Thursday, 28 October 2010

An unusual night.

The Professor called in at 3 am this morning, while I was spending money. Neither of these things is normal.

I had been ordering some cards and bookmarks advertising Jessica's Trap. The more you buy, the lower the individual cost, so my wallet was in turmoil and my credit card in pain. I plan to trickle them out at first then drop a load of them everywhere just before the book escapes - I mean, is published. I should have put a disclaimer concerning bad dreams and brain damage in the front of it, although it's funnier to put it at the end.

So there I was, consoling my credit card, when the doorbell pealed. I considered turning on the outside light and letting the Ferals deal with this visitor but I had been spending already, and lights cost money. It wouldn't have worked anyway. The Ferals are scared of the Professor, as are the ghosts. I'm not quite sure why, although he does have a sort of seething fury that's permanently just below the surface (and sometimes above it).

I opened the door. "Yes?"

"Whisky, yes." He barged in and headed straight for the living room. Honestly, he is more difficult to deal with than either Death or Red Stan at times. No wonder the supernatural is terrified of him. I expect Death will have to work up the courage to visit him when the time comes. Rather than starting with an imperious 'It is Time', I envisage Death opening with ''Er... excuse me, are you busy?'.

He will be. He always is.

He was halfway through a bottle of the Ardbeg before I could get a word out of him. When I did, it made little sense.

"Damn ghost won't speak to me!"

I thought about asking where I could get such a ghost since the ones here normally won't shut up. The only time I get peace is when the Professor visits or Death does a house-clearance.

"So," I said, "which ghost is this?"

"He won't tell me. He can speak, he can appear, he has been in the place for ages but he will not stand still for a photograph and he won't answer me. Tonight he didn't show up at all. How am I supposed to investigate the supernatural when it keeps running away?"

For a moment, I considered pointing out the obvious. All those things normally considered scary run away when the Professor is around. He has never even been troubled by the Rarely-Glimpsed Slimy Swamp Thing, and that has taken on whole parades of villagers and won. However, the Professor doesn't know about the ghosts here, nor about the, shall we say, unusual fauna of the swamp and it's best it stays that way. I don't want him filling my castle with cameras and all his other gadgets. He might even try to move in.

Instead I merely inquired as to the location of the recalcitrant spectre.

"In my laboratory. In my own laboratory. I don't have to go out in the cold, I don't have to transport anything anywhere. No need to worry about batteries. Everything can run on the mains. It should have been the easiest investigation ever." He scowled so hard I swear the painting of my grandfather winced.

"It must be frustrating," I ventured.

"Frustrating isn't the word for it." He took a gulp of whisky.

"Isn't it?" I was pretty sure it was the word for it, but then he was the one who had the experience. He didn't look to be in the mood for a debate on vocabulary so I left him to brood while I put my credit card on life-support and double-checked the padlock on my wallet. He eventually fell asleep in the chair, as he normally does when he's overdone both the rage and the whisky. I draped a blanket over him and left him there.

He must have woken and gone home before dawn, because some of the ghosts had started moaning again just before the sun came up.

It must be tough being a ghost. Death is after them, Red Stan is always looking for recruits, and then there's the Professor.

I hope, when my time comes, Death finds me first.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Birthdays and brain racks.

One week to Caligula's birthday and I haven't thought what to get him yet. All this book business has taken my mind off everyday things. Senga has a birthday too but I've forgotten when it is. It's not October, I'm sure. Fairly sure. I'll have to try some exploratory questioning or search her diary for the line 'He forgot again'. I hope she's specified what I'd forgotten because that line might appear more than once.

Caligula's birthday is my first priority. I could get him another puppy, but it took ages to clean up after the last one. There were bits everywhere. Maybe something reptilian? He might manage to bond with a lizard. A fishing game? No, he'd find other uses for the hooks. A Junior Rogue Scientist kit might be good although he's maybe a little young yet for dabbling with the forces of nature. Well, he has to learn sometime and he'll have been here a whole year. I don't know. I've racked my brains on their shiny new display rack but that hasn't helped. I don't know why people suggest it. They do look nice though, ranked in order of size.

I'm going to have to think hard on this and avoid distractions. Oh, look, The Horror Zine has a new issue online.

There was something important I had to do. I'm sure it'll come back to me. After I've read a few stories.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Face of Foras.

