Friday, 23 December 2011

Write away!

Season's greetings folks! Most of you would most probably have got all your presents together by now (although you there, yes, you with the glasses, are you sure your mum wants an umbrella for Chritmas?) so it's time to settle down in front of the warm fire for a post on the trials and tribulations of writing.

As mentioned on my previous post, this 'holiday season' I'm writing a Sherlock Holmes story, original to me but, the initial idea was, to be inspired by a reference of an untold case in the Holmes Canon (if you've read them, you'll know what I mean; one of the most famous is 'the giant rat of sumatra' which Watson tells us 'the world is not prepared for'). However, as with everything I write, the actual writing bit fills me with apprehension. It's terrible and completely illogical but I feel I have to plan it out a great deal before I write a word, I suppose, In case I write something and decide I hate it and then will be sent into a melancholic sob about the state of my writing. It's illogical because, if you're interested in writing you'll have no doubt heard this sentence, writing is all about rewriting. So my first draft won't ever be perfect so I might as well go and put pen to paper (well, finger to key; I've always planned to start writing first in notebooks then write up in neat on a computer because - anyway, that's a whole other kettle of fish).
But, I am determined to get over this detrimental habit of mine. I'm trying to set myself the task to write something everyday (that's a silly thing to do at this time of dear, really, as several days in the next couple of weeks will be filled with family visits or catching up with friends). So far today I have scribbled stuff on screen and paper and have come up with a (in my opinion) good plot and plan to strt writing tonight! After blogging, of course.
What sparked my thinking about how I write was a couple of excellent blog posts concerning advice on writing and some illusions wannabe writers have about the profession. A lot of it is really quite sobering stuff but is fascinating nonetheless. These are Paul Cornell's (the writer of the excellent Doctor Who episodes 'Human Nature/ The Family of Blood') Top 40 things to know about writing and James Swallow's (who wrote the wild west Doctor Who novel 'Peacemaker') Twelve harsh truths about writing.

I'll have to start worrying about these things a lot more in the future but for now it's Christmas! Time for eating several too many mince pies and playing board games and watching Christmas telly. You enjoy yourselves, make sure to watch this year's Who special at 7.00pm on Chrimble Day and I'll be back blogging after the big day.

Bonne Noel!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Melting Man

By Jove, what a suprise! While rooting through old Word documents on my laptop, I came across this; an abandoned opening to a Sherlock Holmes story. See what you think.

The Adventure of the Melting Man

From the Reminisces of Dr John H. Watson M.D.
Of all of our incredible cases that have threatened to break a man’s view of the world, few have been as singular as the affair of the death of the eminent author, Vincent De Lacey.
The year was 1887 and it was a bitter February morning. The rain hammered on down on the cobbled streets of London with terrific force; I pitied any poor soul misfortunate enough to be out in such a storm. Fortunately, I was inside 221B Baker Street in front of a blazing fire Mrs Hudson had lit for us earlier that day. My wife had gone to visit her sister for a short period so I had temporarily taken up my old lodgings with my dear friend, Sherlock Holmes.  Holmes was busying himself on the opposite side of the room with the morning’s papers, reading through his favourite agony columns.  In my particularly comfortable armchair, I had begun to doze but a sudden call from my friend woke me:
‘Watson, look sharp, there is a poor young woman making her way towards us.’
I went over to Holmes and discovered he was peering out of the window. Soon, the door to our room was opened by Mrs Hudson, who led in the sobbing, soaked young woman Holmes had foreseen.
She was a simply delectable creature, her golden brown hair, carefully gathered under her hat, was beautiful if considerably wet from the rain. I instinctively lent the girl my seat in front of the fire and knelt down beside her with a comforting pat on the hand.
‘My dear child,’ began Holmes with a gentle smile. ‘You must be in dire circumstances to travel to us on such a day. Pray, when you have composed yourself; tell us what troubles you so.’ 
‘I’m sorry to trouble you, Mr Holmes, Dr Watson, but I don’t know who else to turn to. It’s my father. Last night, he was fine, as jovial as ever, but this morning –‘ The young woman relapsed into her outburst of tears.
‘Carry on, my dear,’ I soothed. ‘What happened?’

‘When I came into my father’s chamber this morning, he had simply melted. away.’

