Friday, 27 April 2012

Fifty Second Friday Flash: The Mermaid and the Oil Baron

*** this is a follow up from Gorilla Pequeno,Santos Returns,Mermaid Tale Santos Vs. The Mermaid and Santos, The Mermaid, and the Marine Biologist

** On a side note it's my editor and friend Robyn Addinall's birthday today. So a big happy birthday to her and if you have the time please check out her blog Curious Robyn for reviews and other observations.** ( Robyn didn't edit this piece, so any mistakes you find are my own ;)

It took several days to reach the island by boat, funded by the documentary crew that filmed their every move. Santos had secured the deal under the condition that he would host the show. For the first few days the crew filmed the mermaid, trying to catch its amazing transformation, so far nothing. People reported seeing the person they loved the most, but to the camera and everyone else the mermaid looked the same. It eventually got to the point where Margie, marine biologist, had to ban the crew from getting too close to the mermaid.

Santos stood on the pier with the camera crew filming.

“We have finally arrived. Once everything is setup we will be releasing the mermaid into her new home. And what a lovely home it is,” said Santos twirling around. The sky was a rich blue, seagulls squawked in the distance.

“Good!” said the director.

“Thankfully the audience at home can’t smell,” said Santos holding his nose. His short stature wasn’t helping.

After the half an hour drive they reached the oil baron’s holiday resort. A 5 star hotel reserved for the rich and famous. A hotel he nor any of the crew would be staying in. There was said to be a three year waiting list.  They would be staying in Margie’s new home, a villa down the road supplied by the oil baron so Margie could be close in case of emergencies.

The tank was massive, a large circular glass tube that was five stories high. There was a hole connecting each floor. Each floor was themed and packed with things the mermaid could play with. Santos was uncertain if the mermaid would make use any of them, but at least it looked as if she would be well looked after. Over the last year or so he had gotten quite attached to the creature. She had even mellowed out under Margie’s good care.

They were right at the top ready to release the mermaid into the tank. The film crew were there, some celebrities were there, even Tom Arbuckle the oil baron himself was there. His million dollar smile dazzling.

“The time has come. A creature we thought was only confined to folklore. A creature that tells us that there is more to this world than we know. A creature we hope will be happy in her new home. Release her!” said Santos with a flamboyant wave of his arms.

The mermaid was released. Her red eyes darted side to side and then she swam around, exploring the level they were on, but then she stopped, and looked at them. Santos could feel some of the crowd were feeling uneasy, especially the sound man who didn’t seem to want to look at the creature. A moment later the mermaid vomited. The crowd gasped and a lot of whispers broke out.

“Did you get that?” asked the director.

The camera man nodded moving in closer.

“Margie!” said Tom, his voice grave. “She better not be sick!”

Margie moved closer and placed her hand on the tank. The mermaid wiping her mouth, placed her hand there too. “On the contrary, I think she’s pregnant...”

Tom rubbed his hands together. “Well, isn't that a turn of events!”

Santos wondered how this was even possible, but he was sure he was going to stick around to find out.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Fifty First Friday Flash: Gargoyle


It was getting colder. Hugh hugged his tattered clothes closer. He would have to go across town to the charity to get some new ones soon. The new clothes normally made him itch, but at least he would be a bit warmer.

Maybe he would be able to catch Jerry before he closed he would give him some of the left over food from the day. He decided to take a shortcut down a side street. It was a part of town that was getting refurbished. Old Victorian buildings restored to their former glory. There was resistance from the local gangs, graffiti and whatnot, but most of the places had private security now. Chasing the riffraff away if their patrols spotted them.

Looking up he swore he saw a pair of eyes glinting from atop one of the roofs. Most probably a stray cat.

He had even been chased away a couple of times. He went peacefully. He didn't want to cause trouble. But that night trouble found him. It was Margret the local pimp. A woman with huge arms.

“Hugh! You get your filthy ass away from here!”

“Just passing...”

“I only have a short window of opportunity here and I don't want you ruining it,” she said coming over and grabbing him by his shirt front.

“Get off! At least I don't sell mine like you do.”

She screeched, pushing him over. “You know nothing!”

“That was uncalled for,” he said trying to pull himself up.

“Girls, there's extra for you if teach this bum a lesson.”

On his knees, Hugh, slumped when he saw them coming, he could see the pain and sense of lose deep in their eyes, besides there was no way he was going to fight girls. Covering his face he let them rain down blows on him, hoping they would tire out. A viscous blow hit him in the ribs. He wouldn't be surprised if it was cracked.

