Terraforming [Creating my fictional world]

Terraforming [Creating my fictional world]

As I work on the Carsun book, I need a strong sense of place in order for the story to work. Tilwick was always meant to be a town, with laws, rules and religious factions of its own, but my ambitions have grown somewhat over the years and having the town of Tilwick alone is not enough. In order for some of the plans I have to work, Tilwick needs to be more of a district, with a main town – Tilwick itself – and fishing villages, mining communities etc dotted around it. How best to keep track of all this? Well, how do you find your way around anywhere?

Google Maps, of course!

With some nifty use of the snipping tool on my PC (in case you don’t know, it’s probably on yours too, and it’s way better than just taking screenshots), I can manipulate fragments of maps to create a rough outline of what the area is supposed to be like. Take a look for yourself.

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Okay, so that may not look like much at the minute, but what’s good about this, what’s fun about it for me as a writer/creator is that what you see above on this starting point of the map, is a whole bunch of places brought together at once.

Up in the top left, that’s the mausoleum from High Wycombe (about 30 miles west of London), with the town centre of my hometown Alnwick nestled up against the village of Alnmouth, which is really 4 miles away. In the bottom right of the image, you have pieces of Hartlepool, which is about 50 miles away from Alnwick in reality, crudely slipped alongside Alnwick and the port village of Amble (8 miles from Alnwick).

Top right you have some of my favourite beach bays, so I can finally capture both the natural, and the industrial areas of Tilwick with greater accuracy. As I build this map, I’ll maybe share it some more, so you can see how it’s coming along.

I hope this is useful to some of you writers out there who balk at the cost of some of the map creating software out there. Just remember, you’re not trying to be a cartographer, you just need it stitched together enough for it to make sense to you.

Now… how am I going to map the tunnel network under this town?…

Preview: Opening Scene to Carsun, by Jack Rollins

Preview: Opening Scene to Carsun, by Jack Rollins

I’ve been threatening to resurrect this project for a while now, and I think it’s time to dust it off again. Carsun is set in the fictional town of Tilwick, and is a rewrite of work I wrote in the early 2000s. I revisited Tilwick in the story Home, Sweet Home, in the Kill For A Copy anthology by Dark Chapter Press. In the coming weeks, Dark Chapter Press will also release my one-shot Hard Man, as part of their A-Z collection. This story too is set in Tilwick, but takes place later in Carsun’s chronology.

Before long, I’ll introduce you to the wealthy young entrepreneur Matt Carsun, but in the meantime, I thought you might like to read the opening scene of Carsun. Let me know what you think in the comments.

John Dillon closed the farm office for the night and locked the door behind him. He walked across the courtyard to the farmhouse door and entered the porch area. There he took off his Wellington boots and cap before stepping into the reception area.

“Penny,” he called.

Penny called back to him from the cozy, lamp lit lounge, prying her attention away from an American crime drama, “You ready for your dinner?”

“Aye, please. Sorry I got finished late. I thought I would have been able to eat with you all.” John tore open the Velcro fasteners on his green overalls. He slipped his broad, muscular shoulders free of the work clothes, revealing the grey t-shirt beneath.

Penny appeared in the reception and kiss him as she passed on her way to the kitchen. “You get any further forward?” she asked.

“No. You know me, I’m not brilliant with numbers.”

“Just go and ask him outright, then.”

John left the overalls gathered at his waist and followed Penny into the spacious kitchen. “It’s not that easy, Penny. Frank’s worked for me for years. I mean, what if I’m wrong? He’ll take some replacing.”

“Maybe that’s the problem,” Penny said, retrieving the plated dinner wrapped in foil, from the oven. “Maybe he’s been here so long he thinks he’s owed a little bit extra.”

Outside, the farm dog Finn howled.

“What’s wrong with that bloody dog?” Penny asked.

“He’s just having a howl,” John said. “What’s wrong with that?”

“Haven’t you heard him barking all night?”

“I’ve been in the office; how would I hear him?”

Penny took the foil off the dinner and placed it in the microwave oven. “Go and get him in while you have your overalls on. The kids will end up awake all night with him carrying on like that out there.”

John rolled his eyes and grumbled on his way back to the porch. He stepped into his wellington boots and pulled them until his feet, clad in thick, woollen socks, sank into place. “Bloody dog,” he muttered. Finn was an experienced working animal. It was unlikely that he had become excitable over a few rabbits in the fields. Maybe he’s losing it, John thought.

John fastened his overalls up and walked around the side of the house and descended the long concrete slope past the sheds, heading for the fields. “Finn!” he called.

The dog howled again, long and low.

“Finn! Come by!” he called. “Stupid bugger.”

John could hear that Finn was in the nearest fallow field, but could not see him through the utter darkness.

Finn continued to bark as John opened the gate a couple of feet, but stayed there, hoping he would not have to give chase across the field. “Finn! Come by!”

John heard Finn’s paws padding over the dry ground. He was sprinting by the sounds of it. The border collie suddenly appeared and ran through the gap in the gate John had made for him. He didn’t stop. John reached out and managed to get a hand to the dog’s coat as he shot past. He drew back his fingers and could see that they were covered in a dark liquid. He sniffed.

Blood?

In the field behind him he heard something thudding across the ground, heading in his direction. What could it be? It sounded too big to be Scratchy the farm cat. It sounded too big to be a hare or a fox. This sounded like a man running towards him. He strained his eyes and moved through the gate into the field. “Who’s there?” he called.