The cover art is complete. I can't put up the blurb until it's been sliced into individual letters and rearranged by an editor into an order that makes sense. That could take a while. The book will appear as both print and pixels in April next year, which is almost exactly 364 years since the date on the opening page - April 30th, 1647. Numerologists will have fun with that.

I have never seen an artist work so fast, and produce something exactly right with the first draft. If only I could do that with words. I hope she also does the artwork for Samuel's Girl and future books - assuming the same publisher accepts them, of course.

The cover shows Foras, chief of the demon group in the book. It's lucky the artist didn't choose Demdike for the cover. Nobody would dare pick the book up.

No, the picture isn't based on me, although the ghastly green pallor does make me wonder if we are related...

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Interrupted by Red Stan.

It was bound to happen. I mentioned the word 'contract' and within hours, Red Stan appeared in the fireplace. As always, he banged his head on the mantelpiece on the way out. The horn-chips he's leaving are starting to look unsightly.

If I hadn't messed up that Christmas invocation he wouldn't be able to come and go so freely. Well, it can't be helped. I nodded to the flameproof chair I bought to save on furniture costs and asked him what was on his mind.

"Your fireplace." He ran his fingers over his horns. "I don't want to blunt these. I've just had them sharpened."

"Perhaps a different means of entry would be appropriate? I have a front door."

Stan's lip curled. "It's cold and wet out there. Not my cup of tea, you know. Speaking of cups of tea..." He raised his eyebrows.

I rose from my seat. "Well, okay. I can't entertain you for long, you know. I have this contract to deal with."

Senga was once again occupied with stitching her wounds after playing with Caligula. I've told her not to do that. It's never wise for a Dumelet to become too attached to his parents, it could make him grow up strange. Anyway, I brought the kettle from the kitchen along with the tea, milk, sugar, rat poison, blood, powdered goat horn and stirring bones. Then I went back for the cups while Red Stan held the kettle until it boiled. One good thing about his visits, he does save me money on the heating.

With a cup of that traditional British brew each, we settled into our chairs.

"So," I said, "what brings you out on such a cold and wet evening?"

"Contract." Red Stan took a heavy wad of paper from the air and dropped it on the table.

I patted at the smouldering bits until they went out. He really needs to reconsider his methods because paper is a poor choice of medium for a creature who's permanently aflame.

"What's this for?" I squinted at the runes on the paper.

"Contract. I heard you were ready to sign one." Red Stan took a swig of tea. I'm never sure if he drinks it or just inhales the vapour because it boils as soon as he picks up the cup.

"Yes, but not that one." I showed him the contract for Jessica's Trap. "This is the contract I'm signing."

"You call that a contract?" Red Stan laughed. "It's so- so small. Barely three pages long. Now this - " he indicated the pile of paper he'd brought, "This is a proper contract. Written by a whole team of lawyers. I have access to quite a lot of lawyers, you know."

"Pretty much all of them, I'm sure." I eyed the contract he had placed on the table. "So, what's in yours?"

"Whatever you want. Fame, fortune, a place at a top school for your child, women, booze, long life, anything." He leaned forward. "I can even arrange to get your books published."

"Well. Sounds very nice." I sipped at my tea. "Fame, I don't want. It means being recognised on the street and I have enough problems with that in the village as it is. Fortune, I have, courtesy of the hoarding nature of the Dume family. There is no point in giving more money to me because I won't spend it anyway. Caligula has already been thrown out of nursery for eating the class hamster so I'll be teaching him at home, and I have one woman already. Why would I want another one? Just having one around is proving to be hard work and terribly expensive."


"The booze is no problem, the pub has plenty of that and I don't drink much of it anyway. Long life, well, the only way to guarantee long life for Senga and myself would be to kill Caligula and I'm not going to agree to that. So I'm afraid your contract offers nothing I want."

Red Stan's flames receded. "It's not possible. There must be something you want, surely?"

I sat in silence for a while and realised I really hadn't thought about it. I have Dume Towers, I have my laboratory, I have dungeons, chains, skeletons, evil possessed toys, an invisibility suit (which I still haven't found), one of those tables that rises up to the ceiling in thunderstorms, everything. I even have a wife and child. Not the prettiest, granted, but certainly the most deranged. What else could I want? Indeed, what else would I have time to deal with?

"No," I said. "Nothing."

Steam rose from Red Stan's eyes. "It can't be. Everyone wants something. Nobody ever turned this contract down before. Well, apart from one fellow about two thousand years ago, but then I found out his Dad owned everything anyway." He wiped his eyes. "Sorry, I'm not supposed to get emotional. It doesn't give a very professional impression."