And that's all I did. I'd largely forgotten about and am actually quite impressed by how I portray Watson's 'voice' in the piece. And the 'favourite agony columns' part completes fathoms me now, but must be a reference to Holmes' tastes within the real stories. The idea of the Mystery of the Melting Man has been with me for awhile and eventually found life in some form as a (very) short story I entered into a Crime Writing competition (you can read it here). It's an idea that I still think I can do something else with so I may come back to it again in the future. What I'm definitely doing, or at least planning to, is to write a Sherlock Holmes story this Christmas, proisionally titled 'The Phantom of Vortigern House'. So watch this space!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

The Power of Twitter

Ah, Twitter. Ever-reliable Twitter. You can always count on the loveable, massively popular bird-themed social network to distract you, especially when you have something due in presently (as does your truly; ssh if we won't mention it again, it might go away). You may even tweet solely about twitter distracting you - perhaps the most ludicrously way of time-wasting which I hope I haven't sunk to yet. Social networks are a drug. And I - as are so many - am addicted.

It's terrible to admit but it is true. Thankfully, I'm not as bad as some people who, largely self-confessed which is good, check twitter and tweet with much more ferocity than I do. Columnist Andrew Collins thought it was for 'stalkers, narcissists and people who talk to themselves'. I'd like to think I'm none of the above but, you never know, I may be all three.

However, despite its perhaps sole purpose as a distraction machine, I love it. It strangely satisfying when you clip your thoughts down into a (hopefully) witty nugget of 140 characters. Plus, celebrities have it so it's a good way to see what they're up to. And, occasionally, you may even get a tweet back from them. I once get a reply from Mark Gatiss when I asked him a question about his Who episode (more words than I said to him in person, in fact) while my sister recently was tweeted by Russell Tovey.
However, despite its witty chatty appearance, Twitter and other social networks -it's not alone in this - have a dark side...

As brilliantly shown in Charlie Brooker's recent opener to his new Black Mirror series (a Twilight Zone inspired anthology series), Twitter - or more accurately the collective thoughts of the mass of people who use it - can control what happens in the 'real' world. In the aforementioned episode 'The National Anthem', a popular royal princess is kidnapped and the ransom states the Prime Minister (a clear Cameron pastiche but well-played by Rory Kinnear) must... do something thoroughly abhorrent and embarrasing on live TV for the princess' safe return. Whether or not he goes through with it is largley based on how people are reacting to it on Twitter and other such sites, due to the government's constant reliance on public opinion. I'm deliberatly witholding details from you as if you ever get round to watching it I have no intention to spoil the surprise. If you are interested you can watch it here.

Of course, at this moment in time Twitter isn't distracting me from my work but Blogger is. Yet I didn't blame it. Cue Twilight Zone music.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

A blog for Christmas cheer!

Just to start us off - I love Christmas! Truly I do. I think it has something to do with all the memories I retain from childhood; when Christmas was a HUGE deal. There was never a more exciting time of the year when you're a kid. Christmas TV is woven into the fond memories too; the adverts, the usually awful comedy specials - even those '100 greatest...' shows C4 used to churn out. I would have mentioned the now great tradition of the Doctor Who special but that didn't come around til I was 13.
Talking of Christmas TV, it has been confirmed that the first episode of Sherlock Series Two will be broadcast on New Year's Day! For anyone, who doesn't know, it's a modern-day version of the classic Holmes story A Scandal in Bohemia, now titled 'A Scandal in Belgravia'. However, as anyone who has seen the fabulous series will know, it won't be a straight adaption.
Christmas movies are also an important part of the season. There's the classics that everyone should watch - It's A Wonderful Life, Scrooge and Miracle on 34th Street - and also modern favourites like the eternally lovable Home Alone (the sequel's just as good, the third is passable but please do not subject yourself to No.4) and the brilliantly irreverent Gremlins. Personal favourites include Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas for its sheer creative spirit and a Christmas never goes by where I haven't seen A Muppet's Christmas Carol - what? Don't look at me like that; it's really good.

This Noe`l-themed nostalgia fest has been sparked by a saunter through Winchester High street which, regaled in bright Christmas lights, brim-full with busy Christmas shoppers and topped off with a giant tree in its centre, really felt very festive. Here, here Winchester for getting into the spirit!

Yeah, I know it's blurry but I think it has a certain effect. 

In terms of writing this 'holiday season'. I'm currently tackling with the idea of Christmas Sherlock Holmes adventure. Yes, I know Holmesians out there will point out there is indeed a Holmes story set at this time of year (The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, which sees a priceless jewel found in a Christmas goose) but I've been planning to write a proper Holmes story for ages and I thought there's no better time than the present. Plus, with the Guy Ritchie movie and the return of the Moffat/Gatiss series it's going to be a very Holmesian Christmas anyway. I'm planning it as a full, original Holmes short story in the style of Conan Doyle - the current idea is for it to involve a haunted house but that is subject to change. I'll keep you all posted.

