Saturday, 24 June 2017

Flash Fiction Day Submissions

Three stories created for Damon L Wakes' Flash Fiction Day. Links to all the stories created by the writers who took part can be found on Damon's blog here.

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The Promised Land


I awoke and I knew that I was no longer on Earth.

I could feel the sun upon my back and the warm sand between my fingers and, though my head ached and my heart pounded in my chest, I forced my head up to look around me. What a sight greeted my eyes!

This was no beach, but a desert; from horizon to horizon there was naught but sand. And this was not the dull, dun coloured sand of Earth; it shone like a scintillating carpet of colour, a dazzling miasma of reds and golds, greens and deep blues, as if a million precious gems had been crushed to dust and acattered about like litter. I grabbed a handful and let what felt like immeasurable wealth trickle through my fingers. Then, a sudden nausea overcame me and I was violently sick. My head began to spin and my vision blurred. Eventually, the convulsions subsided and I was again able to force my head up to examine my new surroundings.

Pinkish clouds drifted lazily across a lemon yellow sky. Where was I? Was it Mars perhaps? Or Venus? I had no answer. What I did know was how I had arrived here.

My name is Adam Fox and there are those who will say that I am an evil man. Perhaps I am? Perhaps not. But I firmly believe that many people would do as I did, had they found themselves in the same predicament.

 At first, there were few outward signs; an occasional dizzy spell, the odd nosebleed. But when I collapsed at the grocer’s store, I knew that something was terribly wrong. At the time, I assumed it to be over work. Ah, but what wishful thinking! Confirmation of my worst fears arrived vide Dr Laxby. I had contracted a form of cancer and I was given less than a year to live.

Desperation will do strange things to even the best of men. I sought solace in religion but the Church could offer me nothing but a promise of eternal life in the hereafter. So I began to look elsewhere. Call me foolish; call me a madman, but accept that I was an impetuous thirty year old male, lusty for life. Real life. My researches led me to a book, supposedly bound in human skin, that purported to contain a spell that could transport my soul into another body. I used my life’s savings to acquire the book. I was a drowning man, despairingly clutching at straws.

On the night of January 12 1866, I sat naked on the floor and waited for midnight. I had torn up the carpet of my home in order to draw an arcane pentagram upon the parquet. The furniture had been taken away by the Rag and Bone that evening; one way or another, I'd not need them after that night. The snow was falling heavily and the wind howled in the chimneys as a perfect backdrop to this, my act of heresy.

Being so close to death, they say, clears the mind. Certainly, I was lucid. I had even made provisions for the possibility of failure. A bottle of barbiturate and a syringe lay beside me. The pain had become much worse of late; if this did not work, I would be in pain no longer. The clock chimed twelve and I painfully shuffled into the centre of the pentagram. A sudden chill wind caught me unawares and I shivered. Then, a great gust seemed to rise up from nowhere and reddened the ashes in the hearth. I began to chant.

A feeling of utmost calm overcame me. I surrendered to its warm and comforting embrace and let it embrace me. Was this death? And then, a fierce pressure pushed at my temples and unseen hands seemed to pull me in all directions at once. I screamed for them to stop. Then all was dark.

And now I was awake once more and I knew that the spell had succeeded. My soul had been drawn from my body and deposited ... where? Into what vessel? I could see that this new torso was clothed in a mat of dark hair and had a sharply defined, well developed musculature. This was a strong, powerful body.

I was wishing for the throbbing of my head to pass, when I became aware that I was no longer alone. I looked up and was astonished to see that it was a woman. Her skin was white, almost blue, and her face was framed with jet black hair that cascaded over her shoulders. She was tall and willowy, almost glass like in her frail elegance. She was very beautiful. At her side stood a fantastic beast that I can scarce describe. The girl approached, perhaps sensing that I posed her no threat, and looked at me with curiosity writ large upon her face.

"Garathrey set serhaija?"

It sounded like a question, but I had no answer. The hammering in my temples was so loud as to drown all other sound. I clutched at my chest and tried to rise to my feet but I hadn't the strength and I collapsed to the sand. I forced my head up one last time.

