Hello and welcome to my blog.
I'll be voicing my thoughts and opinions on the creative process as well as other random topics that enter my mind. I can't promise to be entertaining or informative, but if you like genre fiction, movies, TV or comics then there should be something to interest you.
Any errors and foul language are my own.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge: Must Contain Three Things

Here we go again...

Another challenge from author Chuck Wendig's site, this one to write a story that must contain three things generated randomly from the lists on the link attached.


So, I ended up with a pocket watch, a vampire and a resurrection. Easy; a Gothic horror in the style of Dracula, right? Well, not quite. It started that way, then something changed and I ended up thrashing out what you can see below. It's been a tough one to write, but I hope it's an enjoyable read.

The Raven burst through the door, cape billowing, but Mister Midnight was ready for him.

He had Betsy, an arm curled tight around her neck, a revolver pressed at her temple, as he backed towards the window, through which the Raven could see the airship making its steady approach.

“Once again, we see there is nothing you have that I cannot take away.”

The Raven said nothing, looking into the eyes of his love. She smiled, winked, then pressed her foot down hard.

Midnight bellowed his pain and frustration, releasing Besty and firing the gun.

The Raven felt the bullet smash into his chest. He looked at his nemesis in disbelief, face blurred behind the smoke rising from the gun barrel, heard Betsy screaming as the world faded to black.


Heaven consisted of a room, each surface rendered in a stark white, lit by a bulb far from the warm glow of candles he was expecting. There was a door to his left, while a mirror hung from the wall on the right.

At some point, the choirs of angel had sat him in a metal, high-backed wheelchair, like the one’s he’d seen in the sanatorium after the war, although this one thankfully wasn’t a commode. His ankles and wrists were shackled tight – none of the moves he’d been taught by the swamis and gurus of the far east could budge them – and his head was kept facing forward by the cushioned framework that surrounded it.

He could see enough, though, and he didn’t like it. He wore a white jumpsuit that felt like it was made from paper, itching inside his elbows, knees, and crotch. The sight of his hands disturbed him somewhat; gone were the thick fingers that could curl into a pugilist’s fist, replaced by knobbly joints and pale, thin skin through which the veins looked fit to burst.

The mirror was worse. In it, the costumed crime-fighter had been replaced by a shrivelled old man, one fastened into place for his own safety rather than to foil any escape attempts.

He knew the truth, of course. All a trick, a vision created by his enemies. Doctor Hypnos, it had to be; he was the only one of Midnight’s associates capable of something like this. Very clever, he had to admit; all these years of foiling schemes and outwitting manoeuvres, now reduced to a battle of wills. It felt apt, somehow.

A click. He tensed at the sound, but it was only the door opening.

A slim man entered, dressed like a Doctor but too young to be one. He had a clipboard and a pen in his hands, spectacles balanced on the end of his nose.

“Welcome back, Mr Jones.”

Yes, he thought, that’s my name. Jack Jones. Jackdaw, they used to call me, back in the trenches, before I came home and became the Raven.

“I’m Doctor Adamson,” he said as he sat on the desk’s edge. “You’ll have questions, of course.”

“You won’t beat me.” The sound of his own voice was a shock, as frail as his appearance. What had they done to him?

Adamson nodded sagely. “This is common for someone who’s been under as long as yourself. You see, none of it was real.”

He leaned forward, clipboard extended towards Jones. All it held were two images, photographs of the same woman in her twenties and sixties. “Betsy,” Jones gasped.

“Your late wife.”

Jones swallowed, clamping his lips tight before emotion could betray him again.

Adamson took this silence as his cue to continue. “When she died, you came here. We plugged you in, but you’ve lasted much longer than we’d anticipated. Your money ran out before your life did and,” his face turned apologetic, “our accountants forced us to pull you out. A difficult transition, I appreciate, but...” he shrugged. “It’s all been a dream. An incredibly good, high-resolution one, but that’s what you wanted and what we at Morphean Dreamscapes are here to provide.”

“Where’s your master? Watching through that mirror?” Jones had seen enough interrogation rooms in his time.

“Let me show you.”

Jones could only sit there as Adamson walked him. “View,” he whispered, turning the wheelchair to face the glass.

The reflection dissolved into a cityscape that was all steel and angles. Gone was the dirt and grime of the concrete jungle he was used to, replaced with clean and ordered blocks. Cold, somehow. “This is home now, Mr Jones.”

