Sunday, 25 December 2011

Santa's sneakiness.

I have, over the years, let the annual Christmas Santa-hunt become excessively complex. By last year it had expanded to include reindeer for dinner and the ransacking of the sleigh. Back to basics. Get Santa first and deal with the rest later.

After last year's complete farce, I decided to keep things simple this year. None of us were on the roof but I left gin traps for the elves. These are tall cages with narrow entrances and a bottle and glass at the bottom. The elves get in, drink the gin, and then cannot find the way out. So if Santa deployed his army I was ready for them.

All the chimneys were capped except one. Oh, I know Santa isn't stupid. He wasn't going to take the only open chimney. One of the chimney caps was loose and that's the one he would take. He did. So far, so good.

Click had fitted the chimney with a series of one-way trapdoors. Each one Santa passed through was sprung and would close behind him. That part worked too. We could hear them snap into place as he descended.

We waited at the fireplace with nets and powdered parsnip, which the Internet assured me was the only way to sedate Santa.

Everything went exactly as planned. The red figure landed in the fireplace, Click and Caligula threw the nets and I threw the powdered parsnip.

The parsnip powder exploded. The net caught fire and burned away in a flash. Red Stan roared at us and jumped from the fireplace, whacking his horns on the mantelpiece on the way.

"What the Hell are you playing at, Dume?"

"What am I playing at?" I waved away some of the smoke. "Why aren't you Santa?"

"Santa? I met him on the roof." Red Stan let his flames subside. "I wanted to watch you try to catch him but he said you weren't bothering this year. So he kindly opened a chimney to let me get back into the warm."

Well, the words I said were not fit for young Caligula's ears so I was relieved to note he wrote them down instead. Finally I asked "So which chimney did he come down?"

"I don't know." Red Stan curled his lip. "I am not the boss of Santa. Nobody is."

Through the castle echoed a hearty 'Ho ho ho". We ran to follow the sound, but too late. Caligula, Click and I had coal again. Which would at least have heated the castle somewhat if Caligula hadn't eaten his and Red Stan hadn't picked mine and Click's up to examine it.

Next year, Santa, it's personal.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Don't talk. Write.

Click answered the door yesterday. I've told him not to do that. It scares people.

It didn't scare this particular visitor. The Professor was waiting for me in the living room with a well-filled whisky glass in one hand and a fat cigar in the other.

"Ah, good evening," he said. "I hope you don't mind me helping myself to whisky. Your assistant said you might be some time."

"I was clearing a drain in the kitchen." I lifted a bottle of my current favoured tipple, a 1963 vintage Vacuum Cleaner Salesman, and poured a glass. "My wife insists on acting as though we have a waste disposal unit. We do, but he has his own room."

The Professor smiled and took a large swig of his whisky. "Funny looking little chap, your assistant. Spanish?"

I rolled my eyes. Click had been watching Don Quixote and as always, had picked up the accent. Fortunately there are no windmills nearby. "No," I said, "he's from... out of town."

"Ah." The Professor tapped the side of his nose. "Say no more."

I showed him to a seat. "So what brings you out here in this cold weather?"

"A taxi. I think it was a taxi. Rusty box on wheels with a badly-trained gorilla driving?"

"Yes, that's the local taxi. I wonder if old Sumpcrack McWheelspin has fitted any brakes yet?" I had never dared risk the taxi. The bus was dangerous enough and it moved at a snail's pace compared to Sumpcrack. He spent a fortune upgrading the engine in his battered old Citroen but never bothered with anything else.

"It doesn't seem likely." The Professor placed his glass on the table. "He stopped by hitting a tree sideways. I think I'll walk back to the village."

"Yes, that's probably best."

"Anyway, I wanted to tell you I managed to get that ghosthunting book onto Amazon. Just the Kindle so far but it's a start."

"That's good news. I have some books on there too." I watched the ash on the end of his cigar with some unease and nudged the ashtray closer to him.

"I saw them." He tapped ash into the ashtray. "I also saw you had an article on the Book Boost. Well, now I have one on there too. Did it boost sales for you?"

"I don't know yet." This line of questioning was becoming tiresome. Everyone expects me to be struggling with the weight of my book earnings but it takes a long time to build up and a long time to filter back to me. "There's another quarterly report due this month."

"Oh, right. I've been going it alone, you know. Self-publishing. It means I have direct access to the sales data."

"I do that too," I said. "Jessica's Trap is traditionally published but the short story books are self-published."

"Yes, of course, I was forgetting." He stood and picked up his glass. I hadn't noticed him finishing it. "I took your advice too, and put up a free sample on that Smashwords site you told me about." As he strolled around the room, he passed the drinks cabinet with no perceptible pause. When he regained his seat his glass was full.

"Did it help? The free sample, I mean?"

"Hard to say yet. It's only been there for a week or so."

"Then it'll be scrolling down the lists. You'll need another free one to liven things up again." My own free samples have been scrolling down too. I would also need to put another one out soon.

The Professor swirled his glass. "Strange world, this writing. We're doing the same thing on the same sites and yet we don't seem to be in competition at all."

"Most people read more than one book in their lives. Even if we were going after the same audience, which we're not, there's nothing to stop anyone buying all the books they want."

We spent much of the rest of the evening in contemplative silence. It's odd, but those of us who spend all our time spinning words on paper or screen often find that, faced with real people, we have little to say.

Then again, maybe it's because we feel we've said quite enough for one day already.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

The Speed of Death.

"Hello Dume," came the timbrous tones from behind me.

I was busy in my laboratory, noting my discovery that social workers do indeed have hearts albeit very small ones, and preparing to test the hardness of the one I had most recently acquired.

"Hello Death." I turned but he wasn't there.

From behind, once again, came "Hello Dume."

My shoulders slumped. Death in a playful mood was not something I wanted to deal with at that moment. He reappeared in my line of sight at the end of a blurred streak of movement.

"Pretty fast, eh?" He jutted his jawbone. "You wouldn't call that two miles an hour, now would you?"

"No," I said. "I would refer to it as something more in line with your initial assessment. Pretty fast."

He produced a newspaper. I wish he would stop reading those things but he likes to tick off the obituaries and check he hasn't missed anyone.

"Look at this. Your scientists reckon that people moving at three miles per hour can outrun me. Ha! Tell that to all those four-minute-mile runners I've reaped."

I read the article and had to agree the conclusions were ridiculous. "It doesn't look as though they were being serious."

"Well I'm being serious. I can move incredibly fast, faster than anyone or anything except on Christmas Eve. Santa is the only thing in the universe faster than me and he can only do it one night a year. Then he has to rest for a year. If he didn't smoke, drink and eat so much he might be able to do it twice."

"He is quite nimble, that's true." Which is why I still don't have his head on my trophy wall. Still, it's nearly time to try again.

Death levelled his eyeless gaze at my laboratory bench. "Who do you have there?"

"A social worker who kindly called in to make sure Caligula was properly fed. He has been, now."

"I see. Obituary published?"

"Unlikely," I said. "This one's fresh."

"So she might still be hanging about? I'll just take a quick look around the place, if you don't mind." He took his soul bag from his belt.

"Certainly. The place could do with clearing out. There's a particularly irritating one called Banquo who has taken to showing up at feasts. I'd be pleased to be rid of him."

"Sorry," said Death, "that one's untouchable. I can clear up the rest. Any sign of your father these days?"

"Not for ages."

"Hm. Well, off I go. Watch my dust, Dume." He shot through the wall.

I returned my attention to the experiment. I thought it best to start with the diamond-edged cutter although I doubted it would get through a social worker's heart. It never has before.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Musings on fatherhood and food.

Another social worker appeared today. This one wanted to check on little Caligula and also asked some difficult questions about whether I knew what might have happened to the last one, or the one before her. You just can't get any peace these days, even in your own home.

There must be a nest of these social workers somewhere nearby. They seem to be more numerous than the Ferals. I don't like them much, they taste bitter and they're stringy, but there's not much else available out here in the swamp in winter. We haven't had a visit from a nice fat politician since the last election, which was won by the only one who didn't visit the castle. The most sensible one took the prize for a change. Pity they took his brain out as a condition of his appointment, but then I understand they all have to get that done. Too many political brains in one place might cause an explosion so it's a health and safety thing.

This social worker had hair in the style of a safety helmet although it looked harder. The style was so tight it had pulled the skin of her face into a permanent wide-eyed leer. I thought Caligula would probably like her face so I took her to his room. As always, I let her in, shut the door quick and locked it. While waiting for the screams to stop, I wondered if we had enough of that diabetic otter urine to sweeten the meat. I think we're running low. Maybe this one would be less bitter. There's sugar in the kitchen but I hear that's now considered to be bad for your health.

Once Caligula was full it was safe to enter the room and remove the remains. He's a growing lad, there's not much left these days. I'll have to be careful he doesn't get too fat. Some of those social workers are nimble on their feet and can be hard to catch.

I have to admit, despicable as he is when awake, he looks really quite sweet when he's asleep in his cage, covered in blood and flecks of gore and sucking a finger. I was right, he did like her face. He was wearing it.