"Don't worry about it. Nobody will know." Not until Death's next visit, anyway.

"There is one thing you missed. Getting your books published. I can arrange that, you know." His fire returned.

He looked so much more cheerful it seemed a shame to spoil it for him, but I held up the small contract and explained what it was for.

"So you see, I have already managed that part on my own."

A scowl spread over his face. "What kind of world is it when people start doing things for themselves? If this keeps up I'll be out of a job." He lifted his contract and glared at it while it dissolved into smoke.

"I'm certain it's not widespread. The village is full of people who can't be bothered running their own lives. There'll be plenty of call for your services for some time yet, I'm sure." I would have patted his shoulder reassuringly but I didn't have my asbestos gloves handy. Instead I moved to refill his cup.

"No more for me. Have to be going." His flames turned an angry purple for a moment. "I have contracts to sign and others to call in. I can't waste time here." He headed for the fireplace.

"Watch out for the - " I winced at the crack of horn on granite. Then he was gone in a cloud of expletives, some of which would have embarrassed a Feral.

I returned to my contract - the real world one. It's with Damnation Press. Hmm.

I'd better check this very carefully indeed. Red Stan can be a tricky one.


The contract has arrived so that's my weekend decided. I will check and double-check everything then send it away on Monday. I have a considerable amount of procrastination to get through but that will just have to wait. It's a shame, I hate being behind on my procrastination but some things just have to take priority.

Then the Editing begins. I have no idea how deep the cuts will be nor how many stitches will be required to seal the holes. The book must be ready by April because that's when the publishers plan to unleash, er, I mean release it. By then they might well have seen the second one and if I can get time in between bandaging Senga and fending off Caligula I'll rewrite the third and start the fourth.

There is also the matter of cover art, and I have gently informed Senga that her stick-figures and crayon attempts simply won't do. Caligula shows more promise. His installation of 'nailed rat' on the wall of his room shows creativity, imagination and wanton cruelty. However, he is far too young and dangerous to be let loose upon the publishing world. Perhaps when he's older. No, this is best left to professionals, I think.

It's going to be a busy weekend, so I expect visitors will arrive to get in the way. Death, Red Stan and the Professor have not been around for some time.

I hope they don't all turn up at once.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Learning the business.

Senga has taken Caligula to stay with her parents for a few days. I was invited but I've met her parents and we have little in common, I've said everything I need to say to them and I hate repetition. We'd just glower at each other all the time and then Senga would get in a mood.

Long evenings spent in sullen silence are fun, but you can't really enjoy them if there's someone else there. There's always that possibility that they'll try to start a conversation just as you reach the Nirvana of gloomy contemplation, and just before you get a decent hold of that story idea lurking there.

So I have peace for a short while. It's a nervous sort of peace. I'm still waiting for that contract to arrive for Jessica's Trap. It might be worth letting the postman know that Caligula is away. There might be something of a backlog of mail waiting.

I have a film-maker lined up to make one of those 'book preview' short films but he needs the cover art but that won't even start to happen until I send back the form dealing with it but that form requires a 'date of signing and returning contract' section. It all hinges on the arrival of the contract. The moment that arrives, things start to move.

The publishing business isn't fast. I already knew that but hadn't experienced it before. I'm going to have to get used to a different pace of life. Still if there are long gaps between contacts, I can work on that third book.

In fact I'd better get some writing done while Caligula is away. He's good at disturbing me although to be fair, as he's growing he is at least learning only to howl at full moons. This makes the peak noise predictable, at least. Which reminds me - it's his birthday at the end of the month. I'll have to think of something he hasn't dissected yet.

Once the book is complete I'll have to go searching for reviewers. The Horror Zine has already promised one and if I can get anything like the ones here, here and here I'll be delighted. Well, I'm already happy about those reviews because I'm in that book. It's a pity all this didn't happen while Alienskin was active. Oh well, too much good luck in one go can be dangerous.

Speaking of good luck, I have a few days of peace to relax with nothing to disturb the distant groans of the Rarely-Glimpsed Slimy Swamp Thing, the faint rattle of ghostly chains and the far-off shrieks of the Ferals. It's like the old days.

I'd like to encourage Senga to take Caligula to his grandparents more often, but I suspect they won't be too keen to make it a regular thing.

They used to have a dog, you see.