New Short Story: Tappety Tap

I had a lot of fun writing this story. It quite literally gave me the shivers – which I consider to be a good sign.

I hope you enjoy ‘Tappety Tap’. It’s not in any of my books, and it’s free to read on WordyNerdBird Writes until after Halloween.

Tappety tappety tap.

Something about the low light amplified the tiny sound that seemed to grow louder as it continued.

Tappety tappety tap.

She leaned forward to try to peer into the darkness beyond, but the leather cuffs that secured her hands behind her back restrained her movement.

Tappety tappety tappety tap.

The sound began to slow as it drew nearer, yet whatever was making the noise remained out of sight.

Tappety tappety.

An involuntary gasp escaped her lips as a spider, like none she had ever seen before, tappety-tapped its way slowly toward her. Even as anticipation unleashed a caterpillar of fear that crept up her spine and over her scalp,she watched, transfixed, as itsskeletal form crossed the floor.

The meagre light reflected dully off its bony thorax, from which extended eight legs that consisted of the clean, white phalanges of long, dextrous fingers. The tap-pet-ty tapping of its…

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Horror Scenes in Shakespeare: The Witches of ‘Macbeth’

It’s true that Shakespeare isn’t usually associated with horror, but there are a number horror and macabre scenes in his plays that are genuinely creepy and very dark.

So, this ’spooky season’, I’ll be sharing those scenes with you via Shakespeare Nerd.

As I noted in a post last week, the first scene of Macbeth is my favourite opening scene among all the plays, so that’s a great place to start.

Shakespeare Nerd

Often referred to as the Weird Sisters, the witches of ‘Macbeth’ open the play with a powerfully macabre and horrifying scene. There is a cauldron in the middle of the cavern, around which the witches dance and recite the list of ingredients in the potion they are making. 

Just reading the recipe is enough to make one’s skin crawl – and we are nowhere near as superstitious as Shakespeare’s original audiences. 

In 1606 when the play is thought to have first been performed, audiences then would have both living memory and current knowledge of witch trials and persecutions, and would have been very wary of anything to do with witches and magic.

Shakespeare knew what we was doing, though. James I had been king of England for a few years, and  did not enjoy universal popularity among his English subjects. By portraying the witches and Macbeth as evil, he was…

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Strange Inspiration.

As a writer, inspiration can come from anywhere.

Last week, as my friends and I were sitting in a shopping centre food court, I watched a young boy carefully picki his nose, eating the booger, and follow it with a chicken nugget. He did this at least three times,

At a table nearby, another young boy watched too, with disbelief and horror written all across his face.

The scene amused me, and I filed a mental note about it. Did the second boy never pick his nose, I wondered, or was he just appalled by the thought of eating it?

As I was driving home, a story came to me.

It seems fitting that it is a macabre story, given that it is October and Halloween will soon be upon us.

However, when I went looking for a copyright free image of a kid with their finger up their nose, I couldn’t find a single one. You would think that with the world-wide resources of the internet at our fingertips, things like that wouldn’t be so hard to find. There were stock images available, but I generally refuse to use those because, like all Indie authors, I’m on a budget and that seems like a luxury to me.

One Facebook post later, my cousin came to the rescue. Her young son was only too happy to stick his finger up his nose for the camera, and now he’s my little hero. He loves creepy stories, so I’ve promised to write one for him. I just have to wait for a little more strange inspiration to come my way.

He’s a natural! Image by Geanette Saad. Used with permission.

I hope you enjoy The Final Blow.

Image by Geanette Saad 2019. Used with permission.

“How many times do I have to tell you not to pick your nose?”

Sam sighed. All he wanted to do was dislodge those crusty bits that stabbed the inside of his nostrils every time she made him blow into a tissue, and remained there stubbornly regardless of his efforts with the tissue. Those things hurt, and they didn’t let go on their own.The best way to remove them was gently, with his favourite finger, and then flick them into the bin.

