The Cat Tree and other stories


Writer’s block takes you on some strange journeys. While I’m still struggling with reconstructing the Stars series of science fiction novels I found a stray short story on my hard drive, untouched since 2005.

Let me explain a little of the tales history. While I was living in Claverdon, Warwickshire, back in the 1980’s I roughed out a series of supernatural fantasy stories based around the theme of a haunted garden which I entitled ‘The Cat Tree and other stories’. These tales were never submitted anywhere and have lurked in various of my archives, both paper and digital, for over thirty years. Until last week.

I also found a manuscript copy of the title story ‘The Cat Tree’ which is a spooky little tale, sitting in my archive box too, along with several of the original planned series, like ‘White Noise’ and ‘Josephine’.  On Amstrad tractor dot matrix printer paper no less.  How they survived there since 1987 I have no idea. Since I first wrote them a lot of life has happened. Wife, stepdaughters, four changes of career and a move to Canada. Not to mention the upheavals of four house moves we’ve undergone since we’ve been here.

The original drafts were written between 1985 and 1987, firstly on an Imperial Safari typewriter, then transferred onto on a primitive Amstrad 8512 word processor. The narratives dealt with issues like drug induced mental illness and the long process of healing and recovery. A few years before, I’d dropped out of Nursing college, so I felt comfortable dealing with the themes of healing and recovery, which at that stage were still fairly fresh in my mind.

Still, after a read through I thought that the original draft was fairly shaky but the theme was too good not to have a go at revisiting the project. So in my off duty time last week I gave it a re-write, then handed it to my wife for a second opinion. She said she liked it, asked me various questions and I answered by editing the offending passages until it made sense to both of us. I was quite pleased with the ensuing 3300 words, which has led me to a further decision. I’ve decided to resurrect this project and breathe some life into all six of the stories I wrote for the original collection, then post some readings on a dedicated YouTube / Vimeo / Dailymotion / Bitchute video sharing channel. Furthermore, I’ve elected to open a Patreon account, so whomsoever likes my work can throw me an occasional dollar or two, if it pleases them. If not, at least I haven’t given up my day job.

The artwork is of my own creation and gives a strong hint as to the theme and content of the first story in the series. If anyone out there wants to comment / voice an opinion, I’m happy to listen.

Update:  I’ve edited the repeat text out of this post and am busy trying to record some versions worthy of broadcast.  ‘White Noise’, the follow on from ‘The Cat Tree’ is in need of a thorough overhaul and I haven’t even re-read ‘Josephine’ or my notes for ‘Unwelcoming’ for transcription just yet.  Watch this space.

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After a long hiatus, I’ve restarted work on ‘Darkness between the stars’, the third installment of the ‘Stars’ trilogy. There is a problem with the story as it stands, there are too many threads to close, loose story lines going nowhere. Too much happening in real life for me to focus seriously on writing. New job. New responsibilities. Much to learn and teach.

I know ‘Stars’ is a flawed project which needs tearing apart and rebuilding rather than abandoning outright. There is much in it that is good but the whole thing is in need of a serious restructure. Even shortening. But I must finish the whole thing first.

A dark night for Paris


Just been watching the online France 24 coverage from Paris.  Which is all the more chilling because I know the affected area quite well.  Angie and I spent a very happy month renting a little apartment off Rue De Charonne during May and June this year.  We had the pleasure of breakfasting at La Belle Equipe, one terrorist target, one sunny Sunday in June.  Often walking Boulevard Voltaire, passing through Place de la Bastille, Ile de France almost daily. Despite the Gendarmerie armed with automatic rifles guarding every major intersection, we never once felt threatened or nervous, no matter the time of day or night.

So why did the gunmen pick the 10th and 11th Arondissements to paint with murder? I can only guess. What I do know is that those particular streets have a reputation of being ‘Hipster’ areas. Graffiti lined streets thronged with young urban professionals in their 20’s and early 30’s, gossiping, arguing and flirting amongst themselves until the early hours. All contributing to the recent gentrification, stylishly contrasting with traditionally garbed African Immigrants from the old French colonies.

Are the terrorists so unsophisticated that they think murdering people wholesale on the streets will cause a backlash against the newer immigrants and so send their co-religionists flocking to the terrorists cause en masse? No. Didn’t happen over the Charlie Hebdo massacre and won’t happen now.

I can only hope that none of the people who were so helpful and hospitable to us during our month long stay were hit in these atrocities and would like to offer the following message of solidarity and sympathy;

Courage mes braves. Ajourd’hui, nous sommes tout Parisien.

