Tag Archives: horror fiction

Publication Update

Forgive a little self-promotion (it won’t take too long, I promise)

– just to be clear, I don’t intend to use this blog to promote my own writing, but there has been a little surge of late where a few of my short pieces of fiction have popped up in anthologies. If, for some reason, you enjoy my little brain-dribbles here; below is a list of more refined work which you can acquire…

My 2013 novella ‘The Black Land’ is available for only 99p (or 99cents) from the lovely folk at Blood Bound Books…

Black Land

When American resort tycoon Martin Walker travels to England in hopes of acquiring a lonely island off the northeastern coast, he brings his family along for the trip. Only then does he learn the island’s long-abandoned keep carries with it a legacy of terror.
Some say the ghosts of Viking raiders, clad in wolf-skins and drunk on slaughter, still haunt its twisted architecture. Some say the island itself is cursed. An ancient, hateful force slumbers within the windswept rock—and the Walker family has awakened it.

UK link here

US link here

More recent short fiction. My story ‘Life is Prescious’ appears in Parallel Universe Publications‘ ‘Kitchen Sink Gothic’ anthology.

BookCoverImage

Coined in the 1950s, Kitchen Sink described British films, plays and novels frequently set in the North of England, which showed working class life in a gritty, no-nonsense, “warts and all” style, sometimes referred to as social realism.
It became popular after the playwright John Osborne wrote Look Back In Anger, simultaneously helping to create the Angry Young Men movement. Films included Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, The Entertainer, A Taste of Honey, The L-Shaped Room and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. TV dramas included Coronation Street and East Enders. In recent years TV dramas that could rightly be described as kitchen sink gothic include Being Human, with its cast of working class vampires, werewolves and ghosts, and the zombie drama In the Flesh, with its northern working class, down to earth setting.
In this anthology you will find stories that cover a wide range of Kitchen Sink Gothic, from the darkly humorous to the weirdly strange and occasionally horrific.

Available on Kindle 

and Paperback

My post-apocalypic story ‘Down There’ appears in Mad Scientist Journal’s ‘Selfies from the End of the World’ anthology.

selfies

“It would be our duty, as citizens on this earth
to document its end the best way we know
and if that means a second by second update
of the world going up in flames, or down in rain, or crushed under the feet of invading monsters
so be it.”
— Shivangi Narain

No one understands an apocalypse like the people who have experienced it. Mad Scientist Journal has brought together twenty-three tales of people who have seen the world end. These accounts range from irreverent to surreal to heartbreaking. Zombies share space with global wars, superviruses, canned peaches, and the death of the sun.

Available in ebook format on amazon

more info on Goodreads and Smashwords

Last but by no means least, one of my favourite stories that I have ever written, ‘Rockets’ will appear in Great British Horror’s ‘Play Things & Past Times’ anthology, provisionally released this September.

play

In PLAY THINGS eight authors remind us that even the most innocuous toys can be evil…
In PAST TIMES eight authors revisit childhood traumas which continue to cast shadows over the victims’ adult lives for years…

More details on Facebook.

If you, constant reader have braved this hideous, slice of self-aggrandising spam and reached thus far on this post…here’s a reward of sorts…I will gladly sign any of the above publications and post them back to you if you purchase one (or indeed all). Not sure how the logistics of that will work but feel free to message me on my Facebook author page. As I’m pretty sure no one except my mum reads this (hi mum!) then it can’t be that difficult.

Coming very soon, a guest post from MR Carey about books.

Safe Roads.

M xx

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The Black Land. Matty Dunn Part 2

Part 1 is here

The Black Land: Matty Dunn’s story

Part 2

The Black Land RDisley2

                Matty and his Granda drank their tea in silence, both of them staring from the window at the sea that heaved at the horizon.

“I want ye to gan now, sonna’” the old man said, as he placed his mug down carefully . “I want ye to leave now, and I want you to do something for me.”

“Right.” Matty’s voice was choked; he couldn’t look at his Granda. He couldn’t say goodbye, he didn’t have the words.

“But before you go, son, I want you to promise me something,”

Matty could only nod.

“Promise me you’ll put it back.”

Jesus, how could he have known?

“Promise me sonna’, right?”

How many years had it been?

“Swear it.”

“I promise, Granda, I swear…”

“Good lad.”

How the hell could he have known?

Secrets.

The Black Land RDisley7

* * *

It was the feel of that stone in his hand that reared as the American spoke.

