WIP – A Darkling Moor 2

The next instalment of my first horror tale, find the first page here.

 

The days that followed my finding of the book became a voyage of discovery, I spent hours in the evening combing websites and making notes on little tabs that I stuck over key pages until the book looked more like one of my old school revision guides than a piece of literature. In addition, having discovered a collection of gruesome tales not included in my book, I made the decision to purchase a detailed map of Dartmoor and pinned it to the wall in my kitchen. There I charted out Lady Howard’s skeletal journey, Cutty Dyer’s lair, and every other story or legend I could sniff out.

I can admit now that it turned quickly from interest to obsession, that the creeping fingers of irrationality were clawing through my brain. I lived and breathed Dartmoor, even my sleep suffered as my dreams turned to dark nightmares filled with fog and black hounds baying at my heels. At the time it made sense to simply sleep less, to stumble through my days then spend my nights huddled in bed with my dog at my feet and a cold sweat seeping through my nightclothes.

I became wraith-like in appearance, make-up no longer thick enough to hide the red rims and dark circles under my eyes. After a lifetime of struggling to lose weight I finally found myself unable to stomach more than strong coffee and the occasional piece of toast, my clothes became baggy and ill-fitting, my hair brittle and dull. I began to avoid social events, in the beginning by sending apologetic messages but later I simply ignored them all until my usual weekend cohort stopped bothering to include me. And whilst I can’t pinpoint when my family first noticed the changes wrought in me, it was my mother who finally commented about my drawn appearance and her worry about the dramatic changes to my figure.

The concern about my weight shook me most I think; for the longest time she had, well-meaning but often cruelly, told me how much more attractive I’d be if only a dropped a dress size or two. To hear her tell me that I seemed a little on the skinny side was sufficient to wake me up for an instant, my mind clearing just long enough to sense I was in trouble. But I couldn’t speak up. I tried for a moment, tried to confess the insidious desire squatting in my body. Instead I heard platitudes spill from my lips, lies about diet and exercise and stresses at work that she nodded along to despite the strain in her smile.

Once, a long time ago, I watched a documentary about a church where people believed they were overcome by the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues, chanting and writhing without thought or control. Until that moment I’d found it ridiculous, but as I listened to the thin excuses I spewed I felt like a power I couldn’t understand was moving through me. It was gnawing and covetous in nature, as if the moor had taken root in my soul.

I suppose I can admit now that I’d made the space it filled, carved it with loneliness and my bitter fears of an empty future and abandoned dreams. Perhaps the power I sensed was simply my desperation to have something wholly mine. I wanted to feel my blood pound at the sight of phantoms, to become part of the legends, to have my own story to tell like a banner of heroism and purpose.

Whatever the case, from the moment when I first experienced the presence within me the direction of my obsession changed. I was no longer content with books and websites, nothing now would do but to take to Dartmoor on journey of my own design.

 

Advertisements

WIP -A Darkling Moor

The first time I visited Dartmoor I was nine years old and on one of the cheap and cheerful British summer holidays that characterised my childhood until I was twelve; when a promotion at work meant my parents had enough money for shabby hotels in Spain, where we were never allowed to drink the water. The bed and breakfast we stayed in was no different than any other I’d seen in the past and I have little memory of it other than the oddly musty smell of the thick floral bedspread on the pull out bed my sister and I shared.

The moor on the other hand has stayed with me ever since.

Looking back, I think it was an act more of despair at the ceaselessly poor weather than planning on my parent’s part that meant the holiday was made up of trips to the many unusual local sites rather than days lounging on a beach. And my sister and I must have driven them half mad at first, stone circles and old ruins in the rain weren’t particularly entertaining for a nine and fourteen year old.

But, fortunately, at a little gift shop in the Okehampton Castle ruins we came across a local author selling self-published copies of a book of Dartmoor legends which had been illustrated with strange black and white prints of various ghostly creatures. Avid readers, my sister and I both begged for a copy and were finally bought one to share, my sister reading it aloud in the back of the car as we travelled from one mystery location to the next.