And so all there's left to say is, in the words of the First Doctor in a fourth-wall breaking Who episode in the 60s; 'A very merry Christmas to all of you at home.'

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Day I Met Moffat (and don't forget Mark Gatiss, Gareth Roberts, Tom McRae etcetera etcetera)

Today, the last day of November - Christmas is upon us, people! - I travelled up to London for a book signing at Shaftesbury Avenue's Forbidden Planet Megastore. The signers? Only a bloody horde of some of Doctor Who's most prestigious - and several sadly unsung - names! I'll make a list of them soon. I love lists and I'm sure you do too so get ready for some list-action!

Travelling to and around London was an adventure in itself. The hour long train journey spent talking with a friend was I thought delightfully Sherlock Holmes - if the Sherlock Holmes stories featured boring modern trains rather than the really cool Victorian ones.
Once in London we had to tackle the Tube. For someone who can't remember ever having used it before, it struck me as being oddly enclosed and claustrophobic. Though I did see Jon Culshaw (the impressionist who does a great Tom Baker among others) whilst waiting for the train. It's especially eerie as I'm reading Neil Gaiman's novel 'Neverwhere' at the moment set in a magical undercity beneath London where, among others, vicious creatures dwell in the dark of the railway tracks. Mind the gap!
Obviously, arising from the depths of London Below to the striking, bright, loud, busy, teeming with life London Above was a bit daunting but we managed to navigate ourselves through the great behemoth buildings to find our destination without much problem.

After waiting for the best part of an hour outside we finally got in and met (prepare yourselves, list-fans):

Steven Moffat - Well, you're all probably aware of him. The Moff is of course Doctor Who's Head Honcho. The man from whose head it all comes from. Needless to say as an aspiring writer and massive Who fan, he is a great inspiration. One of my all-time favourite writers.
Before going in I went over several things I wanted to say to him in my head. However, when it came to it, when Steven Moffat, the frogging lead writer of Doctor Who and the creator of Sherlock, is actually sitting in front of you wearing a big smile and saying 'hello! What's your name?' in his warm Scottish tones, all I could muster was '....Christian. Lovely to meet you...Thank you.'
Pah! I would go back in a time machine and try again but Moffat's episodes have shown me how messing with your timeline is a very bad idea - blowing holes in the time continuum the size of Belgium and whatnot. Besides, he was a really nice guy. Replying to my shyness with something like 'Well, there you go.' in a friendly way.

Mark Gatiss - Basically Moffat's second in command. The writer of the spooktastic episodes 'The Unquiet Dead' and 'Night Terrors' as well as wartime romp 'Victory of the Daleks'. In my opinion, he's a genius. I've never read or seen anything of Gatiss' I haven't liked, from his fabulous Lucifer Box novels to the terrifying Crooked House series to his co-creating the modern-day Sherlock. Sadly, due to the swiftness of the signings and the way it was laid out, I didn't get to say anything to Gatiss. Just a signature and a smile. But that's enough for me.

Gareth Roberts - Perhaps the most reliable of Who writers. Roberts' episodes are always hilarous, dramatic and touching in turn. He's great at doing the middle episodes that don't have some big event going on. Like the Agatha Christie pastiche 'The Unicorn and the Wasp' or the hilarious 'The Lodger'. He was a really nice guy. He took the time to say hello and had a nice bit of banter with Steven over the state of the Moff's handwriting of my name.

I could talk about everyone just as much but for the sake of your patience I'll just give you the pictures and who they are.

Tom McRae, writer of TV episodes 'Rise of the Cybermen/ The Age of Steel' and 'The Girl Who Waited'. I think he wins the award for best handwriting.

Ben Cook - Big Doctor Who journalist, regular contributor to Doctor Who Magazine and Radio Times plus co-author of 'The Writer's Tale' with Russell T Davies. He had the best hair of the bunch (perhaps cos several were bald) - Russell Brand style but bright red, really red!

David Bailey - Writer of several Doctor Who short stories and audio stories. Nice touch with the bow tie I thought.

James Goss - Writer of several Doctor Who and Torchwood novels and talking books
including 'Dead of Winter' and 'Blackout'. He was probably the quietest of them. Still nice though.

Clayton Hickman - Co- writer with Gareth Roberts of Who short stories, audio adventures and an SJA episode. Also, the ex-editor of DWM and the guy who designs the Doctor Who DVDs.
He's also, as you may have guessed, the editor of this book.

Paul Lang - Designer of this book.