It's hard to believe my progeny is over two years old and hasn't managed to kill or even maim me yet. I hope I haven't fathered a softie. Even his mother is still alive and has a few fingers left. She's lost most of her face but well, that's an improvement in her case.

Oh well, it'll be bath time soon, once the flecks of gore start to rot. Best get the fire hose and the stab vest ready.

First I have to restock the freezer. That's one of the good parts of parenting. A steady supply of visiting officials.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Caligula's little friends.

High drama here at Dume Towers.

Caligula, the mischievous little tyke, has summoned the legions of Hell into his bedroom. His mother is hysterical because she thinks she'll have to cook for them all and I had to have one of those father-son chats.

I told him he had been very naughty and that if he wanted a sleepover with his friends he had to ask his mother first. It was his duty to tell his friends they could not stay and that they should arrange transport home.

In the end it worked out okay. The north of Scotland in late November is nowhere near warm enough for creatures brought up surrounded by fire so they went back of their own accord.

I have confiscated his grimoires for now but being a caring parent I won't deprive him of them for too long. I don't want to be accused of child abuse.

Although if there was ever a child that deserved it...

Monday, 31 October 2011

After-party relaxation.

Well, that's Caligula's birthday over for another year. Two years old. You wouldn't think it, he's only on his second set of teeth although the third row is starting to cut through. He had a great time, especially as many local children took the trouble to come to the door to be tricked.

Senga insists that it's the visiting children who are supposed to do the tricks but Caligula and I agree that's a silly way to do it. She also has this crazy idea that the tricks should not draw blood. What would be the point of that?

Death and Red Stan showed up, as did that wretched wraith Banquo. Every time there's a feast, there he is. Nobody invites him.

The Professor wasn't here. He was probably out hunting for something supernatural somewhere.

Little Caligula is safely tucked away in his secure room. He's supposed to be asleep but I think I hear him practicing with his throwing knives. Let him play. It'll help keep the rats under control. Now I can settle down to the latest issue of The Horror Zine.

I already have a copy of 'What Fears Become' but if you like the idea of a free one, there's a competition until midnight.

If you lose, you might turn into a pumpkin, but that's a chance you'll have to take.

Preparing for the feast.

Another free tale at Smashwords. That's three freebies so the next will have a price attached to it. Not a huge price but a price nonetheless.

This one features Death, who I hope will attend little Caligula's second birthday party tomorrow evening. He's very likely to appear since Caligula has requested a set of throwing knives. They're all sharpened and wrapped and hidden away until tomorrow. The little tyke is certain to want to try them out and Death will want to be nearby in case he has to collect someone. I will be wearing armour.

The story is also set at Halloween so it's suitable for a children's party, I think. Caligula won't appreciate it, there's not nearly enough gore. I was surprised to find the story had already been reviewed since it has not yet been on the site for a full day. Pleasantly surprised, I might add, since it was a full-marks review. Those are always good to see.

Well, best get ready for Caligula's party. I hope that wretch Banquo doesn't show up this time.

Friday, 21 October 2011

The Wandering Dume.

It's been quite some time since I wrote those articles for Alienskin magazine and I have been out of practice. So it was very nice to be invited to write a short one in exchange for a review of Jessica's Trap at the Book Boost.

I hope the article is up to standard because the review is very complimentary indeed. The author of that blog is putting in an incredible effort this month, with one of these huge posts going up every day. It must be tiring.

This has reminded me of my long-ago intention to collect those Alienskin articles into one book. It's time to revive that idea, I think.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Death in the kitchen.

It's been one of those nights. Full moon, Ferals howling at it, the Slimy Swamp Thing slithering about the place, Little Caligula on the hunt for hidden birthday presents, rats and pretty much anything edible, Senga moaning about her household budget, the swamp plants muttering dark things in the night, and Death waiting for me in the kitchen. Some nights you just can't get a moment's peace.

"Hello Dume." Death brandished his scythe. "Look. I have the proper one back."

"So I see." I stayed out of range. He's not known for being too careful with that thing. "What happened to your iScythe?"

"Scrapped." Death ran a phalange over his blade. "That Steve Jobs chap died and the first thing he said when I went to collect him was that the iScythe was a breach of copyright. So it had to go. The Boss wasn't happy, but I was."

"No, I suppose breaking the law wouldn't be a good thing for your boss."

"Aha, even better. It was one of his own laws. The one about coveting thy neighbour's whassnames. Apparently it extends to copyright. Oh, the Boss is in a foul mood, believe me." Death leaned his scythe against the wall and patted it. "Now, how about some tea?"

I filled the kettle and set it on the cooker.

Death grunted. "What happened to that assistant of yours? He hasn't turned up in my list yet so he can't be dead."

"No, not dead. He's in the laboratory, sweeping up. Again. He's costing me a fortune in glassware." I had considered transferring Click to toy supervision duties but he'd probably end up letting them all loose and then we'd have to barricade the doors to get any sleep at all.

"Can't get the staff, eh?" He settled into a chair and made himself comfortable. "A common problem these days. Even the red guy is complaining about the quality of recruits lately. Some of them want to make Hell smoke-free, can you imagine? They just don't seem to grasp the essence of the business at all."

While the kettle boiled I placed the sugar, milk, stirring fingers and kitten blood on the table. "No fairy cakes this time, I'm afraid. The fairies have been elusive this year. I have some elfin savouries though." I shook the tin to quiet them before opening it.

"Elfin savouries. Haven't had those for years." Death picked one up and bit into it. "Their screams are much more musical than the fairies, aren't they?"

"Yes, but the fairies taste better." The kettle howled. I took it from the stove and filled the teapot. "So, quiet lately? Not much reaping going on?"

"Huh." Death clattered his fingers on the table. "Look at this." He threw a newspaper onto the table, folded open to a particular page. "I'm going to relish collecting this one. He's causing nothing but trouble."

"Another apocalypse? So soon?"

"Everything has to gear up again. The sulphurous lake has to be refilled and lit and that takes days. The beasts have to be prodded into fury again. All the horses are being groomed, the trumpeters are practicing day and night, the whole place is in chaos up there. It'll probably be yet another false alarm but with the Boss still smarting over breaking Rule Ten I think he's using this as a distraction. Good day to bury bad news, sort of thing."

I filled two cups and passed one to Death. "So you're hiding out here for a few hours?"

"Too right." Death added a liberal splash of kitten blood to his tea. "Try having a fleshless skull when seven trumpeters, with trumpets that can be heard all over the world, are practicing. I think my sutures have come loose." He sucked tea into his mouth, where it vapourised at once. "So, what are you doing these days?"

"Well, I've just made another story available for free."

"Free?" Death set his cup down. "That doesn't sound like you. Are you ill? Is it serious?" He glanced at his scythe.

"I'm fine. You won't need the scythe for a while yet." I shifted in my seat in case he became overzealous and I'd need to run. "The free ones advertise the main ones. Short stories don't make any money anyway so I thought the best use I could make of them was to give them away with adverts in the back."

"Oh." Death's shoulders slumped. "Oh well, never mind. So how's it working out?"

A scream ripped through the kitchen, loud enough to make me jump. For a moment, I thought Beryl the banshee was back and my mind was already gearing up to give Father a sound telling-off for inviting her. It wasn't Beryl. Death took a small black coffin-shaped box from his robes and pushed a button. The screaming stopped.

"My pager," he said. "I have to report for rehearsals. Damn. I hoped they wouldn't notice I was missing."

"Aren't you somewhat central to the whole thing?"

Death finished his tea and stood. "Yes, I suppose I am." He picked up his scythe. "Almost the star of the show, you might say. Almost." He swirled his cape in a theatrical bow and backed into the wall. "See you another time, assuming this is just another false alarm."

I sipped at my own tea while listening to the Ferals howling outside. If it wasn't a false alarm I'd see Death in his official capacity sooner than I'd like to. That would be a nuisance.

I have more books to finish.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Phase 2 again.

I had a request for the full manuscript of 'Samuel's Girl' last night. The publisher can still say 'no' at this stage but I have all my fingers crossed. I had to rescue some from Caligula's toy box, those are a little bit chewed at the ends but every little helps.

So the second novel has reached phase two. I have the third almost ready to go into phase one, submission, so I'd better concentrate on that while I wait to hear about 'Samuel's Girl'. I don't want to leave such a long gap between submissions this time.

There's something about the amount of work that goes into a novel that puts me off the self-publishing route. I think they work best with a professional cover and after the attentions of a professional editor. Short stories are easy to self-edit but novels are almost impossible.

For the moment at least, short stories will go the self-publishing route and novels go through the traditional route.

This means I'll have to work harder on that writing website. Soon I'll need separate pages for each publishing method.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Covers and content.

I put the short on Lulu in print form, even though I very much doubt anyone willl buy it. The postage costs more than the little book! Added to another order, fine, but on its own it's too costly.

