Falling Girl: A Ghost Story – Part 2 of 7

Over the next few weeks I’m serialising my novel Falling Girl: A Ghost Story on this website. It will be downloadable for free. Here’s the next two chapters: Falling Girl – part 2

Previous instalments (one so far) can be found on the Falling Girl page.

FG front5

“This castle is haunted. It really is. There are ghosts in the walls and towers, the passages and the dark rooms, the secret places away from the warmth and sunshine, where it’s cold and clammy and … lonely.”

When eleven-year-old Ellie Black runs into Pentrillis Castle, she’s desperate to escape her depressing family life. Her parents have split up, Dad is Mr Angry, and her new step-brother is obnoxious beyond belief.

At first, it’s much better inside the castle. The sun shines (even when it’s still raining outside), there’s fabulous chocolate cake, and she meets a friendly story-teller and two cool new friends. (There’s also a scary bit in the chapel, but she was probably just imagining things, right?)

But the story-teller has a dark and unsettling tale to tell, of tragedy … and something menacing in the shadows.

And there’s some very odd things about those new friends.

And where did that awful scream come from?

But the worst part is when Ellie realises that there’s nowhere to hide from the ghost of Pentrillis Castle …

Short story: A Polite Reminder

underappreciated

Two stressed housemates, a pile of post-it notes and a cat called Howard. It can only end in tears …

For a few years I lived in shared houses. It was a mostly positive experience, sometimes fun, and I made some great friendships along the way. But, inevitably, there were times when the housemates fell out. Occasionally this happened in spectacular fashion – I can remember a couple of full-blown shouting matches – but more often there developed a kind of passive-aggressive war of attrition between people that, due to differing timetables and work shifts, might not actually encounter each other in person for days on end even though they lived under the same roof.

In one house, this involved said housemates writing notes to each other. Superficially a method of passing on information and (mostly) polite requests, there was an unmistakable subtext of seething resentment between the lines of these bland little missives. That was my inspiration for this story, A Polite Reminder, which is written in the form of an exchange of lists, the content of which rapidly escalate from icy politeness to … well, read and find out. Hope you enjoy it.

Falling Girl: A Ghost Story – Part 1, free to read or download

Over the next few weeks I’ll be serialising my novel Falling Girl: A Ghost Story on this website. It will be downloadable for free. Here’s the first two chapters: Falling Girl – part 1

FG front5

“This castle is haunted. It really is. There are ghosts in the walls and towers, the passages and the dark rooms, the secret places away from the warmth and sunshine, where it’s cold and clammy and … lonely.”

When eleven-year-old Ellie Black runs into Pentrillis Castle, she’s desperate to escape her depressing family life. Her parents have split up, Dad is Mr Angry, and her new step-brother is obnoxious beyond belief.

At first, it’s much better inside the castle. The sun shines (even when it’s still raining outside), there’s fabulous chocolate cake, and she meets a friendly story-teller and two cool new friends. (There’s also a scary bit in the chapel, but she was probably just imagining things, right?)

But the story-teller has a dark and unsettling tale to tell, of tragedy … and something menacing in the shadows.

And there’s some very odd things about those new friends.

And where did that awful scream come from?

But the worst part is when Ellie realises that there’s nowhere to hide from the ghost of Pentrillis Castle …

I think this is the funniest book cover ever – see if you agree …

When I spent a year as an exchange student at the University of Illinois, (ahem) years ago, I took a British History class. (To be honest, I saw it as a route to some easy credit.) One of the recommended texts was an American-published book about Winston Churchill. Whenever we saw this book, the small group of Brits in the class tended to snigger quietly to themselves, while our fellow students looked on with some bemusement. We tried to explain why we found it so funny, but I don’t think they all understood.

Here’s the cover:

Churchill cover

If you’re British you’ll understand instantly what’s wrong with this picture. If you’re American, you may not. (Not sure about Australians – I’m not an expert in antipodean hand gestures – maybe someone could enlighten me?) If you don’t understand, here’s the thing: in the UK at least, the two-fingered ‘V for Victory’ salute, so beloved of dear Winston, absolutely has to be done palm-forward. If you give the ‘salute’ as shown on this cover, showing the back of the fingers, it means something rather different. I mean, completely different.

Actually, I’m not completely sure exactly what it does mean. But it sure ain’t ‘victory’. It’s more like the one-fingered salute, which is pretty much equally insulting on both sides of the Atlantic and probably in many other places across the globe too. In short, it’s not nice, and old Winny would never have dreamt of doing it. (Certainly not in public anyway. I’m guessing he may have deployed it against Hitler though, had they ever met.)

Of course this book was published in the US, where the mistake would have been entirely innocent and which probably 99% of the book’s readers would have seen nothing wrong with. Until a British student stumbled across it, that is.

I like to think of how this cover may have come about. Just imagine …

Designer:        Hey, I’ve got this stock photo of Winston Churchill. Can I just sketch from this?

Publisher:        Sure … though it’s a shame he’s not doing that ‘V for Victory’ thing. Can you add that in?

Designer:        No problem. I mean, how hard can it be …?

Some heavyweight theses have no doubt been written on the whole subject of hand gestures and how they vary between cultures, and how something totally innocuous in one country could lead to a major street brawl in another.

I’ve still got this book, one of the few I’ve kept from my student days. Not for the content of course, but for the cover which still makes me giggle like a smutty teenager whenever I see it.

One final thing: this book is still available on Amazon, though it doesn’t look like a new edition has been published since the 1980s – but there’s no cover image. I wonder why …

BASIC Boy: A digital ghost story – free sample

BB cover April 14 Here are the first three chapters, free to view or download: BASIC Boy sample. You’ve heard of haunted houses … but what about haunted computers? What do you do when there’s literally a ghost in the machine? When the past collides with the present and something sinister has come along with it …? Cal Stubbs has big problems. It’s not just that he’s struggling to get used to his stepdad Rob, who’s weirdly obsessed with stone-age computers (what the heck’s a ZX Spectrum anyway?), while his real dad’s gone to ground.  It’s not even that his geeky best friend has more luck with girls than he does. No. It’s definitely more the creepy nightmares and the freaky messages coming through on the laptop from some sick psycho troll. Meanwhile, back in 1984, the teenage Rob has a dark secret. He’s done something terrible … and a kid who died but won’t stay quiet is hell-bent on making him pay. And, mad though it sounds, the price might be his future stepson. As Cal gets more disturbing messages and Rob struggles to remember exactly what happened in 1984, they soon realise that a malevolent shadow is breaking through into the present, intent on wreaking havoc. How do you fight a ghost that can program a computer? They’d better figure out how and quickly, before time runs out … Available from Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions US: http://www.amazon.com/BASIC-Boy-Digital-Ghost-Story-ebook/dp/B00FLNLUYG/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1387582153 UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/BASIC-Boy-Digital-Ghost-Story-ebook/dp/B00FLNLUYG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1384117495&sr=8-1&keywords=basic+boy