My Writing

Hello to my mystery reader :)

According to my blog stats, someone is reading all my old LOTRO posts which is lovely to see. Even though I don’t play it anymore (and never will again unless it suddenly becomes a lot less grindy) I had a blast in Middle Earth and really enjoyed the posts I wrote about it, especially Keltorn’s tale which was going to follow my Warden through to the end until I lost heart in the game.

So whoever you are, I hope you are enjoying my scribblings. Leave me a comment or two and say Hi 🙂

Where I am…

Where am I? That’s a good question you didn’t ask there and therefore you deserve an answer. Aren’t you glad you came? Don’t bother about trying to leave, I’ve locked the door. And the windows. And that chimney has been blocked off for years. Now sit down and let your Uncle HB tell you all about it. It all started with a couple of dickheads…

 

~~~~ wavey fade dissolve ~~~~

 

… And that’s how it went down. What do you mean you nodded off? Look, I’m not going through it again, I’ll recap the end part but that’s your lot, jeez!

  • HBA is staying in Steelhead St Helens but selling three of his five plots (contact me if you’d like one – mate’s rates of course).
  • HBA is also keeping his place in Cowell – it would take Sal burning the village to ground to get me out of there!
  • Ryne is staying in Steelhead Shanghai renting from Krystine.
  • Ya Yiwama I have yet to decide about – he’s either going to rent from Gia in Shanghai or move to Bay City and rent from Marianne McCann.
  • Alt No 4… Whilst there *is* no fourth alt yet, I *may* just create one to RP in Bay City instead of Ya Yiwama (who was only ever created to be a monster after all, hence the name).

What this means for my writing is that once “Gang Wars” has finished (it’ll be over very soon, at least my part in it will be) I’ll not be doing another one in Steelhead for a bit. I’ve done more than 18 months of writing there and whilst I’ve got more ideas, I don’t have the same drive. I refer you back to the starting point of this wee fireside chat. Let the babies have their milk and all that.

No, I’m going to be writing some stuff set in and around Bay City. Noir stuff. Horror noir. Think “Steal Head” mixed with “Goodunnit” but with Primouth motors instead of airships.

Burro Tales – updated at last!

Hi all, just a quick note to say I’ve finally updated my Burro Tales page to reflect that the juggernaut that was Steal Head has finished and Gang Wars stared (as well as Mutations continuing its marathon run!) Pop over here and take a looksee 🙂

Mutations: Chapter 3 – Smoke and Water

Beck rode back in silence; both rider and mount had a lot to think about and the winding path around Spirit Lake and back home afforded them plenty of time to do it in. Once they reached the blacksmith outside Shanghai, Beck passed his surefooted steed back and retrieved his bicycle for the last part of his journey through the tunnel and onto the rickety wooden bridges that clung to the side of the crowded harbour. Normally he cycled slowly along these, having more than once nearly tumbled over the edge in the past, but now he peddled urgently with a seemingly scant regard for his safety. He’d been eager to get back to his practice before nightfall but something he’d seen when he looked at Antfarm had shaken him to the core and now he had a very different destination in mind.

Down in the belly of Shanghai, as night seeped its way across the water and squeezed itself into the alleys, snickets & ginnels criss-crossing between buildings, parents fussed and worried over their children. Those rich enough set guards to watch over their wards whilst others less well off locked and barred their homes and prepared to spend another uncomfortable night propped up in a chair with a gun nestled on their lap. The parents in the slums had no such comforts, and indeed, far more reason to worry. Their homes could not be barred and bolted, the heaps of rotting wood and crumbling brick they had no option to live in couldn’t even keep the night breeze out, let alone a child-snatching nightmare. They couldn’t afford gaurds to patrol their streets and watch their windows. Oh they had tried, exhausted men and women banding together after long, hard days in the cannery. They took hour long shifts from their precious sleep to walk the streets and alleys and watch over their sleeping children, but the Tong smelt money and sent in their thugs to deliever a series of painful lessons; pay us to protect your streets or no one protects them. Now families gathered even more tightly together, taking it in turns to sleep through the darkness of the night whilst someone sat awake, boning knife or fish-hook at the ready.

Beck could taste this atmosphere, could taste the fear and anguish and resentment, and it made him sick. Not since Manchester had he felt such terror infesting one place and he’d been living in it every day and every night since little Li Fe’s bones had been brought to his surgery. Well not tonight, he had decided. He couldn’t take it anymore, couldn’t take the constant pall of dread, the sense of impotence, the bloody memories. Not tonight. As the sun set behind the harbour, the shadow cast by the glorious Sun Tower falling across the slums as if to deny its wretched residents any crumb of comfort by cutting off their light first, Beck propped his bicycle against the rear of the Dragon Lady’s hotel and slipped in a secret door.

