Story: The Clown Who Laughs

Posted: August 19, 2011 in Stories

This story is about two hitchhikers, Gwyneth and Dean, who watch as a circus convoy passes in eerie night-time silence along a deserted wilderness road.  They wave down a minibus full of clowns, who are drunk and tired after a stag night performance, carrying a large cache of drugs. Dean provokes an argument, laughing at the spectacle of a clown filled minibus and is punched, falling to the ground, cracking his head open. Gwyneth runs away and is pursued by the clowns, panicked by the thought of police involvement. After catching her, and debating whether to kill her or tie her up, the sinister Harelquin suggests that she is kept as part of the act, drugged and compliant, and wields a knife to stop her talking and make her smile even though she doesn’t want to…..

This was inspired by an idea that just popped into my head and given a new ending thanks to a suggestion by another writer, which unlocked the influence of Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughed, filmed in the 1920s, featuring the mutilated Gwymplaine, the inspiration behind The Joker character.

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By The Sword #5

Posted: August 18, 2011 in By The Sword, Novels

It’s done. Finished. 80,000 words. Thanks to Glasgow Writers Group for ongoing feedback, which has really helped shape the story.

The manuscript is with publishers for now, and has even crept off a couple of slush piles, so who knows … it might be in the bookshops one day!

Publication Successes

Posted: August 18, 2011 in Stories

The blog has been a bit quiet of late and a lot has happened over the last six months or so! Details below…

Mira: published in Dark Tales volume XV

Preacher Man: published in Morpheus Tales Urban Horror Special

Cat Bite: published in DEADication

Soul Bidder: published in Soup of Souls

King For A Day: published in House of Horror Volume 2 and to be republished in the forthcoming Celtic Blade anthology

Scavenger Hunt: published in Rhonny Reaper’s Roadkill Cafe Anthology

Storm Coming Down: published in Holiday of the Dead anthology

The Tale of Cuchulainn: to be published in the forthcoming Celtic Blade anthology

Metamorphosis: winner of the Dark Tales competition second prize

On Christmas Eve: to be published in the next Morpheus Tales Christmas Special

Handling Snakes: First prize in the Spilling Ink Short Story competition 2011

Saigo and the Spider: coming soon in A Thousand Cranes, an anthology in aid of the Japan tsunami

Beyond the Void: coming soon in the Dark Matter anthology.

I’m hoping to find a home for my story ‘Arachne’ plus I have a novel up for grabs, called ‘By The Sword…..

Latest news March 2011

Posted: March 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

My story ‘Scavenger Hunt’ will appear in ‘Rhonny Reaper’s Roadkill Cafe Anthology’ which is due out soon

Plus the zombie anthology by Wild Wolf Publishing has been finalised, with some famous names including the co-writer of Night of the Living Dead and tne brains behind the film ‘Pontypool’. My own humble effort ‘Storm Coming Down’ is in there, probably near the end! A whopping 500 pages!

By The Sword #4

Posted: February 28, 2011 in By The Sword, Novels

Despite developing Billy’s own visit to Japan, and his backstory, the last few chapters still lacked something. They were certainly intriguing (I thought anyway!) but not really punchy or gripping. So I decided to put Grace in more danger, pursued by the shady followers of the nationalistic secret society and cult that was sheltering Billy.

By the time this was over, she resembled the cartoon character Penelope Pittstopp, with a Japanese Anthill Mob running to her rescue. This was really enjoyable and turned a lacklustre sandwich chapter into (what I hope will be) a white knuckle chase.

This takes the story nearly to the end. It is currently at 53,000 words. The final two chapters will probably add another 8,000 words, and will be the most enjoyable part of the novel…the final encounter, and the tying up of loose ends which seems to unravel!

Then, it’s back to the start. I have the books ‘McGraw’ and ‘Murder Capital’ by Reg McKay, which provide some background into gangland Glasgow. The unfolding investigation is complete in terms of police procedure and plot, but is perhaps a bit colourless. For anyone unfamiliar with Reg Mckay’s style of writing, it is about as far from colourless as you can get!

Today is February 28 2011. By 31 March 2011, I hope to have a complete first draft to take on holiday for a detailed edit, somewhere between 65,000 and 70,000 words. I’ve been kidding myself all along that my works-in-progress have been near-to-final drafts. It made me feel better at the time!