No, I put it there so I could order some print copies. Postage isn't so bad when you're buying a batch. Why do that? Well, so that I can give them away. This little story is ideal for leaving around and it has ads in the back for the other three books. It's also one of the safer stories. If I left something like 'The Gate Race' or especially 'The Sweet Man' lying around, I'd get complaints from parents whose children have lost the ability to sleep.'The Sweet Man' isn't published yet. I'm saving it for Christmas.

The book I'm currently reviewing for the Horror Zine has an artistically produced cover, a drawing that is very impressive indeed. Even more impressive because the author drew it. More on that when the review is finished and on the site.

A book needs a good cover and if you're self-publishing, artists can be expensive.

I can't produce such art so I use photographs and Photoshop and in that case, it's vital to only use photos you've taken yourself. Otherwise you hit copyright issues unless you have written permission from the photographer to use their stuff. Pictures found on the Internet are not free for all, the original photographer still has copyright and can demand a cut of your earnings if they find you've pinched their work.

The most important part of any book is still the content. Yes, you can self-publish a terrible story but you won't sell many. Worse, those who read the terrible one won't even bother to look at the rest of your offerings. Even worse yet, publishers you submit work to might have seen it and they won't be too keen on asking for a manuscript. A dud can wreck your chances, so don't put them out there.

If you see a copy of 'A Little Knowledge' lying around, you'll know I've been there. Take it, it's free.

I might even be watching...

Monday, 26 September 2011

A free story.

This little tale is available free on Smashwords in a variety of formats. Not in print, it's too small to be worth the effort, but in any electronic format you like. I put it on Kindle but can't make it free there but no matter, Smashwords does that .mobi format too.

Free. My favourite price and, I suspect, everyone else's too.

Get it now. It's too late to avoid it, the cow has seen you and it's coming...

Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Spreading Tentacles of Dume.

I see Jessica's Trap is now available for the Nook E-reader as well as the Kindle.

So is Fears of the Old and the New.

I have been busy. Aside from the print and PDF versions of Fears of the Old and the New and Dark Thoughts and Demons, I already had Fears on Smashwords but they were taking an interminable time to put it on Kindle, so I opted out and did it myself.

Then I put Dark Thoughts on Kindle and wasn't going to bother with Smashwords - until I noticed that Fears had sales through both Sony and Kobo E-stores. Not very many, but considering I hadn't thought to even mention its presence on those stores, I'm surprised there were any at all.

So Dark Thoughts is now also available on Smashwords (opting out of Kindle distribution again because I've already done that) in a whole range of electronic formats. With luck it will spread into the ether like its predecessor with little to no further effort on my part.

The tentacles of Dume spread ever wider and it's not over yet. I can now put out a free short story or two with ads for these three books in the back. Oh, and write more, naturally.

Ah, but there are distractions. The Horror Zine has another issue out, I am halfway through reading What Fears Become and there is another book for review on the way. No matter, it has become unsafe to sleep too much lately anyway.

Caligula's birthday approaches and I suspect that the present he wants is blood. Some of mine. I need my blood. I'm using it myself.

To write stories.

You just can't get the right atmosphere with ink.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

A review for Dark Thoughts.

I am stunned, and this time it wasn't due to Caligula's inventive use of a flat-iron and a large piece of elastic.

It has only been a few days since I put those two collections on Amazon and already there is a review in place for 'Dark Thoughts and Demons' on the American site. No sign of a review on the UK site yet, but the British are not renowned for giving reviews unless there is something to complain about.

I am, therefore, pleasantly stunned, in contrast to being unpleasantly stunned as with Caligula's version.

Well, better get the head-clamp and the chair-staples and get some more written. It seems someone out there likes my stories.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Navigating the Amazon.

I have managed to shoehorn both Fears of the Old and the New and the new collection, Dark Thoughts and Demons, onto Kindle. It wasn't easy but I think it will get easier with practice.

What this means is that if you search Amazon for my writing avatar, H K Hillman, you will find three books rather than just one.

If you prefer print copies, both those collections are available on There is already a print version of Jessica's Trap on Amazon but the collections aren't listed as print copies there. Yet.

I still have Fears of the Old and the New on Smashwords in a  variety of formats, but they never managed to upload it to Kindle so I turned off that option on Smashwords and sent it to Kindle myself. I have no idea why Smashwords can't do it, but they can't.

Now I think a celebration is in order. I have defeated Red Stan's technology demons once again.

I have a feeling they'll be back.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Another collection complete.

Here it is at last. I won't be doing another collection for a while because I have novels to deal with and must concentrate on those. The collection prices are set low because they are, essentially, primers. Little stories to get you in the mood.

I self-publish the collections because it's hard to sell such things to publishers until after you have a few novels out. Which reminds me, it's time to nag about that query for Samuel's Girl.

This one contains stories that are nastier than those in the first collection so I included my gentlest ever ghost story at the start. I don't want to scare away readers on page one.

So far, it's available as print and PDF on Lulu. Not yet on the Amazon Kindle but I'm working on that. It could take a little while.

Right. Now real life can resume for a few days before the novel-writing starts again. Time to let the head-clamp scars heal up and remove the staples that have been holding me to this seat.

Only for a few days. There are many more words to write.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Trying to work.

I have three short stories on the go at once here. My mind is fully occupied and I have the head-clamp turned up to full concentration mode to keep me on track. These three, assuming none of them get stuck, will give me enough to complete a decent-sized short story collection and I'd very much like to finish it this week.

Click has charge of the laboratory. I am studiously ignoring the occasional sound of breakages. I will deal with him later. Senga has taken Caligula to visit her parents for a few days which absolves me from parenting duties and means I don't have to watch out for his developing patricidal talents. I have peace and space for writing.

So it was not a good time for Red Stan to visit. Which, I suppose, is why he did. He's like that.

I knew it was him as soon as I heard the clink of horn on granite and the barrage of expletives that followed. Another pair of dents in my mantelpiece. There was nothing for it but to release the head-clamp and set aside any thoughts of writing until he had gone. It might not be a total loss. Sometimes he does give me ideas for dark tales.

"It's not a good time," I said.

"Yeah, I hear that a lot." Red Stan settled into the iron-framed chair, the only one that doesn't ignite at his touch. "So, how's things?"

"Busy. I'm trying to finish a book."

Red Stan sat up. "Am I in it this time? Must be my turn by now, surely?"

"Not yet. These are just short stories. I'm saving you for something much bigger." To be honest, I had no ideas yet for any worthwhile stories involving Red Stan and was bluffing.

"Something big, eh? Do tell."

"What, and spoil the surprise? Besides, I'm trying to concentrate on what I'm working on right now so I'm not going to say anything about any other projects."

Red Stan relaxed in his seat with a wicked smile. "I see. You know how to torment someone, Dume. I like that."

"Good." I indicated my computer. "As I said, I'm busy, so if you could get to the point I'd appreciate it. We don't all have eternity, you know."

"You will. I have a place all ready for you." He shifted in his seat. "But that's not why I'm here. I'm looking for advice."

"Advice?" He had my attention now. "You have a problem?"

"Me? Of course not. No, it's some of my underlings. I try to bring them up right, you know, debauchery and wickedness and cruelty and evil but it all goes wrong when I send them out to possess someone." He rubbed his nose. "They're supposed to do unspeakable things when they're here. They're supposed to set in motion the events that lead to the End of Days."

"They don't do terrible things?"

"Oh, they do. The trouble is, they do it to themselves. As soon as they get into a body they get hold of booze and drugs and just get wasted. Most of them forget what they came for. A lot of them have even forgotten who they are." He leaned forward. "You're a parent, Dume. How do you keep your kid off the straight and narrow?"

I had to think about that one. "It's never been a problem. Dumes aren't interested in drugs nor indeed in anything that expensive. Never have been. Are all your, ah, offspring affected?"

"No, fortunately. Some of them make it into government and a few have set up fake charities to pressurise people into having a miserable life. They're doing well. It's just taking such a long time with so few doing what they're supposed to do."

I could see no problem with the apocalypse taking longer than planned. There are many more story ideas to get through and if I turned up at Red Stan's place without a story about him, my stay there might not go so well.

"Okay," I said. "So it's not all bad news. Just concentrate on the ones you have and ignore the duff demons. It'll take longer, but you do have eternity. So really it's just a matter of being patient."

"I'd thought of that. It's just that I have the armies of Hell on permanent standby and they're getting restive. They really want to ransack something and the boredom is getting to them. By the time I'm ready to send them out there might not be a sober one among them." He sighed. "We watch the news, you know. With what's going on on Earth, if we don't get a move on there'll be nothing left to ransack. Your lot will have done it all."

"Yes, but we have a tendency to rebuild things we've smashed." I winced at the sound of something else getting smashed in my laboratory. Maybe I should send Click down to dust the dungeons, although last time he did that he flushed several important relatives and polished their urns.

Red Stan scoffed. "Only so you can smash them again."

"Yes, well..." A brief review of human history showed the truth of his conclusion. "Even so, we keep building. There'll always be something to break. You don't have to worry about that."

