Friday, 22 February 2013

Facebook Flash Fiction: The Darklings



Somewhat darker than normal, so yeah, not for children.

I didn't ask for a prompt this time. I had this idea and wanted to share. So this one's all me.

So I present, Facebook Flash Fiction Free and For Friday...



The Darklings

I cannot remember a time when it was not like this. Hell just pretty much turned up on the doorstep one day and started knocking. The day it happened feels like it was just yesterday.

I awoke as normal and noticed that it was darker outside than usual... I assumed it was raining, snowing even, being a March morning. I pulled back the curtains to find the world had changed...

As I looked out of the window, the curtains still gripped in my hands, my arms spread wide, my mouth dropped slowly open. The sky was a deep hue of orange, like an early morning sunrise, but deeper - darker somehow.

And the streets were full of people.

At first I didn't know what was going on, I mean there were people running to and fro, screaming, panic even. I suppose somewhere in my mind I thought that the most likely answer was that someone, somewhere had pushed the big red button. Dropped the bomb.

But I found out later that wasn't it.

I realized that I was still gripping the curtains and I had to make a conscientious effort to let them go. I was gripped with fear I guess. I'd heard about fall out, and radiation... it didn't mean a lot to me, but I knew it was bad. Then I remembered that Daisy - my daughter - was next door. In retrospect I'll never forget nor forgive myself that she wasn't my first thought, but she doesn't often stay, her Mother thinks - thought - I was a bad influence.

I went through and pushed the door open. I don't know what I was expecting to see, but she was asleep, her arm draped over her face and she was making the lightest of snores. It made me smile just slightly, before my thoughts returned to outside. Closing the door quietly, I returned to my bedroom and dressed.

I don't live in a bad neighborhood, but I live alone, in a small two up two down house, so I always tried to think of protection. I pulled the aluminum baseball bat out from under the bed, and went downstairs. I looked through the small window next to the front door. Jim - my next door neighbor - was standing on the grass just between our two houses staring blankly into the crowd. He was wearing his pajamas and a robe.  I unlocked the door and went out, leaning the bat up against the jamb of the door, just inside. The law doesn't like weapons in public.

I walked over to him and rested my hand on his shoulder, more to get his attention than anything else, and he jumped. He looked at me, wide eyed. Then he looked through me. He just stared out into the distance. "Jim," I asked, "what's happened?"

He shook his head very slowly from side to side, his mouth slightly open, but no words coming out. Then he looked over to his front door - it like mine, left open - and he pointed.

I don't know why I felt the need to look.

I walked over to his door and peered through into the darkness. The curtains were all closed and the lights were off.

At first I didn't notice anything. Then, over the noise of the panic outside, from within the house I heard a noise. It sounded like dripping. You know the sound... plopping. I frowned and walked in. Jim's house was the exact mirror of my own in layout, so I knew where everything was. It sounded like the plopping was in the kitchen.

I pushed the door open and looked into the darkness.

An abyss... really.

I later found out it was Jim's wife, Shana. I don't know how to explain it really, but she was smeared over everything. I've heard there's what, seven pints of blood in a human body? Well, if that's true, all seven pints had been poured out and washed over every surface. The room dripped in red. There were bits of flesh sticking to the surfaces, the ceiling even. It was like a meat shed. Something out of a twisted mind. As my eyes focused I could see finger nails and teeth lying in the quagmire of butchery - splinters of bone.

I backed away, slowly at first, and then as the realization sunk in, quicker. I turned as I reached the front door and came face to face with Jim. He just stared at me. I pushed him away - out of my way - and tore back into my own house, slamming and locking the front door behind me and wielding the bat.

I didn't understand.

***

I stood at Daisy's bedroom window, the bat in my hands resting on my shoulder, as she continued to sleep as civilization fell. I couldn't make out what the people wanted... what they ran from... but they scurried like ants in the red sunlight.

I watched Jim stand eternally in his garden, his mind broken perhaps by the death of wife.

It was when I stood there that I first saw one.

Jim was standing there, vacant, I saw old lady Doris from a couple of doors down - she was leaving by the looks of it, packed her bags and everything - and then there were all the other people. People screaming, a couple waving guns about. It had all turned to shit. The law was nowhere to be seen. By now I would have expected the army, at least. Then it leaped into view.

To this day, I can't tell you what it looks like.

You know when your shadow is cast on uneven ground? Mix that up with the static off an old TV. Something like that. They don't look real.

And you sure as shit can't see them at night.

