Category Archives: Publication Updates

Staccato House- latest novel published

Staccato House Lulu

I am very pleased to announce the publication of my latest novel, Staccato House. It is available to buy at Amazon as a paperback here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Staccato-House-Steven-Mace/dp/152276416X
and also in Kindle format here: http://www.amazon.com/Staccato-House-Steven-Mace-ebook/dp/B019E88514

I started writing Staccato House a long time ago- as far back as 2004. The basic premise initially was about a central male character who was taken to a stately mansion and where various entertainments and staged theatre were being acted out for his benefit- while secretly he was being manipulated and could not trust a single person he met there. Just as those he encountered were ‘puppets’, so was he. The antagonist was the sinister ‘puppet master’ who was behind it all.

As the story and plot evolved over the years, I added ‘thriller’ genre elements rather than surreal ‘fantasy’ elements- for example the link to organised crime with a loan shark; I also introduced references to popular conspiracy theories and the occult, so it became an allusive piece of ‘weird fiction’.

I completed a novella version of Staccato House in 2011 which was short-listed for Contact Publishing’s Page Turner prize for thriller fiction, before I adapted it into a novel. I suppose there are three main influences on this book: The novel The Magus by John Fowles; the film Eyes Wide Shut directed by Stanley Kubrick; and the website Vigilant Citizen with its periodic updates and explanations of popular conspiracy theories and secret cults. It’s unlike Fowles’ novel or Kubrick’s film but nevertheless these shaped what Staccato House became. While being my own original work (the essential plot and the novella version was written in 2011 even before I discovered the Vigilant Citizen website, for example)- it would be impossible to deny these influences and inspiration, primarily in terms of these themes: secret societies and hidden cults, a narrator or central character manipulated by unknown mysterious forces.

On a surface level, Staccato House is about a freelance journalist who stumbles across a mystery, and when he investigates further, his life spirals out of control. The reader can enjoy the story and take it at face value as an occult thriller and mystery/psychological novel, and an entertainment.

It’s important at this stage to state that Staccato House is a work of fiction, based entirely on the imagination of the author, but that the ‘logic’ or ‘structure’ that is behind the workings of the plot, derives from numerous urban myths, conspiracy theories, and arcane occult knowledge that can be found in libraries or on the Internet. That’s not to say they are universal truths- esoteric lore and arcane knowledge does not tend to be studied in schools or taken too seriously by most people, and such ideas or beliefs have of course not gone unchallenged. Staccato House is a novel that includes some of those concepts as plot elements. If you’re interested in reading further for a richer understanding of my novel, then let me introduce some of them. Should this pique your interest, then here is a list should you wish to delve deeper- although it is not exhaustive by any means-but please do not assume the author subscribes to any of them, or is himself part of any such ‘secret organisation’! I found these ideas and theories intriguing and simply used them to enrich the details of my fictional novel:

First, the very famous example of the ‘Illuminati conspiracy’:
https://www.toplst.com/top-15-facts-about-the-illuminati-conspiracy/ and
http://www.gotquestions.org/illuminati-conspiracy.html

The Illuminati and the ‘Mothers of Darkness’; also the so-called ‘Mothers of Darkness’ castle, the Chateau des Amerois in Belgium:
http://illuminati-bloodlines.blogspot.co.uk/2009/07/chateaux-des-amerois-mothers-of.html I borrowed the name ‘Amerois’ and slightly altered it for the name of a character in my novel.

The Monarch and MK-Ultra conspiracy theories:

http://conspiracy.wikia.com/wiki/Monarch_Mind_Control and http://conspiracy.wikia.com/wiki/Project_MKULTRA

The Kabbalah (discussed in my previous post):

https://stevenmace.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/the-kabbalah/

These will give you the main background, but here are more obscure references and allusions in Staccato House and links for starting points for reading further should you wish:

Staccato= http://www.thefreedictionary.com/staccato

The Eleusian Mysteries= https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleusinian_Mysteries

The Green Dragon Society of Japan=

http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/vida_alien/warheaven_warearth12a.htm

Adrenochrome (drug)= https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adrenochrome

Baphomet/ Goat’s Head of Mendes= https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baphomet

Enochian Magic= https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enochian_magic

