Just a Small Prick…

I had my first COVID vaccination today, three days before my birthday. It was a strange half hour wait in the queue, watching everyone going in before me – wondering why l had been chosen to be protected along with all these old people, before I quickly realised that I was one of them too – but it also felt like the beginning of the next chapter.

Hope was in the air this morning – you could taste it. I’m sure most of that was in my head, but we’ve been living with this social claustrophobia for over a year now, so I’m prepared to go with it and believe in the brighter future they keep telling us about.

I also got a cracking idea for a story while I was waiting for the nurse to stick me with the needle, so there’s that too.

Nightmares & Dreamscapes #1 – Dolan’s Cadillac…

Word count – 19,300

Dolan’s Cadillac is a simple story of revenge, but while the motivation of the protagonist is easy to understand – and is explained in the opening couple of pages – the execution of his plan to accomplish this is complex and detailed.

The beauty of the story is in the meticulous planning of the revenge plot, so much so that it almost feels unnecessary to find out if he is even successful… but we do eventually get to see how that plays out too. In less capable hands this story could have been a chore, but King does here what he does best, and this opening salvo is fun all the way through.

Dolan’s Cadillac is a lengthy but very good start to King’s third collection of short stories, and a high mark for the others to reach.

Recommended

XXX Rated…

My short story, When the Bleeding Just Won’t Stop, is now live at Bare Back Magazine… although I would advise against going there if you’re a child, or in any way prudish about sex.

This story started life as a simple sex scene – mostly as an experiment to see if I could write one. I find that descriptions of the act itself, in fiction, are usually boring and inconsequential to the plot, and in that way they have about the same importance as characters going to the bathroom, and you don’t often read that on the page. Of course, sex is more titillating than the toilet, so I understand the appeal.

Once I got into writing the sex scene, I started wrapping a story around it and developing the characters, and then the whole thing took off from there. I think it’s a good story, and a thoughtful piece of erotica that has something to say.

Check it out if that kind of thing takes your fancy.

The Girls are Growing up…

The Fiancée© will be celebrating her birthday tomorrow, and it’s the second year in a row that she has had to placate loved ones about an operation. Last year, I had my polypectomy the day after her birthday, and this year – today, as I write this – both our kittens are at the vet getting spayed.

As I’ve said before, this is my first time with cats, and it’s also the first time I’ve been aware of the sterilisation of a pet. It was quite a heartbreaking journey to the scalpel this morning, as both Tess and Frankie cried almost the whole way there.

Not to make it about me, but it was quite upsetting to know that they were frightened and confused, and that I was the reason this was happening. They hadn’t asked for it. At least once I wanted to turn around and take them home, but I know this is for the best, and that they will recover quickly.

I hope that this operation won’t change them in any fundamental way, and that their personalities will remain intact. I want Tess to continue to be the inquisitive troublemaker, who loves to sit in boxes and purrs like a Harley Davidson; and Frankie needs to still be the cautious one who takes her sister’s lead, and always looks like she’s trying to do long division in her head.

Finding My Stride…

January has been a long month, as it usually is. But, at the very least, it has got off to a positive start with my writing.

Earlier this month I had my first short story acceptance since 2015. I’m not greedy, but that’s an extremely long drought for me. I don’t really know why either. Sure, I’ve written less in the last few years, but I’ve still been putting my work out there. Either my standards were getting too high or my writing just wasn’t hitting the spot anymore. Maybe it was a little of both.

Either way – to keep the metaphor going – I’m glad I’ve finally found some water. The story should be going live online in March, and I’ll talk about it more closer to the time.

In the meantime I’ll just keep on writing…

Public Service Announcement…

Most of us (myself included) will be glad to see the back of 2020 when it comes – in fact I know a lot of you would like to personally put it on the back of a truck, drive it off a cliff, and watch the whole thing explode in a bright ball of flames.

We’ve all had to muscle through this year just so we can get to the end of the calendar, and because of that, some of us have come out the other side as different people. Better. Worse. Who knows? Jobs have been lost; lives have been lost. Families have been torn apart. Twelve months ago someone wearing a mask was an oddity; today, you don’t leave home without one.

