Monkeying Around…

The lovely Story Reading Ape let me swing by and post on his blog today, why not drop in yourself to find out some more about the characters and inspiration behind my books in The Ambrosia Sequence?

Best of all, take a look around his blog while you’re there for lots of great tips, features and guests, on all things reading and writing. (Oh, and for the Monday Funnies too! 🙂

Tony’s Writing Tips: Ignore that Elephant in the corner

Adam yawned and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, blearily taking in the empty place at the breakfast table. “Morning, mum. Where’s dad? Did he leave for work already?”

His mum didn’t turn away from the eggs she was scrambling. “We had an argument last night, so after he fell asleep, I shot him.”

Adam yawned again. “Extra butter in those eggs?”

“Of course.”

Adam poured himself some juice. “Is this orange? Did they change the ingredients?”

This silly piece of writing is an example of what writers call “The Elephant in the Room”.

Elephants, are of course, very hard to ignore. Unless your characters are wearing blinkers or earmuffs, having someone throw something major into your story and then not have anyone react to it is generally not a good idea.

Your character got up last night and shot someone, and all you want to know is if there’s extra butter with those scrambled eggs. At which point, your readers will start to wonder what the gubbins are you talking about, and why aren’t you talking about what’s really going on here.

Think of the facet of your story as a spotlight aimed at a darkened stage. There it is, shining away on the box on a table. The thing you want your characters to talk about is in that box – why Adam’s mother shot his father. And what are you doing? Shining your spotlight wayyyy over there, talking about scrambled eggs. Why do we care about scrambled eggs? We keep looking back at the box, no matter how hard you don’t want us to.

The other side of this is where magic and misdirection comes in. When you dim the lights to shine it on the eggs, we don’t see the stagehands swooping away the box and bringing the elephant on stage until the lights come back up – in my example, perhaps Adam pulls his own gun while we look away. Then we want the characters to talk about something else, while we do some magic in the dark.

But, the thing with “EITR” is that this misdirection is never given to a reveal. In my example, no one would ever mention the shooting again. If you cut away to focus on something else, fair enough; but remember to cut back to what your readers are thinking about:

Adam yawned and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, blearily taking in the empty place at the breakfast table. “Morning, mum. Where’s dad? Did he leave for work already?”

His mum didn’t turn away from the eggs she was scrambling. “We had an argument last night, so after he fell asleep, I shot him.”

Adam yawned again. “Extra butter in those eggs?”

“Of course.”

He poured himself some juice. “So you shot dad, huh? About time.”

“I thought so too.”

If you don’t do this, you’ll have a pachyderm of problems on your hands.

It’s Here!

It’s Here!

The Rainbow Maker's Tale - Cover

I logged on to Amazon this morning and was excited to see The Rainbow Maker’s Tale – finally on sale! 🙂 This is the second book in the Ambrosia Sequence and has been the reason I’ve lived in a virtual cave over the last few months – no bermuda triangle of Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter for Melanie!


It’s been a log while coming, so seeing it there, ready to go was fantastic. A mini-book tour will be kicking off soon to launch the book properly with giveaways and a competition – but if you want to get your hands on it in the meantime – you know where it is!

Mel x

Horrorfest Short…Ooze


Tony Talbot

The last candle is nearly burned out now; I don’t have long to finish this letter. I only hope to G— that someone finds it before the thing is too late to stop.

The slithering has begun from the apartment next door again. It’s louder this time; hungry again, no doubt, after the ingestion of the landlord. I can see the wall to my left – the one that abuts the neighbouring room – bulging and heaving with it, and a little more of The Ooze comes through the wall every time, suppurating like a sebaceous cyst with its greased creamy whiteness, sliding down to the floor and writhing there, tendrils reaching with a blind hunger towards me.

But I must not look at the thing, or it will drive me to Bedlam or beyond, seduce me with its awful power until I am unable to resist. It wants me, and I am unable to resist for long. Write on, write on, and only sweep the candle flame to those pseudopods that quiver too close to me.

If I leave nothing else to this world but a memory of me on this parchment, then I had better start at the beginning.

Or as far back as matters, anyway.


My name is not important; nor how I came to be dragged so low as to require such a sordid lodging as this. Enough for me to say: I was important once, called upon by leaders and thinkers; but fortune blew my vessel into a reef and shipwrecked me on an island of misfortune, washing away all I was and all I held dear.

It was all I could do to flee my life and its burdens with a few pennies and a shirt upon my back, and for a while, I stumbled from friend to friend and home to home until my welcome was as worn out as my spirit. I took myself from the last of them…Lor, only two days ago! So long it seems, when one does not dare sleep.

I found myself, after a blank wandering of hours, down at the edge of the detritus of the river, staring at the black abyss that rolled by me, contemplating its cold waters while rats scurried by and other nameless insects crawled over the sorry remains of my boots, seeking the taste of my skin as though I were already a feast for the eaters of the dead.

 Would that I had jumped into the seething darkness! So quick it would have been, so painless. Instead, some aboriginal survival instinct recalled me to myself and I stumbled on, following the river downstream, past broken warehouses and slattern houses that stared at me with unseeing eyes, into a heathen wasteland far beyond civilised man.

So I found myself here, the last boarding house on the last street; decrepit, worn down, leaning into the river that was ready to claim it, much as I was. I banged on the miserable excuse for a door until the landlord appeared, his appearance a broken mirror of the building he kept.

