Writing Greenwood Tree – and more


Coffin Hop Giveaways …

Starting on the 29th and ending on the 30th, there will be a Giveaway of ghost novella, Ungentle Sleep – set in 1930, a house party has gathered, in part to celebrate the recent engagement of the daughter of the house. But there is. apparently, an uninvited guest .. inadvertently let out, to wreak mild havoc and insanity on the Maydews and their guests. That nasty incident involving Eleanor, followed by unpleasantness over Penny’s dress, and what is it Aubrey can hear, on the outer edge of his dreams?

Hysteria, missed cocktails, and something nasty in the attic.

Snrrip, snrrip. Snip, snap.

Even the rats run away.


This will be followed by another Giveaway straight after, starting on the 30th and ending on the 1st November: a free copy is to be won of Cass McMain’s Watch, an alternative take on vampirism (great review here on Alibi) –

Before he knew about the bruises, he knew about the cheating. And before he knew about the cheating, he knew about the blood. He’d seen Edgar with blood on his hands before, after all. But there had been more and more of it – and  Edgar had seemed less and less concerned about hiding it…”

Watch is published by Holland House Books, and is about really scary people …

Watch - DIGITAL web

Happy Spooking !

A Night at the Theatre ….

(‘Tis that time of year again …. and I am late. And it is late. And this is a little long. Still, I hope it pleases ….Happy Spooking ! And don’t forget to hop along to all the others taking part in the Coffin Hop (links on the site), the annual Halloween blog hop with over 60 authors & artists participating, each with something to offer, whether giveaways or contests as well as some fun tales of terror … in a few days I’ll be offering my tale Ungentle Sleep and there will also be a chance via giveaway to receive Cass McMain’s unusual take on vampirism in Watch, from Holland House Books (30-31 October, post coming soon…)

Pad, pad, pad, pant, pant, pant, pad, pad, pad, pant, pant. Woof.

‘Good boy, sit. All right, don’t sit, but stop wandering around, there’s a good fellow. Where were we?’ Felix Hartley, proprietor of the Rose Theatre, turned back to the theatre’s director, Daniel Wells. ‘Props, wasn’t it?’

It wasn’t props (Felix had a terrible habit of not paying attention) but it didn’t make much difference. Felix tended to leave everything in Wells’s capable hands, as he worded it. Thereby adding to the general headache of the thing.

‘It’s the footprints,’ repeated Wells, not a little wearily. Added to Felix’s propensity for not listening, he had a seeming inability to grasp the whole question of the reddish footprints appearing unannounced in various parts of the building. They did not make an impact on him, even when pointed out in all their disturbing detail. ‘Oh, ah, yes, those,’ he would say, patting his pockets, followed by ‘Now, about rehearsals for next week …’

Woof, went the overweight Pekinese at his feet, as if in support.

‘A few more have handed in their notice,’ continued Wells, now a little crossly, ‘and I simply do not have the time to be looking for fresh staff at such short notice – there’s the opening night in a week’s time, the scenery still to be sorted, and the lighting.’

‘Dear, dear, no, of course not. What a thing to happen. Cleaners, again ?’

The Pekinese started snuffling at Felix’s trouser hems.

‘Cleaners, call boy and now the prompter. Some of the cast are getting nervy too. Isobel’s threatening to pull out altogether unless something is sorted. What are we to do?’ This was serious. Isobel Courtney was the leading lady and a positive catch for the theatre itself, which had been teetering gently for a while now.

Finally Felix looked quizzical – a sign he might actually be applying himself to the problem in hand. The Pekinese meanwhile started padding around the room again.

‘Well,’ he said, after a long pause which indicated he had been debating with himself on a ticklish issue, ‘you could try … Septimus Brink.’

‘Septimus Brink? Who or what is Septimus Brink?’

‘Old crony of mine.  Knows this place. He’ll also know what to do with, ah, them.’

They were interrupted by muffled pandemonium from below. A red-faced youth in ill-fitting cap and suit appeared breathlessly at the open doorway of Felix’s office. ‘It’s the dresser,’ he gasped,  ‘something nasty in the wardrobe, so she says, threatening to hand in her notice.’ He gazed appealingly at Wells. ‘Will you come?’

‘I’ll be there in a minute – where is she now?’

‘Miss Aikfield’s dressing room, with the smelling salts.’

‘Very well – send for a doctor.’

Felix stared after the departing youth in puzzlement. ‘Isn’t he the understudy for –‘

‘Masefield, yes, he’s now doubling up as call boy until we get a new one. This Septimus Brink –  when can he come?’

Septimus Brink was a large presence; while not overweight, his bearing was of the sort that can fill a room on its own and knock an elephant down at ten paces flat.  He had a tendency to boom at people in a kindly manner until they gave in and let him carry on whole conversations uninterrupted. He was not what you might imagine a ghost-catcher to be, having none of the airs and graces of society mediums nor the mystery of a psychic, yet he proved very efficient at relieving people of unwanted ‘presences’, real or imaginary, with a happy combination of curiosity and common sense.

He swept into the theatre later that day with ample coat tails and a sleek top hat, and on sighting Felix boomed out: ‘It’s you again, is it?’ in avuncular fashion. Felix actually shuffled his feet and looked a trifle sheepish. His Pekinese let out a yelp of welcome and began wagging its tail.