“Blamenholm.” Matty’s tongue tried out the word soundlessly as Triumph’s engine thrummed and Seahouses harbour grew smaller behind them in the light of the approaching dawn.

The cold spelks of the rock digging into his palm brought back the terror he had felt as he had passed Miss McKay’s desk that Friday when he’d finally had enough.

It had been getting worse and worse week by week that the hateful object sat there.

‘Work in SILENCE!” She screeched at them as the crooked sums on the blackboard coiled and twisted like witches’ fingers, nearly unreadable.

Woe betide you if she caught you not doing owt; that ruler of hers made your freezing fingers swell something rotten. You had to bite your lip not to cry out when she gave you a smack with that thing. There was no more sparkly laughing, no show and tell; that seemed as long ago as the sunlight that used to stream in delicious, golden slabs of warmth through the windows. As autumn fell on the North East coast, stories on the carpet had been replaced by what Miss McKay called ‘silent thinking’; which no one really got, but you stayed quiet as she paced between the desks, her teeth splintering and grinding behind her cheeks while the wind whirled dusty ghosts in the corners beneath the bare walls. You stayed quiet alright cos if you weren’t ‘silent thinking’ when McKay was having one of her ‘twitchy fits’ as Tommy Fenwick called them, you were for it. He did a good one of her, Tommy, in the corner of the yard at break; bulging out his eyes and staring around into the corners, like she did; like she was trying to catch something that was too quick.

There had been a frieze on the far wall that they had made when McKay first started with class six. It was one of those endless afternoons when they’d sat in the warmth and the brightness back when she allowed them to have the curtains open and the lights on. No one had been fighting, no one getting wrong or being cheeky; the boys were sat with the girls and had the radio been on? There had been music of some sort or was it just joy of the day itself? It wasn’t even that long ago, only weeks, yet it felt like an age.

Frogs, they had been making, frogs and tadpoles to go on the wall. The glitter was out, the gold stars and the glue. It didn’t matter, miss had said, you can do them any colour you like. She had been at the back that day, humming to herself and stapling great green lilipads of sugar-paper over a bright blue background.

Now though, the frieze hung by its last few tatters to the wall. Water had got in and swollen one corner of the room, casting great spots of mould across the gambling amphibians, rendering them sodden, their poster paint faces crying off the wall in bloated, black tears. Over the last few weeks Matty had heard each, individual, revolting splat as each one fell. ‘When it gets to the last one.’ He had told himself last week. ‘When that last one falls, I’m getting that stone, that fucking shitty stone and I’m throwing it in the sea. I don’t care if I get wrong, I don’t care, I’ve had enough.’

But it wasn’t just the frieze, the frogs; it wasn’t even Miss McKay and her moods and her screams and her ‘silent thinking’; it was the other things as well.

aal manner o’things

The Black Land RDisley1

“Miss; there’s a boy, running in the girls toilets.” Anthea Brown had piped up upon her return to the room last Wednesday. Her eyes were already wet with tears and Matty felt a terrible pity for her as she shuffled from foot to foot before McKay’s desk.

“What boy, Anthea?” McKay intoned, not looking up from the bare wood surface before her at which she had been fixedly staring at for the last hour. “Speak up, girl!”

“A…a…little…” Now the tears came and a few weeks ago, Miss McKay would have gathered Anthea in her arms; today she didn’t even look up. “A little running boy miss, in the toilet…”

There were whispers, no giggles.

“What?” McKay looked up now, her eyes flicked deftly around the corners fo the room and a few at the back followed her gaze.

“He says he’s a little boy miss…” she gulped, sniffing frantically, “but his face miss…his face is all…”

“Shush now, Anthea!” Her voice was sharp and was that recognition in her eyes? “Sit down and stop being such a baby!” She had been shaking, Miss McKay, she just sat there, shaking.

aal manner o’things

There was the book cupboard door that was always open, no matter how many times anyone shut it.

There was that smell that drifted around the room at will, the open doors and windows made no difference to the reek of burned hair.

‘aal manner o’things.

There was the painting that someone had done, even though they hadn’t done painting for a long time, it had went up on the wall with the frogs. Matty thought he was the only one that had seen it because every time he looked round at the grungy tatters of paper and the mould, it made him jump.

“Who did that picture, miss?” He asked one day, his voice barely audible above the sound of the rain screeching down against the windows.

Miss McKay looked up at where he was pointing, looked to the back of the room where the tattered A3 paper clung to the damp ripples of the mouldy wall.