His odiferous stench repulsed me, until I realised my own body smelt no better. He held a weak lantern to his face; it was half eaten away by a pox, the cavity of his nose and mouth a gaping hole of black shadow, one eye a sightless storm of albumen. Mangy tufts of white hair, matted and yellowed, spun from the scaly desert of his scalp.

“Waddawant at this ‘our?” He shouted, his breath sickly with weak gin and rotting meat.

“I…I want a room. Any room. For a few nights, at least,” I stammered.

The landlord looked me up and down. “You look like a gent, but can ee pay though, squire? Can ee?”

I held out the limp remains of my coin purse and he snatched it from me with superhuman speed, opening it with rapacious hunger.

“Just one room left. Right over the river.” The landlord turned and showed me his hunched back, taking the circle of light with him as he retreated into the house, his slippered feet slapping the floor with a dull, irregular thwap, thwap, thwap. I followed him with alacrity; he had not returned the coin purse, after all.

Along leaning and twisting corridors of mould and damp we walked, the naked boards beneath my feet warped and twisted with river rot, walls off kilter and bulging like a boiled body with gas gangrene. Multi-legged black and grey shapes on the walls scurried away from the feeble lantern, whispering feet returning after we had passed. I bit my lip as we walked deeper, trying to still the urge to run from this place. Only the thought that I had nowhere else to go kept me from taking to my heels.

Eventually, we came to a feeble threshold, an excuse of a door. A few slats of wood with gaps large enough for my arm to fit through, a frame that had probably never been straight. The landlord waved the lantern at the door and left without another word, the halo of light and weak warmth departing with him. Before the light fled entirely, leaving me in unutterable darkness and the thrall of its insectile minions, I leapt for the door and barged my way through it.

The single room consisted of one bed, one table and three unlit candles with a lone Lucifer match and striker. A high window shone a small square of olinaceous wan moonlight upon the floor, or all would have been nothing but shadows. Prodding the bed, I shifted the larger rats from it before I sat down; they went sulkily enough off to the corners of the room, plotting their revenge on me, no doubt. Then I noticed the yellowing pieces of parchment and the pen and ink beside them; but having no reason to write (at least then) I ignored them and lay on the bed, presently to sleep.


It must have been three or four hours later, in the deadest hours of the night, when the chanting woke me.

At first, it slid into my dreams of the better life I had left behind as a low moaning. As H— and I sat on the riverbank again (in my dream) and picnicked, the singing began from nowhere; I was not alarmed at first, but then the stridency and immediacy increased until I awoke in a cold sweat.

That was when I heard the first woman scream.

I rolled instantly out of bed, my impulse to rush to the high window and see if I could raise the alarm. Then another scream, rising from the room beside mine. I had taken a step towards my own door, intending to offer my aid, when another scream stopped me. A different timbre, I realised; a different woman.

And something else I realised as well, with a start that made me colour. The women had not cried in terror, but in the extreme pleasures of a sensuous release; and as the screams reverberated around me once more, I felt myself stir from their intensity. Drawn against my nature and my will, I placed my ear to the parboiled flesh of the wall, feeling its slippery fecundity intimate against my cheek.

The cabalistic chanting began again, a low sound, getting louder and faster, pulsing in a fevered heartbeat, and then the screams came again and again. My eyelids fluttered and my brain submerged in a miasma, drowning in the primal sounds. I felt myself tugged and pulled towards the carnal noises, seeing the vile street-women who must be screaming with such abandon; certainly, no lady would permit herself such pleasures!

I saw them ravaged and writhing beneath their brutish men, submissive to every whim; and suddenly I could see myself standing over them, engorged as never before, eager to pleasure them and myself, my essence splattering their bodies, eyes, lips, tongues, hungry and longing. I shuddered and shook with an ague, a hunger to be among them more intense than any I had ever known.

Disgusted with my base instincts, I ripped myself away from the wall and lay down again, seeking a solace in slumber. But the chanting and screams of pleasure did not cease, and as I lay on my bed, only the thin wall between us, my body conspired against me, my sanity fighting against the primal throbbing, pulsing, lure of the song. I bit my knuckles until they bled, until the pain shouted down my tumescent loins, and I covered my ears with my hands until the muscles locked and they ached for surcease.

Suddenly, without realising I had moved, I found myself outside my neighbours apartment, my fist raising to demand entry; but the instant I knocked, the noises ceased and silence crashed around me and swept over me. Only a low hooting of some riverboat passing on the river outside broke it as I stood there, irresolute.

My body slowly returned to my cold control, and I began to imagine I had dreamt the whole incident. So, feeling emboldened and now willing to complain, I raised my hand to knock again at the rude door, but it swung open as if pulled before I could touch the rotting wood.


The room was larger than mine, stripped bare of all furniture and fittings, nothing more than a box of mildewed walls and low ceiling. I recoiled, my eyes wide, when I saw that on the floor in the centre was a large chalk circle and heathen star of some kind, surrounded by extinguished black candles.

Some pagan mass, I thought, stepping across the threshold. Ungodly thing that the circle was, I felt my eyes and my body drawn to it again as I studied the room. I managed to look away long enough to study the floor and walls, but the weak moonlight conspired against me; it was several minutes before I saw the bodies.

Three women and a man, all bereft of clothing, huddled in the corner. The women were of the low sort my imagination had thought them, their nakedness shocking, their pale white skin torpid and flaccid with the look of death. The man was slumped over them, a rough brute of a creature, obscene, with body hair as thick as a hound.