She should just be thankful he never wanted to eat it. He didn’t understand how other kids could. Just the other day when they had gone out for lunch he had watched another boy in the restaurant eating his booger off his finger before picking up a chicken nugget and eating that. He shuddered at the thought.

“You don’t know…

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A Favourite Shakespeare Play: ‘Macbeth’

Macbeth is a play that has always fascinated people, engaging their superstitions as well as their imaginations. For this reason, its often called The Scottish Play by actors and theatre folk, as it’s believed to be unlucky to say ‘Macbeth’ in a theatre.

It’s a cracker of a story. The supernatural ‘weird sisters’ tell Macbeth he’s going to be Thane of Cawdor, and then tell him he is going to be king. In response, Macbeth does everything in his power to make it happen, only to be haunted by his victims and unable to actually enjoy his success when it does. You really do have to wonder how it would have all worked out if he’d responded with, “That’s nice!” and let things happen as they would. 

Of course, you can’t just blame it all on Macbeth. His wife – whom I like to call Lady Macdeath – plays a significant part in engineering him onto the throne, mostly by bullying him into doing things he doesn’t really want to do.

The play has some fabulous macabre moments— the witches are spooky, their prophecies are uncanny, and you can bet your last dollar you don’t want to eat what they’re cooking in that cauldron. Even better is the part where Banquo’s ghost shows up for dinner shaking his “gory locks”: that is my favourite scene in the whole play.

Laced with suspense, intrigue, and dramatic irony, ‘Macbeth’ keeps the audience hooked to the very end, even though we all know by now how it’s going to work out. There’s more magic than just “Double, double, toil and trouble / Fire burn and cauldron bubble” in this play. 

Strangely enough, reading the text has brought me some odd comfort this weekend as I contemplate the fate of people who manipulate, lie and use others for their own nefarious purposes. I have taken dark satisfaction in seeing those who chose to do evil get what they deserved in the end. It may not be gracious, but it is quite therapeutic to think that maybe the Fates really do have things under control. Sometimes you need to take your catharsis wherever you can get it. 

That, of course, is the genius of all Shakespeare’s plays. He deals in the emotions we all understand – ambition, greed, love, anger, jealousy, pride, and the experience of being at the receiving end of the bad behaviour of others. The language may have changed slightly, but human nature certainly has not. 

Shakespeare doesn’t have to work hard to make the audience dislike Macbeth and his cold-hearted shrew of a wife: we get it. We have all seen people succeed by means of deceiving and manipulating others, or by stabbing someone else in the back, and we don’t like them, either.

She’s Baaaaaaack!

Sometimes, fiction is only slightly more horrific than real life.

Yesterday I wrote something other than a blog post for the first time in a couple of weeks. After being ill, having surgery, and then finding myself entirely without focus, it felt so good to have the words flowing again. I knew it would happen; I just had to wait for my muse.

As it turns out, my muse has a very dark sense of humour. As I commented to my best friend this evening, “It’s a bit sad that a horror story can be so highly autobiographical.”

The story is one I started at some point during my illness, most likely when I had started to come back to life after failing to die at the hands of whatever disease it was that I had, although I don’t remember writing it then.

I’m not going to give any spoilers, but I will say that I love the opening line, and while I am confident that this gruesome little story does reflect my own experiences of the past three weeks, it also holds some twists that even surprised me as I was writing it.

After some sleep and a bit of thoughtful editing today, I have made ‘Contaminus’ available to read for free on WordyNerdBird Writes.

Square Peg, Round Hole.

A response to intolerance.

I’ve never understood why people feel the need to pressure someone to conform. Why are they so intimidated by someone daring to think for themselves, pursue their own dreams and make choices according to their own preferences?

And what I really don’t get is how they can say they love someone and yet reject particular qualities that makes that person who they are.

These are the thoughts that have contributed to a poem I finished recently.

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The imagery is macabre and horrifying. The message is dark. None of that will surprise anyone who knows my writing.

I won’t discuss the details of the situations that led to it being written. Suffice to say that there are people in various “circles” in which I live and move who have, at one time or another, exerted significant pressure on me to be less individual and more compliant with the way they like or want things to be.