He looked pensive and ran his hand over his horn. "I think there's a new stone-chip there. I'll have to get that fixed." He shrugged and rose from his chair. "Well, I suppose there's not much I can do about human depravity. My only worry is that if you lot get any worse I'll be out of a job. If you'd stop corrupting my emissaries before they can do what they're supposed to, that would be nice." He headed for the fireplace. "Then again, it is a war of sorts. No point asking the enemy to play fair, I suppose."

"No, I suppose not. I'm sure it'll all work out in the end."

He ducked into the fireplace and vanished while I mulled over the new idea forming in my head. No, no, I have to concentrate.

I made some notes, replaced my head-clamp and resumed working.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Teeth-filing day.

Today was teeth-filing day. I have to blunt the points on Caligula's teeth at least once a month or he chews his way out of his room. Soon he'll be two years old, but it already feels like twenty. I am beginning to understand why Dume parents rarely put up much of a fight when their children decide it's inheritance time.

Senga is no help with this task. Her fingers don't grow back as fast as mine and the gauntlets aren't strong enough. We really need some titanium ones. Well, it's done for another month and it only cost me two fingers this time. I'm getting better at it. I'll try getting him some old car engines to gnaw on. That might reduce the need for this filing ritual.

Well, Senga is asleep and Caligula is howling softly to himself, the Rarely-Glimpsed Slimy Swamp Thing slithers gently in the swamp and the Ferals sound as if they've caught someone. Normality is restored, so I can at last get some writing done.

It would be faster if I had all my fingers, but we can't have everything.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Reading and writing.

It has been a busy time here. Senga demanded a holiday, which I thought was a great idea until she made it clear I was to go as well. So we went on holiday, she did holiday things, Caligula ate holiday food and one or two holidaymakers, I took a book to read and one to write.

My reading material was the delightfully apocalyptic 'Snareville', while my writing material consisted of two stories, one about dust and another about rain. I like to have more than one story in process at a time in case one of them gets stuck.

There have been several items for review recently. Continuing the zombie theme, Dr. Austin's Zombie Science 1z is a manual, not a story, and one that could prove useful in the event of zombie invasion. Also a fim, 'Inhabitant', which has that blend of horror and SF I like so much.

Now I have a copy of a book, not for formal review but I'll tell you about it when it's done. There are names in 'What Fears Become' that I am not worthy to review but I'm going to anyway.

It's safe enough. They don't know where I live.

Meanwhile, I have a second collection almost ready to go. If I can just unstick one of the stories...

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Zombie Squid.

All those experiments, all those chemicals, all that expense...

...and all along, all it takes is a dash of soy sauce.

Those Japanese are really smart.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Another one done.

I have completed the follow-up story to Jessica's Trap.

Well, I say 'completed'. I have written it, made the 'utter nonsense removal' pass, the 'sort out random format' pass, the 'find the spelling and grammar mistakes' pass, the 'make sure it's both internally consistent and also consistent with the earlier story' pass and now I am sick of it. So I'll get some printed up and pass them to others to read.

I have other books to write in the meantime. So far, I have not heard about 'Samuel's Girl' but it won't be time to enquire until the end of July so that can wait.

There's the nearly-done zombie story but I'm not in a zombie mood. I have an idea for a water-based creature and browsing through the Key of Solomon, I think I've found something that would fit.

I'm also learning, slowly, about marketing. I might try self-publishing one of these next stories and see how well I can do on my own.

Has to be worth a try.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Death and gadgets.

Death looked crestfallen when he walked through the wall into my living room.

“You look crestfallen.” I said. “Where’s your scythe? Have you lost it?” That would be a big problem, especially if it fell into the wrong hands. I was thinking specifically of Caligula’s hands, naturally. As wrong hands go, he has the wrongest on the planet.

“I’m worn out. And yes, my crest is well and truly fallen.” Death slumped into a chair. “Have you trained that assistant thing to make tea yet?”

I called Click and directed him to bring us tea, then returned my attention to Death. “What’s been going on?”

“Apocalypse false alarm,” he said. “Another one. Some preacher claimed the end was nigh, convinced half the planet of it and when the day came, nothing happened.”

“I heard about that. Why would you care?”

“Nobody knows the date of Apocalypse except the Boss and he won’t say. Every time you lot down here get all worked up, we have to get ready. Full battle stations and all the rest of it. Then the day comes, nothing happens and we have to put it all away again. Douse the burning lake, put the beasts back in their cages and tidy everything away. It takes ages.” Death rubbed at his neck bones.

“I don’t understand. Why doesn’t the Boss just tell you to forget it? He must know it’s a hoax, surely?”

“Oh, he’s still smarting because of a trick the red guy tried on him once. Apparently he tried to get the date by elimination. You know, get the Boss to say ‘no’ to every date and when there was one date left, that must be it. So the Boss won’t say anything about Apocalypse now. He won’t tell us it’s the wrong date until the day arrives. I also think he’s developing a nasty sense of humour.”

Click arrived with a tray of tea. I was pleased to note he had remembered the kitten blood and the stirring fingers, and had, on his own initiative, added a tray of fairy cakes. These are hard to make properly because the fairies put up quite a fight and can make a mess of the cake before it sets around them if you aren’t quick.

“So,” I said, “what about the scythe? Don’t tell me you’re having a day off?”

Death sighed, produced a short steel rod from his robes and flicked it. The rod shot out in both directions and a long blade unfolded from the top end. Click screamed and fled.

“It’s an iScythe.” Death treated the weapon to his most baleful glare. “We’re moving with the times. Orders from the Boss.” He twisted the weapon and it folded away again. “I told you he was developing a twisted sense of humour, didn’t I?”

“Looks pretty neat.” I was genuinely impressed. “Surely it’s much easier to carry around?”

“Yes, but what about tradition? What about all those paintings of me with my trusty blade in my hands? This thing isn’t exactly imposing, is it? I mean, I feel like some cheap hoodlum with a flick-knife. No, I’m still arguing for my old scythe back. It’s a matter of prestige, you know?”

I poured tea. “I see what you mean, but people will soon get used to the new blade. It works just like the old one, yes?”

Death accepted a cup and added a generous dash of kitten blood. “Oh, sure, it works. It also takes phone calls and surfs the internet and acts as a GPS locator, none of which I have any use for. I’m not Batman, you know. I don’t need a whole load of gadgets. Just my scythe and my book.” He took a sip of tea. “Even that’s a damn computer now.”

“I remember. You showed it to me before.”

“Well it’s all nonsense. These things have to charge up and while they’re charging, nobody can be reaped. It’s putting a serious dent in my reputation for punctuality and efficiency.”

I tasted my tea and winced. Not enough hemlock. I spooned in more. “Well, couldn’t you have two scythes and two books? Then you could have one set charging while you use the other.”

“Nope. Risk assessors and health and safety officers won’t allow it. A spare scythe is a security risk.”

“You have risk assessments? What risks can there be for the already dead?” I picked up a fairy cake and slapped it to stop the high-pitched screaming before biting into it.

“Oh, you wouldn’t believe the rubbish going on in the afterlife these days. We have spirits there who demand human rights, who want something called ‘benefits’ and who insist they cannot be exposed to sulphurous fumes because it offends their noses. We’ve tried pointing out that they aren’t human any more, that there are no such things as ‘benefits’ when you’re sentenced to spending eternity in a fiery pit while little demons poke pitchforks up your fundament and that if their noses are offended, we have plenty of trained staff who will happily, and repeatedly, remove it with a circular saw and staple it back on. But no, they moan and complain all the time. I long for the old days when all they did was scream in torment.” Death flicked open his scythe and reaped a cake. “Hell has gone all to Hell these days and it’s not much better upstairs.” He bit into the greying fairy figure. “Mind you, it’s quieter up there now that most new spirits are the moaning kind. Hardly anyone gets in.”

“Oh well.” I sipped at my tea. “So it’s not all bad. You do have a quiet place to hide out”

“I refuse to go in there since they banned hoods.” Death folded his iScythe away and put it back in his robes. “Anyway, thanks for the tea.” He stood and moved to the wall, paused and turned. “There’s just one more thing,” he said, then burst out laughing. “Sorry. I did that when I picked up that Falk chap. We laughed about it all the way up the pearly stairs.”

“Really?” I wouldn’t have thought anyone would have found it funny, but some people have strange tastes in humour.

“Right. Better get moving. I have a petition to raise to get my old scythe back.”

“Let me know how it turns out,” I called as he disappeared.

His head reappeared through the wall. “Oh, you’ll know,” he said. Then he was gone.

I considered his parting words. He had sounded very sure of himself. I decided it was a good time to check the nursery was secure.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

A new qualification.

I have passed Zombie Science 1z, with only a second-class result, but given that I live in a swamp full of dangerous animals and plants, zombies aren't much of a problem locally. So it's a good enough pass and another certificate to add to my collection.

It also allows me to consider applying for the position of Zombie Integration Outreach Co-ordinator at Leicester City Council. They have openly admitted that they have no contingency plan in the event of a zombie apocalypse and looking at the news, it seems they have a problem.