I thought it was a shadow at first, paid it no attention, but the others - some I guess had seen one earlier this morning - rallied around. They formed a sort of circle around it. They pointed weapons at it. And it just sort of hunched there. I couldn't tell what it was thinking.

Didn't have no face, see?

Then Jim screamed. He screamed at it. His scream came all the way up from his belly and he charged at it. I don't know if it was the one that got Shana - don't know if Jim knew - but he wanted revenge... of that, I can be sure.

It pounced at him, as he did.

And it passed right into him too. Like a shadow.

Jim stopped, and stood there, wavering slightly. Then he grabbed at his stomach. This thing was inside him. Then he screamed.

I've never seen a man explode before.

Jim showered the crowd with bits. It even reached my lawn, the red and gunk, splattered all over my grass. And left standing there was the thing.

And the people scattered.

That's when Daisy tugged on my arm. She asked what was going on. I told her we had to leave.

We packed a few things  in a backpack and hit the street. I don't know where I was taking her, but I knew that we had to go. The thought crossed my mind to take her to her mother's, but as we packed I listened to the radio. It was everywhere.

I guess I decided 'away' was important and 'where' wasn't.

I took her hand and we ran.

It only took me a few seconds to realize that everyone was running in one direction. I didn't think about it at the time, and I just followed the pack... like a sheep. I didn't think that they were running from something. But when I looked back, there were three of them chasing us down like fox hunters. They were jumping from person to person, picking off the slowest.  They were dying in explosions of red plume, splattered across the street.

And us... the people I was running with... the human race... was being thinned out.

The panic was overwhelming. People screamed and shouted. Me? I just held onto to Daisy and kept running. 

She stumbled, but didn't lose her footing, and I stopped to scoop her up into my arms - to carry her.

The crowd pushed me off my feet...

... and I was trampled.

I lost consciousness, I guess.

When I came to, the streets were painted red. I was covered in blood, and bits. And there were no things to be seen and no people.

That was six months ago now.

I've found a few other people on my travels. I learned to avoid the things by day, and stay silent at night.

And one day I'll find Daisy. 
 

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Hall of Twelve: A Review

Continuing the year of self publishing, we bring you, "Hall of Twelve", by the talented Rebecca Besser...

Hall of Twelve: Rebecca Besser
Hm. I suppose I should open with a synopsis thingy (spoiler free, of course). Never easy, with a short.

Hall of Twelve is about the end, I suppose. Beings who are far superior to the human race judging us. It is the tale of a man there. He has nothing to lose... other than roll the dice.

In the style of Rebecca Besser (which I have yet to decide, although she can be a bit 'Richard Laymon' at times) Hall of Twelve works. It gives you enough bleak grimness to see the future - this future - and believe that it is real.

If you've read the amazing 'Earths End' - edited by Rebecca, and including one of her shorts - you'll know what I mean.

Technically the story is edited excellently, formatted well, and is a professional book. It delivers what is says on the box. But I've come to expect nothing less from Rebecca Besser.

So that leaves only the story. Does that hold up?

The grimness of a tale like this is one of the major factors for me. I need 'end of the world fiction' to read like 'The Road'. It's the only thing that makes it real. Whilst this is a short, the grim factor is there.

I will say that the opening grim is skimmed over a little. Perhaps this is best, based on the outcome of the story, perhaps not, that is a decision of the author, and not for me to say. I just felt that the emotional roller coaster of the protagonist was a little under done.

Then it turns into Hollywood awesome.

After the emotional opening we see horror, action, thriller... the story takes off, and culminates in a newness. I don't look for much in my horror, but if you're gonna do it: go new.

It has a payoff that works, a story that grips, likable characters...

What more do you want?

You can get it on Amazon US and Amazon UK. Go. Be afraid.


Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Why Horror: Nightmares...

"My parents think I'm pretty twisted... hell, most people think I'm pretty twisted."

My love of the horror genre far out dates my writing. It goes back a long way. So what started it all? Why do I read gore infested twisted fiction? Why do I have a collection of horror movies that I've scoured the world for?

Why do I have nightmares...?

Most people don't remember their dreams. I know I don't... mostly. My earliest memory of a dream is a nightmare. I can't tell you when it was, but it was pre- 10.

I was at my junior school, and being chased by a dog. I remember it so vividly because the dog - an Alsatian - caught me. It was in the cloakroom where we kept our coats. It chased me in there and it bit me. It actually bit my whole damned hand off at the wrist.

And then I woke up.

It scared the hell out of me.

I've always been wary of dogs, and this was a fairly reinforcing event.