‘Well, what is it this time?’

Felix turned to Wells, who took over with a resigned air: ‘I’d better just show you – and you could try talking to the dresser, the prompter; they haven’t left – yet.’

Wells escorted Brink along the corridor, towards the dressing rooms, whence an increasing volubility could be discerned; notably, the dresser and various members of the cast.

‘’Orrible it were,’ came the nasal tones of the dresser, ‘only saw it for an instance, but my life, never again – you won’t get me inside that room, I tell you – ‘orrible!’

‘There, there, dear, have some more brandy – oh, you have already,’ comforted one of the actors. The dresser, wobbly and sliding fast into mild incoherence, tottered over to a small easy chair and sank into it.

‘Show us the wardrobe, then,’ said Brink, to nobody in particular. Felix escorted him to the end of the corridor; on the left was a recess, with a cracked and peeling door on which was scratched in chalk  the single word ‘WARD’.

‘Ran out of chalk?’ asked Brink.

‘Something like that,’ murmured, Felix, now distinctly ill at ease. ‘We just never got around to adjusting it.  Whole place needs doing up, really …’ His Pekinese started to whimper.

Brink opened the door and fumbled about for the switch.

‘Allow me,’ offered Felix.  ‘Yap,’ went the Pekinese, cringing.

For barely a second as the light switched on, a figure was visible, smack in the middle of the room. Even Brink was visibly shaken. The light flickered and the figure moved towards them – then was gone.  The Pekinese yapped and yelped and had to be picked up.

‘Yes,’ commented Brink, ‘yes, I see. Quite upsetting, I imagine.’

‘Anything you can do?’ asked Felix.

‘Show me where these footprints are.’

‘Wells can do that – where is he…’

‘They turn up in different areas,’ explained Wells, once they had tracked him down to the stage where he had taken refuge behind a leftover precipice from the Tempest or something,  ‘– sometimes outside a dressing room, sometimes in the wings, once they followed one of the cast out of the theatre – at least, it looked like that.’

‘And then vanish?’

‘Yes, yes. Quite annoying, really.’

Brink walked over to face Wells, studying him carefully. ‘Follow people about, do they?’

‘Well, I don’t know about people generally – ‘

‘Which actor was this?’

‘Portland, Dicky Portland; he called in sick today – hope he’s not another one skedaddling off …’ Wells rubbed his head wearily, Felix jingled change in his pocket, whistling silently and the Pekinese, at his heels, woofed in muted sympathy.

Brink studied Wells a little more, then clapped him on the back.

‘Show me, as far as you can remember, the areas where the footprints have been seen. Starting with the first time they were seen.’

‘Oh dear, as far as I can remember … well … as to when, that’s easy enough – two days into rehearsals. At least, that’s when I saw them, just as I was coming up to the stage from the wings.’

‘Anyone on stage already?’

‘Oh yes, most of the cast, in fact. ‘

‘What did you see, exactly?’

‘Just that – footsteps, red ones – going around the stage as if someone were looking for something – or someone. I called for it to be cleaned – but by the time the boy came with mop and bucket, they had faded. Most perplexing. However, they didn’t reappear for a few days and we got on with things.’

‘Where next?’

Wells led them through the wings offstage and back to the dressing rooms. ‘Several times here, stopping outside different doors. Which ones? That I actually can’t remember, sorry, – but gave several people a fright. ’

‘How long would you say it took for them to fade?’

‘They seem to last a little longer each time – most recently, a day.’

‘Most satisfactory,’ said Brink comfortably. Wells stared at him. ‘Well, I’m glad to hear someone thinks so,’ he exclaimed, somewhat bitterly. ‘The question remains, what are you able to do about it?’

‘It might not rest with me, however,’ replied Brink, still completely at ease. ‘I would say however, that things are reaching a climax.’

‘I should say they are,’ complained Wells. ‘I have a cast in shreds, and notices being handed in left right and centre.’

‘It will require a late night at the theatre – let me see …’ Brink rummaged around in his pockets and drew out a small almanac. ‘Yes, I would say, in two night’s time.  Full cast present. No excuses. I meanwhile shall attend to a little research.  You can perhaps show me a list of all performances given here in the last, ooh, shall we say, twenty to forty years?’ Wells was quite nonplussed at this; Felix stepped forward. ‘I have records in my office. Follow me.’

Two nights and many, many complaints later, the full cast was assembled on stage: pale, wary and nervous. Wells, Felix (followed by Pekinese) and Brink joined them, bearing respectively an object strongly reminiscent of a gramophone player, a round folding table and a tripod and camera.

The table was set up, the object strongly reminiscent of a gramophone player placed upon it, and Brink proceeded to set up the tripod and camera. The cast, with expressions varying from mild incredulity to outrage, gazed on speechless. Which, as Wells said afterwards, was something of a miracle in itself and passing all matters supernatural.

Brink took centre stage and began.