It would mean leaving the swamp and interacting with people, but maybe I can run it mostly through the internet and really, interacting with zombies isn't too onerous.

They tend not to bother people with small talk.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Zombie reference book.

I have sent a review on this book to the Horror Zine. A very, very interesting book indeed, especially if you have a zombie story in your 'must get around to finishing that' pile.

Now I just have to wait and see if my Email is working. It seems to be approaching the randomness of the British postal system these days.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The chrysalis market.

I have seen a new review for Jessica's Trap, which isn't up yet but should be shortly. This is less glowing than previous reviews but still mainly positive.

Interestingly, it is the second review to refer to this story as 'young adult'. I have never deliberately written anything for 'young adult' because I don't know what it means. Surely you're either young or adult? Is there some intermediate stage? Certainly, Dume children do not have a chrysalis stage but we are fairly isolated here and I am assured we're also a bit different from the rest of the population. Which is good. I've seen the rest of the population.

Could a chrysalis even read? Well, I suppose it couldn't do very much else. That might be why the 'young adult' market is sought after. All those chrysalis-stage people lying around just desperate for a good story to while away the growing pains of their metamorphosis into a lumbering hairy pitchfork-weilding villager.

Now I come to think of it, I have not seen any intermediate form in the village between the child-forms and the hairy lumbering pitchfork forms. I had assumed it happened overnight. It does not apply to the women, of course. Their metamorphosis is different. They don't have pitchforks.

Therefore there is an intermediate stage between 'young' and 'adult' and it seems Jessica's Trap falls into this chrysalis market. Hmmm.

This calls for a little change to marketing strategy, I think.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Success and zombies.

I have managed to get through the Smashwords approval process so 'Fears of the Old and the New' will pop up as an Ebook all over the place in the coming weeks. It'll be available for Nook, Kobo, Sony, Kindle and most other readers. It already is, via the Smashwords site, but it'll be on the proprietary sites too.

The print version is still on Lulu.

Well, I can take a little rest before trying another one. In the meantime I have a book to review for the Horror Zine. It's a scientific treatise on the true nature and correct biological implementation of the zombie and so far it is a very informative read. The review will be complete in time for the next Horror Zine issue.

For now, I must continue my education in zombiology.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Writing, money and wifely rage.

Senga and I had our first actual argument today. Normally she does all the arguing, I ignore her, she goes in a huff for a few days and I use the peace and quiet to get some work done.

This time I made a mistake. I responded. That's never a good idea, it turns a few minutes of nagging into hours of hysterical shrieking and I can't be certain of the stony silence this time. If I'm lucky she'll refuse to speak to me for a week. If not, it could be only hours.

It was about work and money. Senga does not see sitting at a computer as work although I have Norman's House in full-novel editing stage now and it's shaping up nicely. If Samuel's Girl is accepted for publication, something I don't expect to know for a couple of months yet, Norman's House will be ready to go. Then there's Demdike's Revival which is only sketched, Victor's Will which is first-drafted and still messy, and others that are only in the planning stage.

Plus, I intend to write the Story of Dume as well as compile all those horror-writing articles into one place. I am waiting to hear whether Fears of the Old and the New has made it through the Smashwords vetting process and the Professor wants his little ghosthunting book turned into a Kindle version as well. I shouldn't have told him I'd done it with my book. I know he's working on a revised version and he'll expect me to deal with that too.

There is also the matter of the writing website. I am hampered here not by HTML, but by not knowing what it should look like nor what I want it to contain. I have at least registered a domain for my writing persona, but points to a holding page for the moment. Websites are a bit like writing, but actual HTML writing looks like someone has spilled a box of letters at the feet of a line-dancing club. If the letters land in the right order, the website looks right. If not, it doesn't work at all.

The thing about working on all these things is that I sit down to do them. Writing involves no heavy lifting except when throwing things in frustration, almost no noise apart from the occasional scream of anguish and in fact, hardly any physical movement at all. Senga does not consider any of this as 'work', not even the screams. I put a lot of effort into those screams. Sometimes I have to have a lie-down afterwards.

The work aspect of the argument was fine. I let her do all the arguing while I ignored her and things were going well until she shifted to the subject of money. The downside of writing is that you have to do all the work first, persuade someone to publish the work, persuade people to buy the work and then hope they like it and hope word spreads. Getting paid is bottom of the list.

She caught me out with direct questions concerning Jessica's Trap. Like a fool, I responded, even though I didn't know the answers.

How well is it selling?

I have no idea. I can see it moving up the Amazon rankings but I have no idea what the total number of books on Amazon is, nor whether one sale or a hundred would be enough to move up one place. It might be selling well, it might be dribbling along. Until it reaches first-quarter sales reports, I cannot know how well it is doing. The publisher won't know until those results are in, so how could I?

How much do you make per book?

I have no idea. I know the percentage of the list price that should come my way, but books rarely, if ever, sell at list price. Every seller discounts. Publishing and printing costs are fixed and cannot be reduced unless the publisher sacks staff and the printer writes out every copy by hand. So the discount comes off my share. How much? I don't know. It depends on where they sell and what discount is applied. Until the quarterly sales reports come in from booksellers, the publisher cannot know so how could I?

So how much money is coming in?

I have no idea. To be fair, I have rarely had any idea nor indeed a great deal of interest in this. Income just encourages the taxman to demand more money with menaces. There is no point earning millions to be left with pennies.

These answers were not to Senga's liking. They reinforced her view that I actually have no idea what I'm doing and am just bumbling through life with no aim or direction in mind at all. She knows me very well indeed. In fact, I can say that my wife understands me, even though I don't always understand her, but that could be down to the facial deformities.

Writing isn't just about the money. The money is useful, indeed essential in the modern world, but the main aim of writing is to scare the living daylights out of people. Nothing compares to the satisfaction of a job well done, when people complain of sleepless nights and paranoia after reading my little tales. When psychiatrists call to thank me for sending more frightened patients their way, I admit to swelling with pride even beyond the levels naturally produced by gangrene or even corpse bloat.

The best one for that is still 'Telephone Pest' because now that the telesales people use automated machinery, more and more people get those silent phone calls. I still bask in the thrill of the person who told me, with terrified eyes, 'I had just finished reading that when the phone rang and there was nobody there.' It's in Fears of the Old and the New and if FromTheAsylum hadn't closed, I could have pointed to the archives there.

It is a little strange to find people reading horror stories and complaining that they were scared. I thought that was the whole point. Still, as long as I'm having fun, it's all good.

Anyway, must get back to work. The cold weather is discouraging visitors so I'll have to actually buy some food soon. This means parting with cash, a mortal sin in the Dume world and a risk of setting Father off on his threats to call the banshee again. I suspect he fancies her.

Senga is silent apart from rattling pots and pans in the kitchen. She isn't cooking, just rattling. I don't think she's really furious because when she is, she turns the cauldron over and lets little Caligula batter it with a ladle.

She might calm down soon. I have to get working before she starts talking to me again.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Hell on Earth.

It's not often I summon Red Stan but tonight I donned the asbestos gloves of invocation and drank the chilli-juice of the watery-eyed and high-voiced chant. I performed the ritual dance of the Burning Bottom and shook my head until I had regained some feeling in my tongue.

Click, who should have been assisting, merely gaped at me. Fat lot of use he was.

It worked anyway. Red Stan appeared and knocked another chip out of my mantelpiece as he emerged from the fire.

"What do you want, Dume? I've just had a batch of liberals in and they're so wet it's hard to light them." Stan surveyed the room with his usual contempt until his gaze fell upon Click. "What's that thing? It looks like it should be one of mine."

"It's a useless thing. You don't want it." I waved Click away and he needed no further urging to flee the room. I have some chilli juice left and he's going to drink it later. I'll teach him that 'assist' does not mean 'stand and gawp while I do all the work'.

"Oh I don't know." Stan rubbed his ear. "A couple of horns and a tail and he'd fit right in at my place. Anyway, what is it you want?"

"Have you had anything to do with a group calling themselves Microsoft?"

He looked at me for a moment then developed a deep interest in the ceiling. "I do believe I have a few shares in that company. How's it doing? Anything interesting?"

"I see." I folded my arms. "How about Ebooks? An invention of yours, I suspect?"

"Well, they are taxable and you know I'm a big fan of the tax office. Most of my family work there." Red Stan fingered his horns. "Did I chip this one on your mantelpiece? You'd better be careful, Dume. I have an awful lot of lawyers, you know."

"Don't change the subject. I've spent days trying to get a book converted into Ebook format. It has to be sent in as a Word document but it has to be done without any of the Word hidden formatting and other nonsense or it won't work." I glared at him briefly because glaring hurts when you've drunk that much chilli juice. "So Ebooks have to be submitted in Word but the programming of Word means the submission is doomed. I suspect you had something to do with this."

"Did it hurt?" He leered so well I almost forgave him, but held firm.

"It was appalling. I pulled out both my hairs, stitched them back in and pulled them out again during the process and I won't even know if it's worked for days." It wasn't that bad but he does like flattery.