David Llewelyn - Writer of several Doctor Who and Torchwood novels including 'The Taking of Chelsea 426' and 'Trace Memory'.

Jason Arnopp - Writer of numerous Doctor Who audio tales and a regular DWM contributor.

Gary Russel - Much like Clay Hickman, someone who gets involved in every bit of Doctor Who. He was the producer of Big Finish's Doctor Who audio adventures, the former script editor of both Doctor Who and SJA and is the writer of many Doctor Who novels. He also said he'd follow me on Twitter What a nice man!

Phew! Well, I hope you enjoyed that. At the time of writing the clock has just struck 00.00 on the 1st December! Seasons greetings, everyone!

And remember to watch 'The Doctor, the Witch and the Wardrobe' on Christmas Day by the wonderful Steven Moffat.

I've met him, you know.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Story Time #3: Peter and the Wolf

Last week, my Creativity group went on a trip (with packed lunches and everything - I felt like a school kid again!) to a Wolf Sanctuary in Newbury. It was an amazing day. We got to walk with the wolves and even pet them (you also have to go through a process of making sure they accept you first - think the Hippogriff scene in Harry Potter 3). I think the fellah above is Motomo, he was cool. The only wolf there who wasn't raised by people so that was the closest he would come to the fence. Anyway, the link to Creative Writing was that our tutor set up a story competition afterwards - write a wolf story up to 1000 words based on the day's experiences. The winner gets to be published in the sanctuary's monthly magazine. So, without further ado, here's my entry into the competition. I've left the explanation we had to do on the end as you may find it interesting. Read on...

                                             Peter and the Wolf

Midwinter night in the forest; bitter cold and smothered in a blanket of pure white. There is a full moon; the only time man can venture out once the day has gone. Peter has left the comfort of the small cottage in the clearing and has gone with his grandfather to collect wood for the fire. He has just turned ten years old – this is his first time in the forest.          
The woods are feared in the village. Every child is told of the legends of the slavering, savage, starving wolves that live among the trees. They are the Devil’s acolytes. They come for your family in the night. They mean you great harm.
Peter and his grandfather go further into the forest. The old man sets to his work, contented, until a cold sweat erupts on his wrinkled forehead; the silence of the night has been broken by the low, melodious call of the wolf. The old man grabs the boy’s hand and runs back through the trees. Peter risks a glance back, catching a fleeting glimpse of something shooting towards them like a bullet – the speed it was going at! Suddenly, the boy trips, his fall cushioned by the soft snow. His grandfather keeps running; he has not noticed! Peter hears a course breathing coming closer. He is terrified but he is brave, he tells himself. He can face this wolf.
It was an awesome spectacle. Its pelt was as grey as storm clouds and its nose as black as the night itself. Peter could see how the sight of it could strike terror into a man’s heart. But there was so much more to it. It looks a proud creature; its sleek body held high, its slender legs standing firm – it knows it rules this land and that Peter is a foreigner.  The stories he had been told painted the wolf as a sly, cunning animal or a ravenous bloodhound. From where he stood, neither of these is true. After all, they haven’t harmed him. The boy stands and the wolf turns its head; the burnt orange of its eyes fixed on him. Peter stares closer and peers through the windows into the wolf’s soul.
It is afraid. Constantly. All the wolves fear the slavering, savage, starving humans, dreading that humans will come for his pack every day. The wolf is wise but cannot explain why it is persecuted so. It surely is in the company of wolves that man fell from grace.
Something is pushing at Peter’s legs, he turns; it is another wolf, smaller than the first. His yellow eyes are less melancholic though his pelt is the same gunmetal shade. This wolf is the other’s cub. Peter goes to pet the newcomer but the first steps forward. The boy faces the wolf - it seems to see into his soul too; sees his innocence and care. It relents. The smaller wolf is excitable, jumping and jittering as Peter rubs its underbelly, feeling its wiry outer coat and the thick fleece of fur beneath. Peter’s anxiety melted at the wolf’s warm touch and its giddy countenance. He is no longer afraid.
Another shape comes from the trees. This one is fairer than the others. It sees Peter with the cub, a look of apprehension in its eyes. But it gazes at the first wolf and seems to understand. It strides over to Peter. This is the mother of the cub and the first’s mate. Two of the pack have accepted him but the first wolf, the father, stands clear. It has spent so long mistrusting humans, believing that they mean him great harm. Yet this boy does not. It slowly approaches.

And so, under the cool rays of the moonlight, that makes the fallen snowflakes glisten like jewels, Peter began to walk with the wolf.