The phrase ‘Ordo ad Chao/Order out of chaos’, the slogan of the 33rd degree of Freemasonry= http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/atlantean_conspiracy/atlantean_conspiracy49.htm

The phrase ‘As above, so below’=

http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/a/below_above.html

Cultural hegemony= https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_hegemony

Socionics= https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socionics

The Sacred Book of Liber Primus/ the ‘Cicada’ internet conspiracy/hoax=
http://cicada3301.org/liber/

Also a reference to the usage of the word ‘cicada’=

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cicada_(mythology)

The ‘Nephalim’ or ‘Nephilim’, various spellings=

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nephilim

Antonin Artaud and ‘The Theatre of Cruelty’=

http://www.britannica.com/art/Theatre-of-Cruelty

The central character in my novel is a ‘Gemini’=

http://gnosticteachings.org/books-by-samael-aun-weor/esoteric-treatise-of-hermetic-astrology/1425-gemini.html

“Weaving Spiders Come Not Here”, a quote from Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’ and motto of the Bohemian Grove=

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohemian_Grove

The Denver International Airport conspiracy theories and mysteries=

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Denver_Airport_conspiracy_theories

http://mentalfloss.com/article/61740/5-weird-conspiracy-theories-surrounding-denver-international-airport

“Energy never dies”- a scientific principle as well as spiritualist=

http://blavatskytheosophy.com/death-and-the-afterlife/

The Double-headed eagle in Freemasonry=

http://pierre.mollier.perso.sfr.fr/articles/PM-12-Double-Headed-Eagle.pdf

O.T.O, or Ordo Templi Orientis and link to Aleister Crowley=

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ordo_Templi_Orientis

The Georgia Guidestones=

http://vigilantcitizen.com/sinistersites/sinister-sites-the-georgia-guidestones/

The Alchemical process of transformation=

http://www.sufismus.ch/assets/files/omega_dream/alchemy_e.pdf

Khabarovsk war crimes trials=

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khabarovsk_War_Crime_Trials

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unit_731

http://www.unit731.org/

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2001/06/05/commentary/world-commentary/the-trial-of-unit-731/#.VnFbTUqLSM8

A few additional links as starting points about Nazi Germany, the Thule and Vril Societies and Nazi research into the occult=

http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/sociopol_thule05.htm

http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/sociopol_brotherhoodss12.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vril

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazism_and_occultism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josef_Mengele

Publication News: “Fox-Curse” in The Stray Branch

My flash-fiction piece “Fox-Curse” has been published in the latest issue (Fall/Winter) of the literary magazine The Stray Branch, edited by Debbie Berk.
You can check out and purchase a copy of this issue from Amazon Createspace here:
The Facebook Page for The Stray Branch is here: https://www.facebook.com/The-Stray-Branch-136553993096921/
Stray Branch website: http://www.thestraybranch.org/
Editor Debbie Berk on Twitter: https://twitter.com/debbiedberk
Stray Branch

Publication News- ‘The Vacancy’ at KZine Issue 13

My horror-fantasy short story “The Vacancy” has been published in KZine Issue 13 (unlucky for some…) It’s a sinister tale about an unemployed man living in an eerie, unknown city; he accepts a job offer at an ancient mansion and begins work for a peculiar organisation.

A few words about this story- “The Vacancy” was mainly inspired by the monochrome visions of the comics artist David Hine (see his blog here and here) and the writings of the notable American horror author Thomas Ligotti. As a child I first became aware of Hine’s artwork and tales in the now defunct Revolver comic and 2000AD, and I was very impressed by Ligotti’s work, notably his collection Teatro Grottesco. Ligotti was also a major influence on the creators of the American drama series ‘True Detective’. I admire Ligotti’s fatalism and ability to capture the eerie and surreal to a disturbing extent, and I hoped to emulate that with my own story.

‘The Vacancy’ has been published along with several other authors and fine stories in KZine Issue 13, which is available at Amazon here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kzine-Issue-13-Maureen-Bowden-ebook/dp/B015B839OY

KZine Image

Echoes and Exiles- new short story collection

I’m very pleased to announce the publication of my latest book, Echoes and Exiles, which is a collection of my most recent short stories.