"Yes!" Stan punched the air. "Best invention ever. One lot of goblins work on word processors and fill them with code, another lot work on Ebooks and fill them with entirely different and utterly incompatible code and then I set up a company that only accepts submissions in the most incompatible format possible. I knew that was a winner." He glanced at me and attempted to straighten his face. "Oh. I mean, perhaps one of my underlings did it without telling me."

"That is," I said, "possibly the most unspeakably evil thing you have ever done."

Red Stan performed a low and extravagant bow. "I thank you from the heart of my bottom."

"Yes, well." I tried to keep the admiration from my voice. "You could have warned me."

"Where's the fun in that?" He straightened and rubbed his hands. "Of course, those who have contracts have no trouble with the process at all."

"Oh no. I have a contract with Damnation Books for another book. I don't need one with you. Besides, I think I managed to get through the process. Eventually."

"Yes, but you'll have to do it all again. By then I'll have changed all the formats and added more hidden commands in the programs." He grinned at me. "So what was this book about? Am I in it?"

"Not directly." I showed him a print copy but didn't let him touch it. I have to pay for these and I can't reclaim the burned ones. "It's fairly cruel though. I think you'd like it."

"Is it on Kindle?" Red Stan licked his lips. "I was particularly taken with the name of that gadget, the firestarter reference, you know?"

"It might well be. That's up to you."

"Oh?" Confusion flickered in his face.

"Well, that's what I've been trying to do. Get this book out into the world to scare as many people as possible. Your game of 'torment the author' has stopped me, or at least hindered me."

"Ah." Red Stan moved towards the fireplace. "I can see I'll have to rethink and perhaps refine this plan."

"Yes, perhaps you should." It was my turn to grin but I missed it because the chilli juice had numbed most of my mouth. I don't know what it looked like and perhaps it's better that way.

Red Stan took a headlong dive into the fireplace. I think that was the first time he managed it without smacking his horns on the mantelpiece.

The next Ebook submission might, I suspect, be a little bit easier.

Although probably not much.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Another review.

There is a new review of Jessica's Trap on the internet.

All the reviews are very positive so far, which must be a good thing. I'll also have to order more copies for signing because the first batch didn't last long.

I'm going to have to watch that Bifrons. He's supposed to be a minor character but if he keeps on chatting up the ladies he'll soon be demanding a book of his own.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Writing limbo.

I'm writing a mystery story. One so mysterious I don't even know what it's about yet.

One novel is in the bag, the second is submitted, the third is a complete first draft, so I decided it was time for a break. I'd leave the novels alone for a few days and work up a short story or two. That was the plan.

What I have here is an opening. A good opening. I'm very pleased indeed with this part of the story.

What I don't have is an ending. Not even a hint at where the story is going. It's going somewhere nasty, that's all I know. Okay, it actually starts somewhere nasty so it's going somewhere nastier. It's going to a place that would make one of Caligula's nappies seem almost bearable.

If only I knew where.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Getting to grips with marketing.

I have been surprised at the demand for signed copies of Jessica's Trap. Maybe they think it will be valuable when I die. That would explain why Caligula has stored away a whole box of signed copies.

It occurred to me that the little book of terror I have been giving away as an advertisement (free download, I can't make the print one free) has so far only been used to get my writing name more commonly known. It did not mention Jessica's Trap at all. That has now been rectified with a 'by the same author' page in the back with a link to the Eternal Press website.

Meanwhile, I have been in communication with the graphic artist who created that wonderful cover for a poster design. So inspired by contact with an artistic mind, I meddled with the cover of 'Fears of the Old and the New' myself. That has now changed too. It's not in the same league but it does look better.

I notice Caligula has salted away a few copies of the old 'blue sky' version of that book too. I'll have to be careful. If he is storing rarities that might become valuable when I die, he will expect to cash them in quite soon.

He's not a patient child, but he can be a particularly violent one.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

That heart-stopping moment.

I have just pressed 'send' on the submission of Samuel's Girl. This one is my precioussss, my most complex and intricate story ever. Each little detail has a place, every tiny action has a consequence. As Demdike says in 'Jessica's Trap', small things matter.

I have never had the nerve to send it anywhere before. By comparison, even the severe biological logic of Victor's Will or the twisted and complex world of Ghosthunters are mere fireside tales. Well, it's off now, and it will be some months before I hear 'maybe' or 'nay' so all I can do is write the next one.

The query letter took a lot of time. It had to. It had to be as good as, if not better than the actual story because no matter how great your novel, no matter if it's the next 'War and Peace' or the next 'Lord of the Rings', if the cover letter is rubbish nobody will ever read the sample chapters.

Should it be accepted and subsequently appear in print and pixels, I will have a competition to see who was paying attention. I will want to know exactly what and who was ultimately responsible for the demon's second kill and hint - it's not the demon. Nobody in the book ever works it out but one line, one little line gives it away to the attentive reader.

That is a long way away. Longer if the publisher decides it's not for them. It is, however, a promise. There will, one day, be such a competition.

As for me, I have a full first draft of Norman's House here, just waiting to be made into something submittable.

Is 'submittable' a word?

Sunday, 1 May 2011


It seems Jessica's Trap has been well received on both the Amazon US and UK sites. Not many reviews so far but then it's been less than a month, and the reviews that have appeared are all positive.

So encouraged, I have prepared Samuel's Girl for submission. It's a good deal longer than Jessica's Trap and set in the modern day rather than in the past.

If it's accepted, I hope the same cover artist produces the artwork. Wonderfully sinister imagery.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The Fellowship of the Egg.

I should have realised this would happen. Click found an egg. Not a chocolate one, a real one.

I can hardly castigate him since I didn't actually specify 'chocolate' when I sent him out with Senga and Caligula. What with all the hysterics, I forgot about that part. Apparently his species lays eggs and he thought I was sending him on a child-stealing mission. It took some time to convince him that we don't work that way here. I had to show him Certain (Ahem) Websites and also explain that we have special child-catchers called 'social workers' who take care of that sort of thing so the rest of us don't have to.

Besides, I already have to keep a constant watch on the murderous tendencies of my own offspring. I really don't have time to watch anyone else's.

Anyway, home he came, dragging this egg. Oh, I recognised it at once. It's nesting season for the Rarely-Glimpsed Slimy Swamp Things and they aren't the friendliest of creatures at the best of times. It is indeed fortunate that they are so rarely glimpsed although the rarity of the sightings might owe more to the fact that few who see them survive.

A Slimy Swamp Thing egg is an extraordinarily dangerous thing to have in the house. There is the possibility of its parents tracking it by its pungent odour and worse, there is the possibility it might hatch.

Fortunately, Caligula has eaten it.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

I am the eggman.

It's egg-hunting time again. I had to explain to Click how this works. I hide eggs and he, Caligula and Senga can go and look for them. They can keep any they find.

The game is fun for me because I get to stay indoors while they wander the swamp looking for eggs I haven't hidden. If I put real eggs out there, they might find them and the game would end. As it is I can look forward to hours of peace and quiet.

They can begin at first light. I will be having a lie-in. The fog that's building up should add to the excitement.

With any luck, none of them will find their way back for a week.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Samurai weeding.

It's spring, and the whipweed is especially lively this year. I can't even step outside without the crack of chlorophyll ringing in my ears and whacking across my face. It wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the barbed stings.

So I have ordered the Samurai Weeding Tool. Layered steel with a razor edge. That should sort out the whipweed. And those people who keep coming around to demand tacks. They come around every year and I always tell them I don't have and don't want any, but they keep coming back.

This time I'd better be sure to get to the post box before little Caligula does. He likes toys.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Book release day.

It's official. Jessica's Trap is now released upon the world. So now, to Senga's relief, I can stop talking about it and start talking about the next ones.

Samuel's Girl is just about ready to send. Well, it's probably been ready to send for over a year but I'm fussy. Norman's House is first-draft-complete and part-rewritten with more tension. Victor's Will is almost first-draft-complete. Demdike's Return is sketched, as is The Apocalypse Show, but that last one cannot go out for a long time. It's the end of something.

Ghosthunters, which is, paradoxically, the only one with nothing paranormal in it, is plodding along. I might use a different name for that one. It's very different to anything else in the pipeline.

Aside from proper publishing, there are the self-published stories and more of those are planned. There is the short story book on Lulu (in the sidebar) which someone suggested might be good on Kindle. First I want to put the published Blackthorn family tales along with some unpublished ones, and perhaps a few more, into a book of their own. I like the Blackthorns. We get along very well indeed. Here's a sample. And another. These won't be in the self-published book because they are in existing anthologies and I see no point in competing with myself. I might not win, and how embarrassing would that be? No matter. The Blackthorns are always busy so there's no shortage of new material.

The Alien Queen Mother once suggested I compile those Alienskin articles on horror-writing into a book. I've never done it. Perhaps I should. There are four years' worth of them, assuming I still have them all, and they might be useful to someone. Then there is the Chronicle of Dume which I have yet to compose. A host of half-finished, nearly-finished and merely outlined short stories that would make another book or maybe two. Oh, and of course, that children's book, Mirror-man, which might still work if I can reduce the death rate to less than three per chapter. Apparently modern children have gone soft and now object to wanton destruction and mayhem. Fortunately my own son, Caligula, is of old stock. That's why I won't be sending him to school. They'll only send him back.

