced by David Bowie in season two, their introductions were always the best part of the episode).

2. ‘The Swords’ introduced me to The Tiger Lillies, a great band which in turn got me into the musical genre of dark cabaret – half the score to my writing life.
3. It inspired me to create a horror anthology series of my own.
That’s right. So frustrated was I by the generally underwhelming nature of ‘The Hunger’ and the fact there was literally NO other horror on television I decided that it was up to me, a student with far too much time on his hands, to create a new horror anthology series, write all the scripts and pitch it to some television executives.

You’ll be surprised to learn that the idea never quite got off the ground. I never pitched to anyone. The furthest I got was coming up with a list of episode titles. The stories didn’t matter, I thought. Not at that point. But a solid list of evocative titles was a good start and would give me something to build from. While my energy was up and the creative juices were flowing, I got to work. Over the course of one evening back in 2006, I made a list.

And though the show I planned never made it to development, script or even pitch stage, I’ve held on to the list of titles. I’ve kept them with me through the years. Some of them have even become stories. One, ‘Slaughterhouse Sweetheart’, was published in ‘Sex and Murder Magazine’ and reprinted in ‘Gospels of Blood, Psalms of Despair’. Another, ‘The Lullaby Man’, was eventually printed in the Blood Bound Books anthology ‘Blood Rites’.

One was ‘Prince of Nightmares’.

Visit John McNee at his website.

Check out his books at Amazon.

Find him on Twitter at @THEJohnMcNee

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BTBStorytellers episode 8: Daniel Marc Chant talks BURNING HOUSE

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The final piece of the Sinister Horror Company is Daniel Marc Chant; a writer whose work knows no boundaries. Chant has dabbled with demonic cats ‘Mr Robispierre’, underwater worlds ‘Aimee Bancroft and the Singularity Storm’ and Lovecraftian survival horror ‘Maldicion’. His most recent release is the short fiction collection ‘Into Fear’ which is lurking on my TBR, and I’m really looking forward to digging into it as I am a big fan of short story collections.

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Today Dan will be talking about his debut novel ‘Burning House’, and it is another great piece, I really like what Dan did here, and I hope you do. I can’t thank everybody enough for the work they have put into these insights.

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Burning House

By

Daniel Marc Chant

THE DAILY GRIND

Daniel Marc Chant on the creation of Burning House

 

Take a look at Dan Chant: an average looking guy of indeterminate age with a smart phone in his hand. As his train rattles through the Somerset countryside to the bustling town of Bath, his boredom is palpable.

Dan has taken this journey more times than he cares to remember. To pass the time, he starts to write on his smart phone. Every now and then, he types in a terse paragraph or fleeting idea. Now, for instance, he is inputting The scream sounded again.

Dan is pleased with what he’s written. It is pithy and to the point.

Way back in October 2013 I left my relatively comfortable and mundane job in Salisbury, Wiltshire (UK) for a new and exciting opportunity working in Bath, Somerset (UK). My old job was working within the insurance industry and it involved working shift patterns, any when from 8am to 8pm, included weekend work and the shifts often involved ten day stints. As much as it might surprise many of you I don’t hold a great passion for insurance (I know, mad huh?!) so after seven long years living and working in Salisbury my girlfriend and I decided that we both needed a new start somewhere else. The shift patterns and general malaise with work life had stifled my creativity, something I’ve long been passionate about. After much soul searching we settled on Bath as a great place to live and work and started to put the wheels in motion.

He settles back in his seat and wonders if the people in whose eye line he happens to be are curious as to what he’s up to. None of them are looking in his direction but many have the sort of furtive expression that suggests they are keeping half an eye on him.

The cute redhead with the nose ring for instance. She’s pretending to read the battered Stephen King paperback nestled on her lap, but she hasn’t turned a single page since she got on and sat down.

She’s here again, Dan thinks. Funny how she always manages to get a seat no matter how crowded the train. Must be a knack.

The train breaks its rhythm as it crosses a set of points. Dan looks out of the window and sees bright green grass, something of an uncommon sight for him over the last few years.