Why did I have it? Who knows. I was too young to analyze. I expect I didn't want to go to school. I was wary of dogs, and maybe had watched Empire Strikes Back that night. But none of that matters. Now, I look back on the memory, and while it still fills me with a disturbed icky feeling, the real feeling is long gone. It disappeared with my youth, my innocence.

It was fear. Real fear. Terror.

It was a terror that only the brutal belief of actual danger, pain, and death, can cause.

It is my first memory of horror... and I still remember it to this day.

And nothing scares me like that anymore.

There are a couple of others I remember that were reminiscent of this.

In one I got shot.

They say you can't die in your dreams. I don't know if that's true or not. I don't think I have. I got shot in the head. The skin on my head folded up as the bullet impacted and traveled through.

And then I woke up.

It produces a sick feeling in the stomach. A dizziness... a nausea.

I don't know why, but I sort got addicted to it.

It became my drug. It was a punch of emotion, the spook, the scare, the jump, and then finally the giggle when I realize it's not real.

My brother says I'm desensitized to horror. Maybe that's why if I do have a nightmare these days I don't remember it. Maybe I don't even wake up. They're just dreams to me these days.

But it started me on a path...

...a long path.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

When Graveyards Yawn: A Review

So I walk into an online bookshop and there's this book...

When Graveyards Yawn: G. Wells Taylor
I knew not of what to expect. I didn't research it. I didn't even pay that much attention to the cover. The name suggested horror, the cover... detective noir perhaps...?

So what has G. Wells Taylor created?

Well, something quite awesome actually.

I know nothing of the author, and as I have only just finished reading this, I haven't looked further yet, except I know that there are more. So what's it all about?

The book opens with no explanation. It is now... or perhaps the future... or even the past. But it's different. Hard to explain, but the book focuses on a ghost - who has no appreciable memory - who has the ability to accost the body of a private investigator at near will, who wears clown makeup.

And then it hits you. It's cross genre, horror/noir/bizarro.

The story follows a noir plot in a post 'event' future where people can't die as such. So yeah, zombies. And detectives.

Again, I'll use the word... yeah.

Without touching on plot too much (as always, no spoilers here) the book follows the detective, Wildclown, (a most disagreeable, drunk, bummed out, depressed - and yet some what likeable - clown painted investigator), his sidekick, Elmo, and the ghost who appears to be ethereally attached to the clown. They, for lack of a better term, go on adventures and shit, and detect things.

The book has one big over arcing story, entwined with many smaller ones, and Wildclown seems to stagger drunkly from one plot point to another.

The thing is though, none of it comes across as contrived. There are no coincidences.

G. Wells Taylor can write a tale. It twists. It turns. You don't see it coming.

He has built a world which you can see - no, feel - and characters that you believe. The most unlikeable are likeable, and you end up trusting no one.

Yes, this is strange stuff. It's also extremely entertaining... if you're into this sort of thing.

A little squicky at times, a twisting story that is followable, 'When Graveyards Yawn' is one hell of a tale.

Oh, did I mention that it's also free on Smashwords?

Go get it: When Graveyards Yawn.

If you like it, do the dude a favor. Buy the next one.

I'm gonna.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Being an Author: Or Not

Yeah.

I had a vacation / holiday / week off / leave me alone.

I've had a week (10 days ish) and I didn't write. I didn't do anything. Except be me. Have fun.

So now I'm behind. I've got work built up. The work I should have been critiquing has has laid unread; The novels unfinished; The serial dormant.

Was it worth it?

Hell, yeah!

I don't often take a break from the written word - at least, not a week. I didn't just ignore the page either. My social network, and this, my blog, went untouched. Sorry about that (lie).

Again... so worth it.

So now, I reflect on the whole writer thing, when I'm not writing. Did I miss it...? Yeah. Of course. It's part of me. Did I spend the week plotting and planning in my head....? Not so much. Of course I thought about it... it's part of me after all... but I didn't dwell. I didn't 'think about' it. It just... crossed my mind.

So what did I learn?

Ice Cream is Cool. (literally)

I went to the Haagen Daz ice-cream-bar-restaurant-thing at the BlueWater mall. I took my lady. That makes it okay for me to enjoy, right? (Shut up, you at the back). I've never had professional ice cream before. I'm guessing it's like other professional services (no, seriously, shut up, dude... stop giggling) ... it was like a party in my mouth.

People. You have to enjoy professional ice cream AT LEAST ONCE IN YOUR LIVES.

Proper Dining is for Proper Dress.