You can currently buy ‘Echoes and Exiles’ as a Kindle book from Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Echoes-Exiles-Steven-Mace-ebook/dp/B00WSW0POE

as an e-book from Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/538946

or in print form from Lulu: http://www.lulu.com/shop/steven-mace/echoes-and-exiles/paperback/product-22149194.html

I hope to make a print copy at Amazon CreateSpace available very soon.

This is the cover artwork for Echoes and Exiles by Derren Toussaint, alias MonkeysvsRobots.

'Echoes and Exiles' cover illustration by Derren Toussaint

‘Echoes and Exiles’ cover illustration by Derren Toussaint

Derren’s portfolio can be found here at his website: http://www.monkeysvsrobots.co.uk/ and Derren’s Facebook Page is https://www.facebook.com/MonkeysvsRobots

The Background to Echoes and Exiles, and some words about the stories

I wanted to write a few words here about the background to each of the stories. Echoes and Exiles comprises short stories I’ve written between 2011-2014, some of which have already been published in various magazines and webzines. There are only a few exceptions from an earlier period in my writing career. ‘The Prodigal’ was an earlier story, one of the very first I ever wrote, back in the 1990s. ‘Moonlight Bay’ was rewritten in 2011 or 2012 from an earlier fragment of writing which also dates from the 1990s. There is one more early story- ‘The Baron’s Cheesecake’, which is a children’s story and is included in the final section.

Echoes and Exiles is divided into three sections: firstly, the short stories which are compiled under the ‘Echoes’ theme; secondly, the short stories with an ‘Exiles’ theme; and finally a bonus Appendix section which contains all of my unpublished shorter work which has been so far completed: children’s stories, flash fiction, and script ideas. I wrote three scripts entitled ‘Golem’, ‘The Dragon King’ and ‘Old Man Tanzagan’ which were based on ancient myths, and which were intended for an animation project.

In 2011, when I first began preparing this book, I originally conceived Echoes and Exiles as a collection of plays, or scripts, rather than short stories. Many of the short stories began their fiction-life that way. For example, this is the case with ‘A Marriage of Convenience’, ‘Casting Stones’, ‘Civilian’, ‘Here, Kitty Kitty’, ‘Pariah’, ‘Sharks’, ‘The Accidental Author’, ‘The Ballad of Leonard and Mary’, ‘This Machine’ and ‘The Astronaut’s Audition’. They were plays, with staged scenes/settings and dialogue- or, in the case of ‘This Machine’, a monologue- and each one had a contemporary setting, apart from the futuristic ‘Astronaut’s Audition’. A third of the way through this project, my plan altered and I reverted back to writing short prose fiction, where I felt more comfortable. I then rewrote the original ‘plays’ as short stories. This is partly why this collection is so eclectic and varied in terms of genre. It contains contemporary fiction, urban fiction, fantasy fiction, speculative fiction, suspense fiction and horror fiction.

The stories are loosely bound by the respective dual themes of ‘Echoes’ and ‘Exiles’. ‘Echoes’ might be consequences of actions; memories; delusions; or ghosts- real and imagined. ‘Exiles’ refers to banishment, isolation, imprisonment, wanderers, pariahs and those who are lost. The two themes are not mutually exclusive despite the division of the stories into two different sections, and indeed both themes do overlap in several of the tales.

Here are a few brief words about each of the stories in the collection:

‘Echoes’ section

Whispers on the Airwaves
A sinister SF suspense tale set in a remote Martian space colony. One premise for the circumstances of this story was based upon the concept of pareidolia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareidolia
“Whispers on the Airwaves” was originally published at Darker Times (September 2013) and selected as a September competition runner-up, it was also included in the Darker Times Anthology Vol 5

The Astronaut’s Audition
This is one of the stories in this collection which began life as a play. This SF story explores the idea of having an identical double, or doppelgänger, as a result of a teleportation accident.

The Foreshadowing
This is a weird piece of Twilight-Zone style shlock horror, about a flight attendant who accidently stumbles into a nightmarish parallel dimension.
“The Foreshadowing” was originally published in the 4th May 2014 (159th) edition of Schlock Magazine

Goat’s Milk
A dark horror tale dealing with satanic echoes from the past. It wasn’t so much the Wicker Man-style witchcraft in a remote community elements which inspired this, but the single image of a child lying awake in bed, frightened by mysterious etchings in luminous paint which are daubed on the bedroom wall.

