I wondered why so few people had responded to my last post, as it got quite a bit of traffic.
Then someone mentioned in passing that they tried commenting twice, but got error messages each time. I checked the site, and my own test comments on multiple devices had the same result. Turns out Bad Behavior, a plug-in I use to combat spam bots and brute force log-in attempts, was doing its job a little too effectively!
I think I’ve fixed it, and the test I tried seems to work, so if you did have a comment then please do try again!
It was sleep he feared the most. Those last few moments in the twilight between consciousness and slumber were dreadful. The dying embers of his thoughts tried desperately to glow brighter, to inflame his mind with the horrors of what was to come, to warn him. But of what?
The terror he felt had no cause he could think of, the horror no obvious source. Only that sleep would once again prove no respite. Come the morning, he would again be listless and wracked with pain.
The doctors spoke of insomnia, yet he slept. Indeed, his mind fought hard to elude sleep, but sleep would not be deterred. He slept, deeply (he presumed), but sleep did not bring rest.
The psychiatrists asked about his dreams, but there were no dreams. When he thought of this (when the terror of sleep and the agonies of the morning allowed) it troubled him. Surely he must dream? He had no recollection of any dream. He could remember drifting off to sleep, remember the inexorable surge of fear as sleep approached – but morning would be his next memory. The time from falling asleep to waking up was no more than an instant to him; no sensation of the passage of time, no dreams to punctuate his nocturnal woe.
In the morning his legs would be hot and sore. The soles of his feet, tender and swollen. Sleepwalking the doctors declared, they were sure of it. A careful watch of his chamber each night was swiftly arranged, and just as swiftly proved useless. The watchmen saw nothing, heard nothing. And in the morning? Pain. Exhaustion. The lingering feelings of terror, and foreboding that tonight would bring more of the same.
He slept in different rooms, different homes, but with no different results. Once he was strapped to the bed, as though living in Bedlam. Still, the morning was welcomed with agonies.
“Restless legs” the finest minds declared, “and I’m afraid there is no more we can do for you.”
“I must live then” he thought, “with this curse. To be a stranger to restful slumber, and in the morning to be drained of life and weak in limb.”
He still fears sleep. In the penumbra of sleep, in those vanishing moments of lucidity, the terror still rises in him. An icy dread fills his heart, for tonight he will sleep, without benefit or memory. The morning will bring no relief.
The last of his conscious thoughts begin to fade, just as the soft tinkling of bells begin, aethereal music envelopes him, and his legs begin to twitch and jig.
Once again he would dance with Mab by the banks of the Lethe.
It’s late at night, or early in the morning depending on your point of view, at any rate 1am is not the best of times to be writing blog posts. Still, at least it is something I am writing, and feel an actual compulsion to write, and given the paucity of my output in terms of both blogging and writing of late, any writing is better than none.
Term is over, I’m on the summer vacation, and I have a stack of books to read for my classes next year. As I still don’t know yet whether I’m teaching GCSE English Literature, GCSE English Language, new specification A Level English Literature, legacy A2 English Literature, new specification A Level English Language and Literature, legacy A2 English Language and Literature, and in what combination, I need to basically read ALL THE BOOKS in order to plan. You can see my reading list on the right there (current reads and what I’ve read this year), and as it stands right now below (since the list on the right gets updated frequently).
Frankenstein (which I’ve read before) is for teaching, the other four are (annoyingly) all personal development.
…well over one-third (14 of them!) are for work. And I’ve got another six books to get through for work by the time teaching starts again.
What, if anything, has this to do with writing? Well, as well as teaching them literature, we are being asked to put on enrichment classes, and I’ve asked to do a creative writing class, since the odds of us ever doing A Level Creative Writing seem slim to none.
So in and around all this reading, I guess I need to remember how to write again. And it’s not like I don’t have ideas. I have folders of ideas. What I lack is the time/motivation/focus/will to work on them (delete as applicable, depending on the mood you’re in…). I can teach language and literature because I understand them. Can I say the same about writing? If I’m not doing writing, can I claim to be able to teach it?
I’m not sure, but I’m indebted to a paper I read recently (Mc Dermott, K. (2015). Towards a Pedagogy of Short Story Writing. English in Education, 49(2), pp.130-149, DOI: 10.1111/eie.12062) which has informed my approach to it, and how I plan to run the class (assuming, that is, that it gets the go ahead!).
In the meantime, I need to get back into the habit of writing. As with my training for the Tough Mudder, best to start small and build from there. H.P Lovecraft used to keep a “Commonplace book” where he kept short notes of ideas for possible future stories. Inspired by that, I started to do the same. Perhaps it’s time to raid some of those and see where the muse takes me…
I was looking through my emails last night, and came across something I wrote several years ago. I think it holds up well, and has a nice Lovecraftian vibe to it.
To put it into context, on a forum I used to frequent, BBC Property Watch had posted looking for stories from people; I’m not sure what they had requested exactly, but what I sent was likely not it!
I saw your advert, and wanted to share my experience.
I inherited my home from a deceased great-uncle. He had long been the black sheep of the family, an adventurer and privateer, so they say, but everyone seemed loathe to discuss him.