We went to a restaurant, you know, posh like. I suited up, she looked STUNNING. Anyway, there were other people there who had, shall we say, not taken the time to try. I thought it was a shame. I mean, this was a nice place, it was a special day. Hey, take the time.

If They Don't Have Merlot, Choose Temperillo (tempranillo?).

Whatever. The lady will know. It's a good second. Trust me. Her. Yeah.

If you go to a waxworks and they have Hitler, take a picture and reference it as often as possible.


So what am I saying?

Take the time. Be more than just a writer. Being an Author is cool. Really cool. Really awesome. But be more than it, more than that. It might make you a better writer, it might not. 

Who cares. 

It's fun.

Go to see the aminals. Meercats are cute. The fictional character Sherlock Holmes has his own museum (wonderously), go and look.

Sometimes, just sometimes, dump the writing and be a person. Smile.

And maybe sometime in the future I'll start doing posts about restaurants and stuff, you know, to mix it up.

... wait... 

... when did this become a food blog? 

Meep.
  

Friday, 8 February 2013

Dark Dwellings: A Review.


From the clearly twisted mind of Dale Eldon, with more disturbing sinister goodness than Clive Barker, I give you...

Dark Dwellings

Dale Eldon: Dark Dwellings

As many of you know, I am all about the horror. I like it in all flavors, from books to music (yes, horror music), film to play. I also like it in all strengths, from, say the Goonies, to French shockers, like Inside, and over to the Spanish for the delightfully surreal Six Films to Keep You Awake. So yeah, horror.

This short is shocking. It got to me.

And defines Dale Eldon as one of the upcoming horror writers to watch.

I, a) couldn't put it down, and b) didn't feel like sleeping after.

I read a lot of indie authors, hey, I've promised to only review indie work this year, and I have a lot of good to say about their work (I guess I've just been lucky), but sometimes I come across work that makes me want to seek out more of their work.

And this did that. So, what's it all about?

The cover didn't give it away?

Actually, no. Whatever judgement you make on the cover doesn't say (couldn't say) what's inside...

The Freak Show is in town, and one of the freaks is hungry. 

Dark Dwellings is no ordinary Freak Show tale, there's no jokes at the bearded lady here. This is real Freak Show stuff, where the freaks are as afraid of each other as we are. And we should be afraid.

Gummy, tormented for his clownish appearance is one such freak. The only thing is, Gummy has a taste for flesh. He faces off against Aaron in the new home of the show, an abandoned warehouse, climaxing in one shock ending.

Delightfully claustrophobic, Dark Dwellings seemed to nip at my most primordial fears. They say you are born only with a fear of falling and loud noises, and that every other fear is learned.

Teach your children about Dark Dwellings, for they should fear it.

Actually don't. This is not for young eyes.

If you want to read something that will stay with you, read this. It is scary (I don't say that lightly), squicky and icky for the gore hounds (but not too much), and atmospheric to the eyeballs.

I felt like I was in the dark,

and there was something there with me...

Go and buy this book on Smashwords, here. But don't say I didn't warn you.

Dale Eldon creates the macabre. You can find his blog here, his horror page here, and his author page here.





Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Being An Author: Storytelling

It's what it's all about, isn't it?

Should stories be by the numbers...?

The concept of 'beginning, middle and end' is something that I think about a lot. It is classed as traditional storytelling. Taking the big three: Flash, Short and Novel, do we (or perhaps the better question is 'should we?') use the concept?

Within flash fiction there is little place for the concept. But it still needs to say something. I have read flash fiction that is pretty, but has no story. I believe that there is room in flash fiction (say, 500 words or less even) for conflict. (and in proofing this post, I add the word 'structure')

In fact, for me, flash can be the most gripping of all forms of fiction because it is about the moment.

So in all other forms, what are the concepts?

In their most basic of terms:
The beginning portion of the story should introduce characters, world build and introduce conflict.
The middle sees the characters learning to overcome the hurdles that are required to resolve the conflict.
The end sees the resolution of the conflict.

This is simple storytelling.

It is simple storytelling that can apply to most stories.

Frodo Baggins? Luke Skywalker? Sarah Conner?

The secret is to create believable characters with real emotions, and at the start of the story, the protagonist is a lay-person. Luke and Frodo were what... farmers? They were dragged kicking and screaming into the story, and because they see the story through virgin eyes, we are also told the story through those eyes. 

But by definition, if we all create stories in this fashion of storytelling, surely that makes our writing - all writing - linear to a certain extent.

Writing by the numbers.