I had travelled perhaps many millions of miles (or years mayhap?) to a world that no Man had ever seen; a world of strange beauty and wonder. A world where the precious stones of Earth were as pebbles; a world where at least one woman was more beautiful that any terrestrial maiden; a world that offered me a chance to be a Man again, able to do great deeds and reap vast rewards. A world, in short, that offered me everything that the Earth could not.

Everything, that is, except an adequate oxygen atmosphere.


(With huge apologies to Edgar Rice Burroughs)


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Man of Hunger 


The O’Halloran’s convenience wasn’t at all convenient.

It stood at the bottom of a long and rambling garden and, here and there, scattered on the rough crab-grass and cobbles, lay the shards of broken flower pots. It was bad enough trying to negotiate this dangerous obstacle course by day, let alone in the middle of the night. And, to make matters worse, the night held terrors for eight year old Padgraig.

He wasn’t sure what he should do. He’d drunk too much water at supper time and now he needed to relieve himself. But how? He had no chamber pot (He’d broken a brand new one a week ago but hadn’t built up the courage to tell his father yet.) There was no other choice. He would have to go outside.

Into the garden.

Into the dark.

Since he was baby, his Nana had told him stories of the night people that inhabited the moonlit world. Just as grey was neither black nor white, so moonlight was neither night nor day and the folk that lived and bathed in it were something less and yet something more than human: Like the Banshee who wailed and screamed across the marshes; the one-armed and one-legged Fachan; the child devouring Ghillie-Dhu. Padgraig respected the faerie folk. And he feared them. However, the pain in his bladder was growing worse and he knew that he would have to go soon or burst.

He slowly pulled back the bolt on the kitchen door and his stomach growled. He was hungry. Everyone was hungry. Padgraig prayed to God that his hungry tummy would stay silent as his bare feet touched the cool stone of the back step. An owl hooted and somewhere, in the distance, a vixen, sounding for all the world like a woman howling with misery and loss, called for a mate. Padgraig's courage nearly deserted him but desperation drove him on.

One step.

Two.

He made his way carefully down the garden path towards the little shed. All was silent except for his gentle footfalls and a shuffling, rustling noise like dry leaves whispering wind-blown over dry bones. He stopped still, hardly daring to breathe. He listened closely. A cat? The soft scraping noise was coming from the Baxter's garden. And there was another noise; a low moaning like the noises his uncle made when he'd drunk too much poteen. Padgraig slowly and silently tip-toed to the wall and peered into the garden next door. His eyes opened wide with astonishment. At the back door of the Baxter’s house stood a scarecrow of a man; a stick figure dressed in grubby rags that floated around it as if pushed by a warm breeze. It had the face of a dead man; skull-white, old as parchment, slivers of red muscle and pink flesh clinging in tattered sheets. The eyes were deep-set and staring. The teeth were yellowed and chipped. Wisps of wiry hair grew in clumps upon its wrinkled leathery scalp. The creature was peering through the window and moaning softly to itself.

Padgraig was so mesmerised and so scared that he hardly noticed that he had wet himself. The skeletal figure seemed to become even less substantial as, soundlessly, its arm slid into the wall. Its body followed, slipping through the solid bricks and mortar like a man wading into a pond. The wraith was gone and Padgraig stood trembling in his damp socks. He knew what this being was and what it did. This was the Man of Hunger - the man who stole into houses at night in order to clothe his wasting body the the muscle and skin, sinew and bone, of those who were close to death. It was a sad, pointless existence that the Man of Hunger endured, for as fast as he re-built his body, it would immediately begin to crumble and wither away. He was a damned soul, destined never to be whole, spurned by God and the Devil.

Despite his terror, Padgriag felt unable to leave the wall and stayed waiting for a further ten minutes, his eyes glued to the rear of the Baxter’s house. His perseverance was rewarded when the Man of Hunger re-emerged rubbing his saggy belly. Muscle and skin now clothed his skull and barely any bone shone through. The pitiful creature let out a last, lonely, mournful wail and walked slowly towards the gate. Then it stopped and those terrible empty black eyes stared straight at Padgraig.

“Not your time”, hissed the Man of Hunger and then, he was gone.

The next day, Padgraig admitted to his father that he’d broken his chamber pot. Calum O'Halloran cuffed him gently around the ear and said, “Accidents happen.” Then he insisted on Padgraig putting on his Sunday best and going next door to pay his respects to old Mary Baxter who had died in the night. She was 83 and had been ill for some time.