‘How does the ditty go – I have a little list, I have a little list,’ he chanted, pulling out a folded paper from his pocket. He proceeded to unfold it, as he went on: ‘After a little hunting about in the history of this place, and a little puzzle-solving, I rather think I have found a solution. By midnight or a little after, this theatre should be freed of its uninvited occupants and the show can, as they say, go on … The fact that there is to be a full moon should assist in the energizing of the elements involved.’ He ignored the derisive snort or two from his audience and continued, while consulting his notes: ‘From the records kept here at the theatre, I have discovered the following facts: one, that a performance of Macbeth was held in this very theatre in 1900 – no more than ten years ago.’

A slight stiffening of the cast here. Several members resolutely avoided looking at each other.

‘Said performance ran for one week only, owing to a fatal accident, depriving one of the actors of their life.’

Various intakes of breath; a collective, muted hissing. The Pekinese sniffed. Brink paused, looking around. ‘Indeed. I see some of you recall the episode well. But to proceed: the name of the hapless thespian was one Edward Vaughan.’

‘Really!’ expostulated Isobel, wrapped up in a mink stole and very irate, ‘is this necessary? Leave the poor man’s memory alone!’

‘I would, if he would – but his memory, it appears, lives on regardless. On the night of the performance, he was acting the part of Banquo – and, on cue, was indeed found dead; rather messily with a genuine claymore rather than the prop one. It appears he did not die immediately, but attempted to make his way backstage towards the dressing rooms before collapsing and expiring. Foul play was naturally not ruled out – but his assailant was never found.’

The Pekinese, still at its master’s feet, crouched down and whined a little.

‘’Those of you with longer acquaintance with this theatre might be able to recall the names of the cast of that final performance.’ He paused for dramatic effect. Nobody replied. ‘No? Then allow me to refresh your memories. Lady Macbeth, Miss Isobel Courtney, Macbeth, Roland Masefield, Macduff …’ Brink paused again.  Was there a sharp movement from within the group huddled together on the stage? ‘Macduff,’ repeated Brink – ‘Richard Por-’ he was interrupted at this point however by Mr Portland who, cursing and swearing, knocked over Brink and dashed from the stage. The Pekinese set up a wild barking and bounded about in paroxysms of hysteria.

‘Stop him!’ called out Wells but there was no need. The lights flickered and went out. There was a flash, followed by the sound of feet as Portland stumbled his way down the wings, then, unmistakably, the sound of other feet behind him – cut short soon after by a hideous scream.

The lights flickered back on. A general gasp broke out as everyone observed the trail of wet, red, half footprints now visible on the boards of the stage, leading off into the wings in the direction Portland had taken.

‘Banquo’s ghost has found his murderer,’ murmured Brink, who proceeded to examine the camera.

There was a cautious dash down the corridor to where Portland’s body could now be seen, lying mute and frozen on the floor. Felix’s Pekinese slunk at his heels giving out small whimpers.

Felix patted at his pockets. ‘Should we not call for assistance?’

‘Most definitely.’

The doctor was called first – who pronounced a case of heart failure. No external wounds, no visible signs of attack. The footprints, as previously, had by now disappeared once again. The doctor was perfectly happy to write out a straightforward certificate, and there really seemed little point in trying to explain otherwise.

The camera plate, once developed, proved most illuminating. The moment at which Brink, with characteristic presence of mind, had taken it showed Portland in the act of running from the stage – and behind him, a figure dressed in the costume of an ancient Scottish warrior bearing a very efficient looking weapon, in hot pursuit. The relatively distinct, if horribly bloodied, features of this individual were considered, after due consultation of a few old photographs, to be unquestionably those of former dramatic actor Edward Vaughan, deceased. The dresser, on seeing it, went back into hysterics and more than half a bottle of brandy was consumed in less than half an hour. Brink and Felix both confirmed this was the figure they too had seen. The Pekinese fully recovered its former equanimity and padded about the place as if nothing remotely untoward had happened at all.

As for the object strongly reminiscent of a gramophone player – well, it was, in a sense. Rather, it was a recording device, of peculiar sensitivity. Its discs, once played on a less unorthodox machine, proved to contain not only the voice of Brink expounding on the death of Vaughan, but also that of another, fainter yet still clear, repeating at intervals : ‘Murderer – I’ll have you yet.’ It was even possible to hear in the background soft thumps, which might or might not have been footsteps.

These, along with the plate containing the spectral image of Vaughan, returned with Septimus Brink to his home, to be added to his collection of phantom memorabilia: invaluable material for his ‘Theory of Manifestation’, he said, which he would one day write up.

The red footprints, as far as anyone knows, have never since been seen at the theatre.

Return of the Green Man …

This stone carving of a Green Man from Dore Ab...

From Dore Abbey, Herefordshire, England(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Is there a cathedral where you live? If so, chances are it will be an old one … just how old, would you say? And when you crane your head up to look at the ceiling, its arches lost in shadows, what else do you see? You might need binoculars, though – but the older the cathedral, the more likely you are to find, nestling atop of corbels and capitals, a singular face with leaves and branches climbing out of its mouth; sometimes fierce, sometimes cheerful, mostly a trifle wild … this sculpted entity has been with us far longer than the cathedrals, and long before the Normans who built them, with a name that has only regained resonance in quite recent times: The Green Man.