All of sudden a shrill sound filled the air. A sound that made him tremble. Just what kind of drugs were these people taking? Covering his ears he opened his eyes and watched as Magret and her girls scattered.

Hugh felt a hand on his shoulder. He expected a security guard or the police, but when he looked all he saw was a pair of large yellow eyes staring at him. He backed away a bit. The eyes tilted side to side looking at him, seeming to be satisfied it pushed something wet and gooey into his hands. It made noises with its mouth.

“You want me to eat it?”

The eyes nodded up and down.

Hugh put the gooey thing up to his face. It seemed to be a fish of some kind. A raw one.

“Thanks,” said Hugh looking to where the eyes were, but they were gone. He heard what sounded like large wings flapping off into the night.

Hugh achingly got to his feet, and hobbled down the street. Maybe if he hurried Jerry would be able to cook the fish for him.  

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Shadow Ops: Control Point Review

As soon as I heard about Myke Cole's book through the Functional Nerds podcast I knew I had to read it. Sounded like something so fresh. Sure there are a lot of familiar elements, but this was a new combination I hadn't heard of or read before and I wasn't disappointed. The book starts off with an intense action scene that sucks you in. Gives you a good feel of Oscar Britton and his world. Being a G-Man himself you can feel Myke is drawing on a lot of his own experiences. It's hard to tell which ones, but it really adds to the authenticity of the feel of the book.

I won the book through Twitter mentioning Myke in the tweet that I had won, and he said that he would send me a signed copy too! Had me smiling from ear to ear. I said I would send a photo of the book in a famous South African spot in return. So on my birthday I went up Table Mountain in Cape Town and did so. (Photo below)

Back to the book. After the initial action scene Oscar discovers that he has just manifested some magic abilities of his own. Prohibited magic like he had just helped to control. Not wanting to meet the same fate he runs for it. Runs away from everything he knows and cares about.

I can't reveal much more about the plot without spoiling it, but I will touch on some other elements of the book. I thought the magic system was well handled. Most of it seeming to have a base in real world mythology. And it's suitably hard for the characters to learn. They can't just suddenly do what they want with it. They have to control it, channel it. Not let it consume them.

I also enjoyed the characters. They were diverse and I don't think too far from how real people would act in such situations. Not an easy thing to pull off. Although I do say I have never met such a conflicted character before. His stance on his situation and new found ability changing constantly, but I don't think it is a bad thing. Not at all. Because myself my thoughts on something might change by the second. Adapting as new information comes in. Letting my experiences and feelings guide me.

Overall I think this is a very strong debut, and I think the second book will be even better because Myke will be applying what he learned from the first book's writing process.

Friday, 13 April 2012

50th Friday Flash: Tin Man TONY

Image source

*Was originally going to use this image I stumbled across, but I saw it was someone else's fictional character and didn't want it to look like fan fiction or step on anyone's toes.*

Fire. The smoke was thick and black, it trailed off into the night. I hugged my teddy bear close as I stood outside with my gran and watched the fire. Poor Mr. Finnegan. He most probably left his pipe burning.

I wanted to help with the bucket chain, but my gran held onto my hand tightly. I would catch a cold and we shouldn't be gawking, but I could see the fire reflected in her eyes. She enjoyed the spectacle. And like me I was sure she was excited about the prospect of them arriving.

We weren't disappointed. Moments later a fire wagon pulled up. There must have been about half a dozen Mecha Men hanging off of the sides.

“Look there's Tin Man Tony!” I said jumping up and down.

“Indeed it is.”

Tin Man Tony was just like the other Mecha Man except that he was painted in a bright red, and it said TONY across his boiler plate. We watched in wonder as they set to work putting out the fire. They were fast and fearless.

Tin Man Tony rushed into the blazing building as soon as the fire wagon had come to stand still. Moments later he emerged with a very frightened looking Ruffles. Mr. Finnegan's dog.

“Mr. Finnegan?” asked my gran.

Tin Man Tony shook his head.

“May he rest well,” she said shaking her head. “Poor old bugger.”

The tin man placed Ruffles on the floor. The dog came over and sat by me feet and looked up at me with sad eyes. I picked him up. He was old, heavy and stinky but I had always had a soft spot for him.

“Can we...”

My gran sighed. “Just until someone shows up to collect him... now inside with you!”

“Aw... okay...” I followed my gran inside. “When I grow up I wanna be just like Tony.”