“I don’t…” she was getting up, her chair scraping on the polished wood, her eyes heavy, her voice swollen.

The others turned round too and some of them made small, disgusted noises. Miss McKay was walking over to it now; every eye was following her save for Matty who had seen his chance. A horrible, uncontrollable recklessness whirled through him, it frightened him, it was like being on the Waltzer, that moment where it peaked and you span and everything was a blur and you thought you were going to fly out.

“Take it down miss!” Called out Tommy and a few others joined him.

Matty slid his chair back ward as slowly as he dared as Miss McKay passed his desk, glaring at the painting.

“Who’s done that?” She was snarling, “It’s horrid.”

“Not as horrid as you.” Matty thought, grimly, his gaze now turning to his target that squatted like a vast grey toad on her desk.

As Miss McKay reached he back of the room there began a skittering sound from behind the back wall; the rain intensified and the wind began to low a ghastly wail up into the ceiling. Some of the girls began to cry

‘I hate you.’ Matty  was stood in front of her desk now. He glared down at the rock that stared back, defiant in its blankness. He took one look behind him and saw two faces; one of them was  Anthea Brown on the front row and he saw the pleading gratitude in her eyes as his fingers closed around the ancient, frozen surface. The other face was the painting on the back wall; daubed by what looked like fingers, long, muddy fingers; black and brown lines that somehow held together into a bony, grinning visage that glared up at Miss McKay with its single, boiling eye before she ripped it from the wall.

‘I hate you and I’m going to sink you to the bottom of the sea.’

             “You’ll promise me.” Matty’s Granda had stood, staring from the window of his bungalow all those years ago. “You’ll promise me, Matty, that you’ll never set a foot on that place as long as you live.”

“Why?” Matty had almost sobbed; the end was coming.

But he had heard his Granda and his father talking as he had slept on the single, shelf-like bed that sat in the corner of Triumph’s cabin that morning as they trawled the catch home to the harbour. He had heard the name spoken only once, the name of that place, Blamenholm.

               “Not in front of the bairn!” His granda’s voice, hushed, full of fury.

And he knew, he knew from the years they had fished the seas between the Farnes, three generations of Dunns, he had pieced together the story from those long, morning chats when they thought he was asleep. He knew about his granda as a young man, the storm that had carried his boat out to sea and the fear that had raced through him as he felt death all around him, that he thought it was his time, that he was to drown that night as the darkness fell and the wind wailed around him. He knew that the boat had run aground and that it was the island of Blamenholm his granda found himself clinging to for one, dark night.

Men who fought in wars often would not speak of what they had seen in battle; there were things, atrocities that a man could not begin to fathom, let alone recall, his brain would not allow it, for to look back on what he had seen, would be to stare into the crazed fury of insanity itself. Matty never heard his Granda speak of that night he spent upon the island until he had promised he would never go there himself.

“You’ll promise me, Matty, that you’ll never set a foot on that place as long as you live.”

…aal manner ‘othings…

* * *

The Black Land RDisley4

aal manner o’things

Drugs? Even these days where the young ‘uns showed their flesh like floozies and spoke to one another on little screens; this stretch of the coast was too small for drugs. This yank fella with his wide eyes and twitchy movements must have thought Matty had been born yesterday. There was nowt like that going on round here.

“They’ve got my family.” He had said.

Matty watched the fella stood out on the deck, his arms wrapped round him as he battled to stand upright while Triumph crashed through the larger waves that spoke of further out to sea. There were no drugs on Blamenholm, but what was there?

The yank eventually staggered across the deck and opened the door of the cabin.

“Is that it?” He was gesturing to the faint fuzz of land ahead of them. Matty could hear the twitch in the yank’s voice, but he could also hear the frayed edges of something desperate in there too. The fella’s eyes, that’s what had disturbed him most, it reminded him of Miss McKay, it reminded him of her ‘Twitchy-fits’. Great, wide and saucer-like with pinprick pupils…he had nearly believed it was drugs. But not on Blamenholm, not there.

“So whatta’ you know of Blamenholm then, mister?”

Matty sniffed, careful to hide the derision and doubted the yank would have heard it anyway.

“All ‘a knaa about that place is that it’s dangerous….” Matty spoke with care, “there’s nowt there…full of holes, fissures they call ‘em. They’ll swallow a fella…”

“…whole…yeah, I know.” The yank’s voice was suddenly close, right beside Matty’s ear. He could almost taste the madness on the man’s breath.