Despite my revulsion I went to them, but as I suspected, all three were dead by some means unknown. I backed away from them for a step, but then came back, puzzled. I pushed my fingers against the arm of the man. I was able to squeeze it completely flat; there was no resistance, as though the bones and flesh had been sucked out of him, leaving only a bag of skin; but there were no other injuries I could detect.

While I pondered this, there was a movement at my feet. Suspecting one of the women to be still alive, I tugged the man out of the way. Sliding over the skin of the woman was a turgid off-white cream, about a pint, that slithered and roiled over her breasts and pudenda. Naturally, my mind associated it with a masculine discharge and my expression twisted in disgust.

But as I watched, The Ooze thickened and groped blindly towards me, somehow aware of my presence. I felt my brain slipping; I should have been repulsed, but felt myself pulled to it, feeling myself stir and thicken as I had when I heard the women scream in pleasure.

I longed for its touch on my bare skin, for its silky creaminess to possess me and devour me. Observing The Ooze slide around the body of the naked dead woman aroused me as much as the carnal chanting. I longed to shed my inhibitions and cavort with it and her as I would with a Bohemian lover, to pleasure myself with them both in a total moral abandon. I shuddered, and not from revulsion.

A tendril reached my hand and I turned it over so it could fill my palm with its smoothness. Entranced, I watched it slide along my wrist, titillating the nerves along my fingers with a lovers touch, stimulating every nerve ending with intense pleasure.

For luck, some part of me broke then; some part of me recalled my failing sanity. I gagged and flicked The Ooze from my hand with a violent gesture, and it splattered against the wall. It rose towards me, hungry blind fingers seeking my skin. I turned and fled from it in a terror of madness, noting as I did that more of The Ooze rose from the centre of the chalk circle from wherever these foul people had called it, writhing and pulsing, seducing and repelling.


I found the landlord asleep at his desk, his feet raised and his head back, the gaping maw of his mouth and nose a black hole in his face. I shook him awake without preamble and recounted the events of the evening in a hurried remembrance.

He was unimpressed. “Bloody gent, knew I shouldna let you ‘ave a room.” He leaned back in his chair, his arms folded, obviously unwilling to move as he studied me with his eye.

“For the love of G— man, come and look! If nothing else, for the poor souls who died tonight,” I implored.

He rolled his eyes towards the heavens and hauled himself slowly from his chair, taking up his lantern with a sullen slowness, lighting it from the spluttering gas, grumbling to himself under his voice. I bade him hurry only once, and he gave me the short side of his tongue, threatening to sit down and sleep again if I said another word. I bit my lips shut and said nothing more.

I followed the feeble halo of light as we walked with sulky slowness towards my room. I pointed mutely along the corridor, the door down there now shut again.

“Bloody gents,” he ejaculated, stumbling the last few steps with me behind him. He raised the lantern and knocked once. Receiving no reply, and about to give up, I pushed the door open for him; it was not locked and swung open easily. The landlord took a step into the room and then stopped, swearing once. My body locked up behind him, cold terror unmanning my legs and arms.

He waved the lantern outwards to each corner of the room and then spun back to me. “Don’t think much of yourn sense of fun, mister. Good mind ta arsk you to leave.”

“What…what do you mean?”

“This rums empty as your ‘ead.”

I pushed past him and stared at the corner where the bodies and The Ooze had been a few minutes earlier. “No…they…they were-“

The landlord had stopped listening to my rantings, and was studying the chalk markings on the floor behind me. “That’s bloody queer. What’s…wazzat stuff in the middle?”

Cold water poured down the back of my neck and circled my waist, my legs turning to ice. “Don’t look at it. For G— sakes man, look away.”

“Nowt to be ‘fraid of is there…it looks…looks-” His voice trailed off, his eye growing wide. A leer grew and stretched his cheeks upwards. “Oooaye, nowee, ‘ow about that. Mmm, thar’s nice.” His free hand stretched slowly down to the creamy albumen at the centre of the circle and he cackled with a low lascivious need. “Oooh, thar’s…thar’s…lovely, lovely darncing stuff.”

I turned towards the circle myself, and then felt the pulse in the back of my head start to rise, and my body start to rise with it. Smashing myself on the nose with a fist, I broke the spell of the thing before it had me, turning away from it, trying to drag the old man away.

He fought me every step, the lantern cavorting wild shadows on the walls. “Lemme go, lemme go to it, it won’t hurt ee,” he moaned, his eye glued to The Ooze as it writhed towards his feet.

In desperation, I snatched the lantern from him and hurled it at the circle; a ball of yellow flame rose to the ceiling and was gone, and I had to hold my sanity with both hands when I realised it was contained within the circle and nowhere else.

The effect of the flame upon The Ooze was instant; it recoiled and retracted on itself, hissing with a sound of pain that penetrated to the back of my brain. But the effect was only temporary. It gathered itself and spat a tendril to the landlord’s hand and wrist, encasing them in a foetid grip. The old man’s eye rolled back and he groaned in what I took to be pain; but as the ooze spread along his arm, I could clearly see the pleasure etched in his crude face.

I tugged against him, pulling him away from the growing ooze, but the struggle was an uneven one; not only was I fighting The Ooze, but the old man’s twisted intentions. The old man hauled me backwards, and when he bit me viciously, I had to release him. I made it to the door and hung on to the frame with a death grip, turning at last at the scene in the room.