“Well,” said my gran with a smile. “If you eat your Brussels sprouts like I tell you, you just might.”

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Sunday, 8 April 2012

House of Fear Review

Objects in Dreams may be Closer than they Appear by Lisa Tuttle:

A case of sometimes it's best not to let your curiosity get the better of you, it could have been a bit tighter, but an interesting tale none the less.

Pied-A-Terre by Stephen Volk

I think Stephen did a great job of writing from a female perspective, and it might make you even more weary when next you go house hunting.

In the Absence of Murdock by Terry Lamsley

Terry has a very old fashioned feel to his writing and checking out his books on Goodreads he's quite the master of the short story. I think lovers of pulp fiction will enjoy this one.

Florrie by Adam L. G. Nevill

As much I liked the other ones so far, I liked this one the most, the transition the story makes from beginning to end is quite remarkable. It will certainly make you think about who lived in a house previously to you.

Driving the Milkway by Weston Ochse

This was more a haunted RV than a haunted house, but a great tale none the less. Weston really plays on the nostalgia factor of what it was like to grow up, how wild our imaginations were (and sometimes still are). It shows us what lengths people will go to keep a friendship alive, a story I won't forget anytime soon.

The Windmill by Rebecca Levene

This is an honest look inside the head of a prisoner, how they feel they did nothing wrong and it's society that is persecuting them. An error he soon pays for, maybe a little too harshly, but that's for you to decide.

Moretta by Garry Kilworth

When and if I reach retirement I hope I have some excitement in my life like the main character does in this story, but maybe not as life threatening. Although the story wasn't particularly frightening it still had a nice charm to it.

Hortus Conclusus by Chaz Brenchley

It's about a group of friends who go help the mother of a deceased friend clean up a disused garden, and it doesn't take long before strange things start to happen. Things that prove that maybe their friend's spirit hasn't yet departed. While I enjoyed the story, I think it could have been a bit more scarier, but I don't think it was the aim of the story, because it left me feeling uneasy, like you should be doubly sure you treat people with respect while they're alive otherwise it might come back to haunt you.

The Dark Space in the House in the House in the Garden at the Centre of the World by Robert Shearman

Being a Dr Who writer (mentioned in the foreword before the story) I knew this story was going to be a little different and I wasn't disappointed. Cindy and Steve are forbidden from going to the centre of the forest, but predictably they don't listen. Being passive aggressive God is disappointed, but he does little to punish them, only
warning them not to go into the attic. And so the story goes on with its many twists and turns. It's the sort of story Alice would be proud of. The overall tone was compelling and it felt like a breeze to read.

The Muse of Copenhagen by Nina Allan

Nina has a done a great job of writing from the male perspective, normally you can tell quite easily that a writer is a bit out of their depth. Johnny gets a strange call from his uncle stating that he doesn't have long to live and when he inherits his childhood home he should get rid of it as soon as possible. Johnny goes over, but he soon gets caught up on childhood memories and doesn't want to get rid of any of it. Then his trip into the village changes everything and quickly decides to sell, but it's too late, he is not alone.

An Injustice by Christopher Fowler

A group of friends decide to go ghost hunting. Max, Ali and Shape. Max is the serious one and is in love with Ali and she doesn't know it, because she's too busy trying to get into Shape's pants and Shape doesn't care because he's only in it for the moment and will do anything to piss off his upright parents. Finding a possible ghost in the wrong side of town they stalk and soon discover that it's not all as it seems. A great story that ties in modern events quite nicely.

The Room Upstairs - Sarah Pinborough

The story had a laid back feel to it. A man casing out the town waiting for his accomplice to arrive, but soon gets distracted when something upstairs in the B and B he's staying in makes an awful racquet every night. He confront the other guest and landlady, but they know nothing. It soon reaches a stage where he can't take it any more and goes and finds out for himself. He finds something that makes him realize he should maybe change his ways.

Villanova by Paul Meloy

This story opened like many horror movies do all bright and happy but with something sinister lurking underneath. Ken takes his two girls on holiday. Steven a member of staff at the resort is charming, but in a clumsy way. There's something odd about him, but Ken isn't sure exactly what. As with any good horror story it steadily gets darker and has a decent pay off at the end.

