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.


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.

Beware the Fearful Fathoms

Beware the Fearful Fathoms

Moments ago, I received some fantastic news. My story Once Tolled The Lutine Bell has been accepted to feature in next year’s Scarlet Galleon Publications release: Fearful Fathoms.

To say I am thrilled is the understatement of our age. Their Dead Harvest anthology is a fantastic tome of horror tales and I must admit to third degree burns of envy, in the knowledge that my friend and colleague Stuart Keane got himself a story in there, and I was far too late!

However, I made bloody sure I was ready for this one, with a Victorian tale of greed, betrayal, honour and revenge. There are some aspects of the story that connect to my other works, as those of you who have been with me for a while know, I do love a little Easter egg!

I’ll be sure to post more on this as I get more information from the publisher. But for now, I think a bottle of Broadside is in order!




A couple of days ago we were treated to that rare celestial event – the Super Blood Moon. Horror writers and fans can easily see how this event slides right into the themes of all things that go bump in the night. The moon has long been associated with the genre, be it a lunar transformation into a blood-crazed beast, or the moon’s gravitational pull distorting the fluids in the brains of the insane, presenting us with murderous lunatics – the very word itself deriving from lunar, of course.

Sam Gregory saw the signs, she knew this was coming, and planned a month-long event to tie in with both the blood moon, and the coming of Hallowe’en. What better time for a celebration of new horror fiction? She came up with the Facebook event Blood Moon Rising 2 (she must have done another one of these sometime ago, before I was acquainted with her). The event kicks off today 1st October 2015, and runs right up to Hallowe’en.

I registered immediately to participate and, gulp, I get to take control of the event page this Saturday, 3rd October. I’ll be active from around 9am London time, and I plan to do a full, day long marathon session answering questions, posting some facts about my work and having some fun meeting all of the horror fans who come to get involved.


Continue reading “Become Part of the Story #BRM2 [HORROR FICTION EVENT INVITATION]”

Stuart Keane on Trick Or Treat Thrillers [Article]

Stuart Keane on Trick Or Treat Thrillers [Article]

Stuart Keane was recently interviewed for the Trick Or Treat Thrillers website, for the launch of his latest novella, Cine. In this in-depth piece, Stuart not only tells us about his fantastic new release, but he has some invaluable insights in there for horror writers. Take ten minutes out and enjoy.

Exerpt from the interview:

What gave you the idea for your book, Cine?

Cine was developed from a combination of different things. Once upon a time, many moons ago, I worked in a cinema. I was always amazed at the idea of working in a cinema, from a young age in fact, and I knew other people – people who applied for their ‘dream job’ – who shared this sentiment too. Who doesn’t like free movies, right? However, once you’re behind the scenes, once the curtain drops and the blinkers are removed, you realise that working in a cinema isn’t that fun, is not glamourous and it certainly isn’t a wise career decision.

Some of the people I worked with made the job a lot more difficult than it needed to be, and this was the prime catalyst for Cine, one that helped develop the dark undercurrent that runs throughout the book, and several of the characters.

To read the full interview, click here.