As I began my new role I went from walking ten minutes to work to walking fifteen minutes to the train station, an hour or more commute to Bath, and then another fifteen minutes’ walk to work. And all of that again, but reversed on the way home. Suddenly I had a lot of time to think. To listen to radio and podcasts. To read. Due to the shift pattern of my old job I was often run down, always going in or out of a long shift pattern which meant I often had little energy to get stuck into much of what I enjoy bar the odd bit of Xbox. Now I had the best part of three hours each day to let my mind wander. At first it was odd. I didn’t really know how to relax into the commute, I was also to self-aware of missing a stop to get truly stuck into a book or worried the tinny music from my earphones might piss of fellow commuters (and trust me, when you’re catching a train at seven in the morning your temper is quite short).

 The man opposite Dan is engrossed in a crossword. Suddenly, he blurts out ‘Constantinople!’ and hastily adds the word to the grid. His pleasure is short lived when he realises he’s just made a minor ass of himself.

Blushing, he offers Dan an apologetic smile. ‘Just couldn’t figure it out,’ he explains. ‘Then it came to me in a rush.’

 Dan nods and hopes that his nod conveys not only forgiveness and understanding but also a desire to be left in peace. Thankfully, the man gets the message and returns to his crossword.

After a few weeks I was into the rhythm of the journey. I knew what stops were when, recognised fellow commuters and had the routine down pat. This gave my mind much needed freedom to just wander, something I hadn’t let it do for a long time to be honest. As I listened to film and game scores as the train rattled along each day I cratered scenarios, concepts and ideas that I’d like to do something with. I thought back to a time when my mate Vince Hunt and I were talking horror ideas and I had come up with a high concept pitch that was basically ‘firefighters in a haunted house’. It seemed like a simple but great idea to me. And to begin with the idea was that a malevolent poltergeist would play havoc with a team of firefighters as they attempt to rescue people from a burning block of flats. With each twist and turn the ghost thing just wasn’t cutting it for me. I wanted something more physical. More visceral. Something capable of tearing them asunder. Shredding flesh from bone. Not just an elusive wisp of smoke in a building slowly filling with it.

The train guard enters the carriage. He is a slim man with a beard that makes him look a bit like Tsar Nicholas the Second. ‘Anyone not got a ticket?’ he asks cheerfully, maneuvering his way through the people standing in the aisle. ‘Ticket anyone?’

Here comes the train guard. I’ve never seen him sell a single ticket and quite frankly don’t believe his ticket machine actually has tickets. He’s always so bloody cheerful.

With a final cry of ‘Tickets!’ the guard passes on through to the next carriage.

A feeling of being watched makes Dan turn his head, just in time to see the redhead glancing away from him. She wets her finger, turns a page of her book and carries on pretending to read.

Recalling when I watched The Thing with Vince at his parents’ house, when we were probably a little too young to watch it, I was suddenly struck with an amazing idea to rip it off. I mean pay homage. The Thing is my favourite horror film. In fact, I think watching that way back on ITV late one night was probably the last night a horror film really got under my skin (bar perhaps watching a dodgy bootleg of The Blair Witch Project and having to walk home in the dark shortly after). I’ve always been a fan of John Carpenter’s work and I wanted to inject my interpretation of his style into my idea. A synth soundtrack was sadly not possible so instead I took some of the story beats, some of the mood and atmosphere and applied that to my story. The team became more human, and the threat more real and dangerous as a result. The other thing that was there from the start was a strong female lead character. Strong female characters have always resonated with me (thanks Aliens!) and I wanted to diversify action horror as best I could.

Throwing caution to the wind, Dan fixes his gaze on his phone screen. The time for making excuses is over. His fingers dance on his smart phone, spelling out his thoughts and committing them to electronic posterity. Suddenly, there in the abyss, came a horrible blood curdling yell. There were the sounds of slurping and sucking, the splatter of liquid hitting stone and protective suits. There were thumping sounds, the sound of flesh hitting flesh.

The screech of metal fighting metal throws Dan out of his reverie. For a moment he seems to be in free fall as the train comes to a sudden and ungainly halt. Standing passengers are thrown against each other. Sitting passengers are ejected half out of their seats before dropping back into them with a complete lack of dignity.

‘What was that?’ someone asks.

‘We’ve crashed,’ someone else replies.

‘Don’t be bloody stupid,’ says a man sitting just within Dan’s range of vision as he carefully places his cup of takeaway coffee between his feet and inspects the brown stain on his shirt. ‘The driver’s an idiot, that’s all.’

The carriage falls silent as its occupants return to their shell and wait patiently for the train to continue on its way.