The deep range


At a talk at Laurel Point Hotel by Dr Robert Ballard (of Titanic fame) and Dr Kate Moran of Ocean Networks, Canada on a new Oceanographic research resource on Sunday, I was reminded of a novel by that giant of Sci-fi, Arthur C Clarke, called The Deep Range. I remember it first as a short story, then owning a copy as part of a compilation. One of my all time favourite reads.

Enjoyed the talk tremendously. It was quite a boost sitting less than six feet from the man who discovered the wrecks of the Titanic and Bismarck. Although Dr Ballard modestly compares diving a mini sub from the surface to twelve thousand feet underwater and back as just “Another day at the office.” with a ‘three and a half hour’ commute. Which made me smile. He also wisecracks about the risks. Pointing out picture of two 1970’s vintage bathyscaphes with a mock-rueful “That one almost killed me. So did that.” His anecdote about finding the Titanic whilst looking for the wrecks of USS Thresher and USS Scorpion Nuclear submarines for the US Military came as quite a revelation. As did a number of other entertaining epiphanies like the flipping crab, and everyone on board a research vessel geeking out over a visiting Sperm Whale. I just sat there, totally engaged, scribbling the odd note and hardly noticing as two hours just sped by.

During the Q&A session towards the end I asked a question about the definition of sidescan sonar, the answer to which came as quite a surprise, although it shouldn’t have. Apparently at depths over three thousand metres or ten thousand feet, the contours that can be mapped are between five and ten metres, depending upon salinity and water temperature. As depth increases, so the contours that can be mapped decrease. At twelve thousand feet the definition degrades, so I am informed, to over ten metres between mappable contours. So anything smaller than ten metres or sixty feet doesn’t show up very well, if at all. No wonder they’re having such a problem locating the wreck of flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean’s vast abyssal plains. Meaning that if the wreckage is broken into pieces less than sixty feet across the wreckage may not show up on the plot, even if a survey vessel goes directly overhead. And this is with some of the best scanning devices available.

The Ocean Networks new ship, the EV Nautilus, is in downtown Victoria this morning, at Ogden Point I think. I’m sorely tempted to go and see, but my keyboard is singing a siren song, telling me I’ve neglected it for far, far too long. There’s a whole new story forming in my head right now about piracy, sabotage, black smokers and electrolytic mining in the ocean depths, knocking at the door, demanding to be let out.

Another day, another competition


Another competition entered over at Inkitt. This time with a revamp of the four thousand word short story ‘Happy Birthday, Charles!’ a (hopefully funny) dark little Sci-fi tale of man versus machine, where the machine just wants the man to be happy. It’s an improvement on the original, which was not well received because it poked a little seasonal fun at Christmas. So I re-wrote it for a birthday; same characters, tighter writing, and a little stronger as far as the story telling voice is concerned. It’s here in case anyone wants to give it a vote in the ‘Laughable’ contest. Not the Horror, which it decidedly is not.

The revamped version with competition graphic can also be found via my ‘short stories’ page, here.

Old material revisited


Back in 2006, I had a supernatural short story called ‘Hunter’ published in the 2006 February Fiction special edition for ‘People’s Friend’. In reply to another one of Inkitt’s competitions, I decided to dig my small stock of paranormal stories out for examination and re-edit.

The candidate I chose was originally the full version to which the 1500 words of ‘Hunter’ were merely a prologue. It’s called ‘Restoration’, a bit of a English period piece. Almost anachronistic, as the world of small market towns and county families is one that has been fading from the English countryside for a number of years. It’s a sort of ‘Country house ghost story’ but this time round I’ve tried to give it a feelgood ending. I’m posting the preliminary artwork below, just to get some other eyes on.
Restoration header

Update: The story is now approved here at Inkitt for their ‘Shiver’ contest. Read, enjoy, ignore the half dozen typos and missed apostrophes etc. Alternatively read here.

New short story


About three weeks ago I received an invitation via Twitter to submit a short story for the Beyond Time competition at Inkitt. Digging around in the partial projects folders I found a piece from the Paul Calvin / Cerberus cycle of stories about a character invented for ‘A falling of Angels’. The title is ‘Oggie’, just over five thousand words on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, mean streets, kidnap, murder, and a little shot at redemption. It’s as close as I get to happy endings.

Buffing up the narrative and fleshing out the characters a little, I finished the story and fielded it off to my younger Stepdaughter for a test read. Jo likes reading, and sent me back a couple of pages of notes and suggestions, 90% of which I acted on. She’s a trained lawyer and reads voraciously when the mood hits. I also trust and prize her judgement like diamonds.

The end result gets submitted later today. I don’t submit many stories, preferring to publish online or via Lulu.com. No idea whether anyone else will like it, but here goes nothing.

The story will get it’s own page once submitted, see rough artwork below.
Oggie cover