I was largely influenced by how we were told of the wolf’s persecution through the ages. I wanted to loosely use the tale of Peter and the Wolf to tell a story of a human who sees that both the humans and the wolves fear each other the same. The wolf pack is also based on Motomo, Mai and Nuka from the sanctuary.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Happy birthday, Doctor Who!

Happy birthday to Who, Happy birthday to Who, Happy birthday Doctor Who-oo, Happy birthday to Who!

(cue one of those things that squawk when you blow it)

Yes, it's 23rd November 2011 meaning its been 48 years to the day since Doctor Who first appeared on the nation's - and later the world's - screens with an adventure titled 'The Unearthly Child'; two school teachers follow their unusual pupil home to discover she lives in a Police Box in a junkyard...
The first episode is wonderfully eerie with its hazy black and white look and William Hartnell is positively chilling as the Doctor. Far removed from his predecessors such as Tennant's chirpy Doctor and Smith's bumbler, Hartnell here (he later mellowed into a sweet old gent) is a cold standoffish figure, locking the two teachers inside his TARDIS so they won't tell his secret. And off they go into time and space.

It's hard for us now, so familiar with the concept, to think how ground-breaking and gripping that episode must have been - a Police Box as a spaceship! And it's bigger on the inside! And it travels in time! For those like Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat who saw this as young children, the sheer originality of the show captured their imaginations and hasn't let them go their whole lives.

I, however, was born a mere 30 years to late to see this episode live so my first Doctor Who memory was on a Saturday evening on 9th April 2005; of the TARDIS arriving in Victorian Cardiff meeting Dickens and ghosts...

I remember knowing what Doctor Who was before it came back - my dad had watched it through the first three Doctors (Troughton was his favourite) - but I had never seen any. I know I was annoyed when I accidentally missed the first couple of episodes; 'Rose' - my family switched over in time just to see Rose run into the TARDIS at the end - and 'The End of the World' so I made sure I watched the next one.

Needless to say, I loved it. I was instantly hooked on Who and haven't looked back since.

Gatiss' Victorian horror is still one of my all-time favourites - partially due to the fact he's one of my favourite writers (if you haven't already go check out his Lucifer Box novel series) and my love of Victorian-set fiction. To my 12-year old self, it was just the best; a friendly alien who cavorts about the universe in a bigger-on-the-inside phonebox and meets ghosts, big green monsters and metal pepperpots - how could I not love it!

Here's to the next 48 years!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A Snippet of a Script

Thought I'd share with you all (well, you, anyway) a short opening scene I wrote for my Scriptwriting seminar. We were asked to come up with something akin to the morning scene in Jaws i.e. a short scene that sets up main characters and shows their world in balance. Anyway, here it is sans title as I haven't come up with one yet. P.s. Excuse the eschew formatting, I'll blame Word.


It is a bright summer’s morning and two young children are cheerily playing and running around together in a nicely kept garden behind a pleasant detached house. Our focus is with these children – one boy, one girl, both dressed in school clothes – the main sound we hear is their laughter with perhaps some birdsong in the background.

               Ha! I won. My turn again.

                   Maisie (V.O)
    What? That’s not fair. If you won I should g-

As we hear the children’s playful arguing the shot pans further down the garden to where another child – a boy – is sitting alone by a small garden pond. He, also dressed in school clothes, seems smaller and more fragile than the other two. Unlike the other children’s cheery expressions, he is visibly more sombre, engrossed in the pond. Shot changes to the other children who have stopped their play to look at the boy, in that way that children do when they see something they don’t understand.


A woman circa thirty is busy fixing lunches and fiddling with school bags. She is rushing around and going back and forth but she doesn’t break into a sweat. She’s a mother, she’s used to it. Suddenly, the phone rings and she hurriedly picks it from the hook.
  Hello. Oh, hi Jennifer. Yeah, he’s settling in fine.

Mother walks over to window and we see from her point of view as she watches the boy still sitting alone by the pond. The other two are buzzing around, out of focus.

 He’s quiet, of course. But so is everyone around new people. I’m sure he’ll come out of his shell once he gets to know us better.


A kindly woman in her forties is sitting at her desk whilst on the phone.
I’m glad to hear that. Robert always is a bit reserved in his first few days. (She suddenly changes tack as if she has let something slip) It was so nice of you to take him in after all he’s been through; especially as you already had kids of your own. Are they getting along OK?


Mother is still observing children through window. In between their play the children are glancing at Robert with peculiar looks. Mother stares at this for few seconds before snapping back.
Er, yes. Brilliantly. Sorry, I’d better go now. Things to do. Thanks for calling.

           Sarah puts the phone down and steps outside.