Theories abound concerning his origins, both etymological and geographical; he turns up in a variety of guises, from Rome(Bacchus and Dionysius) to Mesopotamia and Egypt, (green-faced Osiris); he is Jack in the Green, Cernunnos, Pan, Silvanus, he can be found in Sumerian, Hindu, Aztec cultures – he exists  everywhere, a source of life and natural force . Occasionally neglected, his image however has survived in nooks and crannies, a constant reminder of man’s reliance on his natural environment and of man’s constant struggle with the elements. Another of his many names is Robin – but is he Robin Goodfellow, the mischievous imp – or Robin Hood, woodlander and defender of the poor? Apparently both and more: a guardian, a powerful god, an impish spirit, a playful invoker of spring and sprouting seedlings; at once venerated and feared:  for crops can fail too if you cause him displeasure … the corn dollies and harvest festivals are vestiges of something more than a ritual – they entreat the return of sun after winter, of growth after hibernation, they are offerings of supplication and penitence brought by children to their volatile father.

How has he fared with time, this father, this god of fertility and vitality? I mentioned he has gone through periods of comparative neglect, as when the Industrial Revolution stampeded across the countryside, bringing steam, iron roads and coal, blinding the people with its smoke, weakening his memory and perhaps also his strength and yet, something has struggled through, some collective memory perhaps, clinging onto the notion of one protective entity that will defend the very source of our food and means of survival. It is this protective aspect and this comparative neglect that I have focussed on in my mystery novel, Greenwood Tree. Here, the presence of the Green Man is hovering on the outer edges of dreams, occasionally manifesting himself (in more than one form) to warn and defend, his strength weakened by the frail memory of humanity. In addition he acts as the main linking figure in a multi-genre mystery, where detection meets mythology, in that foreign country called the past. In my mystery he has retreated, and his home is under threat, perhaps an indirect comment on his rather tenuous place in the cultural and social upheaval of the 1920s. I also tend to think of him as one of many Green Men, for to my mind there is something in the Ancient Greek idea that every tree contained its Dryad, every river and stream its Naiad : together unstoppable – but individually, vulnerable. In a similar way, the countryside from the time of the railway has been under constant, if gradual, threat, mirrored by England’s own very uncertain, susceptible condition in the aftermath of World War One. When Nature is attacked however, she has a way of fighting back, sometimes in unexpected ways.

The Green Man, in my treatment of him, thus becomes a metaphor for this vulnerable, while green and pleasant land. Disturb him at your peril.




 (First posted as the Green Man Cometh on Dean’s Den)

Coffin Hop Divertissement 3

As part of the 2013 Coffin Hop


This anthology is available for purchase here; all proceeds go to the charity LitWorld.org to help encourage children’s literacy throughout the world and is a first collection of stories from the annual Coffin Hop online horror extravaganza.

All the links to the Coffin Hop participants can be found here – do pop along to see what they’re up to!

2) Flash Fiction Competition run by Lost World Press:

 For those keen to flex those scribbling muscles, why not try out  the Flash Fiction competition on Lost World Press (with Amazon voucher for prizes!) : Flash Fiction Halloween 750 max, all things Halloween in Speculative manner (full details on the site) Happy Spooking ! Don’t forget to hop along to all the others taking part in the Coffin Hop (links on the site)

As we wind down towards the witching hour, (and the end of the Giveaway!) here is another bit of nonsense in celebration of the Coffin Hop


Artwork by Red Tash

The Door

A quiet tap at the door.

He had been waiting for close on half an hour, and at last it came.

Just ‘tap-tap’.

The first time he looked, he had caught sight of a movement at the end of the corridor, just tucking away round the corner.

The time after that, a whisper of air, playing about his shoulders, caused him to jump back inside and slam the door shut. Now it was locked, and remained so.

He should have left well alone.

He had been warned about opening the secret room. Still, he had persisted, deciding it would make the perfect study. The workmen had refused to work there after dark. There had been accidents and delays – nothing too serious, but . . .

Once the work was done, he had congratulated himself on his decision – the view from the window was entrancing, and the comfort within quite seductive.

His enjoyment lasted barely a week.

Now, his evenings alone were never quiet. He sought increasingly any excuse to be out of the house, but one cannot forever be trading on friends and acquaintances, and other pursuits, the theatre and suchlike, were either too far or too costly.

That morning, Cook had handed in her notice. Reason? She was not to be put upon. She was not to stay in a house where there were such goings on.

The other domestics were not live-in. So he was the only one there, come evening. Supposedly, the only one.

The sound came again. Not so much tap-tap this time, more of a soft thud, as of a large dog’s paw, pressed urgently against the door panel, in that way dogs have when they wish to be let out – or in. Unmistakable sound that, of claws. Was it a dog, then? Had he been terrifying himself witless because some stray had somehow managed to get in?  Should he open the door, show it the way out into the garden, give it some food?

Scratch, scratch, thud, thud, tap, tap. Now the door is trembling slightly in its frame.

That is no dog, he is certain. At least, not only a dog.

‘Who’s there?’ he calls out. He considers, as he speaks, that this was a mistake. Were they burglars, trying to find their way in, then he would have been better employed in not giving away his presence, but in escaping by means of the window . . . which refuses to budge. Some enthusiastic over painting, the damp, or age, whatever the reason, it is stuck fast. He is a virtual prisoner.

On the tapping and thudding continues, at times lesser, at other times greater, till it seems the door must surely burst open. On and on at intervals throughout the night . . .