It was transformative; days of rain coats and ruins became journeys through ghostly hauntings, devils bargains and fairy magic. It seemed to me that Dartmoor was as perilous as it was mysterious, a place where people met gristly endings and their spirits roamed in the company of bloody giants and black dogs for all eternity. I remember constantly asking my dad if he’d felt the ‘hairy hands’ try to wrest control of car and my sister and I watching the mist for signs of headless horsemen.

In many ways that week in Dartmoor shaped how I would look at the world around me for the rest of my life; listening for footsteps as I walked past willow trees, turning a sock inside out if I was lost. I don’t pretend to be particularly serious about these superstitions, but on stormy evenings there’s a small part of me that’s still a child listening to scary stories in the back seat of a car and hiding under the bedclothes at night.

In any case, luckily, or perhaps not as my tale goes, I came across that same book a few months ago while clearing boxes from my parent’s house. It was a little worse for wear, and looked as if it had been tucked under the corner of an old bookcase in the loft for years. The cover was torn and so thick with dust I hardly recognized it at first, but curiosity got the better of me and I rubbed the dust away. I can’t say that it struck me as particularly interesting at first but I flicked through the drawings, the lines a little clumsier than I recalled, until I reached a map of the moor which was spotted with markers for every tale and I was filled with a near compulsion to start reading, so read I did.

I sat just long enough, propped amongst the boxes and spider webs, for my legs to numb but I read it from cover to cover and back again. I think I’d forgotten how rich the legends were, how deep an impression the moor made upon me. And it felt like a fire had been kindled, after years living the stagnant death of office drudgery and urban boredom I was desperate to breathe the rich wild air again.

Despite what was to come, I can’t say I regret that moment.

 

***

This is the first part in a first person horror tale and a first draft too, please enjoy!

A woman by any other name

I often struggle to connect with female protagonists and it’s a challenge as both a reader and a writer that interests me enormously. There is little, in my opinion, as disappointing as a book with a wonderful plot but poorly relatable characters and I think I’ve found the cause. Emotionalism.

With an ever growing demand for strong female leads, good character development seems in some cases to have been replaced with either a near lack of emotion or psychosis levels of emotional overload.

The former I find most commonly where the author is male, and is characterised by a fragile appearance juxtaposed against a tough attitude. The character is either permitted to experience only simple emotions and must feel one at a time (most commonly anger, lust and guilt; usually in that order) or almost none at all. I call them the numb ones; characters where the writing is so emotionally unavailable that I’m unable to suspend reality and spend a few hours sharing their experiences. For me it’s like a bad first date; filled with the desperate desire to enjoy yourself whilst ignoring a growing sense of dissatisfaction.

By contrast the later type of character is a whirlwind. In the real world she would be the crazy ex to end all crazy exes; leaving a devastated trail of deeply troubled but strangely attractive men (or women) in her wake. These appear more often as the curse of the woman author, and may well start their story as a sarcastic but caring individual who is likely to be hard working with an atypical body type. In essence, the Mary Sue. That imperfect perfection the author most desires to be, whose weaknesses must also be strengths and whose rapid decline into potential mental illness passes unnoticed by the supporting cast of characters.

Much like the numb ones they also often only experience simple emotions, however these characters feel them all at once in a maelstrom of irrationality that has been marketed to read as ‘no nonsense strong woman’ but instead leaves a deep sense of confusion. Here too the connection doesn’t happen, because while the character is emotionally available it’s at a level I find totally frustrating. I’d compare it to a child having a temper tantrum, but kids aren’t required to make sense.

So, to me, emotion is undoubtedly key to good female character development, because it should be a truth universally acknowledged (to borrow a phrase) that plots may change but people do not. And while I’ve read a lot of debate about what makes writing ‘good’, the dry discussion regarding technicalities of prose fundamentally fail to address personal connection and identification as a measure of success.