I have some bad news for them.

I will not submit to their peer pressure. As adults, they should know better.
I will not moderate my politics, my social conscience, or my rampant individuality for them.
I will not be submissive or silent in response to their bad behaviour, intolerance and hypocrisy.

If they don’t like it, they can go and boil their heads.

Of course, that’s all excellent news for me. In the immortal words of the Monty Python team, “I’m not dead yet!”

 

 

Joey'sMapleLeafTatt

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Curious Times Ahead.

There are, indeed, some very Curious Times to come.

A year ago, my character Friday didn’t exist. He didn’t appear in my imagination until Friday 13th of October, when I wrote a spooky piece of flash fiction featuring a black cat. At that time, I didn’t expect it would be any more than that.

Friday had other ideas. He showed up again the next day, and the next, and the day after that, too. By Halloween, I had written thirteen macabre stories featuring Friday, a magical black cat with a penchant for poetic justice.

“A lovely collection of tales, overseen by a
cat who defends his person with almighty
power. A little gory, and a lot killy. ;-)”

Promo Curious Things Cover

Playing with common superstitions, the old proverb “curiosity killed the cat” and the strange events that happen in the stories, I titled the book of these collected stories ‘Curious Things’.

Of course, it’s not the magical cat who ends up in trouble. It’s the people who allow their curiosity, dishonesty or greed to get them into bad situations who find themselves on the wrong end of Friday’s magic.

Friday was, quite naturally, rather pleased. He purred his way onto bookshelves, rubbed against the ankles of those browsing the YA, paranormal and horror bookshelves, and wrapped his sleek black tail around readers’ hearts.

“This cat is like Karma on four legs.”

He enjoyed the attention and adulation of his fans so much, he began to demand I write some more stories for him. Being a cat, he’s most accustomed to getting what he wants. And so, Friday’s next book, titled ‘Curious Times’ is due to be released in early October, right on time for Halloween reading!

I’m very excited to reveal the cover of ‘Curious Times’ right here, for the first time!

Curious Times Cover eBook

‘Curious Times’ will be available in all major and some minor digital stores, and widely available as a paperback.

Stay tuned on social media and this blog for an announcement of the book’s release!

 

Thank you, Mary Shelley.

How Mary Shelley Has Inspired Me, Yet Again!

Mary_Shelley
At the beginning of February, celebrated as Women in Horror Month, I wrote about Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, as one of my literary inspirations.

 

On this last day of the month, a friend shared with me a post from smithsonian.com titled ‘Frankenstein’ Manuscript Shows the Evolution of Mary Shelley’s Monster’ which speaks of a British publisher releasing 1500 facsimile copies of Mary Shelley’s original manuscript notebooks, complete with revisions and edits, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the book’s first publication.

 

Oh, my heart! I know I’ll never be able to own one of those 1500 copies, but how I would love to read that manuscript!

 

FrankensteinDraft
Even just looking at the photograph of two pages, my author-heart swelled. Here is the work of a woman I have admired almost all of my life, showing that her work, too, needed editing and revising. She understood that no piece of writing is perfect the first time, even if the story itself is brilliant.

 

This is so incredibly encouraging in the moments when I doubt myself, or my story, or my ability to communicate my ideas the way I want to. It reassures me when the words don’t flow for a time. And it reminds me that I’m by no means the first, or last, to experience these things. The doubts and writers block don’t make me any less of a writer; instead, it’s working through them and in spite of them that makes me a better one.

 

Through these images, Mary Shelley inspires me all over again.

Women in Horror Month: My Kind of Horror

I want to give my readers a reading experience that is original, well-written and provocative enough to give them the chills and shudders that they seek when they pick up a horror story.

One of the most powerful features of excellent Gothic, horror or macabre writing is the ability of an author to affect the reader on an intellectual and emotional level, even more than they do physically.