When the housekeeper knocks on the door in the morning, she is answered with a scream and the sound of breaking glass.

They find him unconscious in the garden with the wonderful view, badly cut and bruised. Months of feverish babbling follow as he makes a slow and painful recovery.

The study has been bricked up since then, and a For Sale sign put up in the front.

Coffin Hop Divertissement 2


Giveaway plus a Flash Fiction Writing Competition (with Amazon gift vouchers for prizes!)

1) Giveaway  ! Going live at midnight (click here  to enter or on image below) : one prize of a free e-copy of the following anthology:


This anthology is available for purchase here; all proceeds go to the charity LitWorld.org to help encourage children’s literacy throughout the world and is a first collection of stories from the annual Coffin Hop online horror extravaganza.

All the links to the Coffin Hop participants can be found here – do pop along to see what they’re up to!

2) Flash Fiction Competition run by Lost World Press:

 For those keen to flex those scribbling muscles, why not try out  the Flash Fiction competition on Lost World Press (with Amazon voucher for prizes!) : Flash Fiction Halloween 750 max, all things Halloween in Speculative manner (full details on the site) Happy Spooking ! Don’t forget to hop along to all the others taking part in the Coffin Hop (links on the site)

Here instead: a little bit of nonsense in celebration of the Coffin Hop


Artwork by Red Tash

The Mist


He opened the door a crack and peered out. The snow had not quite melted away, and still streaked the muddy earth. He peered and strained and finally poked his head out. He paused to sniff the air, looked over the ground and finally relaxed. One step forward. The light was grey and uninviting, but clear enough. He might after all be able to take a turn about in the fresh air. A few more paces however, and he stopped, groaned, and rushed back indoors. Before he had moved two feet forward, he found what he had been dreading : the prints in the muddy slush.

He locked the door, and checked through the windows, one after the other. Now he saw clearly what his mind had forbidden him : a clear set of prints, trailing around the house – nothing to show where they came from, nothing to show where they disappeared to. It was the third day now, and each time, a little closer to the house.

He had tried to fight it off at first, walking down almost as far as the village, when the pattering behind him started. Whirling round, expecting – he knew not what – he had found . . . nothing. And again. And again. He pursued when perhaps he should have retreated, but the pattering had increased, grown louder, closer, close enough for him to hear panting – and each time he turned to face an empty horizon, devoid of life.

He returned to the house very quickly, and stayed within, peering out, listening, listening, then as no more was heard, and time drew a veil, he shrugged his shoulders and decided he had imagined it. Overwork, over study . . .he retired early to bed.

Sleep was however denied him. A restlessness in the early hours prompted him to wander about the room, until looking briefly out of the window, he saw, or thought he saw, a trail of white mist curling its way across the land directly in front of the house.

Intrigued, he watched, as it rolled and heaved past, gathering itself up, hurling itself forward – one could almost imagine there were legs and heads forming from those clouds.

Then the howling began. Far off at first, moving increasingly nearer. At the best of times disturbing – but the incident of the afternoon comes back to him tenfold, and he creeps back to bed there to spend a wakeful night until towards dawn, the howling fades away and he is permitted oblivion.

On waking, he has little or no recollection, it is only on realising he needs supplies form the village that he steps out – and sees the trail of prints around the house.

The pattering begins again as he walks down to the village. He will not be deterred this time . . . he will not be . . . he will not .  . .A few minutes later he finds himself back in the entrance hall to the house, trembling, shaking, pressing against the door of this virtual dungeon. Fear holds him fast and will not let him go.

The same again the third day – it is by some fierce combination of necessity, courage and outrage that he makes it as far as the bridge leading to the village.

He does not return that night to the house. The misty wraiths continue their noiseless tread around it, leaving behind yet more paw-prints, this time close up against the walls.

The villagers find him in a state of collapse in the street – muddied, for he has fallen more than once, his clothes torn (by thorns?), there are scratch marks even on his hands and neck – a puzzle, this, as it is clear enough countryside, there are no thickets for him to get caught up in.

He is at first incoherent, and it takes a few brandies to give him speech – on discovering the name of the house he has left, several of the older residents purse their lips. ‘The House of Wolves,’ mutters one of them.

Eventually, a small party of them accompany the visitor back to his ill-chosen winter abode. They find the paw-prints, this time on the inside of the door, leading through the entire house, as if hunting something out . . .

The visitor packs his bags and returns to town, vowing never to visit the countryside again. He still sleeps but fitfully, and cannot abide two things : the sound of dogs and the sight of mist.

Coffin Hop Divertissement


Giveaway plus a Flash Fiction Writing Competition (with Amazon gift vouchers for prizes!)

1) Giveaway  ! Going live at midnight (click here  to enter or on image below) : one prize of a free e-copy of the following anthology:


This anthology is available for purchase here; all proceeds go to the charity LitWorld.org to help encourage children’s literacy throughout the world and is a first collection of stories from the annual Coffin Hop online horror extravaganza.

All the links to the Coffin Hop participants can be found here – do pop along to see what they’re up to!