The Ooze had the old man up to the shoulder now, and with his free hand, he was divesting himself of the last of his clothing, tearing at his skin in his eagerness, his excitement obvious. As I watched in a mute, fascinated horror, compelled to watch, The Ooze fastened itself upon his member and began to slowly pulse. The old man shuddered with intense pleasure and his eyes rolled up and closed.

Then around his arm, the grey goo grew red, a red flecked with white; it seemed to squeeze his body in a lethal embrace; as it did, it grew and swelled, pulsing as it sucked the very blood and shattered bones from his body through his very skin. Now I understood the injuries of the hirsute heathen whose body I had examined earlier; and thence it must have devoured the remains of the bodies while I had sought out the landlord, as a spider will devour its prey from the inside out.

When the old man screamed for the last time, a high note that shook the rafters of the old building, my nerve snapped and I ran for my life back to my room without thinking. I flung myself upon the floor and berated my weak nerves; thrashing my fists and head against the floor until I fell into a welcome stupor.

It must have been an hour before I came to myself again; when I did, the eternal damned night had at last ended and feeble daylight shone upon me. My first impulse was to flee, and I staggered to my feet and to the door.

I had taken but one step when I saw The Ooze, coiled at the base of my weak threshold of a door, quiescent for now, throbbing with a slow torpid life. I felt myself begin to slip into its foul erotic mesmer, and tore my eyes away while I could.

Hastily I looked around the room, retreating to the high window. I forced open the frame and shouted across the dank river, my voice lost in the vastness of the empty vista it revealed. I shoved my shoulders against the lathe, but came not even close to being able to squeeze myself through the tiny gap.

Trapped! I realised. It must only be the daylight that had saved me so far; I reasoned as The Ooze reacted so strongly to fire, that perhaps it must sleep during the day.

Fire! I groped for my three candles and the Lucifer match, my hands shaking with palsy so badly I had to strike the match four or five times before it caught. My fingers danced to the first candle, and I wafted it to the door, waving away the turgid grey pseudopods; but alas the flame wasn’t sufficient to ward them off completely; and I could not look at them for more than an instant without feeling myself fascinated by them, entranced by their wretched beauty.

I retreated again to my bed, husbanding the candle; too late, I realised that when darkness came again, the candles would be the only protection against it. I contemplated setting fire to the room, but the dampness of the wood around me divested me of the notion. In this rot, nothing would burn.

I had been on my bed but an instant when the wall beside me bulged with a foul life and tendrils slid through the growing cracks; I realised The Ooze must be filling the room next door, straining to escape its confines. I retreated to the desk, holding the candle out as a benediction, waving away the pseudopods that reached for me.

And having nothing else to do but wait for death or salvation, I took the pen and started to write.


The light has faded again, and the last candle is at the smoking end of its wick. Around my feet, The Ooze has covered the floor, sliding tendrils across my ankles and up my calves, questing upwards. Oh, the sensation of it, the longing I have to feel its light touch against my skin! I shall not be able to write much more without succumbing to it; I grow tumescent again, aching and aching for it. Already it curls around my fingers, tugging my pen away.

Anon, I shall blow out the candle – and with it my life – but I must resist for as long as possible; I thought I heard voices on the river an instant ago, an alarm raised, but I do not have the strength or desire to rise to the window and find out.

I look back upon the last few months, at the ruin of my life, and The Ooze offers me a peaceful solution to all my problems if I go quietly. I can almost hear it, whispering to me with a lover’s voice, promising me peace. Is it too much to ask for a last kiss in the dark, even if the kiss means certain death?

The Ooze promises me something I had never thought I would feel again, a sensation I thought I would never experience.

I can only hope.

Horrorfest Short…Tonight is the Night

Tonight is the NightTonight is the Night

by Lynxie

I pushed a post-it note into my shirt pocket as I hurriedly packed up my books.

I placed my glasses on top of my head and wiped my eyes before placing the pieces of glass and metal back on my nose. I started shoving the books into my satchel and threw it onto my shoulder as I whipped around the side of the desk in the library.

“Please Sir, you must hurry up. The library should have been closed ten minutes ago,” the old, wrinkly librarian practically screamed at me from behind the front desk. Her lavender and light grey shirt washed out the colour of her droopy skin, yet strangely matched the colour of her hair.

Smirking to myself as I ducked out the door, I avoided making eye contact with her.

“What an old witch,” I forced out under my breath along with a heavy sigh as I walked towards the empty bus stop. I kicked a small stone on the ground before me; the onyx lump ricocheted off the metal seat inside the small bus shelter. Making myself jump at the loud clang, I slowly shook my head in disbelief.


I looked around quickly.

“What the hell?” I quipped quietly as I searched the immediate area for the person who’d yelled at me.

“I said quiet!”

“Stuff you!” I yelled into the quickly darkening sky. “I don’t have to be quiet!” I kicked another stone at the bus shelter reveling in the loud clang.  “I’ll be as loud as I want!” I kicked another stone, this one missing the bus stop, I continued to search for the owner of the voice, but seeing nothing, not even a stray cat, I shrugged and went to sit on the cold metal seat.

An incessant buzzing in my pants pocket brought me back to the present. Fishing my phone out, I read the text on the screen.