One of my favourite authors; Terry Pratchett wrote people in a way that was reminiscent of Charles Dickens (the artfulness of Dodger and his character Charlie are a wonderful homage to an author whose work his so resembles). Furthermore he wrote strong female leads in a genre typically constrained by male protagonists long before the advent of social desire to read about women as a main character and not as the romantic interest on the side. These characters weren’t defined by their gender or made great by it, they were just people.

So that’s what I’m aiming to write too; people. Wish me luck.

Liebster Award

So, thank you to Roderick Wills over at Roderick Will’s 365 Short Stories for my nomination! Roderick is producing some great material so please check it out!

My answers to the questions he asked are as follows:

  1. What three books would you pick if you were told that these were the only ones you could read for the rest of your life? (No encyclopedias)

Firstly, if someone wants to pick an encyclopedia then they need serious help! Anyway, my three books: The Night Watch by Terry Pratchett (I love Vimes, and I am not ashamed), Dracula by Bram Stoker (so many people haven’t read the book, I promise you won’t regret it) and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (John Silver remains by favourite bad guy of all time).

2. If you were to live in any part of the world for a year with all expenses paid where would you go and why?

New Zealand, I love the way of life and the people there. It’s the only place where you can go trekking through snow one day and surf the next!

3. What type of computer do you have?

HP Pavilion laptop

4. Did you have to check to answer the previous question?

…maybe

5. Are there any people, famous or otherwise, whom you have attempted to or are emulating?

I think there are bits of people around me that I respect and therefore emulate, although I actually think fictional characters have guided me a great deal more. There’s a lot of good advice to be found in the pages of books!

6. Would you rather go to a music festival of your choice or on a week long cruise to a destination of your choice?

I think cruise, I’ve been to a lot of festivals but I’d like a cruise around the Pacific Islands!

7. Puff on a joint or sip on some wine?

Wine, I love me some Sauvinion Blanc

8. What is your earliest memory?

Seeing snow for the first time when we moved to England, the house we rented was behind a big coal shed and I remember finding little pieces of black in the snow.

9. What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Omlete

10. Would you ever get a tattoo? If you already do or would what’s the meaning behind your ink?

I’ve thought a lot about getting a small bee in rememberance of Granny Weatherwax and Terry Pratchett, his characters shaped me growing up and Granny Weatherwax was an amazing woman.

11. Luck, Fate or Karma? Is what we do predestined or do our actions influence our future?

I believe very strongly that we make our own future, that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.

So I hope that was enlightening! I’m nominating the following people because I enjoy their blogs and hope this gives them a little boost too:

Shaun Kellet

Rosemawrites

Nashra

Maria

Sarah Doughty

What you need to do:

Make sure to answer the questions below, then nominate up to 11 other blogs. The idea is to nominate those with 500 followers or less. Ask those you’ve nominated 11 questions and make sure to add the Liebster Award sticker to your blog!

The Questions:

  1. What character has stayed with you the most through your life?
  2. What one piece of advice has helped you the most with writing?
  3. If you could only have chocolate or cheese for the rest of your life which would you pick?
  4. Have you ever had your beliefs really challenged, how did you deal with it?
  5. You get to change one thing for the past, what is it?
  6. Describe the most perfect day you ever experienced.
  7. What one thing annoys you more than anything else?
  8. What was the last dream you can remember?
  9. If there was one movie you would make everyone watch, what would it be?
  10. I’ve written a lot about how people’s lives might be impacted by the discovery of intelligent alien life, how do you think it might affect yours?
  11. Who, alive in th world right now, would you most want to meet?

Enjoy!

A girl walks into a cafe with a dog…

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

under one arm and a laptop under the other and says:

‘Is it alright to bring him in? I couldn’t see a sign?’

And thus begins a Sunday morning in my life.

My name is Sam Redshaw and after spending too many weekends tapping at a keyboard whilst storing my thoughts, critiques and writings precisely nowhere I decided to start this blog. I aim to document my process as an amature writer seeking to develop and publish my first novel, sharing my experiences and my work on the way.

So welcome to my world where you can look forward to the odd musing, original fiction and of course, adorable dog photos. Because no barrista alive can resist a Mousehound.