2) Flash Fiction Competition run by Lost World Press:

 For those keen to flex those scribbling muscles, why not try out  the Flash Fiction competition on Lost World Press (with Amazon voucher for prizes!) : Flash Fiction Halloween 750 max, all things Halloween in Speculative manner (full details on the site) Happy Spooking ! Don’t forget to hop along to all the others taking part in the Coffin Hop (links on the site)

Here instead: a little bit of nonsense in celebration of the Coffin Hop


Artwork by Red Tash

‘Evenin’, Gladys.’

‘Evenin’, Penny.’ (Purl one, cast two)

‘Coming along nicely, ain’t it. (Purl two, cast one)

‘I see young Tommasina’s nearly finished three already.’

‘Never one to hang about is our Tommy.’ (Cast one, purl three)

‘Our Mabel’s sorted out the business with the daddy-long-legs, by the way.’

‘Mmhmm. ‘ (Cast two, purl two)

‘Oh, look who’s arrived….’

‘Ah. Him. On His own, is He?’

‘Hang on – just peeking – no, got a couple of lady guests with Him.’

‘Ah.’ (Cast two, purl one)

‘Oh, – there’s more of them.’

‘A party.’ *Sigh* (Cast two, purl one)’Can’t remember the last time he had one of those ….’

‘Nor me, neither.’

‘It’ll be an all-nighter by the looks of things.’

‘What’s he doing now?’

‘Offering wine. Food. The usual.’(Cast one, purl three)

‘Maybe that’s why the manservant was in earlier, polishing up the goblets, setting the cutlery straight.’

‘Don’t miss a thing, do you.’

’I don’t.’

‘Proper little gossip, you are.’

‘That’s me.’ (Purl  two, cast one)

‘They’re getting sleepy already.’

‘That manservant – he’s never around in the evening, is he?’

‘No, never.Oh look , one of them’s dropped off.  (And purl three, cast two)

‘And that one in blue, as well.’

‘Works fast, doesn’t it.’

‘Indeed.’ (Cast two, purl  one)

‘Are they all asleep now ?’

‘They are.’

‘Has he drunk yet?’

‘He’s just about to, I think.’

(Cast one, purl three, cast two, purl one, cast one, purl three…)

‘Where’s he gone now?’

‘To feed the Children.’

‘Oh yes, of course. Got so used to the howling, I’d forgotten why.’

‘T’is gone midnight.’

‘Yes, yes, nearly done.’

‘You know He likes it all finished before dawn.’

‘Yes, yes, don’t fuss.’ (Cast one, purl three) ‘There – finished.’

One by one the spiders swung down to spread out and admire their handiwork, while outside the Children of the Night continued their demand for nourishment.

The candles burned low.

Come dawn  the late guests were barely visible beneath the thick coating of cobwebs. Deep in the bowels of the Castle, a faint squeal could be heard, as a lid was lowered.

‘That manservant – still hasn’t oiled the hinges on the thing.’

‘Getting rather lax, ain’t he.’

‘I wonder the Count keeps him.’

‘I’ve heard, good servants are hard to come by these days …’

Unseen Company

This was too long for the Readwave writing challenge (I still haven’t finished the one about The World Time Forgot ….) but I posted it on my own profile and thought I might as well post it here too before ether dust completely covers this sorry little blog …. the theme was Dreams. I got a bit carried away …

Unseen Company

(London, 1920)

Was it a dream?  Wallace is not so sure; Mrs Draycott is quite convinced it was, while Gerome has decided that this is the sort of thing one will get at séances, which is why they are best avoided.

They had gone to humour Adele, who went  to great lengths to arrange the thing : ’She (the medium)comes much recommended, I didn’t think much of it myself to begin with until I went – quite took my breath away!  The things she knew!  So if you could be punctual, there will also be the dear old Colonel, Mr and Mrs Fanshaw, oh, and Lorca.’  ‘Lorca, eh? Well, it will be worth going if only to see what he makes of it,’ said Wallace. Gerome raised an eyebrow. ‘That must have taken a bit of doing – not his sort of thing, I’d have thought; but yes, good fun, I wouldn’t miss that.’

Mrs Draycott, bored, nearly divorced and ready for anything, was adamant they would all go for Adele’s sake : ‘She always makes such an effort, the dear,’ she said, replacing yet another cigarette  in her ivory holder. ‘I’ve ordered a car for six thirty – don’t want to miss out if there is any booze going, eh? ‘

‘I should bally well think not!’ agreed her two companions. And so it was arranged.

Adele lived a little off Berkeley Square, in a quiet area more used to polite evenings around the pianoforte than séances, but then,  the medium was not your little old lady in feathers and pearls.

Lorca, resplendent in peacock green with purple cravat was just finishing one of his parodies as the little group entered – turning with cocktail in hand, he waved briefly and turned the final sentence in their direction, much to the amusement of his audience.

‘Come, old man, you’ll have to explain all that now,’ remarked Gerome as he pulled off his scarf.

‘A trifle, a mere trifle; your entrance was so deliciously timed – I was using the Arrival of the Mikado to illustrate my own entrance at the Savoy on opening night – ‘… the paraphrase to fit the line, I shall in course of time ….’ He hummed the refrain and allowed himself a self-congratulatory chuckle.

‘Ellipses and apostrophes, is that what we are to you?’ exclaimed Gerome with mock severity.