My recently completed novel is told using these basic steps, but with a) a non-linear time line, and b) a character who is, shall we say, a mystery. The collab novel I'm working on at the moment, has the two protagonists being, well, not the 'good guys'. The Devil's Hand is five individual stories with an over-arcing story.

But still these can all be argued to fall into traditional storytelling.

So can we break the mold? Can we break it and still tell an enriching story? My answer is, of course. Whilst each example I could give can be argued, let us look at what we can do to break the concepts of traditional storytelling.

Not starting at the beginning.

It's been done. It can be extremely effective. (Memento, anyone?) But how? Cutting the front off of your story will not work. If you write, say, 100K of novel, then go and hack off the first 20K, just to produce a non-trad novel, you're erm... cutting your nose off to spite your face. You will have created a narrative within those 20K, and you can't just cut them off. It has to be planned. Do you want to tell your story backwards? Do you want to omit a critical detail from the start? (If you do this, btw, do it right. If you screw it up, it's a sucker punch for the reader...)

Debunking the everyman protagonist.

Now this one can, and will cause problems, if not done right. The biggest problem with telling a story from the pov of a non-everyman is that the audience is either expected to understand everything that's going on (have you seen the movie Primer? I'm no slouch at physics, but jeez), or the 'experts' in the movie have to exposition so much the story will be weighed down, or just plain nonsensical and boring.

Not finishing at the end.

Ick. So easy to screw up completely. Finishing before the end (perhaps in an infamous fade to black moment) can leave the readers in as much of a quandary as the sucker punch. If done right it can leave them talking, exmining the end of your story. Done wrong and they will hate you. TO YOUR VERY SOUL. And what of the run on, after the story. Again, go on too long and the reader with be, 'well, finish it already,' or, perhaps worse, you will end up beginning something new, a a new story that will need telling somewhere.

So can we tell stories without the numbers? Can we throw away the rulebook?

Yes.

Experiment.

With experimentation your writing will become staid. It will wither.

And you as a writer might just die...

...'Til next time.


Monday, 4 February 2013

Self Publishing: Creating Your Own Cover (II)

So, where was I?

Ah, yes.

Are you an artist? Are you? What, I've done this bit? Okay then.

So last time, it was 'shopping your own cover. What if you can't? Do you draw your own cover? Like, hand draw? Can you draw like Gary McCluskey? Can you draw like this?

Gary McCluskey: man who can draw.

No?

Then don't draw it.

We have already discussed the whole, bite with the eye thing, and we know that a crumby cover says crumby book (regardless of whether it is, or isn't). You don't want your book to have the drawing of a two year old let loose with the crayons and a wall on the front. (Unless it is about two year old's, walls and crayons). No. You know what?

It would look better without a cover, than a bad cover. Look at this:

Er... The Catcher in the Rye...
Now that's pretty awesome, isn't it? I'm not going to shame anyone and start showing pictures of what I think are bad covers here, that's all just my opinion. But a cover like this can be done in any old free bit of software, all you need to do is choose a color and a font. It really couldn't be easier.

Just don't kill your book but giving it a broken cover. Get opinions. Ask, and ye shall be honored with the truth. Hey, I'll tell you it's shit, if it's shit, in private. Not here.

But then, of course, you could get a pro in on the game.

I know that money is a factor. They say you need to spend money to make money. I know, I'm turning into a clique. But it's true.

For example, you see Mr. McCluskey's work about. The man can draw, I cannot, therefore funds change hands in exchange for services.

And there are plenty of guys out there doing this...

Gary McCluskey, of course, and William Cook are just two I happen to know. Google search will give you a packet load.

My personal friend Mr. Dale Eldon is branching out. You can find him here. He'll be working awesome covers like this:


Yeah, that's how he rolls. (BTW, go and buy this. It's freakin' awesome-creepy) They'll be more from Mr. Eldon in the next couple of weeks, as he's sweeping by to talk about covers, working in the industry, and generally being the man behind a lot (and I mean a lot) of projects. Watch this space. 

Costs vary from site to site and person to person. Thing is, you need to know what you want, but also what you've got to spend, and then you need to make sure you go to the right place.

I said last time that I wasn't affiliated with any of the sites that I commented on. This time I will say that Mr. Eldon is a friend, but also an awesome guy who won't steer you wrong, I can't really hide the fact that Gary McCluskey is responsible for the cover art of my own, 'The Human Condition', and that I know William Cook. If you want my honest opinion, these three guys are all sorts of awesome and they'll help you. Anyone else and I can't say.

You pay your money and you takes your chance.

In the next part, I've got some things to talk about that I'm not sure about. But it's still covers...

... I'll be back.