“What else? What else do you know about Blamenholm? What don’t you tell people eh? What don’t you tell people like me?

Matty was not scared, not of this crack-pot, but he felt that familiar stabbing pain in his thigh, the cold weight that sank his heart, that cold weight that had stayed with him all these years.

I thought you hated me, Matty.’ It seemed to say, ‘I thought you were going to sink me to the bottom of the sea.’

“I could tell you,” Matty’s voice was calm, he could feel the rock in his pocket pressing its frozen fingers against his flesh. ‘You couldn’t do it then, Matty, just like you can’t do it now. You’re scared, Matty, you’re still too scared and you know it.’

“Tell me.” This guy stank not just of madness, but of desperation.

‘I’ll just come back again, Matty,’ Matty Dunn gritted his teeth and reached into his pocket, ‘I’ll keep coming back, because you’re too scared to take me home.’

“You won’t come back.” Matty said, ignoring the bafflement on the yank’s face as he lifted the rock from his pocket.

“I’ll tell you about Blamenholm, mister,” he said, smiling, the first smile he remembered since they had cut and stuck those frogs to the classroom wall on that bright afternoon all those years ago.

“But I need to you to do something for me,” he pressed the cold, sharp stone into the yank’s hands and felt forty years of misery slide from his shoulders. The wind began to scream, as if in defiance.

“Sure.” The yank smiled, clutching the rock to his chest.

His is teeth looked horribly long.

The Black Land RDisley10


The Black Land: Tales from the editing room floor: Matty Dunn

The following is the back story for one of ‘The Black Land‘s minor characters, Matty Dunn.

Matty Dunn is the man who agrees to sail Martin Walker from the port at Seahouses, over the strip of North Sea, past the Farnes to the island of Blamenholm.

This event originally happened at gunpoint, but, as my editor made me aware, such a thing would kick up a lot of extra fuss about how exactly Martin Walker managed to get a gun into the UK from the US. Not being a fan of such administrative procedure, as well as lazy I  omitted this unnecessary piece of over-dramatisation from the story, to, in my opinion, its benefit.

The chapter is over 4,000 words long, so I, for your sake, present it in two parts. The first being below.

I welcome any feedback, positive, constructive or otherwise and I hope you enjoy reading this unpleasant little piece of fiction as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The Black Land RDisley11

The Black Land

Matty Dunn part 1.

                Matty Dunn lived his life amidst the sea; mam used to tell the same story about when he was three; tottering from one side of deck of his granda’s boat to the other as the waves of the north sea rolled it to and fro.

‘pitter-patter, pitter-patter, ‘ees little feet,’ she used to say ‘one side to the other and that was him, our Matty,’ her eyes would twinkle; ‘been a’sea since ‘ee was a bairn.’

He never thought did, but it was as if Matty Dunn’s very soul had been shaped by the blue-grey of the early morning light; honed by the tang of salt that edged the wind that whirled from the north waves. Matty had grown from a boy into a man with the cries of the gulls and the smooth coating of silver scales that clung to his fingers. He had watched the tides sweep up his years alongside Cod, Pollock and Herring, freezing, muscular bodies in his weathered hands, their glassy eyes and their silent gasps for breath were part of his very being.

The Dunn family generations were born of the North Sunderland coast and like his da and his granda and his granda’s granda, Matty had spent the frozen, January mornings reeling in the catch, heaving the crab traps onto the deck while the teeth of the cold gnawed at his bones. Eventually, Matty inherited the blue-hulled motor sailer, ‘Triumph’ that had cradled him atop the waves all his life, brought their catch to be processed and the fee paid.

Life was hard, you had to work, it was unforgiving, relentless, but it was their way and it had shaped the Dunns into hard men. They didn’t have a lot, but they didn’t need a lot, just a roof and a fire and a place to hand your boots. His father and granda shared the same stubborn spirit that Matty felt strong and proud within himself as the years rolled by in and out. The Dunns’ love was as hard as their hands, it burned deep and dark, like coal. Their love was the breakfast that ma cooked when the boats came in; the smoke and spit from the bacon, soft songs his granda sang as he cleaned the herring from the nets.

Oh, there was love alright.

Granda was not much of a talker, he could go for days only emitting short, intoned grunts and only when absolutely necessary. When he sang though, it was with a soft, lilting purr that spilled from deep in his stomach.

