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Feeling mildly pleased with myself today. I’ve just had a story accepted for a Christmas-themed collection of supernatural stories. Only 1900 words, but it’s a cute little tale with a significant macabre twist. The title is ‘Moonlit shadow’ and I’ve placed it with a small Scottish publishing house called Leg-Iron Books. A publishing house so small it has no significant online presence. However, the proprietor likes the story and apart from my usual mistakes of occasionally mixing tenses and the odd rogue apostrophe, it’s as sound a piece of work as I ever write. So editing should be minimal.
Of course the money on offer is insignificant. Less than twenty dollars. But if my story helps grow the Leg-Iron brand, perhaps the financial rewards will grow too. May even do one of my video readings of it with the publisher’s consent.
For the record; I spent a rough total of thirty-five hours actually writing the story, with another five or ten hours of editing to come. Not bad considering I’m also holding down two part-time jobs, but this is no way to get rich.
Well I’ve done it, I’ve finally created a video of one of my old short stories. Looks like I need to get a decent microphone and upgrade my webcam, but for a first attempt it’s not too bad. This piece of work is up on both YouTube and Vimeo. I’ve embedded the Vimeo version here because on YouTube my supernatural tale of a recovering alcoholic is in competition with lots of video’s of cats climbing ‘trees’ made of MDF and carpet. Which a lot of people find amusing. This makes my small effort very hard to find.
The video is marked as mature content simply because it deals with adult subjects, not because this work is salacious in any way but simply because work that covers topics like alcoholism, psychiatric illness and domestic violence are not topics the main video platforms and their advertisers generally like. Please have a look and comment if possible. What you like, what you don’t like, did the tale give you a chill or miss by the proverbial country mile? I’ll try and answer any questions about the story, perhaps in a follow up video.
No, it’s not autobiographical but some of the story is based on personal experience.
With luck, this will be the first of a series. I originally wrote five dark little stories based around this particular family and their own special kind of spirit. Here are the titles in sequence;
The Cat Tree
Here is the Youtube version below. Same thing goes; tell me what you liked, what left you cold, what made you shiver.
Update: Now also on Bitchute.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.