Everything came back. The life, the love he had lost, the Girl he saved on a regular basis in fiction that he hadn’t been able to in real life. “I can’t. Not without her.” A tear moistened his cheek.

Adamson’s hand pressed his shoulder, warm and reassuring. “There’s another option.”


“My God.” Jones gasped.

“Yes. In a way, it is. Or will be.”

Adamson had pushed him through a warren of dark, humid corridors that ended in a room containing a vast tank. A monstrous leech floated within, its bulk writhing as they approached.

“It powers everything, feeding on dreams and fantasies.” Adamson extended his hand to one of several beds connected to the tank by a tangle of cables. “You may stay if you wish, but this time you will not wake up.”


The Raven looked into the eyes of his love. She smiled, winked, then pressed her foot down hard.

Midnight bellowed, firing the gun.

The Raven felt the impact, a flare of agony as hot lead smashed into his father’s pocket watch, shattering it into pieces.

“We will meet again, Raven!” Midnight fired again, into the window this time, shattering glass before jumping out to take the rope trailing from the airship.

The Raven could only watch, wincing at the pain in his chest. It became a smile as Betsy embraced him.

“Are you ok?”

He nodded. The Villain had escaped – again – but the Hero had got the Girl. That was all that mattered.


Thursday, 22 January 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge: "It's X meets Y."

Another week, another challenge, although this time the swearing is in the story rather than the title. Anyway, here's the link to Chuck Wendig's site so you can see what this one's all about:


Here's a little truth before the fiction. Is it stranger? I doubt that very much, but it is laden with uncanny coincidence...

I couldn't find my dice. I know, D&Ders, that's a capital crime, but I had no idea where they were. I was trawling through Twitter when I saw that authors Sam Sykes, Joe Abercrombie and Myke Cole were taking part in an author's D&D game. I asked Sam to roll me 2D20 and he graciously obliged, replying with a score of 19. Now, I hadn't been clear that I needed to know the two numbers rather than the result, nor was I sure if he'd misread my request and only rolled it once. I know, I'm odd. I was also reluctant to interrupt the D&D game so, as I sat getting my haircut, I pondered...

Back home, I began the noble Quest for the Dice, which only took a couple of minutes, if I'm honest. No trekking over mountainous piles of books or having to speak Dwarven to a cupboard door; they were in the wooden box where I keep my pens. I wasn't sure what to do next (roll twice again? or just once, and take the result off Sam's 19 to give me two numbers?) but as the dice dropped out of its container, the result was 17. That left me with 2 if I played Sam's 19, but I rolled again. The result? 2. Call Mulder and Scully.

So, without further preamble, allow me to present: Top Gun meets True Detective.

The years have taken their toll, but he’s hung on to the swagger. Even with his hands cuffed in front of him, he puffs his chest, still holds his arms wide to accommodate burly biceps, sweeps the room with the narrow-eyed gaze of a man who dared to stare into the sun.

There’s more beef on the face, a padding of jowl around cheeks and chin, and the hairline is further back than it used to be, but neither male nor female can deny the sheer presence of the man. He turns every head, not a few hearts are set aflutter, and some breaths are literally taken away.

The whisper whips around the bullpen. This is him, Kazansky, in the flesh. The Iceman.

Jordan and Wolfe walk him in, nonplussed. Doing their job, just like any other day. This time, though, they turn left instead of right, an empty office instead of the interrogation room.

Inside, the cuffs come off. Kazansky rubs his wrists, takes the single chair at one end of the desk. He knows the drill, he’s sat on the opposite side enough times before, and waits until Jordan and Wolfe have made themselves comfortable to voice the feelings about his current position.

“What the fuck?”

Jordan leans back, arms folded across his ex-quarterback chest. Wolfe pushes a manilla folder across the table.

Kazansky opens it, takes one look at the photograph inside. Closes it again, scowling.

“Can I smoke?” He asks, already knowing the answer.

Jordan shakes his head, points to a No Smoking sign.

Kazansy shrugs, gets out a packet and a Zippo, lights up regardless.

“There are no ashtrays,” Wolfe says.

Another shrug, an examination of the cigarette’s tip. “Make it quick, then.”

Wolfe looks at a Jordan, but he’s too busy glaring at Kazansky to notice. “When was the last time you saw Mitchell?”

Kazansky smirks around the cigarette. “What’s he done now?”

“Answer the question,” Jordan growls.