            Kids. Why aren’t you playing all together?

Ben looks and Maisie, looks back to his mother and shrugs in an exaggerated fashion.         Sarah goes over to Robert and stoops down to his level. She speaks quietly to him.

      Do you want to play games with Ben and Maisie, Robert?

 Robert doesn’t turn to look at her. He scrunches up his mouth a little as if debating the    question with himself. Then he firmly shakes his head.

    No? Ok. She stands up and resumes her louder voice. Kids, go play with Robert by the pond.

         Ben and Maisie start to moan, talking both at once, saying they don’t want to because the pond is boring. The Mother is about to protest when Sam comes to the patio doors. He is dressed in a suit with a briefcase. He flashes a warm smile and a wave to his family.

                     Bye Ben! Bye Maisie!

They call and wave back.

                     Bye Robert.

   No reply. We see Sarah looking worried.

  Sam goes back in kitchen and Sarah follows.


           Sam is leaving but Sarah grabs him by the arm. She looks at him, biting her lip for a moment before she speaks.
                   Are we doing the right thing?

 Takes her hand.  Oh. Not this again. Of course we are! How could taking a troubled boy under our wing be the wrong thing?

         I know. I know. I just worry that–

There’s nothing to worry about! It’ll all come together soon I promise.

    They hug quickly but lovingly. He kisses her on the forehead.



 Sarah turns away and lets out a quick breath as if to symbolise the relieving of her worries. She walks to the patio doors.

                 Kids, It’s time to –

She stops and gasps. We then see it from her eyes. In the pond, spluttering and flaying about, is Robert. Ben and Maisie are standing around it, watching.


 Sarah runs towards the scene.

        What the hell happened? Did you push him in?!

Sarah picks up Robert from in the pond; he is breathing heavily and quietly sobbing.

              You pushed him in, didn’t you?

              We didn’t push him. We didn’t –

You did! I can’t believe you’d do something like this, Ben! Especially in front of your younger sister.  She is cradling Robert and looking at Ben. Apologise to Robert now!

       I didn’t push him! I didn’t push him!


Right. If you’re not going to apologise then you’re gonna get punished.

We start to hear Ben protesting and Sarah shouting back but this fades away as the camera focuses on Robert’s face in his foster mother’s arms. He is no longer sobbing or shivering but simply wearing the same passive expression we have seen on his face in all the way through.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Story Time #2: The Melancholy Memoirs of Malcolm Stone

Are we all sitting comfortably? No? Well, tough, cos Story Time's gonna happen anyway.
In the first session of my 'Creativity' module, we each had to pick out several stones from a pot and devise characteristics for that stone based on their appearance.  After a cruel process of elimination (I will grieve Vincent, the bold yellow rock, until the day I...stop grieving him) we were left with one to write a story about. Today, I have chosen to share dear Malcolm's with you. Do enjoy.

I felt numb. My whole body just sighed to a halt. I let his hand fall from mine as I vaguely sensed the nurses rushing around me to get to him; the shrill whine of the life-support machine washing over me. Before long, I found myself sitting beside an empty hospital bed; my face a blank mask of indifference, as if it couldn’t find an expression to match what I was feeling. The nurses kept murmuring hollow consolatory statements as if they had been uttered so many times they had lost their sentiment. The next time I came to my senses, I found myself in my local pub; dealing with grief the only way I knew how.
The most important person in my life had just departed it for the final time. He was, at times, my best friend, at others, my worst enemy. We had experienced everything together; growing up in our sleepy little village, travelling across the world, seeing the greatest sights the Earth had to offer, settling back down in our old village, losing those we loved.
After my dear wife died, he had always tried to pick me up, to help me find myself again. He had lost his wife too but after the usual period of mourning, carried on, content in the times he had with her. In my state of mind, I had hated him for it. For a long while, I did everything I could to avoid him. For weeks, months, years (who knows how long my petty grudge lasted), we didn’t speak until, out of the blue, I received a phone call. He wanted to see me…
Amongst all these bubbling thoughts about what I had lost, a flash of light sparked in my head as I remembered a long-lost memory, buried for over sixty years.
When we were about ten years old - just tiny sprogs with the whole world ahead of us - we had dared each other to spend the night in a graveyard, the old one up on Graystark Hill that all the children feared, and always have. We told our parents we were staying at the other’s house and expected to return triumphantly to school the next day as heroes. However, as soon as we arrived amongst the twilit tombstones our nerves were set on edge. We made it half an hour into full darkness before we heard a distant bark, which our agitated young minds told us was a werewolf, we ran all the way home, greeted by a severe bollocking from our parents for what we had done.
As I remembered it, as clear as if it had happened yesterday, one side of my mouth made an awkward jolt upwards and was soon joined by the other side. I realised that I was smiling. For the first time in what felt like an eternity, I swung my head backwards and let out a long raucous laugh.

