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.

start of map

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.

Book Review: Jeremy, by Matt Hickman

Book Review: Jeremy, by Matt Hickman

A book of two halves and a boy of two sides

You know I always like to disclose any connections I have to the author of the books I review, and to remind you that when I read something other than in the capacity of an editor, I read and review in the capacity of a customer, who either enjoys it or doesn’t. My writer friends know this, and I expect honesty from them and they can expect it from me. AtoZ_singles_Brazen Cover Amazon CompatMatt Hickman and I have become friends via Facebook and are set to meet in person around Em-Con 2016. Matt has placed stories with my publishing house Dark Chapter Press, including Brazen and the Kids anthology.

Still here?… then let’s begin.

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Jeremy is the story of a young lad picked on at school, who sticks close to his little group of pals who mostly live in fear of a school bully who adores tormenting them. He learns to stand up for himself, but in turn suffers a horrific injury, and emerges very different to the shrunken, frightened creature he was before.

This is quite a short novella, Hickman’s first, I believe. I don’t want to blow the plot by dwelling on it too long, but the premise and characters are great.

Matt Hickman conjures up such a realistic portrayal of the loneliness of latch-key kid Jeremy, who is comfortable and wants for nothing save the attention of his too-busy parents. The shortness of the story does not leave it without its twists and a couple of angles took me by surprise.

Something annoyed me though. I would have been much happier with more. The book feels a bit like two episodes of something, or a novel where the second act is missing. We skip time at one point, and I have a feeling the time that is skipped could have been very interesting, if not focussing on Jeremy, perhaps those around him. In saying that, I know that many people might disagree with me – and they’re right to in a way, because this story structure is the one we got, the one Hickman wanted us to read, and who knows, maybe there isn’t enough story to fill that bridging piece I described. Perhaps the two distinct halves of the story we get increase the story’s strength. We’ll never know, but I don’t think it’s ever a bad thing to want more of the story, and more of the writer’s style. I was right into the tale, and I don’t know, it just seemed to skip and the changes seemed sudden.

12765799_10156582904670451_731848862_o.jpgThe odd thing is I’d read a story by Matt Hickman before I actually read this, his first release, so I already know how fast the writer is honing his craft. It was nice to see where he started too, with this great little book. I’m excited to see what Hickman will do next and if Jeremy stands to be your introduction to the writer, I’m confident you’ll find plenty to enjoy here and what’s even better news is, from this writer, you’ll find the best is yet to come.

So, can I tempt you to pick up Jeremy? Click here and grab your copy today.

Review of Stuart Keane’s ‘Cine’

Review of Stuart Keane’s ‘Cine’

I always like to get the formalities out of the way first. Stuart is one of my editing team at Dark Chapter Press. I struck up a friendship with him as a fellow horror writer while social networking. I’d imagine over time we’re going to sink plenty of beers together. We’ve appeared in a couple of anthologies together too. But that’s me as a writer, and me as a friend. This review is written by me as a reader, a consumer of something that I purchased. The review is my honest opinion, nothing more, nothing less.

Cine takes place in the town of Lake Whisper, a place of Stuart’s own creation, that he features in several of his stories. This is actually the first Lake Whisper story I’ve read.

The book certainly contains more of the extreme end of Stuart’s range, and extreme horror fiction isn’t always my bag. I knew to expect that going in, though and the gore is balanced with a plot. The story focuses on a group of teenagers in Whispers, some of them good and some of them just plain evil. I occasionally found myself floundering a little between who was the sister of whom and who was the boyfriend of which one, as we cut between the good kids, the bad kids, and then some other kids of about the same age who work at the cinema. I just sort of relaxed into it and let the story take us all along and as, inevitably, the numbers thinned, the cast became more focused and I could get into them a bit more.

Stuart must have worked in a cinema as a teenager, by the way. There’s a lot of insight into the inner workings of a multiplex here that I can only imagine come from being a disgruntled teenager, who thought working in a cinema would be the best job ever… only to find that it’s actually a bit shit.

There is another little ‘career choice’ in here that really piqued my interest. A protection racket posing as a ‘secret shopper’ organisation. When you see how this works in the story… well, I just thought it was fantastic. I do have a fondness for gangster movies and documentaries, so this wedge of the story really entertained me.

The brutality in the book grows to an incredible crescendo – a montage of violence and depravity that has been creeping ever closer as the bad guys lined up every piece across the narrative. When it plays out, you’re prepared for it to a certain extent – you know something like this is coming – and then Stuart changes gear, bombarding your mind’s eye with destruction and terror so hideous, you’d be forgiven for wincing at some of it. There was one particular death in this sequence that actually made me consider putting the story down, it struck such a nerve with me. But like the cinema-goers of Whispers Cinema, I couldn’t turn away, I had to see what would happen next.

As usual, we’re treated to Stuart’s confident, unwavering writing style. That he is an excellent writer is beyond doubt, but I have to admit to enjoying the content of stories such as Charlotte and The Customer Is Always… more than I enjoyed Cine. But that’s perhaps the point, isn’t it, to put you beyond comfort? And it certainly reinforces Stuart’s ability as a writer – he aims to make you feel something… well, mission accomplished. This type of story is written very much without everyone in mind. You can either enjoy this, or not, but he will excite feelings in you as you read and you will either be repulsed, and come away with perhaps a negative view, or it’ll hit all the right notes for you and you’ll be shouting about Cine from the rooftops, or perhaps like me, you’ll dissect the story into it components and find balance in what you enjoyed and didn’t enjoy.

So, if you’re not into extreme horror, definitely avoid this one, but if you do enjoy a really brutal piece of fiction, you’re gonna love this!

4 outta 5 – Not my favourite Stuart Keane story. Well written, very effective – shocking and brutal.

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.