Now that I think of it, I have noticed a sharp decline in the rat population here and Caligula has been very busy making little crucifixes. I must remember to quiz him about this.

Ah, I hear the little half-man, half-waste-disposal-unit howling. I'd better see what he wants.

I expect Underbed Monster has escaped again. If only Caligula wouldn't torment him so much he might stay where he's supposed to be.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Circular linking.

If you click on the image of Jessica's trap at the side, it will send you here. Take care with that, because if you click too often and too fast, your computer will enter an eternal loop and suck all the matter out of spacetime. Which will be a tad inconvenient for someone trying to sell a book, so please, don't do it.

The reason that link sends you here is because I can't work out how to put multiple links into the image. Oh, I can link you to the American Amazon or to the UK one or to other ones, to Barnes and Noble, to the publisher's site for the PDF version or to the Kindle version.

Or I can just say 'Look for Jessica's Trap by H.K. Hillman on those sites' and it's easier for all of us.

Well, it's certainly easier for me.

Just... whatever you do, don't keep clicking that link. You might break the universe and if you do that, everyone will point at you and be very cross. There's one consolation.

They won't be cross with you for very long at all.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Red Stan's Literary Ambition.

Red Stan is none too happy. He popped out of the fireplace this evening even redder than usual and believe me, that takes some doing. I pulled the safety pin out of my chairside fire extinguisher, just in case.

"You left me out of the book!" He waved the charred remnants of a paperback at me.

"Uh... what?" I let my hand stay on the fire extinguisher.

"You wrote about most of the others. You had Baal in there and Asmodeus and that dope Orobas and even the hideous little freak Bifrons. All I get is a quick mention. Not even a cameo role. I am insulted." He folded his arms fast enough to make the remaining bits of the paperback explode into ash.

"Uh... what? Which book are we talking about here?"

"This one." He thrust his hand at me, sending a few flakes of ash my way. "I... oh. I appear to have incinerated it." Red Stan snorted. "Well, it deserved to be burned anyway. I might order a few more, just to burn them."

"Can we back up a little?" The only book that includes the demons he mentioned is Jessica's Trap and that's not out yet. "How did you get hold of a copy?"

"I bought it on Amazon, of course. They are the only ones who'll deliver to my address."

I shook my head. "You have an Amazon account? Wait - never mind that. Jessica's Trap doesn't come out until April 7th, and then only on Kindle at first. The paperback won't be available until a couple of weeks later."

"It's out now. And I'm not in it." Red Stan assumed his most petulant pose.

I turned to my computer and called up No sign of the book. Kindle store - nothing. Did Red Stan have access to some kind of demonic Amazon? Amazon.hell, maybe?

It turned out to be even more bizarre. have the book for sale, so apparently those on the other side of Hell, in America, can already buy it.

"Well?" Red Stan demanded my attention.

"Well what?"

"Why am I not in this book? It's about demons so I should be in there."

I scratched my head. "There are a lot of demons and it's not that big a book. I couldn't fit everyone in."

"That's not the point!" he roared. "I'm in charge. Any demon stuff, I should be right in the middle of it all."

"Oh, no," I said. "I couldn't possibly include anyone I know in my books. That would just be rude. Tell you what, I'll write something with you in it, just for you. How's that?"

His anger subsided. "Well, it would be nice." He inspected his hoof. "I mean, it's not asking much, is it? Every other horror writer has me in their stories."

"Is that why you don't keep popping out of their fireplaces?" I doubted the reason would be so simple but I entertained a little hope. "Do you only visit those who don't write about you?"

"Ah, no, that's not it. Your fireplace just happens to be one of Hell's portals. Your ancestor, Dume the Deranged, built the early part of the castle to include this portal." Red Stan laughed. "And to think, they said he was insane."

Actually, they said he was deranged, and my researches lead me to suspect it was true. I let the matter pass. It seemed I'd just have to put up with Red Stan's spontaneous and combustible visits. Ah well, best keep the fire extinguishers handy.

"Okay," I said. "I'll write you a story."

"Good." Red Stan moved back to the fireplace. "Oh, and just for a change, could you write one where I win? No thwarting or 'get thee hence' or any of that nonsense? I mean, I win in real life all the time. It would be good to have a bit of accurate reporting for once."

"No problem. I'll make sure you win and I'll make it devious and cruel."

"Lovely. I look forward to it." He ducked into the fireplace, cursed as his horns struck the mantelpiece, and vanished.

I slid the safety pin back into the fire extinguisher. Well, it's good to know that Jessica's Trap is available to the world, or at least to a large part of it. Now all I have to do is invent a tale for Red Stan. Most people get away with giving him their souls. I think they get off lightly.

My fingers paused above the keyboard. Death isn't in that book either. I closed my eyes. This whole scene is going to happen all over again, I just know it.

Perhaps Death doesn't have an Amazon account. I can but hope.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Book One Done.

Well, the final proofs of Jessica's Trap are checked and that's it. No more changes. I have elected not to show you my face for this first book because I want you to buy the second, third etc. No point in scaring all the readers away.

With excellent timing, another issue of The Horror Zine has just appeared. Good thing it didn't appear last week or I'd have been late with these proofs.

Time for a short period of relaxation before the next submission starts the entire process all over again. I suppose I'd better let Senga, Caligula and Click out of their cages too.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Aniseed Hump.

I have work to do. Jessica's Trap is now on its absolute, final, very last chance page proofs. From here it goes to print so any errors left in it after this pass will be in the final version forever. I have one week - well, six days now - to check every comma and every quote mark.

So, naturally, I have been procrastinating. I came across a site that generates anagrams and a great deal of fun it is too. What's unnerving is the way it throws up anagrams that relate to your name.

When I type in the letters of my name - PhineasDume - it comes up with 13,354 anagrams. Most are nonsense but I was particularly struck by 'Pinhead Muse'. Considering that I found it when I was supposed to be working on this book, it seemed most appropriate.

For Senga it came up with Aged Menus and Mange Used, which leads me to suspect the program was written by someone who has sampled her cooking.

Little Caligula, too, generated some appropriate anagrams. A Lad cum Guile, or Ace Maul Guild among them.

I don't think I'll tell the Professor about this. He won't be happy, because the first on his list is hardly complimentary.

Even if, at times, it seems accurate.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011


There is a new Zoomquilt which is, if anything, even more macabre than the original.

I think I saw Senga zoom by at one point!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Doctor at the Doctor's.

I have been ill. Not at Death's door, although he has been hanging around a lot lately just in case, but ill enough to force me to visit the local doctor.

There is a new one, apparently, who took over the practice some twelve years ago. The old Doctor, Will Seeyounow, retired and there is a young and highly excitable man in his place. This one goes by the somewhat intrusive name of Doctor Speculum and he's far too modern for my tastes.

Within hours he had me wired up to some gadget with more cables than I use in my attempts to reanimate corpses. Much lower voltage, fortunately. He took blood samples, which I very much doubt I'll get back, and seemed oddly disturbed at the luminosity. I told him there was nothing to worry about, that particular unusual trait dates to my father's attempts to make me glow in the dark. It wasn't successful but he could still find me with a Geiger counter.

Doctor Speculum used an ultrasound scanner then took an X-ray and finally announced with some consternation that one heart was bigger than the other. Again, this is no cause for alarm. Almost all Dumes are left or right-hearted. Very few have been ambiventricular. Really, it seemed to me that all these tests were getting nowhere. I suppose I can't blame him for his enthusiasm. His records have a large gap in them, under 'Dume'.

I left with the promise of return when he had the results of the blood tests. Next time, perhaps he'll actually look at the swollen leg I went in with.

Dr. Seeyounow would have.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

I hope success is contagious.

I might not be Number One but I know people who are. The artist who designed the cover for Jessica's Trap, Dawné Dominique, is Number One.

The Horror Zine, which has published two of my stories so far, is also Number One for both fiction and poetry. I'm sure it will remain Number One for poetry as long as none of mine ever appears. Mine is consistently rejected by Vogon Poet's Monthly. I'll leave its desperate horror to your imagination.

Critique Circle, where I have been a member for a long time but have now gone over to the dark side and joined the moderators, came fourth of all the writer's resources which is pretty good.

Even more encouraging, another Eternal Press author, Marva Dasef, is in the top 10 novels in the lists. So I am with a publisher whose books make it into top 10's.

None of this has anything to do with me, of course. In none of those cases can I claim any responsibility nor any credit for their placings. I didn't do it. They did.

I'm not a Number One nor am I a Top 10, but if I hang around with people who are, maybe some of it will rub off on me.

It would make a nice change from hanging around the pub with the villagers. What rubs off on me there is best not mentioned.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Crouching writer, hidden author.

I have considered becoming a reclusive author but decided against it. There are successful reclusive authors - Iain Banks comes to mind - but it's a difficult route.