The Alchemist’s Dream
An SF story influenced by the writing of Isaac Asimov, describing the epic history of an alien planet’s rise and fall in the short story medium.

Unlimited Shelf Life
This is a humorous SF/Fantasy story set in what I would describe as hyper-reality: an exaggerated version of the real world with fantastic elements, an alternate comic-book form of reality. This was influenced by the diverse sources of the TV series Mad Men, Marvel and DC comics and the works of Thomas Pynchon.
“Unlimited Shelf Life” was originally published in Aphelion Webzine, Issue 185, Vol.18 (June 2014)

The Ice Castle
This is a short story about the theme of domestic violence and abusive marriages, with reference to this article: http://www.examiner.com/article/why-are-so-many-high-i-q-battered-wives-married-to-men-with-low-e-q This was additionally inspired by a true story related to me by a friend. My friend described someone she knew whose ex-husband drugged her and kept her as a virtual prisoner in their home.

Moonlight Bay
This is a weird supernatural tale set in Cornwall, about dark family secrets and a race of subterranean creatures. I wrote an earlier version or fragment of this story many years ago before re-writing and completing it for this collection.
“Moonlight Bay” was originally published in Hellfire Crossroads Vol.3 (July 2014)

The Automatic Boy
This is an experimental story written in a style which I’d describe as ‘dream-fiction’. At first this story appears to be a straight-forward nostalgic reminisce upon old schooldays before exploring stranger territory.

The Spy Glass
This is a supernatural fantasy tale about a mysterious spy glass, a device that seems to open a window between space and time while cursing those who are unfortunate to possess it.
“The Spy Glass” was originally published in Sanitarium Magazine Issue 023 (July 2014)

Winter’s Promise
Another supernatural horror-fantasy tale, about a woman trapped in a mountainside cabin during a snowstorm. Things start to go bump in the night. This one plays on the idea of Jack Frost, or some form of supernatural snow-entity.
“Winter’s Promise” was originally published in the Blysster Press Crypticon Anthology (April 2013)

Casting Stones
This is about ghosts, purgatory and the afterlife. Although the last of the ‘Echoes’ stories, I suppose it’s also an ‘Exiles’ story- a ghost in exile from life.

‘Exiles’ section

The Prodigal
This is the earliest-written short story in this collection. It’s about a teenage runaway, his dark secret and his demonic pursuer. The changes to the original for the recently published version were minimal.
“The Prodigal” was originally published in InnerSins Webzine (Issue 18, Fall 2014)

This Machine
This is another of the stories which owes its structure to the fact that it was originally conceived as a play. Much of the original script version was a monologue. The ‘exile’ in this story is a man socially excluded and isolated, who has fallen into criminal behaviour. His personal situation brings out his hopelessness and personal darkness.
“This Machine” was originally published in full in Suspense Magazine (November 2012), and the Urban Story website (online in abbreviated form, October 2012)

The Ballad of Leonard and Mary
Another story which began life as a play, with some similar themes to a previous short story I wrote, entitled ‘Dignity’, which appeared in my second short story collection The Splendour of Shadows. In this story, an elderly couple take in a mysterious and malevolent lodger.
“The Ballad of Leonard and Mary” was originally published in Suspense Magazine (October 2012)

Civilian
This was just an excuse to wheel out the character Doreen Hawes, the Job Centre employee from Hell and scourge of all benefits claimants, who also appears in my short story ‘The Vacancy’. This story considers the idea of the ‘exile’ in the form of an ex-soldier who deserted his regiment and faced court-martial, who is now ostracised by both the army and the system. Another story that was a play.

The Lonely Parade
This SF story was written as a grim, dystopian vision of a near-future Britain.

The Accidental Author
This is a playful, darkly humorous story about an aspiring writer who finds his work plagiarised, with both comical and tragic consequences.

Virtuatronics
A dark SF story about the dangers of consumerism and self-exile: in this case, seeking to escape from grim reality into a fantasy world.
“Virtuatronics” was originally published on the Five Stop Story website (online, November 2012)

Pariah
Another story which originally began life as a play exploring the theme of the exile. ‘Pariah’ is about a particular form of isolation, and the idea that appearances can be deceptive.