“Oh great! Alone for dinner again,” I sighed and plopped down heavily on the seat. “I have such a crap life, my own mother can’t catch up for dinner,” I sighed again and slumped over my legs, supporting my head with my hand. “Why the hell am I talking to myself? Anyone would think I’m insane,” this elicited a snort of mirth from me.

I would have to be the furthest thing from insane. I majored in mathematics and psychology at school and was currently working on my thesis on the human brain and dreaming. It covered some pretty psychedelic stuff, but not for someone who could potentially be insane. Though one could argue that if I were insane I could come up with some of the best dreams for my thesis and then break them down.  I’d have to ponder that thought some more later. I filed it away in my mental thought bank, yes, I said mental thought bank. That’s how I am, highly organized and methodical. I have a photographic memory, and utilise that frequently to assist my analytical thought processes. People call me a nerd. I call myself organised and efficient. I intimidate people; they don’t understand me. That was through no fault of my own. I am highly articulate too, probably too much so for some of the slobs and brain dead dropouts that attended my school.

Shoving my phone back into my pocket I saw the bus come around the bend down the road. I stood up and waited as it drew closer to me.


I swirled around quickly; my heart beat racing a little. No one there.

“Psst… in here!” whispered into my ear. I continued to whirl around in a circle trying to find the person who was now whispering to me.

“Where are you?” I asked. I had to at least pretend I wasn’t about to pee my pants.  A loud roaring engine and the hiss of air brakes shocked me. The bus pulled to a stop behind me.

“You gettin’ on here Mate?” The dimwitted bus driver drawled. I turned around to face the bus and nodded, not trusting myself not to sound as freaked out as I felt. I could see the hostility and distrust emanating from him as he watched me take a seat at the back of the bus.  I shrunk down into the seat to try and get away from his continued stare.

“Why don’t you just drive the bloody bus instead of checkin’ me out back here?” I yelled up at him, feeling aggressive.

Aggression wasn’t an emotion I was familiar with, being an academic I was more used to sitting quietly in the library or study hall. What was going on with me?

The bus driver slammed his breaks on and stopped the bus. I was pitched forward, hitting my right shoulder on the seat in front of me.

“That’s it! I won’t take any more! Get your freaky ass off my bus!” He screamed at me, spittle flying from his mouth as his bloodshot eyes bulged out. I looked at him with what must have come across as incredulity.

“You’ve got to be kidding me?” I squeaked out. “What the hell did I do?”

The bus driver stepped menacingly towards me. He came up the isle to where I was sitting and stared down at me. I could see the beads of sweat forming on his greasy brow. I had only a few seconds to think how gross that sight was before his bear like hands grasped the front of my shirt and jacket and picked me up. He continued to manhandle me down the isle and pushed me unceremoniously down the steps from the bus and onto my ass on the curb outside.

The bus doors shut quickly and the hulking metal beast left me in a mess on the side of the road. Brushing myself off, I slowly rose to my feet and picked up my satchel. As I swung it over my head to place it on my shoulder I noticed a dim red light pierce the darkness around me. Where’d that come from I wondered.

I checked the phone in my pocket. Nothing. Looked around for taillights of a car. None.

I twirled around like a prima ballerina looking around again. What the hell was going on with me? Did that bus driver make me hit my head when he shoved me off the bus? No, I was hearing things before I got on the bus…

That thought dispersed as I lifted my left hand up to unconsciously scratch my ear. The red light appeared again. This time I managed to catch where it came from.


More accurately, the inside of my jacket. I glanced down at the inside left breast pocket, feeling a little apprehensive about what I might find. I slid my hand into the pocket and my fingers brushed against the cool, shiny surface of a photograph. I remember putting it in there a few months ago at my Grandfathers funeral. My strange distant cousin had been passing out photos that had been found with the rest of my grandfather’s belongings. I had glanced at it and shoved it into my pocket that day. I didn’t know many of my extended family, but I’d been there to support my mother. She’d had a falling out with her Dad years before I’d been born and I’d never really spent any time with the rest of the family. It was just Mum and me at home, but granddad’s funeral was tough on her. It didn’t mean much to me.

Taking the photo out of my pocket, I flipped it over and saw glowing red eyes looking out from under the brim of a low-slung hat. My mind reeled.  I didn’t remember the photo glowing when I was given it. I probably would have paid more attention to it if it had.

“You’re going to die,” caressed my ear.

A shiver sped up and then down my spine and I dropped the photo.

“Who said that?” I jumped and searched the immediate area. The neighbourhood was deserted. None of the houses had lights on inside, no cars drove by, no one was out walking their dog, I was alone.

Suddenly feeling chilled to the bone; I picked up the photo. The red eyes glowed brighter and a sinister smile graced the man’s face.

Was that there before? Are my eyes playing tricks on me? Am I going crazy?

I continued to ask myself these questions as I quickly walked down the street, hugging my right arm around my stomach, my left hand holding the photo.

“Psst…” tickled my earlobe.

The hairs stood up on the back of my neck. I could feel eyes on me, I felt watched. I hunched my shoulders and rushed quickly down the empty street. My eyes were darting from left to right trying to find anyone, someone who could help me, someone who could be making these noises. Someone. Anyone.

“I’m going to kill you…” hissed into my ear.

“Stop! Stop it! Please…” I begged as I rushed faster still down the street. Whipping my head to look over my shoulder, I tried to catch a glimpse of someone in the shadows. I strained my ears to hear another set of footsteps racing down the street after me. Nothing.