‘Dear boy, you could never be anything less than an exclamation mark,’ purred Lorca, ‘but come, there are some simply splendid young things dying to meet you…’

‘Bless me if you don’t crack me up every time;  thank goodness they invited you –  but, ‘ and here Gerome lowered his voice, ‘what do you make of the special guest tonight?’

‘Ah, la belle voyeuse – too soon to say, but I fancy the Daimler she rolled up in has seen better days, what?’

‘That Daimler, I happen to know, was Adele’s cousin who kindly offered to bring the lady in question here tonight, you frightful old snob.’

‘Then her credentials are impeccable and I say no more… ‘

‘Which one is she ? Oh, I say!’ Gerome now caught sight of the medium and drew in his breath.

Dressed in the height of fashion, she more resembled a Vionnet mannequin or a Parisienne (perhaps with shades of grisette), and her speech was calm, collected, almost disinterested. One could imagine she did not believe in the whole business at all. Her name, or soubriquet under these circumstances, was Astoral and she, like Mrs Draycott, smoked from a long ivory holder; it was hard to imagine her as being anything other than an exquisite design on a Vogue magazine cover.

Talk over drinks covered the usual topics one might find in any other drawing room of an evening in Bloomsbury  or Battersea in 1920 : Ascot, the theatre, Cole Porter, and why oh why A Night Out was so popular.

Suddenly Adele stepped forward, eyes bright with excitement and announced: ‘It is time – the table is set!’ and led the way to the dining room.

There was some subtle change in the air once she had spoken.

Astoral snaked (there was no other word for it) across Adele’s polished parquet as if on the way to a dance, her heavily shadowed eyes cloudy, unfocussed, distant.

The room was candle-lit. The lights had been lowered, the guests were in their places in that combination of shy embarrassment and expectation one finds at such gatherings.Gradually a hush fell.

‘I hope she doesn’t have all that ectoplasm coming out of her mouth…’ murmured Wallace.

‘Oh, I shouldn’t think so, dear boy – that is only in the lower circles, surely. It will be infinitely more refined here,’ Lorca replied in conspiratorial tones.

‘Hush, hush!’

The medium was now seated, her eyes continuing in that vacuous, dreamy state. She placed her cigarette holder on the ashtray provided for her; a thin thread of smoke continued to wind up from it.

Silence.  ‘…which did last an infernally long time,’ commented Gerome afterwards.

Someone, a late-comer presumably, walked across the floor. The candle light flickered and wavered causing the shadows to lurch uncertainly, confusing the eye.

‘You may be seated,’ said the medium.

Wallace thought it a bit much that the medium should take on the role of hostess in such a way, but perhaps this was now her realm. Certainly, the changed light, the oddness of the situation, the very atmosphere itself made it seem another world.

Whoever it was drew up a chair – at least, they all heard it scraping across the floor.

‘Adele will have a fit,’ whispered Mrs Draycott, her  voice tickling Wallace’s ear. Gerome, seated on the other side of him, stifled a chuckle. Wallace twitched irritably.

‘Tell us why you have come,’ continued the medium.


Well, what is he likely to answer?  thought Wallace, almost petulantly. Why are we all here? Curiosity, idleness, ennui …

More footsteps. Somebody, bored or in need of replenishment was pacing about, as if looking for something. Not the drinks cabinet after all, by the sound of it.

‘I say, is it usual for people to get up and move about?’

‘Anything can happen,’ replied the medium, unruffled.

‘Didn’t really answer my question, though,’ muttered Wallace. ‘If that’s the case, think I might stretch my legs as well.’

And he stood up.

Several things happened at once:  amid a general gasp and admonishments to ‘not break the circle’ there was a groan followed by  a crash as somebody’s (possibly Wallace’s) chair fell over, and then, a rush of air, causing the door to slam shut, and the running of feet.

‘Well, bless me, if a chap can’t take a stroll if he feels like it – I’ve had enough!’ Wallace strode across and tried the door, but it resolutely declined to budge.

‘Speak!’ said the medium, a little louder this time.

Wallace turned in time to see her lean forward, apparently addressing him, although her eyes had rolled back, showing only the whites.

‘Speak? What on earth am I to say?’ he spluttered.

‘She doesn’t mean you, you dolt!’ hissed Gerome. ‘Come and sit down, there’s a good fellow.’

The door chose that moment to open, or he had simply managed the trick of it, and he was out, back in the drawing room, only here too all was now shadow and shade, strange patterns leaping across the walls, a flickering, slumberous glow from the fireplace (a fire in summer? had it really been so chilly?) –  he tried to cross the room to reach the other door to the hallway, stumbling into furniture; someone, perhaps  the latecomer, had the same idea, only they kept moving things about and his path was being impeded.

‘I say,’  Wallace bleated, anxious only to get out, ‘you might stop chucking the furniture about.’

Instant silence.

It had grown dark indeed. Whatever fire had been in the hearth was now extinct. Yet still he could see, by the little light allowed through the windows, shadows, moving. Moving across the wall, and most definitely not cast by any log or candle.

‘Not by humans, either, ‘  he said afterwards. ‘Some of them, if I’d seen them by a stronger light, might have turned me quite silly: beastly outlines, more man mixed with animal – perfectly monstrous.’