The only person Padgraig ever told about the Man of Hunger was his best friend Terry Colhoun. He didn’t believe a word of it, of course, and Padgraig was so cross that he didn't call for Terry for a week. And he never again drank water at supper time.


Saturday, 17 June 2017

Author Interview - James Flynn

What's your name? 

James Flynn



What's the title of your most recent book? 

Conservation 

Describe the book in under 100 words. 

The Earth is dying, and humanity isn’t far behind. Overpopulation, famine, and environmental destruction are ravaging the world. A corporation launches a huge generation ship full of crew members and animal wildlife in search of the next habitable planet, but one lone passenger manages to unleash a plague of violence and madness that could destroy all hope for the revolutionary vessel. When a donator to the famous project researches the ship's disappearance, he discovers an ugly truth that will change his life forever.

Describe the book in under 10 words. 

When earth finally crumbles, can humanity work together?



What is your favourite book and why? 

Possibly American Psycho, because of the lasting impression its had on me and also because of its cult status.

Who is your favourite author and why? 

Thomas Harris, because in my opinion he's created the most chilling, disturbing character in literary fiction—Hannibal Lector.

Name a book that you wish you'd written and why? 

Probably 'The Running Man' by Stephen King. The idea of a mainstream game show that includes hunting down civilians like that is very chilling to me. The idea of a whole society becoming so relaxed and accepting of violence is scary, and I enjoyed the film as well, despite it being a little bit corny.

Describe a typical writing day for you.

If I want to get any serious work done, I have to leave the comfort of my flat. Spending the day in the local library, a coffee shop or a quiet pub somewhere usually suffices, as long as I'm outdoors. I don't tend to listen to music much when working, although I'm beginning to warm to the idea a little. I'm yet to find anything that's not distracting, though.

What's your biggest frustration as a writer? 

Not being able to express things as clearly as I'd like is always a frustration of mine. I often edit sections of writing multiple times until I get it right. Somebody said once that we are all 'stuck inside a prison of words'. I think this is very true.

How do people find out more about you? 

Website, Twitter, Facebook, blog? email? etc. I'm very active on Twitter and my handle is @james__flynn (that's two underscores!)

My book—Conservation by James Flynn—can be found on Amazon, as well as my author page. For general enquiries you can also contact me by email: egorone@msn.com

Friday, 16 June 2017

Author Interview - Ian Skewis

What's your name?

Hello, my name is Ian Skewis.



What's the title of your most recent book?

A Murder Of Crows, published by Unbound on March 27th.

Describe the book in under 100 words.

The most violent thunderstorm in living memory occurs above a sleepy village on the west coast of Scotland. A young couple shelter in the woods, never to be seen again... DCI Jack Russell is brought in to investigate. Nearing retirement, he undertakes one last case, which he believes can be solved as a matter of routine. But what Jack discovers in the forest leads him to the conclusion that he is following in the footsteps of a psychopath who is just getting started. Jack is flung headlong into a race against time to prevent the evolution of a serial killer...

Describe the book in under 10 words. 

Detective battles to prevent the evolution of a killer...



What is your favourite book and why? 

Atonement by Ian McEwan. I love books that comment on the healing process of writing. It's an extraordinary story - this woman who tries to atone for something she did to two entirely innocent young people when she herself was only a child. In the end all she can do is to rewrite their life story - her final act of kindness, her atonement is finally fulfilled - but what a sad story, so poignant. I think Brighton Rock by Graham Greene would be a close second.

Who is your favourite author and why? 

Again, Ian McEwan. The Cement Garden was the first book I read that really hooked me. I won a prize for English at secondary school and I was given a book token as a reward. I only chose The Cement Garden because I recognised that the front cover of that particular edition was by Russell Mills, who I was a fan of (he did many album covers for the likes of David Sylvian etc). The story was secondary, but when I read it I was hooked.

Name a book that you wish you'd written and why?

None really. I'm happy with what I do and enjoy what others do. I'd like to be able to write as well as the likes of McEwan but I just keep trying to improve. I can't really do much more than that to be honest.

Describe a typical writing day for you. 