What’ll a dee with a harrin’s heed?

Oh what’ll a dee with a harrin’s heed?

Ah’ll mak in inte’ loaves a breed,

Harrin’s heed, loaves a breed an’ aal mannaer o’things…

They would sing it, all three of them as they worked the catch on the deck, the morning sun peering at them over the bobbing peaks of the sea.

How a ye the day, me hinny-oh?

* * *

                In granda’s final years, when arthritis crippled him from the waist down and ‘Triumph sailed one man less, Matty spent a lot of time at the bungalow that looked across the bare shore of Seahouses. The two Dunns would sit in silence, watching the sea that had built these walls, that fed their bellies and clothed their backs. The old man still wore his thick, grey jumper he had worn at sea and it saddened Matty to see the watch the wistful twitches of his lips as he grew ever more hunched in his chair.

“She’s been a friend to me for years, Matty, son.” He said, one day.

His voice caught Matty by surprise.

Matty nodded, he didn’t need to ask. Both granda and grandson were staring at the horizon as the sea birds rose and fell on her surface.

“But she’s a fickle one, she’ll be your friend, for a time…but you cannit love her, Matty, she’ll not love you back.”

“Aye, true enough.”

Bothy men nodded.

The beginnings of evening were in the air and the sky was hinting at dusk. Granda gave a sigh, deep and weary and old.

“She’s got secrets too, Matty, secrets she’ll keep long after me and you are dust in the shore.”

“Aye…”

Matty turned to hide  his face. Something inside him was spilling, melting and he could feel an ending looming in his stomach. He wanted to grab his granda in his arms and weep into that salt-stiff jumper that smelled of fish scales and childhood and tell him he loved him, to wish him well because this was goodbye.

This was definitely goodbye.

But that was not the Dunn way. There was love but it was buried and black, like coal.

Matty sniffed a long wind of air and stared out of that window at the indifferent blue hue of the sea.

Secrets.

A memory so vast and so sudden in its surfacing caused Matty to nearly cry out. Instead, his back and shoulders stiffened and he quelled the gasp of air with a cough.

“Tea.” He said. and turned abruptly, padding from the thick warmth of the living room and into the kitchen.

The place was sparse, bereft of keepsakes and trinkets; a single hand-painted picture hung from a nail in the wall, its glass coated with a fine layer of dust. A blurry rendition of the sea, as if seen through tears; its foreground a pattern of green clad rocks that dissolved into the raging water. Distant humps of land were just visible on the edge of the horizon. Matty had no idea where or when his granda had acquired this picture but he recalled its haunting quality that had bothered him as a small boy on the rare occasions they had sat for long at the low semi-circular table, sipping steaming mugs of tea; hot china against frozen fingers.

Secrets.

Shame fell hot and leaden into Matty’s stomach as he broke the stillness of the air by noisily filling the kettle; water splashing against the tiles of the small window that looked into the grey concrete of the small back yard.

He must have only been about six or seven; St. Wilfred’s primary, aye, that was it. The memory came now, thick and fast, Matty felt his face scorch red. That new teacher, the new Miss they called her, Miss McKay; tall she was, skinny, with a great mane of curls that stuck out from her head in all directions.

“Bring in something you’ve discovered,” She’d said one Friday afternoon when they’d got in after lunch; their coats still steaming in the cloakroom and the smell of the rain on their skin.

“What does that mean?”

Alfie Donnely’s voice was a wail; the rest of them snickering and sighing.

“He always says that miss!”

“What do you think it means?” Miss McKay had a big, beaming mouth, all those teeth.

Their hands went up sharp, even Alfie’s so’s not to be the odd one out. They laughed again, even miss.

“Is it something you’ve found, miss?”

She’d smiled, even wider then and clapped her long fingers together lightly.

Matty shook his head as he clanked the old metal of the kettle onto the hob and turned up the heat. She was like that, Miss McKay, always pleased with you, just so long as you tried.

On the Monday they’d all sat at their desks with their leaves and funny shaped sticks. Harry Graham stinking out the place with a great clod of bladder-wrack in his bag and one by one they’d show their discovery to the class. What did I even bring in? Matty thought for a second, racking his mind as the kettle on the stove began to burble.

“I’ve got a discovery of my own I wanted to share with you.”