There we go then. You might be thinking "You rotter! Why have do you give your stone such a tough time." To which I would reply (even though you didn't actually say it; I'm psychic!): oddly, enough most of us did. And I attempted to give him a happy ending of sorts.

P.s. To those of you waiting for the final part of  my Hallowe'en story 'Man in the Mirror', please hold on but it may be awhile. I'm currently rewriting the whole thing in the 1st person as I think it might work better so I'll put the new version up ASAP.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Tales of Terror: Man in the Mirror - Part Two

Apologies for the wait but here it is a promised; the second part of my Hallowe'en horror tale...

Robert idly tapped his fingers on his keyboard and looked at the screen. Blank. Robert was a novelist and had written several successful novels a while ago. In recent months, however, his imagination seemed to have all but emptied. He tried to focus his mind on ideas but that nagging feeling at the back of his head really didn’t help.
It was now two days since Robert had seen that reflection but it had certainly not left his mind. He had been deliberating over it ever since. He and his wife had decided that the attic room would be best served in its old function so it had become his study. He had felt uneasy about the idea of spending time in the vicinity of the mirror but he had pushed the thought away. He was acting as if it was emitting a sort of malevolent force; which was of course absurd. He had concluded that it had surely been a trick of the dim light; after all, there was only that small window to illuminate the place.

But it wouldn’t hurt to prove his theory.

He peered above the laptop screen and found his eyes facing the mirror.  Almost sub-consciously, Robert left his seat and walked to the fireplace. To the mirror.

He stared at himself for a few moments. And himself stared back. He moved his head side to side (whilst feeling a little foolish) and his reflection did the same.

He laughed. How could he, one who thought himself a rational man, have believed that his reflection could be anything more than that. He let the laugh develop into a full, unrestrained hearty laugh.

But his reflection didn’t.

Robert almost choked at the abrupt ceasing of his own laughter as he watched his reflection.

It was unmoving. No, that was wrong. It was blinking and flexing its eyebrows just as Robert was doing but standing still as Robert was not. He moved his head but the reflection was completely autonomous now. Anything Robert would do it simply looked like it didn’t notice and continued to wear a look of complete beguile; as if it was utterly captivated by what it was seeing.

All thoughts of getting back to his writing and of Sara and of everything else exited Robert’s mind as he kept gazing at the mirror. If anyone had seen him they would have noticed the look of complete beguile on his face as if he was utterly captivated by what he was seeing.


Sara peered over at her husband as he ate his breakfast silently, just staring ahead. He blinked suddenly when he noticed he had finished and stood up. “I’m going to the attic.” He said plainly.

“Again?” He gave her a quizzical look. “I know its good you’re writing again but you seem to be…” She tried to find the words, “…too involved. I’ve hardly seen you over the last couple of days and when I do you have this glazed expression -”

Robert interrupted her. “I’m fine. Really.” He said bluntly. “We’ll go for out tonight to make up for it.” he added. He kissed her affectionately before leaving his wife alone for his attic.

As soon as he reached his study, every thought of Sara cleared his head as he perched in front of the mirror.
Shortly after he had started watching it two days ago, his reflection had begun moving around the room; going to his desk and rifling through some papers. Occasionally, the reflection would leave the room altogether and Robert would sit patiently until it returned. He had found it near impossible to tear himself away from it; yesterday, he had even watched it all day until he had fallen asleep.
As he watched on the third morning, something new happened. As his reflection stood by its desk, the door behind him opened and Sara entered the room. Instinctively, Robert looked behind him to see if Sara had really come in the room but she had not; only in the mirror. Robert marvelled at seeing a perfect reflection of his wife in the mirror. He had never seen her reflection in it before just as she had never entered the attic since the day he had discovered the mirror.
Robert watched intently as his reflection and Sara talked; their staunch expressions telling him it was not a genial conversation; their silent talk quickly escalated into what looked like an argument by the flaying hand gestures. Robert watched over this feeling detached from the scene. He started to wonder once again; what was he seeing? He had to open his mind up to notions he would have thought preposterous a few days ago. A parallel world? He definitely wasn’t seeing the past as he knew this scene had never happened because Sara had never visited him in the attic. More importantly, the two of them never argued.

He was jolted back into (his skewered form of) reality by a sudden shock.

Sara was facing the mirror.