“How about I just walk out of here instead, put an end to this little show? You’ve got nothing to charge me with.”

Wolfe grins. “You’re no saint, I’m sure we could find something.”

Smoke streams out of Kazansky’s nostrils as he points the cigarette at Wolfe. “I remember you. Fresh out of the academy, green as Astroturf.” He smiles. “Taught you well, didn’t they?”


Kazansky leans back, hands flat on the table, cigarette sending out unreadable smoke signals. He takes a deep breath, flips open the folder, looks at the grinning face. Still the picture from twenty years ago; that’s how they always see Mitchell. Kazansky tries to match the expression, but it just makes his face look twisted.

“This is about Bradshaw?”

Kazansky gets no answer. It’s doubtful he expects one, for he doesn’t look at the two detectives, but nods his head like a wise man.

“I still remember the night we found him.” Kazansky taps his temple, ash drifting down from the cigarette onto a lapel. “It’s etched. My only unsolved.”


The engine sputtered to a halt as Detective Tom Kazansky pulled his battered sedan up to the scene. He sat there for a moment, looking like he was brooding, which was only half true. There’d been another argument with his wife, equally as stupid as the last, tempers fraying over the slightest thing; sooner the baby was born, the better. Kazansky wasn’t sure if the timing of the call was perfect or couldn’t have been worse. Whatever, it had got him out of the house, which was something.

He wanted a drink, but that would have to wait. Wouldn’t have minded watching a couple of dancers at the bar, but that wasn’t going to happen either. Instead, he stared at the single-storey dwelling in front of him, picket fenced by crime scene tape, white walls dappled red and blue by the lights on the patrol cars.

It didn’t take long for him to spot another vehicle nestled between the cruisers, a Kawasaki Ninja 900 as immaculate as the day it rolled off the production line.

“Shit.” Kazansky’s eyes narrowed in his rear-view. “Just be cool,” he told himself. “Iceman.”

He got out of the car, heading for the officer closest to the tape. Wolfe: a young man, all fresh-faced and bright-eyed, even at this time of the night. Kazansky wasn’t sure if he should envy him or be annoyed by him. He chose neither, flashing his badge before clipping it to his jacket pocket.

“Mitchell’s here?”

“Yes, sir. First on the scene. He, erm...” Wolfe shuffled nervously.

Kazansky cycled a finger in the air for the rookie to continue.

“He’s ordered that nobody else is to enter, sir.”

Kazansky looked over the uniform’s shoulder at the house, noticing the number for the first time. 1316. Hearing it on despatch, he hadn’t given it a thought, but now, seeing them  on the wall... “Of course he has. This is Bradshaw’s place.”

The rookie returned the revelation with a blank look.

There was no time to explain. “Don’t worry, kid. He’ll be pleased to see me.” Before Wolfe could reply, Kazansky had ducked under the tape and was setting off towards the open front door. The portal gaped at him like a black maw, the red light of a military-grade torch dancing around inside like the fires of Hell itself.

He didn’t even pause. “Mitchell, it’s Kazansky.”

“Fuck off.”

The voice came from further back, to the right. The kitchen, Kazansky guessed. He’d been here once before, a couple of years ago, a few months before Bradshaw had been shot. It was supposed to be a team-building barbecue, but it turned into a volleyball game in the large back garden, which degenerated into a drunken trade of insults that had the neighbours threatening to call the good and honest cops.

The kitchen door was held open by a wedge shaped like a goose and, as he stepped inside, Kazansky was momentarily dazzled by the torch’s light.

“I told you to fuck off,” Mitchell said, but his heart wasn’t in it. Not like all the other times he’d suggested Kazansky combine sex and travel.

Further in now, and Kazansky could see why. Mitchell was crouched in front of a body, one propped up in a seating position, back against the refrigerator. The limbs were splayed out, and a small pistol rested in the palm of his right hand.

Small, but big enough to do the job. There wasn’t enough of Bradshaw’s head left to identify him, but Kazansky recognised the tattoo on the forearm, the emblem of that military academy he’d attended before dropping out to become a cop. A good one, too. Before...

Mitchell. Seeing him made something snap, just like it used to. The prick was still the same – immaculate hair, perfect nose, those fucking teeth – and even as Kazansky strode towards him, fists clenched, he could hear the voice in his head telling him to calm down.