He had died whilst living in Haiti, where he had become involved with some Vodun sect, and apparently before he died he willed his house, Old Wraith Manor, to me.
Why he selected me I can never tell – it has been remarked since that there is a passing familial resemblance, but there must be more to it.
At any rate, I soon moved into the place once the legal formalities had been taken care of, and soon set myself to the task of clearing out the accumulated objets d’art and curios my great-uncle had acquired (by regular, and sometimes dubious means) over the decades.
It was then that I discovered “the box”. Hidden in an obscure corner of the attic, padlocked on four sides, hidden under an old rug. Ebony, or so it appeared, and most disturbingly (for I had discovered it on a bitterly cold night in December), it was warm to the touch.
I picked it up, and the instant I did so, every light in the house was extinguished, and there began a tumultuous clamouring from the rooms below me – the room where my uncle used to plan his excursions.
And yet, what could be causing this disturbance?
For I was alone in the house, so no human could be making such a noise…
Summoning up as much courage as I could muster, and grabbing an old blunderbuss that my deceased great-uncle kept in the attic, I crept downstairs. The lower levels of the house were in complete disarray. Doors had been torn off their hinges. Carpets shredded. Every picture turned inwards to face the wall. A dank, dread smell pervaded the air, and what was worse was the creeping stain that stole across the walls. I touched it – damp and warm. On pulling my hand away, I realised to my horror that the stain was blood. Fresh blood.
Ghastly wailing noises and knocks could be heard, coming from within the walls. Such events occurred not just once, but every night for these past several weeks. And so I am left with only one question, that perhaps you can help me resolve…
If I knock through a dividing wall from the crypt to the laboratory of doom, do you think unleashing the hideous demons contained within would increase the value of the property? Or would I need planning permission?
Three weeks running folks. Three weeks running you’re getting quality fiction, for free.
Last week I was pimping Nothing But Flowers, the first Literary Mix Tape anthology to be released. Today it’s the second LMT anthology—Eighty Nine.
Eighty Nine features my story An Exquisite Addition, a fond pastiche of childhood memories of summer holidays from my youth. Plus murder. You can download your free copy of Eighty Nine from the US Kindle Store or the UK Kindle Store.
But be quick. The offer expires on Friday morning!
More about Eighty Nine below.
About Eighty Nine
The year the Berlin Wall came down and Voyager went up. Ted Bundy and Emperor Hirohito died. The birth of the first Bush administration and computer virus.
In San Francisco and Newcastle the ground shook, in Chernobyl it melted.
Tiananmen Square rocked the world and Tank Man imprinted on the international consciousness. Communism and Thatcherism began their decline, Islamic fundamentalism its rise.
It was the year Batman burst onto the big screen, we went back to the future (again), Indiana Jones made it a trifecta at the box office and Michael Damian told us to rock on.
Based on a play list of 26 songs released in 1989, Eighty Nine re-imagines the social, political, cultural and personal experiences at the end of the decade which gave the world mullets, crimped hair, neon-coloured clothing, acid-wash denim, keytars, the Walkman, Live Aid, the first compact disc and MTV.
Table of Contents
Ashes to Ashes by Adam Byatt
Shrödinger’s Cat by Dale Challener Roe
Diavol by Devin Watson
Nowhere Land by Maria Kelly
Chronicle Child by Lily Mulholland
Angelgate by Tanya Bell
All I Wanted by Rob Diaz
Drilling Oil by Kaolin Imago Fire
30 Years in the Bathroom by Icy Sedgwick
Amir by Benjamin Solah
Over the Wall in a Bubble by Susan May James
Disintegration by Stacey Larner
Choices by Laura Eno
Divided by Emma Newman
Blueprints in the Dark by Rebecca Dobbie
Eighteen for Life by Jo Hart
New Year, Old Love by Jim Bronyaur
Soldier Out of Time by Laura Meyer
The Story Bridge by Josh Donellan
If I Could Turn Back Time by Alison Wells
An Exquisite Addition by Paul Anderson
Maggie’s Rat by Cath Barton
The Banging on the Door by Jonathan Crossfield
Now Voyager II by Monica Marier
Cocaine, My Sweetheart by Jodi Cleghorn
Paragon by Jason Coggins
Play List (In order of appearance in anthology)
Lay Your Hands on Me by Bon Jovi
Don’t Ask Me Why by Eurythmics
Poison by Alice Cooper
Tin Machine by Tin Machine
Higher Ground by Red Hot Chilli Peppers
I Drove All Night by Cindi Lauper
Funky Cold Medina by Tone-Loc
Rock On by Michael Damian
30 Years in the Bathroom by The Wonderstuff
Sewing the Seeds of Love by Tears for Fears
Head On by Jesus and Mary Chain
Fascination Street by The Cure
Cap in Hand by The Proclaimers
Right Here Waiting For You by Richard Marx
Real Gone Kid by Deacon Blue
18 & Life by Skid Row
Lovesong by The Cure
Toy Soldiers by Martika
Electric Youth by Debbie Gibson
If I Could Turn Back Time by Cher
Summerland by King’s X
Love Shack by B52s
What Good Am I? by Bob Dylan
We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel
Stand by REM
Love in an Elevator by Aerosmith