Sharks
Another short story that was originally a play. This is about a robbery at a city store, written from the point of view of the ‘exile’- a character with Asperger’s syndrome who is innocently caught up in a chain of violent events.

Trojan
Old fashioned space opera SF, about a team of galactic space salvagers who stumble across something nasty in deepest Space. The title is a double play on the ‘Trojan horse’ and the computer virus. I lifted the name of the ship captain from a famous real-life local Doningtonian: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Flinders

Walls of Glass
The exile in this story is a domestic terrorist- and his motivations and his fatal purpose are explored in this tale.

A Marriage of Convenience
A tongue-in-cheek, light supernatural tale written with humorous intention, which along with ‘Unlimited Shelf Life’ has the purpose of lightening the bleak, dark mood of most of stories in this collection.

Here, Kitty Kitty
A violent suspense story laced with dark humour. It is based around the idea of home invasion, and is about a psychopathic drifter who lives a vagrant existence, targeting isolated lonely victims.

Appendix

Children’s Stories
Although they don’t entirely fit in with the tone of the adult-oriented stories in this book, I decided to include a few unpublished children’s stories in the book, to find a home for them and serve the purpose of collecting my work so far. The first of these, and oldest, is ‘The Baron’s Cheesecake’, which dates from the 1990s and is a medieval fantasy/fairy tale about a quest to find elusive silver pears, which turn out to be not quite so elusive as first thought. The second is ‘King of Towering Spires’, which is about a giant talking mouse, the ‘King Mouse’ of the title. The last and longest story is ‘The Countess and the Water Mill’. This is a grim fairy tale fantasy which is darker in tone than the other two children’s stories here, concerning an evil, ghastly Countess and a water-sprite.

Flash Fiction
Three flash fiction pieces that I decided to collect in this book for similar reasons: ‘Fox-Curse’, which is about witchcraft, a poisoning and a live burial; ‘A Hair’s Breadth’, which is about the dreary existence of the average office worker in the corporate world; ‘In the Dead of Night’, which is a horror piece with Nosferatu-style imagery.

Scripts
I wrote some scripts based on old myths and legends for animation or some other form of performance, and which I also decided to include here. ‘Golem’ is based on the Jewish myth of the supernatural creature: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golem

Original artwork for my script 'The Golem' by A E Mana

Original artwork for my script ‘The Golem’ by A E Mana

‘The Dragon King’ is a Chinese legend updated to a modern Middle Eastern setting, and ‘Old Man Tanzagan’ is based on an old Altai myth. These three myths were collected in a favourite book of mine, entitled Folk Tales and Legends, which I owned as a child: http://www.worldcat.org/title/folk-tales-and-legends/oclc/9305771.

I wrote my own Golem story, and updated the Chinese Dragon King myth into a modern version. ‘Old Man Tanzagan’ is very much based on the original myth, and I have changed very little.

Beyond Twilight (2010 short story collection)

Where you can buy Beyond Twilight:

Lulu (hard print copy): http://www.lulu.com/shop/steven-mace/beyond-twilight-fourteen-short-stories/paperback/product-22049309.html

Amazon Kindle (eBook for Kindle version): http://www.amazon.co.uk/Beyond-Twilight-Fourteen-short-stories-ebook/dp/B0057FKS32

Smashwords (eBook version): http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/295025

moontower

My first short story collection Beyond Twilight contains most of my earlier writing. I wrote my first group of short stories between 1997 and 2002, and these were mainly horror, fantasy and SF stories, but there were even a couple of children’s stories.

This first group which were written in this period consisted of the following stories: ‘Death Head’; ‘Martin’; ‘The Baron’s Cheesecake’; ‘The Question’; ‘The Lost Boy’; ‘The Prodigal’; ‘Electra’; ‘Garden of Illusion’; ‘Moonlight Bay’; ‘Requiem’; ‘The Book of Witchcraft’; ‘The Fenland Witches’; ‘The Legacy of Steeple Hill’ and ‘Bloodlines’. I also had the title for the first collection- ‘Beyond Twilight’- in mind right from these early stories and writings from the late 1990s. I liked this title, in terms of the concept of transitioning from half-light to darkness, and I was probably thinking of The Twilight Zone or Dean R Koontz’ novelTwilight Eyes. There is no connection whatsoever with the Twilight saga vampire books, which were published later than 1997-2002, but obviously before I was able to eventually create this collection.