Harriet Wyatt had sat down and the applause for her limpet shells had abated and Miss McKay reached into her handbag, Matty remembered craning forward and staring hard at her face while the others tried to be the first to guess what was inside. He remembered the expression as her fingers closed around it, this mystery object, the millisecond of insecurity that flashed in her eyes as if she was not sure whether this was such a good idea after all. The moment when she had wanted to put it back…Matty’s stomach lurched horrible, just like it had back then. He felt a creeping menace over his skin; the touch of old, wrinkled fingers, that was much older he had been able to understand. He wanted to stand up and shout

‘Don’t! Whatever it is, just don’t! We don’t need to see, we’re fine.’

But he, just like the others in the class who had moved back, away from miss with a collective gasp, had deflated slightly in disappointment as Miss McKay pulled from her handbag, an ugly shard of rock.

“Is that it?” Someone had whispered.

“Divvint be cheeky man!” one of the girls had hissed and there were giggles.

Miss McKay, however was not listening, she was staring at the triangular lump of stone that now lay in her lap. It looked wrong somehow, too big to be pretty with a rough, almost splintery surface. Matty had closed his fists as the anticipation of how it would feel in his hands crept ghost-like over his palms.

Please don’t make us hold it. He had thought, staring hard at Miss. McKay.

Please don’t.

Silence had fallen around the room and the rain from outside had begun a steady tattoo against the windows. There were faint ticks from the back end of the classroom where the metal buckets had been placed beneath the leaky points in the ceiling. Matty looked at the clock then, a cold panic rising in his stomach. Ten minutes to go.

“Now…”

Miss McKay looked up slowly, as if it were difficult to tear her eyes from the stone. her voice petered out and she tried again,  the enthusiasm of before suddenly missing.

“Does anyone know why this stone is special?”

None of them had said anything; their heads went down. Even Alfie Donnoley’s.

“Well come on?” And this time her voice was sharp; it had that hard edge to it that the rest of the teachers had; the one thing that made Miss McKay different was suddenly gone.

Matty felt his hand rise weakly.

“Dunn?” Miss McKay snapped.

“Was it…” Matty felt his voice waver, “was it where you got it miss? Did that make it special?”

Silence in the classroom, the tick-tuck, tick-tuck from the buckets at the back getting faster. Miss McKay was all smiles again, her grin opening like a wound across her face.

“That’s right, Matty.” She stood up  and lifted the stone awkwardly before her. Some of the children in the front row shifted backward in their seats. “I got this stone from a very special place…”

And at that moment he had nearly turned tail and fled from that steamy, draughty classroom that smelled of poster paint and seaweed. His bladder had swollen taught as Miss. McKay’s words burned into him because he knew where she had got it; of course he knew where she had got it. The rest of the class too, they knew, the way they had hissed as their little breaths turned in against their milk teeth.

She had laughed then, miss, she had laughed and the sound of it was like the crash of some black wave against some black rock far far away where the wind wailed through empty eye-like slits in ancient rock.

“Surely you don’t believe in such a silly old story do you?” and her voice carried a discordant plea that none of them had heard all those years ago but now seared through Matty’s head like hot wire. “It’s been in my house for the last week or so and nothing’s happened to…”

“Oh, Matty!” and her voice was soaring far away, right up to the ceiling and he had felt his cheeks flush as his bladder gave way. There were other sounds too, stifled sniggers that turned to gasps as his legs buckled beneath him and he was falling, falling….

Secrets.

The kettle was whistling and Matty gave a sudden, violent shiver. ‘Jesus man’, he thought, furiously ‘get a grip on yourself.’ Loudly, deliberately, tearing his eyes from that stupid picture and concentrating on what he was doing; he began to fumble in the cupboards for the mugs that Granda kept right at the back, next to his tins; he was going to get the big, thick ones that were behind the others and he was going to do that because his hands were not shaking, oh no.

That stone; he couldn’t get it out of his mind. Miss McKay left it on the edge of her desk and it sat there, coiled and grotesquely ready, like a bony fist. When miss called them up to do their flash cards or have a look at their books, Matty saw how the others avoided that corner of the desk; lifting their arms up, away out of it’s…reach? Sometimes, when it was quiet in the room save for the scrik-scrik of their pencils, Matty could feel it there, a few feet in front of him. ‘Look’, it seemed to say, ‘look, look over here.’

‘I won’t’ he thought back; ‘I won’t look at you’ but he always did and whenever he looked up, Miss McKay was always looking up too; their eyes would meet over that terrible stone.

‘I hate you.’ He thought, ‘I hate you.’

And he looked up from his book, his palms sodden with sweat.