By The Sword #3

Posted: February 28, 2011 in By The Sword, Novels

The novel, at this stage, was somewhere around 20,000 words. About two-thirds of the story was down in paper, or so I thought. This would make for a very short book. I reassured myself by thinking it would need a number of rewrites, and this was not even a first draft. That worked.

As mentioned, Billy has fled to Japan by this stage (around Chapter Eight). He is pursued by crime analyst Grace Andrew, to liaise with the Japanese police. This was easy to dive into at first. I visited Japan twice, and my wife had been out there for a year, so it was relatively familiar ground. The only trouble was the way the story turned into a bit of a passive travel log….Grace does this, sees that, as if it is somehow inevitable. Also, it was lacking some depth. Still, I cracked the 30,000 words mark, and got to what was effectively the end of the book. But the last third was a bit of a passenger-seat journey and not really nailbiting stuff, other than the end.

Once again, a book came to the rescue. Samurai: The Last Warrior, by John Man. This is an entertaining factual account of the samurai culture, in particular the period around the Meiji Restoration, based on the famous (in Japan) Saigo Takemori. More people should read about this samurai…his story is fascinating. It sparked off some other ideas about Banzai Billy’s philosophy, his influences and backstory. I weaved this in to the last few chapters, ping-ponging between Billy and his pursuers. This helped enormously, and the story leaped to some 43,000 words. There it sat for a while.

By The Sword #2

Posted: February 28, 2011 in By The Sword, Novels

The front end was quite easy. There is a lot of stuff out there in terms of police procedure, and I had a few tips as well (you know who you are!) I needed to walk around the Southern Necropolis in Glasgow, to get a feel for where the first body would end up. It was straightforward enough (with welcome feedback on the way) until I got to Barlinnie, or rather until Billy got to Barlinnie. Then I became unstuck for a while.

A book came to the rescue. The Barlinnie Story by Robert Jeffrey. This was a fascinating non-fiction history of the infamous prison, and provided me with enough material and confidence to imagine it. Billy’s incarceration spans two chapters and ends messily and deliberately. There are only so many ways to effect an escape, and this one may seem somewhat similar to other plot devices but rest assured….I racked my brains for ages, and it was the only way that worked! Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery anyway…

Then, it was full circle. Back to the beginning with somewhere around 20,000 words, leaving off where the original short story had finished. Billy had to make his escape somewhere, after tying up a few loose ends. So where? There was only one place: Japan.

By The Sword #1

Posted: February 28, 2011 in By The Sword, Novels
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About a year ago, I had an idea. A sword-wielding Glasgow killer, like those nutters who hack at people with internet Samurai swords. But this bloke would be the real thing, a combination of Japanese warrior and Glasgow hardman. His name came at the same time: Banzai Billy. Great ideas, but I needed a story to hang around him.

Then, there was the Alibi crime writing competition. It even supplied a first line, courtesy of Stuart Macbride: Those who beg for mercy deserve it the least. This sparked a 5,000 word short story featuring crime analyst Grace Andrew and a web of betrayal leading to Banzai Billy.

It wasn’t a very good short story. Too much happened in it. So, it didn’t win. But those great people at the Glasgow Writers Group suggested that I turned it into a novel. So I did. The core idea was still there, but the story grew a front end and back end, plus supporting characters including the corrupt politician ‘Big’ Jim McConnarty, and a final showdown in Japan. I even spoke to Stuart MacBride who said I could keep his first line.

Now, the novel is nearly finished and this is its story…while I remember it!

My story ‘On Christmas Eve’ has been accepted by Morpheus Tales for their Christmas Special!  Just 300-odd days to go!

I had great news this week.  My story ‘Cat Bite’ is to be published in the DEADication anthology.  This is published by Panic Press, a new small press which specialised in horror, and also publishes House of Horror … formerly an e-zine, now in print!

These are exciting times for horror writing…it’s about the satisfaction of creating something, and seeing it in print…then on to the next story!  The small press market is a really dynamic community, both in the UK and worldwide.

The ‘Cat Bite’ story is about a man who is bitten by a decaying cat. Over the following days, he degenerates, rotting from the inside out, transforming into a walking corpse with a growing desire for blood…  Based on a true (ish) story….