Five of these tales appear in Beyond Twilight in what essentially amounts to their original forms (Death Head, Garden of Illusion, Requiem, The Book of Witchcraft, The Fenland Witches, The Legacy of Steeple Hill). I made one alteration to ‘Death Head’ in 2010 prior to publication, changing the setting from the British Midlands to London.  ‘The Lost Boy’ was effectively swallowed into the opening chapters of my novel ‘Copper Moon Rising’, and ‘The Prodigal’ was a variation on the same theme. ‘Electra’ was a sci-fi story about a female space salvager, but in 2009 I re-wrote and re-worked the story as ‘Red’, which also does appear in Beyond Twilight. Cheyenne Electra remains as the main protagonist. ‘Bloodlines’ was rewritten and reworked for inclusion in my second short story collection,The Splendour of Shadows. ‘The Question’, a playful fantasy-vignette aimed at young readers, was inserted within the story ‘Veronica and the Men’, which I wrote in 2009-2010 and was also included in Beyond Twilight. ‘Martin’ (which owed something to the monochrome visions of comic book artist David Hine) has since evolved into a new short story of mine, entitled ‘The Vacancy’, which readers can expect to see soon when it appears this year.

So far the children’s story ‘The Baron’s Cheesecake’ and the story ‘Moonlight Bay’ are unpublished in collection/book form, but along with ‘The Vacancy’ they will be included in my forthcoming new collection of stories, Echoes and Exiles.

In 2008-2010 I started work on a new group of short stories to complete the Beyond Twilight collection: these were ‘Epiphany’; ‘Hell Hath No Fury’; ‘The Birthday Box’; ‘Under Foreign Skies’ (begun in 2002/2003 and completed in 2010); ‘City By The Sea’; and ‘The Last Days of Verity Jamieson’ (which was written as a companion piece to ‘Death Head’ to bookend the collection, and so bring the reader full circle).

Some comments about the background to the stories in this book:

Death Head

This is the companion piece for the ‘Verity Jamieson’ story. I thought of the concept for the story after reading about rock musicians like Marilyn Manson and Norwegian death metal bands that were into Satanism and alternative cultures. This seemed like a good premise to introduce the idea of demonic entities living and moving amongst us.

Epiphany

The idea for Epiphany came from a dream that I had. The dream was simply that of a man and a woman in a car, speeding across a desert and being pursued by unknown forces. From that simple concept, the rest of the story wrote itself. There’s obviously influence from post-apocalypse stories and films, like Mad Max, The Postman, and others.

Garden of Illusion

Like Epiphany, the story came from a dream I had, of a woman alone in an apartment block, while a menagerie of animals was active in the gardens below. The virtual reality concept and the stalking assassin idea wrote themselves after that initial thought.

Hell Hath No Fury

I had an idea about a man who wakes up alone, trapped in a room, with no idea of who he is or how he got there. I didn’t really know where to go with it or what would happen afterward, for a while. Then one day, I sat down and wrote the story pretty much in its entirety. For some reason I had The Avengers TV series from the 1960s/70s in my mind when I wrote this one. Every episode I’ve ever seen of that show seems to involve some grand British stately home; a paranoid demented plot possibly inspired by psychedelic influences; and random coincidence. I had the show in mind when the main character is lost in the maze, and goes from being in pursuit to the pursued.

Red

I took up a writing challenge for updating a classic fairytale in a modern or futuristic setting. ‘Red’ was the result (yes, it’s ‘Little Red Riding Hood’), and it was the quickest to be written of all these stories, in about two days, based on an old fragment I scribbled down in the 1990s, which was called ‘Electra’.

Requiem

This is the oldest story included in the collection. I originally started it around 2001- perhaps before. It’s been rewritten several times before you see it in the form it is here. I just wanted to write a classic supernatural short story, and this one is heavily influenced by the likes of James Herbert. Horror writers such as Stephen King, James Herbert and Clive Barker were my favourite authors as a teenager. I also wanted to write a haunted house story based around a witch and witchcraft theme, and as you have seen, it isn’t the first time I’ve used this typical horror staple.