You can't sell books if nobody ever hears of you. Being a recluse is all very fine and pleasant and saves all that socialising nonsense. It means you can be unshaven for days and go around looking like something the cat would, given the chance, drag back out. You can mutter to yourself and giggle for no obvious reason. You can write from dusk 'til dawn but if nobody knows who you are, they aren't going to buy your books.

The reclusive author idea must therefore be shelved until there are a few books in circulation. Then I can hide away and snarl at the approach of visitors.

Until then, I have to at least give the appearance of being a sociable creature. I hereby promise not to attempt to eat anyone who approaches me at a book signing, not even nibble at their fingers. Which reminds me, I must arrange posters for the purpose. The print version of Jessica's Trap should be available in late April, so it's time to start on the posters.

If I can get half as far as the accolades just handed out to The Horror Zine, I will be delighted.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The Night of Burns.

Tonight was Burns Night, a sombre and serious festivity in Scotland. Oddly enough, it doesn't involve burning anything at all, which I pointed out several times to Senga before she cooked our evening meal. I just wanted to be sure she understood.

The night is a profitable one for Angus McFlatulent, the local haggis-hunter. He makes almost all his annual income in the days leading up to this night, which is just as well since haggis-hunting season lasts from January 1st to January 25th, after which only carnivorous haggis can be shot and then only if they get into the hen house or eat a child.

The haggis is an essential part of the meal, as is the mashed Swede (we didn't have any Swedes but I still had a Norwegian in the freezer. Close enough) and pulverised potato. Here, you can have whatever you want for Christmas dinner and nobody minds, but to not have haggis on Burns Night can get you, well, burned.

It's a strange creature, the haggis. Immediately upon death, all its hair and limbs drop off and its insides turn into a homogenous mush. This makes it very easy to prepare because you don't have to shave off that tartan fur and rid it of parasitic bagpipe-mites. Those drop off with the hair and that's a good thing. A kitchen infestation of bagpipe-mites is messy and noisy.

Angus sold us a particularly excellent specimen, enough to satisfy even Caligula's appetite.

Another aspect of the meal is the whisky. That, too, is essential because nobody can read Burns' poetry sober.

I think it's because he didn't write it sober.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Click's language development.

Click brought in a tray of tea, set it on the table in front of me and said "Howdy, pardner." Then he performed a bizarre bow-legged walk and sat opposite.

I sat in silence for a while, trying to comprehend what I had just witnessed. Finally I said "What?"

"Howdy," Click nodded at the glass in my hand. "Is that two fingers o' redeye in that there glass? Why, had I known, I'd'a just brought tea for your good lady wife an' me and left you to your whisky."

Senga giggled. Click said "Yee-ha!". I closed my eyes and took long, slow breaths. When I could stand no more giggles and Yee-ha's I opened my eyes and held up my hand for silence.

I wanted to enquire as to the backround behind this bizarre change in Click and to determine how best to tackle it, but all that came out was a strangled "What?"

"Isn't he great?" Senga hugged herself. I'm always glad to see her do that, it saves me the trouble. "I've been teaching him to speak. He picks it up really fast."

"Teaching him. How?"

"With them thar flickering' pictures from the magic lantern." Click looked pleased with himself. I looked disgusted with him until he shut up.

Senga spoke up. "I gave him some DVDs to watch. He's been right through the Westerns."

"No, really? I would never have guessed." I glowered at them both in turn. "Fix it. Get some more up to date films and get rid of that ridiculous accent. I'm off to the dungeons for a sulk." I took my glass and stomped down to spend some time with Father.

Some time later, Click joined us. He must have run because he was breathing heavily but at least he had abandoned the bow-legged walk. I waited for him to get his breath back, but his heavy breathing continued. Finally he spoke, between breaths.

"Dume," he wheezed. "Come over to the dark side of the Force." Then he waved a flashlight at me.

I marched him back upstairs, stapled him to a chair and put on some more suitable films. The entire collection of Sherlock Holmes should clear out this nonsense once and for all.

I hope.

Monday, 3 January 2011

A bad day.

There was quite a commotion in the dungeons this evening. It turned out that when Senga took the coins to buy her Christmas baubles, she failed to enter it in the dusty tomes kept for the purpose. Father's weekly audit of the gold he still considers his, showed a discrepancy.

He was livid. So livid he could barely manifest. He's been transparent often but this time he went all blurry at the edges too. By the time I released all the locks, disconnected the sprung spears and hauled open the last of the doors, he looked as if he was made of jelly rather than ectoplasm.

"We've been robbed!" He flitted from the coins to the books and back again. "Robbed, I tell you!"

"I hardly think that's likely." I picked my way over the trip wires and around the part of the floor that's just painted paper hiding an oubliette, and took a look at the books.

"What's the problem?" There was no way I was going to count all those coins myself. I never have. Father checks them weekly anyway so I never bother. Besides, I already had an inkling of what the problem might be. It was just a matter of finding the right way to tell him.

"Fifteen coins! Fifteen! Fifteen!" He held up his hands, fingers splayed, and manifested an extra one for the occasion. "Fifteen of my gold coins, including two of the really shiny ones. Someone has stolen them."

"Fifteen?" I checked the book. The three I had given to Senga were accounted for. Above it, where there should have been an entry by Senga to show how much she had taken, was only my previous withdrawal, just over a year ago. Dizziness overcame me. Surely she had not spent fifteen gold coins on all that rubbish?

Father paced the floor. He's lucky, he can walk right over the paper part without falling through.

"I'll have to call Beryl," he said. "I can't watch this all the time. I still have to keep out of Death's way when he visits. Beryl can look after the place whenever I have to hide."

"Oh, I don't think we need Beryl's services." I was in such a haste to calm him that I almost stepped into the oubliette myself. You have to keep your concentration in this room.

Beryl is the banshee I mentioned a while ago. When she last visited I tried to get Death to collect her soul but sadly, that's impossible. She has already been collected and now works for what Death refers to as 'the downstairs office'.

"Why not?" Father stopped pacing and glowered at me. "You know something, don't you? Have you forgotten to log in a withdrawal?"

"Not me. You know me better than that. No, it was Senga. She bought a tree." I gritted my teeth. It was bad enough that she had forgotten to log the amount, and that she had taken two of the shiniest coins. He didn't need to know what she had spent it on.

Father's face turned inside out six times before he brought it under control. When he spoke, it was with a voice so filled with menace it could have cleared the area of Ferals forever.

"She bought a tree? Doesn't she look outside? The place is surrounded by trees and has been since your great-great-grandfather annoyed the local dryads. There is no tree shortage here and won't be until one of us finds out what he did with the dryad's amulet and gives it back. Tell me she didn't spend fifteen gold coins on another damn tree?"

"I think she wanted one that doesn't bite." I braced myself for a difficult conversation. "It's in the living room. It's not that bad, she also bought shiny things to--"

"Shiny thngs?" Father resumed pacing. "She has been in the McStench's shop, hasn't she? There is absolutely nothing in that shop worth buying."

"I suspect she has, yes. I don't know how much she spent, there might be some left. Leave it with me. I'll tell her not to take anything without recording it in future."

"You tell her if she comes near my gold again I'll squirt ectoplasm right up her nose."

Technically, it became my gold when the old duffer died but this wasn't the time to bring up that argument again. Besides, if he left, I'd have to count it myself. It seemed best to leave him to cool off for a while.

"Okay," I said, "don't get yourself all worked up. Think of your heart." It's in a jar of formalin, sealed behind the wall of the kitchen. Thinking about it relaxes him.

"Well..." He sulked hard enough to make his jowls meet at the bottom. "You get that wife of yours under control. I don't want my books messed up."

"I'll deal with it. Don't you worry." I picked my way back to the door, over the trip wires. "I'll find out what she's done with the rest of the coins and explain the rules to her. You try to relax." I narrowed my eyes and pointed my finger at him. "And forget about Beryl. I had tinnitis for weeks after the last time. If you bring her here again I swear I'll tell Death where you hide."

"You wouldn't dare."

"Don't risk it." I closed and locked the door, reset the sprung spears and made my way back through the traps and doors until I arrived in the main house.

Senga was in the living room, wearing a new dress. I drew a deep breath. This was a not the time to talk money.

"What do you think?" She twirled, then had to sit down for a minute.

It was exactly the same as the old dress but without the stains and the stench of old offal. Still, in time, it would settle in. This one was a little baggier so it disguised some of the more unsightly lumps.

"I like it." I headed for the drinks cabinet. Usually the whisky in there is only for the Professor's visits but today I decided to have a glass or two myself. If I had any cigars I'd have taken up smoking too.

As if on cue, Caligula started howling.

It couldn't get any worse.

But it did.

I'll tell you of that later. For the moment, I'm going to try the Professor's favourite malts. The ones I can't pronounce sober. Names like Caol Ila, Bunnahabhain, Bruaichladdich, sound like they come from the pages of fantasy books and as I understand it, if you drink enough of them they transport you into those books.

It's worth a try.