But nothing magically changes when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, and the promise of a vaccine in the months to come shouldn’t be an excuse to relax. Next year begins with the same fears as this one ends, and dollars to doughnuts, 2021 will not be any better if we don’t all pull together and try to do the right thing to help put this in the rear view.

So be smart, and think about the big picture.

What I’ve Done This Month #November…

I started November with good intentions. The plan was to get up a couple of hours early each morning so that I had some quiet time to do some writing, before I went to work. Well I did that for a couple of days before I fell off that particular wagon. It’s not the greatest plan, but I have done it before, and it would work if I had some willpower.

In the brief time I spent with my horror tale about Alexa, I did decide upon a new name for it, which saves me getting into any trouble from Amazon for infringing upon their trademarked tech… but I did little else of any substance.

I’m busy at work as well, and usually too beat when I get home to put on my creative boots. On my days off – especially at this time of year – I’m thinking about Christmas… or, at least, whatever that amounts to this time around.

Like most people I just want to be done with 2020, even if there’s no promise the next calendar will be any better, because sometimes just the act of turning that imaginary page is all the encouragement a person needs.

Good Times! – Review…

Justin Lee Collins was a television personality for a small window of time in a small corner of the world, and as such there will only be a small cross-section who are familiar with much of his work. If you were asleep between 2005 and 2010, and you didn’t live in the UK, you probably don’t know who the hell he is.

I really enjoyed the stuff that he produced – whether it was his on-screen rapport with Alan Carr, or his infectious excitement at meeting the heroes of his youth. He seemed to be a genuinely likeable guy. Of course, he has completely fallen off the radar in the last few years, but a lot of that is of his own making…

This is not a particularly well written autobiography (and you can certainly tell that he wrote it), but Collins does tell a few interesting and moderately amusing anecdotes in between detailing his rise to some kind of C-list fame in the early 2000s.

I don’t know if we’ll ever see Collins on our screens again, and – domestic problems aside – it would be a shame if he is gone for good, because as a face on our televisions, he was one of the best in recent memory.

What I’ve Done This Month #October…

Early in the month I started writing a horror tale about Alexa, the smart device. I put the first few hundred words down when I got a break from work and have the whole story playing out in my head, so I know exactly where I’m going with it. I think it should be a good one. It’s tentatively titled Not Alexa.

I submitted my flash piece, I Lost My Wife Down the Back of the Sofa, to the monthly contest over at Secret Attic – probably some time in September – and although it didn’t win they have included it in their printed collection of short-listed entries. They didn’t tell me this, of course, but it’s nice to see my name online again.

The rest of the month has been about raising kittens (because I became a father a couple of weeks ago) and looking for a new car (because the MOT this time around just about bankrupted me). Those two things stole a lot of my limited spare time towards the end of the month. Even reading has proven to be a problem because Tess will sleep anywhere…

Skeleton Crew – Overview…

Skeleton Crew came out in 1985 and was the second collection of short stories Stephen King published. Overall, it is a decent book, although if I had to put it side by side with Night Shift, it would probably come up a little short. It also feels less cohesive than that first book – more a bunch of stories put together than anything truly united. It’s subtle, but it’s there.

I recommended fifteen of the twenty-two pieces on offer in Skeleton Crew, and if you take away the two pieces of poetry (which probably shouldn’t count towards the total anyway) that’s fifteen out of twenty. 75% is a pretty good win rate, although it’s not quite as good a number as I posted for Night Shift.

Of the five pieces I didn’t recommend, Beachworld fared the poorest. Sci-fi is a tough sell for me, and this did nothing to change my opinion on the genre. I’m sure there’s something in here for those who enjoy that kind of thing, but that ain’t me.

If I had to choose, I would say the best stories here are The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet (which has the advantage of added detail, being a novella), The Mist (which is even longer), monster horror story, The Raft and the thought-provoking Survivor Type fighting it out for the top four spots.

So, the trend is slighty downward, but it’s a good read and still a lot better than a lot of other collections out there.