I passed under the archway into a small grassy park, ploughing straight into it, too afraid to stop or to walk around.

“I’m coming to get you. I’m going to enjoy stripping your bones…” echoed all around me as I stumbled up a small grass knoll.

Making it to the top of the hill, I had a 360 view all around me.  My eyes darted about focusing on everything, yet nothing at the same time. There was no one. Not a whisper of wind, no movement. None.

“You’ll never find me, but I’m going to find you!” Threatened the disembodied voice. I shuddered and swallowed the scream that welled in my throat.

“I’m coming, can you hear me? I’m going to kill you, can you feel my eyes watching you?”

I whimpered and whirled around again trying in vain to find this evil that was terrorising me. I twirled again, tripping myself on my own foot and fell heavily onto the damp grass. The photo lay in front of me. One of my eyes was closed and squashed into the grass, but the other was open and focused on the evil red glow that came out of the photo.

A pair of sinister red eyes bore into my single green one. The sadistic smile grew larger before my eyes. I watched in horror as the photograph started to come to life. The man in the dark trench coat in the photo lit a cigarette and took a drag, blowing a lung full of smoke out. The smoke swirled around his head in the photo, then left the photo and escaped hurriedly into the dark sky above me.

A strangled noise that was a mix of a scream and a howl of laughter escaped my throat. My heart beat so fast I was sure it would escape my chest. I could feel beads of sweat trail cold rivers down my back as I watched the man take a step towards me. I closed my eye, afraid to watch more.

“Look at me! You little piece of crap.” Flowed almost musically from the photo.

My body appeared to be frozen in place, but my eye opened again and stared straight into the murderous red ones of the man in the photo.

I think I peed my pants as his first hand punched through the shiny skin of the photo. His evil, twisted laugh erupted in my ears and I heard him take a deep breath through his nose.

“You are pathetic!”

I shivered, my wet pants sticking to my legs and my face still partially pressed into the grass where I’d fallen. His second hand escaped the photo, closely followed by his hat and those evil, glowing eyes of red.

I screamed.


Hope you’ve enjoyed today’s Horrorfest short story 🙂 It was written as a creative exercise for a group competition…

“I’m a regular on I have a number of pieces in various stages of completion on my profile too, but I kind of shocked my socks off, when one of my groups (The Pen is Mightier Than The Sword) had a competition and my result came out like it did.

The prompt was: AN OLD FAMILY PHOTO OF A STRANGE MAN IN A TRENCH COAT – Now, you can describe it, or write of the person in their time or of you finding it, or whatever, have fun with it!

I decided before sitting down to write that I wanted a visual prompt for this story. I did some googling (don’t we all when we need a little inspiration) and I located this picture [shown at the top of the post].”

And here’s a little more about the author, Lynxie, who blogs at Coffee2words

Coffee2words is me at my most basic in terms of my writing. I drink copious amounts of the darkly, rich stuff and attempt to convert it into at least partially amusing or interesting written word. I am sure those of you who check back here from time to time will see various spatterings of my work adorn the pages of my blog.

In other aspects of life, I enjoy reading, reviewing the books I read and interacting with the over 10 Million members on goodreads. I have spent a great deal of my life with my nose shoved between the pages of a book, and more recently pressed against the screen of my kindle. On a good week, I read between 1-4 books and I endeavour to review each of them. Reviewing is still quite new to me, having only picked up my quill late in 2011, I am still finding my own style.

When I’m not writing, reading or stuffing my husband’s or my own face with food, you can find me out walking my beautiful Border Collie dog, Tammy, frequenting the gym or sewing up a storm in my sewing room.

Thanks for taking part in our Horrorfest Lynxie 🙂

Tony’s thoughts…Why your story needs a McGuffin

I was working on “Book Five” this week, and there was a section that was bothering me – I needed a character to be kidnapped, but couldn’t figure out a logical way of doing it. After I solved the problem (That’s the great thing about writing – I get to kidnap people and no one calls the cops!), it occurred to me that the character is a McGuffin.

A wha? What’s a McGuffin? You might ask.

A McGuffin is something in a story that is important to the characters, but is otherwise irrelevant to the plot, and is (In most cases) completely interchangeable with something else.

You with me? No? Okay.

Here’s an example. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Ark of the Covenant is a McGuffin. Change it from “The Ark” to “The Necklace”, and the plot of the film doesn’t change. Change it a “The Crystal Skull” and the plot is the same. Change it to “The Sandwich” and the plot is the same.
Bear in mind, a McGuffin can also be something abstract, like power or money – it doesn’t have to be a physical object.

The McGuffin drives the story forward, but its nature isn’t important. Alfred Hitchcock was a master of these. He said, “In crook stories it is almost always the necklace and in spy stories it is most always the papers.”
George Lucas thinks the McGuffin should be something the reader-viewer cares about. Sometimes it’s not obvious what the McGuffin is either; Lucas says the McGuffin in Star Wars is R2-D2 – the thing that all the characters are chasing or protecting, in other words.

If anyone out there has read my own book Taken, the McGuffin is the character Sacmis – Amon, my main character, spends most of the book trying to find out who she is, and by the time he finds out, it’s irrelevant; he’s discovered other things about his world that means he doesn’t need to know. But his need to discover who she is what drives him forward.

The McGuffin also ties into something fundamental about characters in stories: They have to want something – a character who doesn’t want something shouldn’t be there. A sandwich, a crystal skull, a necklace. Or a Lost Ark of the Covenant. That will be your McGuffin.