Fuck that. How could he be calm when Mitchell was regarding at his former best friend with a detached stare, that ever-present folder open on his knees, taking notes and making sketches of the blood-spatter patterns on the fridge.

Yet, the voice was loud enough so that when Kazansky struck Mitchell, it was with an open hand rather than a fist, pushing him away instead of knocking out a trio of those expensive teeth. “Son of a bitch!” Kazansky roared, accompanied by the flutter of paper and rattling of pencils.

Mitchell just lay there, prone like his ex-partner, looking up at Kazansky, all three of them painted red by the torchlight.

“Uh, sir? Is everything all right?” Wolfe, from the front doorway.

“Fuck off!” Kazansky and Mitchell both bellowed, suddenly united.

Kazansky extended a hand to Mitchell, the same one that had pushed him over. He took it, used it to haul himself upright so the two were face to face. Or would have been, if Mitchell hadn’t been those few inches shorter.

Yet, there was strength in the man, born of a defiance against everything and everyone. It was no secret that the Captain was a friend of Mitchell’s father and had pulled strings to get the son of his dead buddy onto the force, but Mitchell had always seemed to resent this, had railed against the system, his ends justifying the means like those maverick cops that were so popular on TV.

Ultimately, it was Bradshaw who’d suffered; taking the bullet meant for Mitchell, shattering his soul along with the vertebrae. He learned to walk again, but to a man who’d wanted to fly, it was like being grounded.

Everyone blamed Mitchell, especially himself; he’d shed those movie star looks for a couple of years to work undercover in Vice, walking the ragged edge or some such bullshit. Now he was back, picking up his pencils and papers, showing them to Kazansky.

“Wait a minute.” Kazansky squinted at the top sheet. It was the blood spatter, all right, but there was a definite shape to it. “Like wings,” he heard himself whisper.

“Yes.” Mitchell grinned like a loon. “I’ve seen this pattern before.” He flicked through the photographs in his folder, taken months and years apart, all showing roughly the same shape.


“No such thing, you always said.” Blue eyes sparkled. “Ritual killer. Has to be.”

Kazansky said nothing, staring at the dark pattern on the refrigerator. Eagle, hawk, something.

Bradshaw only had half a face, yet what remained seemed to be looking at him in expectation. “We’ll see justice is done here,” Kazansky promised.


“But your Dynamic Duo never did.” Jordan sits back, smug.  “Quit, didn’t you?”

Kazansky looks wearily at his burned-down cigarette. “I’ve heard this shit before, you know.”

Wolfe blinks as ash spills onto the table. “What shit?”

“I find clues now and again in my line of work, that same pattern repeated. I sometimes tread on the wrong toes, and in every state I’ve found there’s a pair of assholes just like you who’ll haul me in, wanting to know about Mitchell or that case.”

“You’re a private detective now, right? Trailing wives for jealous husbands.” Jordan grins. “How is your wife? Kid’s doing well in college, I hear. Affordable on the alimony? ”

Kazansky smiles back, but it’s tight. “Fuck you.”

Wolfe sits straight. “Do you think Mitchell killed Bradshaw?”

“No. He fucked him up is all. Bradshaw was never the same after he took that bullet. Neither of them were, but they were both damn good cops.”

Wolfe looks at Jordan now, who shrugs.

“On your way, Iceman.”


Long time since he was home. Too long.

Same goes for his friend, the derelict sat there on the park bench, casting crumbs out of a brown bag like Christ feeding the multitude. Only a few pigeons have taken up the offer, though, and Kazansky isn’t surprised; he can smell him from the next bench.

He sits. Elbows on knees, hands clasped together. Like he’s praying, but he’s looking down at the scuffs on his shoes rather than the man at his side.

“They know, don’t they?” The voice is hoarse, slurred. “Matter of time.”

Kazansky looks at him now. The face is hidden behind a thick beard, tangled like the long hippy hair and equally in need of a wash. He looks like a bad disguise, a costume partygoer who hasn’t changed his clothes in decades.

“I had to set him free, let him fly.”

“I understand.” He does. It’s taken him many, many years, but he does.

They call it his only unsolved case, but Kazansky knew Mitchell was guilty as soon as he walked into that kitchen. He knew, because he’d likely have done the same for his best friend.

“Then you won’t tell?”

“No. I promised, didn’t I?” He stands, sending the pigeons scattering as he walks away. “See you.”

“Goodbye, wingman,” Mitchell whispers, watching the birds soar into the sky.


Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge: Who The Fuck Is My D&D Character?

Chuck Wendig posted a challenge on his Terrible Minds blog, to write 1000 words about a randomly-generated Dungeons and Dragons character (see the link below for full details).


I thought I'd give it a go. Turns out I'm a bigoted Half-Orc from a carnival freak show searching for the perfect culinary dish. Who knew? Anyway, armed with this information, here's 897 words, my first attempt at a flash fiction challenge, a story called Grak's Grub.

I ate my father.

I know, it’s not the done thing in what you humans call your civilised society. It makes me a barbarian and, I’m sure you think, justifies your persecution of my race.

Let me tell you about myself. As you can see, I’m not tainted with skin the colour of snot - well, maybe the snot that came with the nosebleed I gave you for staring too long – I’m more a deep red like the wine Ambrose likes so much. Why? It’s heritage, my unique parentage that makes me so much better than everyone else. See, there’s this perception of my race, that daddy was a beast, part of a horde that raped and pillaged its way across the continent, leaving death and destruction and a litter of bastards in its wake.

Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth. My father – like you – was human, an ambassador to the Fringe who must have upset the wrong politician at some point and found himself on the edge of the world, negotiating with the Red Orcs for what would prove to be a fragile peace. While some men like skinny women and others those with more meat on their bones, my father preferred his with red skin and warty tits; there’s no accounting for taste.

He stayed with my mother when the lengthy negotiations were at an end, living with the tribe as one of their own. Four years the truce lasted, with me born part way through the first. Like all my kind, I grew quickly and learned much; training to be a warrior from the moment I could walk, learning to live off the land, hunting and fighting to survive. It’s said that a Red Orc knows its vocation within the first few months of its life. It took me a little longer.

Humans came back, as they do, this time with steel and fire. My father tried to intervene, taking an arrow in the stomach for his troubles. A few of us escaped, but your lot are like dogs at broth, and pursued us relentlessly. We gave you a good chase, but out capture was inevitable. My father was dying, so my mother did the only thing she could to appease the gods and secure the afterlife.

She cooked him.

The Reds were cunning. What was never mentioned in the talks was how the women eat their mates once a child is born. It keeps our numbers down, our species pure. Life on the Fringe is tough, but a human cooked at the right temperature for the right length of time is a succulent delight. How was my mother to know she’d fall in love with what would become her final meal?

You know the rest, how the Expeditioners cleansed the world of the Red menace, but not everything made it into your books. I survived, taken in by the wizard Melvyn Ambrose. He’s fallen on hard times lately, forced to roam the continent with his circus, but back then he was a man of some standing and I became his apprentice. He’s never said what made him take me that morning, but what he saw came to fruition and I too am a spellcaster.

Not what you expected, am I? A Half-Orc who can read, write and create a fireball to generate just the right amount of heat. I’m intelligent, there’s so much more that “Me Grak!” to my vocabulary, but I suspect you were correct about one thing. I am a freak, which is why I stayed with Ambrose as part of his show. Granted, it’s not the greatest – the Dog-faced Boy is a Kobold and the Bearded Lady is nothing more than a female dwarf – but we make a living, touring and searching.

That’s right; searching. Melvyn Ambrose fell out of favour because people went missing and it was suspected he was taking them for vile experiments. Nothing was proved, because he was innocent, but accusations and stigma don’t wash away. I was taking those men, you see, in my quest for culinary perfection.

My fault, which is why I’ve stayed with him, along with the debt of owing him my life. It was a long time ago when he saved me, but I’ll never forget it, nor the night that preceded it. I was young, I know, but such things stick in minds as sharp as mine. I don’t expect a lesser being like yourself to comprehend entirely, but know this. The Grak: Fringe Mage you can see in the freak-show tent is everything Ambrose wants me to be, an enigma wrapped in a mystery; how, they always wonder, can such a brute demonstrate such reasoning and talent? He taught me well, showed me how to master control, but sometimes that’s not enough. Sometimes you have to surrender to those base, primal desires. You have to remember who or what you were if you’re to rise above it.

And that’s why I’ve brought you here tonight, cousin.

You see, in all the places I’ve looked, all the towns and cities the circus has entertained, you’re the closest branch of our family tree I’ve found. You’re something special – you even look like him – and I’m sure that there are more similarities, including the one I’ve been seeking all my life.  

I’ll never forget my father. He tasted so good.