Monday, 29 November 2010

A new assistant.

Another of those silver discs crashed into the swamp today. I don't bother about them as long as they crash clear of the castle, which they always do. Usually, Crusher McWreckage has his scrapyard truck revved up and on the way as soon as they hit, and the Ferals take care of the contents. By the time I managed to get to the crash site there wouldn't be much left to see, other than a slowly-filling swamp hole and maybe a few alien bones with teeth marks in them.

Besides, it's extremely cold out there now. Much earlier in the year than usual, so much earlier that I wondered if my calendar might be broken. It's not, it really is cold early. This will make the Ferals especially hungry, so I doubt I'd even find a scrap of spacesuit anywhere near that crash. Instead I resumed my backlog of procrastination. I had four hours of blank-screen-staring to get through tonight. It's tiring work, but someone has to do it. That new book won't not-write itself.

I had taken a break to stare at the wall for a while, when there came a tapping at the door. Well, I thought, I am busy. Senga can answer it for once. The tapping became a knocking which built in intensity until it sounded as if a horde of woodpeckers had decided my door was the most fashionable place to peck wood for miles around. Then it stopped. I relaxed and aimed my eyes at the wall once more. It's less tiring than the screen.

Then the screaming started. It was Senga, using that scream she normally reserves for the times when she opens Caligula's room and finds he's escaped again. It's the scream that means I have to attend and deal with the problem. The odd thing was, it wasn't coming from the direction of Caligula's room and as soon as I entered the hallway, I could hear the little lad howling to himself, so he was still in his room.

The screaming was at the front door, where a little grey man-shaped thing cowered on the step while Feral shadows flitted among the snow-covered trees outside. Unfortunately I have not had time to go out and sharpen the icicles this year so there was little point in slamming the door. Instead I hauled the little man inside and closed the door gently. No point dislodging unsharpened icicles. That would be a waste.

"Is something the matter?" I said. Senga carried on screaming. I have positioned buckets around the house to deal with this, so I picked one up and put it over her head until the screaming stopped. While waiting, I addressed our diminutive visitor.

"Sorry about this. She can't stop until she can no longer see the problem. I'm afraid she seems to consider you a problem although I can't see why." I couldn't, really. He was no more than three feet tall, extraordinarily thin and wearing a one-piece suit. Okay, he did have a head shaped like an upside-down teardrop with a mouth at the pointy end that would have trouble with anything wider than a pencil, jet-black eyes that filled most of the upper part of his face and no visible ears. So yes, he was ugly, but there are worse in the village. Senga has cousins that would make this little grey man look like a movie star.

I thought, maybe that was it. Maybe he was one of Senga's long-lost relatives she had thought dead. Everyone around here has long-lost relatives, and most have recently-lost ones too. The swamp accounts for most of those that don't make it this far. Well, if he's family, I can't put him in the laboratory, nor can I add him to the menu. Not that it would be worthwhile. There wasn't enough on him for more than a starter.

The little man blinked. Sideways. Which was unusual. Even the most deformed of the villagers have eyelids that go up and down. I haven't even seen a Feral blink sideways. Well, that alone made him an interesting diversion so I decided to let him stay. For a while.

Once Senga had calmed down I lifted the bucket and enquired again what the problem was. She pointed at the little man.

"It came out of the swamp. It's a goblin or something. Get rid of it." She looked quite scared, which confused me. The swamp has much scarier things in it than this little imp. Hell, the local pub has scarier things in it. Yet this small grey man struck terror into her in a way no Feral has yet managed.

"Actually," I said, "I was thinking of keeping it. I wondered if it was a relative of yours?"

"A relative?" Her voice was only just within the upper limit of my hearing range. "You think I have relatives that look like - like that?"

"Well, your cousin Bernie..." In hindsight, I should really have said 'no' at that point. It turned out okay because she decided to visit her mother with little Caligula again. This left me with the little grey visitor and plenty of time to work out what he was. He wasn't any kind of goblin, at least not of any goblin species I've encountered and there was nothing about him in any of the Dume records of swamp things. Something new, evidently, but where could he have come from?

He doesn't speak Village so he's not one of theirs. He doesn't speak Feral either, but since they were hunting him it was already clear he wasn't one of theirs. Nor does he speak Dume. In fact, all he does is make clicking sounds. In the absence of any meaningful communication, I have named him Click. Not the word, the sound. It's the only thing he responds to.

He's smart enough. He has already fixed the long-broken nuclear generator in the basement so the place has heating again, he repaired my X-ray machine and he's now working on Grandfather Dume's black hole generator that never worked properly. It only ever produced lumps of gold and there are dungeons stacked with the wretched stuff as a result.

I think I'll keep Click as an assistant. He doesn't look like he eats much and the castle has enough spare rooms that Senga need not even notice him.

The only trouble is the clicking sounds. I'll have to teach him to speak, even if it requires surgery.

Then he can tell me his origins. That will mean a new entry in the Dume book of the swamp. There hasn't been a new one for many years.

I just hope he's not one of those illegal immigrants.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

The Places Between.

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing Terry Grimwood's 'The Places Between' for the Horror Zine.

It's not often I pick up a book and read it right to the end in one sitting, but this one just wouldn't let go. This book is for those who like their monsters imaginative and numerous, each with their own character and their own goals.