As I hastily typed up clumsy paragraphs on a Samsung Galaxy S4 I needed to give the character’s names, personalities. I decided it would be easy to use the real names of people I knew and apply elements of their traits within the story. It was intended to use the actual names as placeholders and then change them later on. But I never did. The names remained. Much to the chagrin of those named I’m sure!

On his smart phone, Dan goes into as much detail as he can and stretches the task out to a good quarter of an hour. When he has finished, the train is still inert and he can feel the black dog of boredom stalking him once more.

There’s no telling how long this unscheduled stop will last. Dan wants to pass the time writing on his smart phone, but he can’t think of nothing to add to what he has already written.

Nothing at all.

That black dog is almost at his throat now. Unable to stand the ennui, the sheer tedium of nothing to do, Dan resorts to doing something he has never done until now. He reads what he’s written.

I make no claim to being an amazing author. I don’t think any author should being honest. It’s all subjective. But when I read back my first efforts I was filled with a swell of pride I hadn’t experienced for a while. Ideas were cementing into reality. Concepts coalesced into being. After a good decade or more of tying to write something other than movie reviews I had found something that I liked and was enjoying writing. It was a natural high unlike no other. I needed more.

Dan smiles warmly at his description of acrid stench of rotten flesh. Is that enough he thinks?

Not wishing to dwell on the matter, he reads on.

There was a squishing, thumping sound as something moved in the room, something new and unusual.

What? Dan is puzzled. He has no recollection of writing that last sentence, yet he cannot say for sure that he didn’t. A feeling of deja vu hits him like a thunderbolt as he realises that yesterday, during a particularly rousing moment in a Danny Elfman score, he wrote about a wet slipping, sliding sound that slowly filled the air.

Dan has an image of opposing mirrors, each reflecting the other and each reflection contain an infinity of reflections.

That triumphant cry of Constantinople is an eternal echo bouncing around Dan’s memory. It is joined by the train guard’s, ‘Anyone not got a ticket? Ticket anyone?’

Despair envelopes Dan as he realises he has been making exactly the same journey day in, day out for as long as he can remember.

A question comes to him: Where am I going?

It opens the floodgates to an unstoppable torrent of further questions. What’s the name of the station where I board every day? Where do I work? What’s my job? What do I do when I’m not on this train? When was the last time I wasn’t on this train?

 Burning House was finished. It was rough. Raw. And I’m sure plenty of people will still tell you that it remains that way. I don’t care. It was the first prose story I’ve ever written. And I finished it. And that alone made me write the next, Maldicion, and the next, Mr. Robespierre. And so on. It’s almost three years since Burning House was finished and I’m showing no signs of stopping. What I find even better however is the fact that I’m now part of a vibrant and loving indie horror community. And nothing can top the feeling that you might inspire others to finish their work. While I won’t take credit for it Duncan P. Bradshaw (Dunk) started and finished Class Three upon learning that J. R. Park (Justin) and I were working on novellas of our own. I had spent many a night with Dunk in a dive bar in Salisbury talking over his ideas for a zombie opus and he finally put pen to paper. No doubt experiencing the same fears and anxieties over it as I did. As Justin did. As all authors do. And ultimately if the work we do resonates with one other person in some way then I consider that job done. There are plenty of people that like Burning House. There are plenty of people that are indifferent to it. And I’m sure some that fucking hate it. It’s all good with me. I’m just thankful that there’s people out there that are curious to read my clumsy words and some of them even like them. We’re not curing cancer here, let’s be honest. We’re creating escapism. And sometimes some people need an escape. No matter how simple. Whether it’s just to get away from the drama in real life or to pass time on a long journey. If you’ve finished something, be it a novella or piece of art or whatever. You should be proud of your accomplishment. Nobody can take that from you. You did it. And I’m proud of you.

There is a lurch as the train recommences its journey. Dan is soothed by its rhythm. All around him, people look relieved and check their watches to recalculate their estimated time of arrival.

Dan looks at the word count on his notepad document. It’s almost thirty-thousand.

It is what Dan has been waiting for – that one little crumb of encouragement. Come Hell or high water, he’s not going to waste any more time. Life’s too short for procrastination, he tells himself then types it into his smart phone before adding “Come on,” Grace said quietly, tugging gently at her arm. “We have to get out of here.”

As the train enters a tunnel, Dan feels an inclination to read his notes back to himself but decides not to.

 He smiles.

The train rattles on.

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