The Black Land: Redux

Almost three years ago I wrote a novella. It was supposed to be novel,  a gilded masterpiece, a groundbreaking work of speculative fiction, as mystifying and fear-inducing as Jay Anson’s Amityville Horror. The world and their friends would endlessly speculate on whether MJ Wesolowski’s terrifying book was based on real events or an elaborate hoax.

Thing was; I didn’t really have an idea. No; I had an idea, it just wasn’t a very original one. I’ll create a place, I thought to myself, a haunted, cursed place. A place that might be real, a distant, oblique stead that people will pay pilgrimage to in years to come; that horror aficionados will flock to in their multitudes. Think Derry, , think Providence, think Westeros.

Only I couldn’t think of a place.

And all my ideas were either rubbish or derivative.

Then we went on holiday. My heavily pregnant wife spent her afternoons napping while I constructed my masterpiece. My constructing my masterpiece, I wrestled endlessly with a bad Wi-Fi signal and watched Newcastle United pre-season friendlies.

We were in Northumberland; the wild lands of North East England, lands blighted for years by the wars of England and Scotland, soaked in the blood of conflict.  Northumberland has a fierce and proud identity; back in time it had its own breed of warriors known as Border Rievers; the notorious and lawless families of the Anglo-Scottish divide who fought in the name of no one but their own.  farne2

 

Northumberland also boasts some of England’s most beautiful coastlines and countryside; Lindisfarne or Holy Island, its ruins still standing after some of the earliest Viking pillages on English soil; the wildlife sanctuary of the Farne Islands themselves and further inland, the formidable Chillingham Castle, England’s most haunted building.

Why not create my story here?

We rode on a boat out to the Farne Islands; the slate blue of the north sea thudding against the prow; the brown stacks of land rose from the waters in ominous cliffs like RR Martin’s Pyke, home of the infamous Greyjoys.

farne

Seals fill these waters and the eerie cries of the Kittiwakes rained down on us from their nests, perched taught and precarious on the edges of the cliffs. The Vikings used to say that Kittiwakes were the souls of their heroes that perished at sea. When you here the onomatopoeic wail of their cries

 

Kitti-WAKE, kitti-WAKE

You can believe it yourself.

 pyke

Then it came to me. This ancient place, rich in history, conflict and spilled blood would be the location for my story.

Named after the heather-clad moorland of Northumberland’s wilds; ‘The Black Land’ would be a story of ancient evil; of a place that will not be tamed.

Fast forward to a year later and The Black Land was finished (it almost wasn’t; I actually almost gave up on it because an ending simply wouldn’t come, no matter how hard I tried. It took some gentle encouragement from a good writer friend of mine; he basically berated me for the ending being rubbish and the story being much too short.)  

A few more months of writing a proper ending and editing (repeat and keep on repeating…)before the manuscript was taken on by US-based indie-publisher ‘Blood Bound Books.

It was even better when a very good friend of mine and immaculate low/horror artists Richard Disley agreed to create the front cover for me. (Go check him out, he is MINT!)

I gave Richard the manuscript and let him create what he saw in the book with no input from me. The result was magnificent; it was as if Richard had reached into my brain and plucked what I was trying to create….maybe he did…I’ll never know.

Black Land

During the final content edits of the novella, I wrote quite a significant back-story to one of the characters; that was, unfortunately cut from the final edit because of time constraints. It doesn’t affect the continuity of the story, it was just a little bit of author-flouncing.

However I was proud of it and when the book came out, totally forgot I had ever written this extra chapter.

 

Until now…

So, I thought, why not give out that extra chapter on my blog?

It’ll be sort of like a bonus bit of literature that someone, sometime, maybe might even enjoy, if they really have nothing better to do.

I’ll also include some of the concept sketches for the front cover which are hauntingly beautiful…

 

For those of you who haven’t read The Black Land, it is available here (UK folk) and here (US folk) in either paperback or kindle (The bonus for buying the paperback is you get Richard’s amazing artwork in full colour!)  and I would ask you if you have read it, would you mind writing a quick review on Amazon or goodreads (It does wonders for my ego you know!) even if you hated every single word and want to express that…

The next post (probably next week sometime) will be

The Black Land: Bonus Material part 1 of 4: Matty Dunn’s story.