No answer, just footfalls.

“Who’s that? Answer before I get the shotgun!”

Suddenly, his mind raced with paranoid thoughts that Frank was laughing at him, bragging to the rest of the men about how easy it was to steal from him. John’s no good with money. Help your bloody self! “Bastard!” he muttered.

With the distraction of the image of his old friend, he stopped concentrating on the rushing footsteps, until ice-cold fingers grasped him and pulled him down to the grass.

Finn barked and howled and Penny cursed the dog from the comfort of the lounge.

John screamed as fingers clawed his mouth wide open. Nobody heard except Finn, whose instinct to protect his master was overcome by the urge to flee in terror.

 

Want more action from Tilwick? Check out Home, Sweet Home in Kill For A Copy.

[Graphic Novel Review] Batman Earth One Volume Two

[Graphic Novel Review] Batman Earth One Volume Two

That Batman Earth One Vol 1 ranked #1 Best-selling series in the New York Times is no surprise. That was a fantastic book and like all fantastic things, the difficulty is following it up with a companion worthy of the predecessor.

Geoff Johns takes us further into his reimagined Gotham mythos with a second volume of hard-boiled Bat that once more puts an interesting twist on established characters.

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I’ve been a Batman fan for coming up thirty years. I have a young son who plays with Batman Imaginext figures, and he learns about the characters from me, his old man, and go-to guy for all things comic book.

The truth is, I disengaged from comic book Batman a long time ago, as in the standard run of things. I tended to stick to buying collected editions of landmark storylines anyway, or picked up particularly excellent books such as The Long Halloween. When I saw the Batman R.I.P storyline and what span off from that – the battle for the cape and cowl, I was immediately taken back to the big storyline of my childhood: Knightfall.

I guess these things are circular and, with that in mind I decided I would admire the character from afar, through different mediums. If the books and I were parting company, I always had Christopher Nolan’s vision to cling to, and the amazing Arkham games, to get my fix.

Then came Earth One. With The Long Halloween and Frank Miller’s Year One, who needs another book about Bruce Wayne starting out as Batman, right?

Wrong. The freedom Geoff Johns has in Earth One allows him to warp what you know into something else… something different, but altogether recognisable.

Spoilers of Vol 1 follow so it might be time to jump out of this review…

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So here we are in Gotham after the demise of Mayor Cobblepot. His crooked regime has continued without him, however, as several figureheads continue a corrupt network of officials, meaning little has changed.

Street scum skulk in the shadows, afraid of the mythical vigilante who stalks them. And that mythical vigilante is still learning the ropes. This is what I love about this particular version of Batman, he screws up, a lot. Alfred is tougher than him in these stories.

Torn between the seemingly futile mission he has tasked himself with, and Alfred’s insistence that it’s time to take a few scalps to make the bad guys stay in cover, Batman must decide what he is, and who he is.

Unfortunately, a terrorist has appeared in the city and he has a lot of questions to ask… and he wants to know who Batman is, too. His other questions tend to be ones which, when answered incorrectly, result in bombs being detonated.

In this volume we see a great many more aspects of Batman’s universe slot into place, many of them sit close to the Nolan-verse as I’ve noticed it is nicknamed, and some of which are an amalgam of Arkham and the traditional established continuum.

I’m saying nothing more, but if you love your Batman, you’ll love this!

Killing Christmas, by Mark Parker [Review]

I suppose I’d better get the disclaimer bit out of the way. Mark is soon to be published by Dark Chapter Press, my firm – I have a story soon to be published by Scarlet Galleon, Mark’s firm. Along with a host of other small horror press publishers and horror writers, I interact with Mark on social media, particularly Facebook, from time to time. However, as always, I review as a reader based on my own personal taste and preferences.

Still here? Then let’s get into it! I read this story at the perfect time – the run up to Christmas, of course. I very much enjoyed the story, but for me, it fell short of 5 stars because I wish it had been longer. With additional length, I feel there could have been a bit more mystery and more red herrings along the way, and Mark’s excellent cast of characters would then have really come up to their full potential.

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As things stand, I feel it’s a book of two halves, with the opening half being an absolute master class in building tension, setting the scene – it’s really heart in the mouth stuff, and in my opinion, it works because with the few characters in those early scenes, the author takes his time, teases the information and action along, so you get this completely immersive experience.

The second half, our main protagonist shares ‘screen time’ with more characters, and some of the strokes of the story aren’t as intricate as in the first half. I wanted to get to know some of the characters better, learn more of the crimes that have been occurring around the town of Bethlehem, so we get to guess and try to fit the horrific puzzle together before charging in at the end.

Overall, though, a cool Christmas short, just right for those who love a good festive thriller. 4 stars outta 5.

Review of The Signalman by Charles Dickens

Review of The Signalman by Charles Dickens

I picked up this tiny paperback edition in Waterstones in the Metrocentre in about November last year. My arms were full of books as gifts in preparation for Christmas and my daughter’s birthday. There, at the cashdesk, was a gorgeous little edition of this ghost story, in black with a mint-green foil embossed cover. It was £1.99 and I couldn’t resist. What better for Winter than a Charles Dickens ghost story?

Continue reading “Review of The Signalman by Charles Dickens”