Definitely worth a read.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Preparing for Christmas.

The Day of the Beard approaches once more. This year, I will have Caligula's help setting my Santa traps but this year there is something new.

First of all, I tried summoning him with magic. That didn't work. The following year I set traps but he's surprisingly nimble and he escaped. Not unscathed, but he did escape.

Then I turned to technology but he was ahead of me there also.

Last year I was distracted by Caligula who was only three months old and hadn't yet learned to howl only at the full moon. He howled every time his grandmother looked at him, but then that's excusable. The resemblance is really quite remarkable, right down to the placement of the craters. He understands the difference now but if she turns up unexpectedly he can still lapse into unseasonal howls. I can't punish him because looking at her makes me want to howl too. I hope Senga doesn't grow to resemble her mother.

This year, I have a new tactic. Caligula and I will hide on the roof, let him get inside and then shoot his reindeer. Then we can ransack his sleigh at our leisure and track him through the house. There'll be no escape this time, other than on foot through the swamp. The Slimy Swamp Thing will probably be dormant at that time of year but the Ferals don't hibernate. They'll be hungry and possibly drunk.

Even if he makes it to the village, if he turns up there without presents they'll lynch him.

Reindeer steaks for Christmas dinner too. It's perfect.

Well, better go and re-string the crossbows. Christmas preparations can take a lot of time.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Magnetic marketing.

Sometimes ideas come from strange places. I have no clue what possessed me to think of putting Foras's face on a magnetic card, but I suggested it to the artist who made the cover and she came up with something very special. That's not the original graphic. It's a photo of the finished product, and not a great photo. The original looks much better.

I'll distribute these now, and let people wonder what it's about until early next year. Then I'll start sending out the bookmarks and cards.

The image on the magnet fits exactly over the image on the bookmark. Exactly. So there can be no doubt of the connection between the two.

Now all I have to do is distribute these little magnets far and wide. If anyone would like a handful, let me know on docdume (at) googlemail (dot) com.

They are free, naturally.

Reviews and coincidences.

I have a book here to review. I've read it, in fact I read it in one sitting, it's that good. The full review will be submitted to The Horror Zine as soon as I have all the words in the right order. Until then, I can't say any more other than to point to a sample of the author's work.

Meanwhile, the Horror Zine volume 2 has been reviewed again. In this one, by a remarkable coincidence, I am mentioned by name as is the author whose book I am reviewing.

To add to the coincidences, that author dedicated his current book to his wife, whose name just happens to be Jessica. Fortunately his main character is not named Senga or I'd be wondering how strange this day was going to get.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Book signings.

I have around six months to figure out how they work and how to set one up.

I'm told it can be like throwing a party when nobody comes. Well that's no problem. I have often thrown parties when nobody comes. I have often sat in silent Dume parties and stared at the pile of invitations Senga spent so long writing and wondered if perhaps I should have posted them. An open fire hides a multitude of forgotten postings, and the cost of stamps would have made the party an economic disaster anyway.

The April deadline is now absolute. Jessica's Trap opens on April 30th, 1647 and the book release is scheduled for April 7th, 2011. That's the electronic version. The paper version takes a couple more weeks but it has to be available by Beltane Eve and I can't mess that up because I have spent money on advertising that depends on it.

Maybe I'll get my ex-assistant, Stumpy, to stand in for the book signings. He likes people and he doesn't seem to scare them away quite so comprehensively as do I.

This marketing thing is new to me, but it does look like fun. Especially when someone who knows about graphics is doing the images. All I need now is worldwide dispersal and that's where Stumpy comes in.

He'll talk to anyone.

Monday, 1 November 2010

The marketing begins.

The contract for Jessica's Trap is all signed and done. I'm whispering the word in case Red Stan hears although since I've signed with Damnation Books, he's probably involved somewhere along the line anyway.

On the same day, the bookmarks and cards for promoting Jessica's Trap arrived. They look very nice indeed. I'll trickle a few out over the coming months but not too many, too soon. I had an Idea which a very talented artist is dealing with now, and which means I don't want to show my full hand too soon. Although if I ever lose concentration while feeding Caligula, I won't have a full hand to show.

Or even a hand at all.

Caligula's First Birthday.

Caligula's first birthday is over. All his friends were there, Fang the spider, Underbed Monster, Closet Monster, and some ghost called Banquo who I didn't know about. Caligula insisted it wasn't a proper feast without Banquo so I let him stay. He didn't eat anything so he was a cheap guest, but he's not much of a conversationalist.

Senga and I gave the little lad a pet piglet. It's time he learned some responsibility and I have told him he can't torture it. Nor can he let his toys torment it. He has formed an attachment to Scabby Ted, my old bear, and that thing can't be trusted.

Underbed Monster gave him a dust bunny, Closet Monster gave him a beetle and Fang gave him blood poisoning. I'm not sure what Banquo gave him but I suspect it's a personality disorder. Well, it saves him the bother of developing his own.

Caligula is under strict instruction to ensure his pet pig stays healthy and is regularly fed and well looked after. To achieve this, I bribed him with the promise that if he is good, he'll get a shiny bacon slicer for Christmas and he'll be allowed to help his mother with Christmas dinner.

He has named his pig 'Dad'. Isn't that cute?