In other words, at the centre of your story is an object, or an idea, something that everything else spins around, but is almost completely interchangeable. The man who craves power could as easily be the man who craves money.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m off to make myself a sandwich.

Does your story have a good McGuffin? Comments below!

Tony’s Thoughts…Finishing A work in Progress

In September 2012, I blogged about the start of something new. Well, now it’s nearly finished! Crack open the champagne and celebrate with a pizza. Woohoo, when I finish Book Five, let’s roll that puppy out to Kindle and the world!

Except, of course, I won’t have finished it at all.

I’ll be nowhere near finished. In some ways, I won’t have even started.

What I will have is 50k-60k words of a first draft story, a story I wrote just for myself and posted extracts on Facebook just for fun.

So here’s what happens next…

Draft Zero

I suppose most people would call it a first draft, but I’m going to call it draft zero. Draft zero finishes with me writing ‘The End’. There are words in zero that no one else will ever see…because now I start the re-writes, and with the re-writes come the deletions and the inserts. A suggestion from Stephen King is that drafts should always be 10% shorter when you’re finished, and as I much as I try to follow it, sometimes it’s 10% longer. It tends to balance out though, between the scenes I want extending and ones I want cutting.

What I’ll be doing is looking at the notes I made for myself when I write – I put them in bold so I can see them easily – and I’ll be working my way through the whole book, looking for ways to drop in the extras – or not, as the case may be. I’ll be cleaning up my grammar and characters as I go and making it look a little prettier.


Wow, so you’re done right? I hear you say.


First draft

Ahh yeah, sure I am. Sure. I. Am.

Here’s one of the strangest things you do as a writer. You take your (what is now) first draft, print it out carefully, and then: Put it in a drawer for six weeks and forget it.

Yep. Spend the best part of a year writing a book, and then do your best to forget it exists. Write something else. Learn to juggle. Get some fresh air – I hear that’s nice, although I don’t get much of it. Whatever you do, do not touch it.

How will you know when the day is right to pick it up again? It’s one of those annoying answers, because for me, I just know. Sorry, I don’t have a better answer than that.

So one day in the future, when you know you’ve forgotten that you ever wrote this pile of papers, you take out your first draft and you do exactly what you did with draft zero: Edit it again, rewrite where you have to, take parts out, put them back.

The reason I like to do this with a printed copy is that the change of format really does help me see mistakes. I can look at it as a reader, and not as a writer, and I can see the changes I’d want to make it a book I’d want to read. Killing the parts that don’t add to the story. And this is when it gets weird people, because there are parts in there you don’t remember writing. Which is pretty freaky when you think about it.


Now you’re going to self-publish it?


Second Draft

Sure. After this:

Wow. This is a biggie. I’m actually going to show someone else what I’ve been doing in the spare bedroom since September. For me, that person will be my wife. She’ll – hopefully – pull it apart and tell me where the plot holes are that I didn’t see…and I’d rather it was her than a reviewer on Amazon. She’ll correct the grammar and spelling mistakes that got by the spellchecker (and she’ll complain about my two word paragraphs).

Back for another round of editing, although at this point it might only be a sentence or two.


So it’s got by Mrs Talbot, and it’s ready to go?


Third Draft

Yeah, right. (<—There’s one of those two word paragraphs….)

NOW it goes out to my beta-readers; the first people in the world who are likely to want to read it. More edits? Maybe, but they may love it as it stands and I might be lucky.

Beta-readers are a new one for me on this book, so I’ll get back to you on that one.

Fourth Draft

With Eight Mile Island, I used a professional YA editor (Jennifer Moorman) for the first time, and I’m going to be running the manuscript by her this time as well. Last time she spotted a major flaw in EMI that my wife and I missed, so I think it’s worth it.

And after Jennifer has been paid, I’ll be thinking about a book cover. But there’s enough back and forward between myself and Jennifer to call the next step…

Fifth Draft

Wow, it’s been a long way getting here. How long has this taken? That depends on how quickly my beta-readers read it, how quickly Mrs Talbot read it, and a dozen other things. And don’t forget those vital six weeks sitting in a drawer.

But NOW Book Five is finished. Now I can order the pizza! Now all I have to do is start promoting it. And converting it to Kindle. And the formatting of the paperback…


So after all that?


Start thinking about Book Six, of course…

Tony’s Thinking: Finding an Old Friend


A few years ago, I was wandering through the library at the school where I work, and there was a book seller vending his wares. Just on the spur of the moment, I asked him if he had Bedknob and Broomstick by Mary Norton.

And he did. Wow. Nostalgia trip! It was like finding an old childhood teddy bear in a forgotten cupboard.

You see, B&B was one of the first books I read independently when I was about six, and I devoured it. The plot was simple, the characters easy to grasp and I loved that book. I still love it, and sometimes still even quote it (“It’s cheaper to spit in a bus”, “Pale hands, my heart is singing…”). I read it over and over, and it soaked into me.

I was utterly transported by it, carried away for the first time I could remember. My love of books and writing is all down to this. Here is where it all started for me.

As a result, B&B is part of who I am today. It got me into reading, and there’s been nothing I’ve ever read since that has given me such simple pleasure. Flicking through it again years later, I was still captivated by it, like finding a childhood toy that can still transport your imagination to another world. It was like stepping back to being six years old again.