The Birthday Box

I absolutely hate spiders. If they were big enough, I think they would devour the human race and take over the world.

The Book of Witchcraft

They always say ‘write about what you know’. Some might read this and believe there are autobiographical elements to this story. I couldn’t possibly say. It is perhaps a story about self-realisation, and wishful thinking, from the author’s point of view. From the reader’s point of view, it is an updated Faust. Again, I returned to the themes of Satanism, demonology and witchcraft.

The Fenland Witches

This is another story heavily influenced by personal experience and also a story involving witches and witchcraft. The inspiration for some of the aspects of this story probably come from my late grandmother…thanks Nan.

The Legacy of Steeple Hill

I have always been very interested in the history of the paranormal, and the study of it. My knowledge of people like Aleister Crowley and the paranormal investigator Harry Price were the main inspirations for this story, as well as the descriptions of what happened at Borley Rectory, the ‘most haunted house in Britain’ during the early part of the twentieth century. I also wanted to write a classic Victorian/Edwardian-era ghost story with Victorian characters. Along with ‘Requiem’ and, in a sense, ‘City by the Sea’, it’s one of three ‘haunted house’-style horror stories in this collection. An abridged version of this story (the Victorian section) was published in Litro Magazine in July 2013 (#Issue 127).

Under Foreign Skies

The opening paragraphs to this story were written in 2002. In a PGCE teacher training session we were shown a black and white photograph of an old lady pushing a pram outside a decaying shop in a desolate city. The tutor asked us to respond to it by writing a work of fiction. What followed was probably the most enjoyable half hour I ever spent while doing teaching training. I am not sure what it had to do with teacher training but it was valuable creative writing experience. I wrote the opening paragraphs but I wasn’t sure where to go with it afterwards, so it stalled there. In 2008, I came across the opening written on note paper while sorting my things out. I thought that it would make a good opening for a new short story, and so the paranoid spy plot that followed, essentially wrote itself.

Veronica and the Men

Originally called ‘Veronica’s Shadow’, this one is a curiosity. For the author, it is an experiment. Originally, it was going to be a typical paranoid horror story with a woman being stalked by a madman but after a while I found the plot predictable, unsavoury and boring. ‘Garden of Illusion’ is another version of that story anyway. I worked on this one a little and it mutated into something else entirely. It now serves as a piece of comic satire, and forms a little bit of light relief amid the dark stories in this collection. Rather than ending with something horrible happening like so many of these tales, it ends with someone getting a date! I have played around with some deeper meanings and some observations upon life and our society. It’s heavily influenced by Will Self, after I discovered his fiction and was thoroughly entertained by his style of writing. The title is a twist on the title of the film Dr T and the Women. Actually, that film and this story have something in common.

The story-within-the-story that Richard Gadman-Hoyte has written and shows Veronica is actually a piece of juvenilia that I wrote when I was eighteen, a comic short story called ‘The Question.’ So in fact, that’s the oldest piece of writing here in this collection, rather than ‘Requiem’ (it was definitely written as far back as 1997). That story was kicking around, and I didn’t know what to do with it. In the end, it became part of ‘Veronica and the Men’, simply because I thought it suited the tone of that story.

As with ‘The Legacy of Steeple Hill’, an abridged version of this short story was published, this one in Roadside Fiction (Winter 2014, issue #6).

City By The Sea

The idea for this story came from a dream (or nightmare) I had, about a strange ancient city built upon a faraway coastline. The idea of evil lurking deep within came a little bit afterwards. This one has a little bit of Lovecraftian atmosphere about it, it’s one of the most sinister stories in this collection. There’s also a little bit of inspiration from Erich von Däniken‘s theories.

The Last Days of Verity Jamieson

I already mentioned the general author’s advice that you should write about what you know, and I have never been to Tennessee, USA. So, I broke that rule. Nevertheless, this is my own piece of Southern Gothic. I once remembered reading articles about the FBI investigating devil worship and the sacrifice of cattle in the American Deep South, and these influenced my concept for the story. I also think I had aspects of Twin Peaks in mind, the feel of the Laura Palmer narrative. It is the companion story to ‘Death Head’, revealing Verity’s back story and her eventual fate, and it is appropriate that both bookend the collection.

lighthouse