Widow's Weeds by Christopher Priest

Christopher Priest is one of those writers I've heard a lot about, but haven't had a chance to read much of. I liked his casual and engaging style, and wouldn't mind reading more of his stuff in the future. Dennis is a lonely magician and finds what seems to be a perfect match through an internet dating site. She turns out to be all that he wanted and more, but as you've most probably guessed there's more to her than meets the eye. The story was maybe a bit too predictable, but somehow that was part of the charm.

The Doll's House by Jonathan Green

Having just finished reading the story it is the freshest in the my mind. The story builds up the tension quite nicely, maybe a little too dragged out, but a bit a shorter and it might have not worked as well. You could really feel the frustration of the main character as she goes through the day to day life of being a stay at home mum. It even made me feel anxious about my own washing and ironing.

Inside/Out by Nicholas Royle

This story had a dream like feel to it, you can almost see the shroud of fog in your mind's eye as you follow the main character as he stalks someone. It's one of those stories where a lot happens, but nothing too solid you can recall later. Although I do remember the gist of it, and it all comes together in a nice ending where everything suddenly makes sense. As you can imagine too late for the MC to do anything about it.

The House by Eric Brown

As stories go this a prime example of how you shouldn't let the past chain you down. Things happen and it may be hard at first, but you have to put it behind you. Focus on the future and the good things in life. The main character realizes it late in life, but better late than never. It's the sort of story you would expect to be made into a late Sunday evening drama you can enjoy with the family. In addition it's unique compared to the other stories, when you realize it's not the house itself that is haunted.

Trick of the Light by Tim Lebbon

This story pretty much continues the theme of the previous one. Live life while you have the chance. Penny a widow (husband missing for 7 years while on holiday and presumed dead) never was the adventurous type and didn't share her late husband's need to see the world and discover new things. She just wanted to stay at home in her own little world where nothing changed. After years of no news she decides to sell up house and buy an old mansion. I'm assuming Peter was quite well off because the place sounds massive. As you would suspect all is not right with the house and strange things start happening. Things that remind her of her husband.

What Happened to Me by Joe R Lansdale

I think this story was a fitting choice to end off the collection. It was suitably creepy and it's one that really fires the imagination. When the main character and his buddies pool their resources together to rent an old house they thought they had found the bargain of their lifetimes. The first flatmate pretty much leaves the first day there and the next soon after leaving the MC to tackle things on his own. Things get worse and worse to the point where he finds a previous tenant of the house, an old woman who used to live their when she was a girl, to help him get to the bottom of it. A woman the house seems to still have a strong bond with. Overall the story flowed nicely and even though the story was fantastic in nature it was told in a way that made it very much possible. A story I think I would make a great movie if was made by someone like Peter Jackson.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Forty Ninth Friday Flash: Ticket Stub

Image Source

This week's story suggestions are from @andrevr (scalpel, ticket stub, running shoes, and the Karoo) You can find Andre's photography and other social media places here

It was a blistering hot day and the fact that she was tied up and had duct tape over her mouth wasn't helping. The crazed maniac was upstairs, she was dreading their return.

The psycho had somehow drugged her drink and taken her way, where, she wasn't sure. Things were still hazy.

Someone was coming down the stairs. Her eyes widened when she saw who it was. It wasn't a man, not a crazed fan like she had suspected, it was Gabriela Fontain the previous star of the show. Someone she had respected.

She knew the older woman had taken it hard, but this was ridiculous.

“Ah, the pretty little angel awakens.”

“Mmm mmm mmm!”

“Look!” she said picking up an album and walking over. Putting it on her lap, her captor paged through it, showing her photos of her previous shows. A used ticket stub plastered with each set of photos. “For seven years I was the star of that show. Hell, I was that show.”

Amy just nodded.

“Then you caught Gerard's eye,” she said putting the album down and whipping back around to look at Amy intensely in the eyes. “You're sleeping with him aren't you?”

She shook her head vigorously, he had tried, but she had pushed off his advances. She was focusing on her career and it was common knowledge that Gerard was a player.

“Lying little pig!”

“You see what he did to me?” she said pointing down at her legs. One was covered in a cast from the knee down. The other had a running shoe on it. “Pushed me over when I confronted him about you sleeping with him. He denied it, the bastard, but I know. Oh I how I know!”

Amy shook her head more vigorously.

“Calm down, it's almost over,” she said picking up a scalpel.


“Don't worry, I'm not going to kill you, the birds and other wildlife out in the Karoo will take care of that, just going to make the outside reflect the inside.”

Tears rolled down Amy's cheeks. Her eyes widened and blinked rapidly as the blade come in closer.