I was swept away by it when I reread it, and that’s something every book should do to you. Take you away from where you are and drop you somewhere else, whether it’s by magical bed like in B&B or Platform 9-3/4 of Harry Potter.

There’s an elemental power in the first book we remember reading, something that stops with us for the rest of our lives. One of the reasons I love reading – and one of the reasons I love writing – is to write something like this: Something that doesn’t leave you, but becomes part of who you are as you go through life.

I haven’t come close to writing anything as elegant as B&B yet, which is why I keep trying. I don’t think I’ll ever come close to anything like this wonderful and powerfully simple little story that captured my imagination and then set it free again.

Thank you Mary Norton. Thank you more than I could ever tell you.


Have a favourite childhood book? Leave your comment below.

Tony’s Thoughts: My writing playlist…and why

Playing music when I write doesn’t always work for me. My home and my “office” are pretty quiet most of the time, apart from – to quote Belinda Carlisle – the sound of kids on the street outside.

So when I listen to music when I write, it isn’t necessarily because it’s something I want to hear anywhere else. It’s more like it’s another barrier between me and the outside world, another way of getting through the hole in the page where I write without distraction. Earphones and an MP3 player are essential…I don’t want anything to distract me once I’m in there, don’t want to pop back out of the document I’m working on and fiddle with my computer’s media player.

In a way, I can listen to anything…because there comes a point when I’m listening to it and not consciously hearing it; tracks will zip by on my MP3 and I won’t even notice when one starts and one ends until the end of the playlist.

Having said that, if I stick on Beethoven’s Ninth symphony and I’m still writing at the end of it, that’s a solid piece of work; that sucker’s 78 minutes long. I sometimes air compose towards the end, something I always do when I come across The William Tell Overture. It’s too catchy not to. (Trivia of the day: A recording of Beethoven’s Ninth was chosen as the run length of a CD).

Anyway, I have things on my MP3 I never listen to other than when I’m writing. Ten symphonies by Joseph Haydn, and one by his son Michael. Four Beethoven symphonies and 1st and 2nd piano concertos, tons of Mozart. I’ve been getting into some Salieri as well.

I tend to prefer longer pieces of classical when I’m writing, but I have some soft rock on there as well – some Belinda Carlisle (My wife pointed me towards The Go-Gos, and I’ve been having a blast with them), some Bryan Adams. A whole playlist of “Late 20th Century”, 80s and 90s stuff. A long list of 50s and 60s, and The Beatles.

I think the thing for my MP3 is familiarity. I’m listening while I write because the music is familiar to me and I don’t have to focus on it. I’ve heard it a thousand times before, so it doesn’t have any surprises. There’s stuff on there I listen to when I’m not writing, but most of it…most of it is the equivalent of white noise.

And sometimes I even have to turn that off because it’s simply too distracting, and sometimes it’s too easy to get distracted rather than writing – I spent a good few hours on Saturday playing with my playlists rather than writing, for instance. I wrote my last three books without a soundtrack, but I did stick it on when I went back to editing. Book Five feels like a soundtrack novel, and so far it is. It’s early days yet.

I know some people do it for the rhythms, assigning a piece of music to each character, and that sounds like fun and something I wish I could do. You’re a better multitasker than I am if you can focus that well. For me, it’s another wall between the world and the page, and sometimes you need all the walls between you and the world outside, so you can get into the rabbit hole and fall forever.

Tony’s Thinking…Might as well face it, you’re addicted to writing

Today I was waiting for a very slow (It was still going 8 hours after I started it…) progress bar to finish. I’m used to this; working in computers is often a slow and patient business, and luckily I’m a slow and patient guy, or I wouldn’t be in the job I’m in.

Anyway, while I waited, I thought I’d write something off the top of my head, just to pass the time. Came out with a pretty good 1100 word story which I might publish somewhere.

The subject of the story is a bored housewife who takes up writing to pass the time, and on a whim sends her novel away to an agent. I won’t tell you the ending, but it got me thinking:

Is writing addictive? Is there a compulsion to write? I was twiddling my thumbs, and the first thing I thought of was: I’ll write something.

I’d just finished a seven month project to write a 35k novel (Update: That turned into Eight Mile Island), and here I was again: writing.

Here am I writing about writing, for heavens sake.

At least if I’m addicted – or obsessed – it’s quite a benign addiction; can’t see myself knocking over a fast food restaurant so I can find the money for more pens, for instance. But I would like to have some sort of life apart from hitting keys all day!

It’s fun ‘teaching’ it to people, and seeing their work and sharing it, but isn’t that just feeding my addiction?

I know I should be out there doing other things. I think there’s something called…ummm…’Fresh Air’, is it? I’d like to try that one day, just to see what it’s like. I think it comes with a side dish of ‘Exercise’, which sounds awfully strenous.

There are benefits to this addiction as well, I know. There aren’t many addictions where you earn money rather than spend it, and the more time you spend on your addiction, the more it earns you.

I’d love to earn enough to pay my mortgage, even if that wasn’t enough to take up writing full time (At the minute, I’m working on buying a new fridge!), but I can’t really imagine myself writing full time…what would that be like? How strict would you have to be with yourself to think of what you do as ‘your job: writer’, and not goof around on the internet all day. (Speaking of which, how are my sales doing on Amazon…).

So, in conclusion: Am I addicted to writing? Is there a cure? Would I want to take it if there was?

Now I have another story idea…an injection that stops creativity…

See what I mean?