‘It was probably some of those statues Adele has dotted about the place,’ soothed Mrrs Draycott. ‘You mistook them for … something else.’

Wallace thinks not.

At first he thought it some foolish prank, and called out to them to stop being such silly asses and let him out. Instead, without reply,  they all turned and advanced slowly, very slowly, towards him.

Whatever they were, he said , they made to come at him, and shout as he might for help, no word came out of his mouth. Some part of his fear also bound his hands and legs, for move he could not. Paralysed in speech and deed, he could only stand, looking around him at the closing circle.

‘On and on they came,’ he stuttered, ‘whispering, whispering : “You let them in, you let them in, “ – although who, and how, I cannot tell,’ he broke off, burying his head in his hands. He continued, in muffled tones: ‘I couldn’t breathe – I thought I was being strangled – there seemed a whole army of them; I must have passed out then … and none of you heard them, pounding and stamping about the place?’ He raised his head and stared at his companions incredulously.

‘We thought you were just asleep in the armchair, Wallace darling,’ said Mrs Draycott. ‘And you were quite, quite alone. There certainly wasn’t anyone pounding or prancing about. We found you there, quite peaceful, after we’d finished.  I do think it a pity you didn’t join us though – then you might not have had such an awful, silly dream.’

Wallace stared at her again, wide-eyed and dishevelled.

‘I did join you , though.’   There was some gentle laughter at this.

‘My dear, you decided you wouldn’t, after all. You’d picked up a book of myths and legends, just as we were leaving the room and said : “Herne the Hunter, there’s the chap. I’ll sit here and read him. You lot go ahead.” And so we left you.’

Wallace still insists this was not the case. Yet the Book of Myths and Legends, by one M. Larrimer (All Saints College, 1st ed.1872) with Herne, Oberon and Titania and all the rest of the Unseen Company, was definitely lying open on the table at his side. And he had collapsed in an armchair. The one they had found him in. The book was heavily illustrated, containing engravings that were … grotesque. He looked at a few, then shuddered and closed the book.  And then shrugged.

The medium was quite unconcerned by it all, and murmured something about sensitives, possession, and the like.

‘She was really excellent tonight – chilling, in fact,’ commented Mrs Draycott, once they were on their way home. ‘I could see even Lorca was impressed. She knew all about Uncle Horace – and she did mention there were quite a few ‘Unknowns’ wandering about. I wasn’t too certain what she meant by that. Perhaps they were the ones bothering Wallace while he was asleep?  I almost believe in it after all.’

‘Darling Davinia,’chuckled Gerome, ‘ you are too, too droll. As well as divine. There, all words beginning with D. Like your initials.’

‘How perfectly charming, perhaps I shall have them embroidered on something.’

Their levity had little effect. Wallace knows what he saw. Safe to say, he has not been to a séance since. And still sleeps badly.

Greenwood Tree Giveaway

I may have mentioned this before (like, nearly every day for the past few weeks or so) – Greenwood Tree is on Tour – a Mystery Tour, no less. Guess whodunnit, win a prize or two (full description here).

As part of the Tour, we have craftily devised a new giveaway, which is on its way (the 20th), via Grey Cells Press : you can enter by visiting the Tour, liking a couple of pages, following some grog-swilling, Remington-bashing characters on Twitter …. easy.  That is, if you’re looking for a chance to win some free mystery cozy reading (i.e. Greenwood Tree).

GWT book cover

If you’re not looking  for anything of the kind, then forget I spoke. I’ll just sit in the corner, drawing bears and minding my own business.  Kind of dusty in here – who took my crayons?  Hello ?

Favourite Quote

Thank you Lynn!



Here’s one of my favourite quotes from B.Lloyd’s Greenwood Tree:

‘It may well be that being unused to country living my temper has in some way been affected; I almost hesitate to describe the feelings of horror I have experienced since my arrival in this place, which have grown upon me increasingly over the last few days – this feeling was hardly alleviated by our visit to the clearing, and might explain the distinct impression I had of being observed by some person or persons unseen. This impression grew so strong that I was almost convinced I saw the figure of a man in green slipping away between the trees on the opposite side of the glade …’


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Rosalie Duthé, Original Dumb Blonde

Interesting – am particularly taken with the pose in the portrait by Danloux; an unsual, active painting – almost a narrative – what is the painitng she is hanging up (or taking down)? Such a very casual , yet intent painting ; is she meant to represent a Muse…? (However unjustified …)

Making History Tart & Titillating

Rosalie Duthe by Drouais 1768Rosalie Duthé by Francois-Hubert Drouais, (1768)

When I was a towheaded girl, having to humor more than my fair share of dumb blonde jokes, I would have liked to know the name of Rosalie Duthé.  The scandalous lady who inspired gibes that would endure well past her 250th anniversary, marking their favor in bottle blondes like Marilyn Monroe and Pamela Anderson, has been an unknown pain in my ass since I can remember.  As an experiment in my teenage years, I dyed my hair auburn and guess what happened?  Science.  Men generally acted politer and the endless spate of jokes withered in people’s heads.  Ultimately, maintaining a brownish hue when nature has bestowed you with fair hair is a futile and expensive endeavor.  I gave it up within six months and have since rejoined the ranks of women, dyed or otherwise, who (allegedly) have more fun.  In the eye…

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