It occurs just after the main character of the Black Land has convinced local fisherman Matty Dunn (A good Riever name!) to sail him to the cursed island of Blámenholm.

farne3

 


The Black Land: Redux

Almost three years ago I wrote a novella. It was supposed to be novel,  a gilded masterpiece, a groundbreaking work of speculative fiction, as mystifying and fear-inducing as Jay Anson’s Amityville Horror. The world and their friends would endlessly speculate on whether MJ Wesolowski’s terrifying book was based on real events or an elaborate hoax.

Thing was; I didn’t really have an idea. No; I had an idea, it just wasn’t a very original one. I’ll create a place, I thought to myself, a haunted, cursed place. A place that might be real, a distant, oblique stead that people will pay pilgrimage to in years to come; that horror aficionados will flock to in their multitudes. Think Derry, , think Providence, think Westeros.

Only I couldn’t think of a place.

And all my ideas were either rubbish or derivative.

Then we went on holiday. My heavily pregnant wife spent her afternoons napping while I constructed my masterpiece. My constructing my masterpiece, I wrestled endlessly with a bad Wi-Fi signal and watched Newcastle United pre-season friendlies.

We were in Northumberland; the wild lands of North East England, lands blighted for years by the wars of England and Scotland, soaked in the blood of conflict.  Northumberland has a fierce and proud identity; back in time it had its own breed of warriors known as Border Rievers; the notorious and lawless families of the Anglo-Scottish divide who fought in the name of no one but their own.  farne2

 

Northumberland also boasts some of England’s most beautiful coastlines and countryside; Lindisfarne or Holy Island, its ruins still standing after some of the earliest Viking pillages on English soil; the wildlife sanctuary of the Farne Islands themselves and further inland, the formidable Chillingham Castle, England’s most haunted building.

Why not create my story here?

We rode on a boat out to the Farne Islands; the slate blue of the north sea thudding against the prow; the brown stacks of land rose from the waters in ominous cliffs like RR Martin’s Pyke, home of the infamous Greyjoys.

farne

Seals fill these waters and the eerie cries of the Kittiwakes rained down on us from their nests, perched taught and precarious on the edges of the cliffs. The Vikings used to say that Kittiwakes were the souls of their heroes that perished at sea. When you here the onomatopoeic wail of their cries

 

Kitti-WAKE, kitti-WAKE

You can believe it yourself.

 pyke

Then it came to me. This ancient place, rich in history, conflict and spilled blood would be the location for my story.

Named after the heather-clad moorland of Northumberland’s wilds; ‘The Black Land’ would be a story of ancient evil; of a place that will not be tamed.

Fast forward to a year later and The Black Land was finished (it almost wasn’t; I actually almost gave up on it because an ending simply wouldn’t come, no matter how hard I tried. It took some gentle encouragement from a good writer friend of mine; he basically berated me for the ending being rubbish and the story being much too short.)  

A few more months of writing a proper ending and editing (repeat and keep on repeating…)before the manuscript was taken on by US-based indie-publisher ‘Blood Bound Books.

It was even better when a very good friend of mine and immaculate low/horror artists Richard Disley agreed to create the front cover for me. (Go check him out, he is MINT!)

I gave Richard the manuscript and let him create what he saw in the book with no input from me. The result was magnificent; it was as if Richard had reached into my brain and plucked what I was trying to create….maybe he did…I’ll never know.

Black Land

During the final content edits of the novella, I wrote quite a significant back-story to one of the characters; that was, unfortunately cut from the final edit because of time constraints. It doesn’t affect the continuity of the story, it was just a little bit of author-flouncing.

However I was proud of it and when the book came out, totally forgot I had ever written this extra chapter.

 

Until now…

So, I thought, why not give out that extra chapter on my blog?

It’ll be sort of like a bonus bit of literature that someone, sometime, maybe might even enjoy, if they really have nothing better to do.

I’ll also include some of the concept sketches for the front cover which are hauntingly beautiful…

 

For those of you who haven’t read The Black Land, it is available here (UK folk) and here (US folk) in either paperback or kindle (The bonus for buying the paperback is you get Richard’s amazing artwork in full colour!)  and I would ask you if you have read it, would you mind writing a quick review on Amazon or goodreads (It does wonders for my ego you know!) even if you hated every single word and want to express that…

The next post (probably next week sometime) will be

The Black Land: Bonus Material part 1 of 4: Matty Dunn’s story.

It occurs just after the main character of the Black Land has convinced local fisherman Matty Dunn (A good Riever name!) to sail him to the cursed island of Blámenholm.

farne3