On a good day I'll shower, have breakfast, and get straight onto some writing. It makes me feel less pressured if I get some words typed first thing in the morning. Then, I'll write throughout the day, in between tidying the place up and the countless other chores I'm always doing. (I suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder so it takes up a lot of my time and headspace!) And when work gets in the way with my 12 -15 hour shifts too? It's no wonder that A Murder Of Crows took so long to complete!

What's your biggest frustration as a writer? 

At the moment it's the amount of time I have to spend doing writing related things, especially the marketing and publicity. It means I have even less time to write! Lack of money is always a problem too because I can't afford to take time off to write either. A vicious circle, but I obviously get a kick out of seeing my name in print so that's the pay off I guess.

How do people find out more about you?

I can be found on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. There is also A Murder Of Crows Facebook page too. The book itself is available via Amazon, Waterstones, the Book Depository, local independent booksellers and libraries. This is the Amazon link: amzn.to/2nmrfWC

 I thank you!


Thursday, 15 June 2017

Author Interview - Pierre Hollins

Who are you? 

Pierre Hollins



What's the title of your forthcoming book?

The Karma Farmers 

Describe the book in 100 words or fewer:

The Karma Farmers is crime fiction based on a philosophical conundrum. The question is this: If science demonstrated that consciousness could survive death, how far would you go to discover if it was true? In this age of divisive belief systems, Bradley Holmeson a thirty-something bookshop manager, is attempting to cure the existential dilemma with science. Research leads him to a rare quantum paradigm, which he self-publishes in a revolutionary manifesto. He expects to be discovered and celebrated by popular media. He’s not looking for revolution so much as literary notoriety, hoping that commercial success will impress his estranged girlfriend. However, his manifesto begins to attract the wrong attention… This quest for The Holy Grail of Science is a fast paced adventure in which a hipster philosopher becomes embroiled in occult experiment; where he meets the violent, the obsessed and the dangerously misguided, armed only with his defensive sarcasm. And all to win back the woman he loves. 

Describe the book in fewer than 10 words:

Love, murder and quantum theory



What is your favourite book?

Come on Mr Colgan, you know that’s an impossible question. There are so many contenders. In truth, I have two lists: current favourites; and all-time favourites, books that I have returned to over the years and re-read. So here’s a small selection from both lists. Current favourites include: ‘I Regret Everything’ – Seth Greenland. ‘I Have America Surrounded’ – John Higgs. ‘War’ – Sebastian Junger. ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’ – Ben Fountain. ‘Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight’ – Alexandra Fuller, ‘Princess Naughty and the Voodoo Cadillac’ – Fred Willard. ‘Edisto’ – Padgett Powell.  And from the all-time list: ‘Give Us A Kiss’ – Daniel Woodrell, ‘Vineland’ – Thomas Pynchon, and ‘The Neuromancer Trilogy’ – William Gibson 

Who is your favourite author?

Again, another unfair question; but here’s a short list of authors who never seem to let me down: Elmore Leonard,  Philip K Dick, Charles Bukowski, Daniel Woodrell.

Name a book you wish you'd written:

Three contenders: all wonderful and completely diverse… ‘Really The Blues’ - Mezz Mezzrow, ‘A Room With a View’ - E M Forster, and ‘The Tao of Physics’ - Fritjof Capra

Describe a typical writing day:

There is no typical day. It depends what stage I’m at with a particular project. If I have a completed draft that needs re-writing or editing, then I’m full on, every hour of the day. I seem to crave that level of immersion. I’m currently working on a sequel to The Karma Farmers – at the stage of making notes, reading for research, and I’m actually trying to postpone writing the first draft, because as soon as I commit to it, I know little else will get done until it’s finished.

What are your biggest frustrations as a writer?

Many years ago I attended a course on story structure by the writing guru Robert McKee. Three days of insight and inspiration that still manages to echo and inform. So here’s a neat McKee paradox that answers this question: ‘writing is the most difficult thing you can do, but everything else is more difficult’. Writing is the most difficult thing you’ll do, because you want it to be right – you want the product to be as close to the ideas that inspired it – and so you work night and day to serve that idea. However, everything else is more difficult because everything else is a distraction from writing. And that is currently my biggest frustration: the need to do other things, to buy the time, while attempting to become a great novelist. 

How do people find out more about you? 

Web site: www.pierrehollins.com
Twitter: @pierrehollins
Instagram: @thehollins