(C) Christian Bone 2011
--------------- Return soon to read the final part. If you dare (cue maniacal laughter)----------------

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Tales of Terror: Man in the Mirror - Part One

Welcome to Chalbo's Tales of Terror - cue maniacal laughter and/or gothic organ music. What we have for you on this chilly October night is a tale of a young couple moving into their newly-inherited home. Is everything as it seems? Of course not. Enjoy reading!

Robert Wilde was not impressed. From his memories of the (very) few visits he made to his uncle as a child, he saw Graystoke Manor as a grand building. It had seen better days even at the time, of course, but it was still an impressive house. Now, as he stood inside it, all he could think was how decrepit it was.
“It’s still amazing. Look at the size of it,” perked up a voice behind him. Robert looked over to Sara, her mouth hanging wide and her face aglow as she looked over the bannister at the floor below them. Robert huffed. She did not have as privileged a lineage as her husband and so was not as used to the scale of the building around her.
“Uncle Monty could have smartened the place up a bit before he decided to pop his clogs though.” Robert spoke half to himself while lifting up a dust cover from a very old-fashioned dolls house.
Sara shot him a glance. “Don’t be so cruel. It’s not as if he knew that it was going to pop- to
pass away, was it? Poor man. A sudden heart attack, didn’t they say? Like he died of fright…”
Robert murmured an agreement, his mind on other things as he bent down to inspect the dolls house that looked as if it hadn’t been played with in so long a while. The porcelain dolls sat awkwardly in their chairs, perhaps only held there by the delicate silver cobwebs that entwined them.
“Are you even listening?”
Robert broke out his thoughts and went over to his wife and smiled. “Of course I was.”
Sara couldn’t help but smile back. When he was lost in his thoughts, Robert’s eyes clouded over as if he wasn’t aware of anything around him but when he snapped out of it, she couldn’t help but get lost herself in his brilliant blue eyes.
They stared at each other awhile without reason as couples in the bloom of romance do and then Robert noticed something adjacent to the nursery room they were in.
“Hey, it’s The Locked Door.” Robert called, breaking from his wife’s embrace.            “What?” She said slightly irritated.
She joined her husband outside a very old mahogany door. “When I used to visit Monty as a kid, I always wanted to see what was behind this door but he would never let me.”
“Well, now’s your chance.” Sara said, holding the skeleton key they had been given for Robert to see.
“And that’s why I love you,” he beamed as he turned the key in the lock. The child inside him filled with a sort of excited anxiety at the forbidden place he was about to enter. He pulled the door knob.

It didn’t budge.

Robert pulled with more force.

Still no movement.

 “It’d better be worth it after this build-up.”

With all his energy he heaved at the door and this time it did give way and swung outwards with a piercing creak that perhaps lasted just a tad too long.

The space in front of them revealed a small dusty staircase that they realised as they ascended its steps led to a small attic room; its floor space occupied by a long wooden desk, covered in neat piles of paperwork, and a wooden cupboard that had faded over the years due to a small ray of sunlight that came emitted from a tight, square window.

“It must have been your uncle’s old study.” Sara said to her husband. “I s’pose he locked it cos he didn’t want you rifling through his private things.” She looked up from the paperwork she was inspecting and saw that Robert was standing in front of an old fireplace on the other side of the room. She joined him and discovered that he was engrossed in an ornate oblong mirror with a golden frame encrusted with glittering jewels and a shining surface, hanging from the fireplace wall on a thick chain. It must have been the most lavish item she had seen in the house and also, when she thought about it, the only thing not caked in dust and cobwebs. Sara looked up at Robert and found his unblinking eyes not straying from the lozenge mirror.

He could not help but stare at it. He had always been interested in the history of some things. The mirror looked pristine as though it was polished everyday (did that even make sense with the door being so stiff?), but Robert could tell it was very old. How long had it been hanging on that grubby wall. Imagine if it could show you what it had seen…

Sara huffed to herself. Although she saw its attraction, she was not as captivated by her husband and, eager to explore the rest of the house, made to leave. Robert saw his wife leave and so turned to see her. Out of the corner of his eye he saw his reflection.

Standing still.

Instinctively, Robert called his wife’s name, as his eyes shot back to focus on the mirror.

“The mirror…” He began but then trailed off. Had he really just seen that? He moved his head from side to side and was pleased to see that it copied him exactly.

“…Is not that interesting?” Sara offered.

Robert detached himself from the mirror. “No, sorry. Let’s look around.”

(C) Christian Bone
------------------------- Return tomorrow for the tantalising second part -------------------------
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