This is something that I aspire to in my own writing. I always try to engage the mind and the emotions, not just the reflexes that make one gag or feel their skin crawling, although those are certainly effects that I enjoy stimulating in a reader. I don’t write splatter for splatter’s sake – there has to be a deeper meaning and a greater purpose to it than that if I really want to connect with and move my reader on a psychological level. There needs to be a story, not just a scene, and the reader needs to be able to connect with that story in order for it to have full effect on them.

I sought to do this in ‘The Silver Feather’ by developing strong emotions in my main character’s responses to things that happened around him and to him – grief, shock, dread, surprise, horror, and fear. Phil is an ordinary guy with talents, strengths and flaws that make his situation one in which any of us could find ourselves. Not everything is explained in full, because as an author, you want the reader to be wondering what’s going on, and holding their breath as they anticipate what’s coming next. Things become clearer as the story progresses, but sufficient questions remain at the end because you want the reader to remain interested enough to read the sequel.

‘Curious Things’ is a little different in that it consists of thirteen stories, all featuring a black cat named Friday and his interaction with people who are all doing the wrong thing in one way or another. It’s not enough to blow them up or have them arrested – I want to make them face consequences, to be confronted by their conscience, and to pay the price for their less-than-savoury ways. Each story develops from some kind of superstition – do black cats bring bad luck? What would happen if the ground really did open up and swallow someone? Again, some questions about Friday remain unanswered, although it is evident that he’s not exactly your ordinary house cat. The reader doesn’t need to know everything to understand that Friday is actively involved in the strange events that occur, one way or another.

I do have plans for more horror stories this year. Friday will emerge from time to time, as he did on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, when new stories were published on WordyNerdBird Writes. There may, or may not, be a sequel to The Silver Feather – the truth is that I haven’t decided on this just yet. There will be another collection of horror stories, two of which have already been written and edited, and another is well under way. I’m not setting myself a due date for any of these projects – they will happen when they happen, and I will work steadily toward them.

My goal in all of this is to give my readers a reading experience that is original, well-written and provocative enough to give them the chills and shudders that they seek when they pick up a horror story. I want them to hold their breath, and gasp, and recoil when they read my work. And I want them to come back for more, because that is the greatest compliment and honour that an author can receive from a reader.

WiHM9-GrrrlLogoTall-BR-S

So here’s to all the women writing horror, and to all the readers who love what they write. Here’s to all the authors whose horror works I love reading, and to celebrating them and their books during a delightfully creepy Women in Horror Month.

I’m dead keen. Are you?

The Day After Friday.

After the fury of writing  13 short stories on a theme in 16 days between Friday 13th and Halloween, in addition to working and meeting various other commitments as a responsible adult, I spent a day deliberately not writing anything. My brain was fritzed.

November 1st was a strange day for this writer. After the fury of writing  13 short stories on a theme in 16 days between Friday 13th and Halloween, in addition to working and meeting various other commitments as a responsible adult, I spent a day deliberately not writing anything. My brain was fritzed.

What I originally thought was just going to be the one mildly horrific story on Friday 13th turned into a series of 13 short horror stories featuring a black cat named Friday with a penchant for curious events. That darned cat just took over, and kept on presenting me with situations and superstitions to explore and present in different ways. I guess I should have expected that, given how cats tend to have a mind of their own and do whatever they please, regardless of what people think.

I also confess to having fallen in love with Friday. He’s affectionate, loyal and feisty. He’s mysterious – it’s never really clear whether he’s entirely responsible for the things that happen, or whether he’s a catalyst for some greater force of justice, but he’s always there when strange things happen. Either way, I’ve loved having him around.

Promo Friday Stories copy
Friday’s stories are available to read for free at WordyNerdBird Writes until 11.59pm EST on Friday, November 3rd.
After that, they’ll be appearing in a book at some time in the future.  I’d love to have you read them and leave a comment or two in response.

Read Friday’s stories: 

Friday

Curious Things

When A Black Cat Crosses Your Path

The Unwelcome Guest 

Bless You

As Luck Would Have It 

The Flamin’ Liar

The Unreal Estate Agent

Misfortune Cookies

Finders, Keepers

The Cat Burglar

Ask Not For Whom The Bell Tolls