“Ahhh, Meester Smeeth, welcome back,” the greeter’s tone a perfect blend of ice cold warmth, his spell gutting fish had apparently worked wonders on his attitude. Beck all but ignored him and instead allowed himself to be led through the heady, sickly smoke to a cot by one of the pipe girls. Unlike the poor women owned by the Tong, the Dragon Ladys girls were never forced into anything as seedy as common prostitution. That wasn’t to say such a path was closed to them, but if they chose it they ceased to be pipe girls and instead moved behind the curtain, deeper into this dimly lit underworld, and became concubines, dreams wrapped in flesh and silk, soft-skinned angels bestowing their graces upon mere mortals. Beck had always resisted their siren song no matter how insistent the call, but despite his resolve in his mind he was an adulterer; another failing, he thought, to add to his legion. He climbed into his allocated cot and loosened his collar while the girl handed him a pipe and turned to leave. As she walked away, her hips swaying back and forth beneath her exquisite red hanfu, Beck tried to ignore the knot of desire that twisted in his groin and the shame that it brought. Instead, to block it out, he put the pipe to his lips and drew in a cloud of sweet, thick smoke. Somewhere deep in his brain the rational, lucid, controlling part of him collapsed like a marionette having its strings cut. He was free once more…

The smoke moved about him and through him. It infused his skin and flesh and bone, it swirled into his ears and nose and mouth filling him up with warm water from the bottom of the ocean. He was a fish swimming through himself in the depths of his own smoke and he was empty of purpose and memory as he drifted on strange currents, uncaring and unknowing. Until the hand. It reached through the smoke and the water and caressed his cheek, rocking him, tugging him. He turned away, pushed it aside. Not here! Not now! The currents raced and he pushed off into them, determined to get away, to stay free! But the hand was fast and strong. It fought for him, grasping and grabbing. He swam and dodged, flipping and wheeling to get away but it was tricksy and swift. And then, it had him. Strong fingers took hold of him and held him fast.

“Dr Beck…?” words darted around him, quicksilver through the smoke and water. He opened his eyes, staring up from the murky depths and into a woman’s face. For a moment he couldn’t place himself, a young well dressed white woman here? What would a respectable woman be doing here?

Er, yes? What can I do for you Miss…?” his mouth felt strange and full of seaweed and fish scales.

“Rhianon Jameson,” she said offering a gloved hand and Beck moved his own dull, dead hand to meet it, “I was hoping you could help me find someone. It’s quite important.”

“Hmm, yes, who is it?” he mumbled.

“A man who goes by the nom de plume the Scientist. He apparently knows some powerful medicine. I must find him, and time is running short.”

Beck’s face froze. Him! This woman was looking for him! God help her because if she found him no one else could. “I’m, ahhh, afraid I don’t know anyone with that name,” he tried to sound as sober as possible, please believe me please believe me please believe me he thought.

“You lie, sir. I can see it in your face,” her voice had a steel-edge that matched her eyes.

“I’m telling you, I don’t know…” A wave caught him, currents and undertows pulling him away as he started to drift off. The hand grabbed him again, he opened his eyes and she had him by the arm, anchoring him in the swell of the opium’s ebb and flow.

“Dr. Beck!” she was angry now, “You call yourself a medical man; you took an oath. And yet you are willing to let a man die – for what purpose? To protect the Scientist?”

One of the attendants appeared by her side, politely asking that she stop but she was having none of it. Around the small den people in various states of drug-induced apathy were gawping at the most unusual scene unfolding, all except Beck. He was staring at his hands as if trying to remember what they were called. No, not to protect him, he thought, to protect you! “Dangerous,” he said at last.

“I understand danger. I can take care of myself. Just tell me where he is!” Her tone was diamond hard.

“I don’t…know. I really don’t. He didn’t want anyone to find him. All I know is…Babbage…” Beck mumbled through the fog behind his eyes.

“New Babbage? Where?”

“Hmm, not sure. Find…” his voice trailed away as a wave narcotic slumber crashed against the rocks of Miss Jameson’s enforced lucidity. The attendant called for reinforcements. Footsteps coming near. He must warn her. He must.

“Find who? The Scientist?”

“No, not him. Find Lo Ping. Elderly chap. At least I think so…can’t really tell. He’s the only one…only one…who knows how to locate Scientist. SssssallIknow. Nowleavemealone.” Beck’s connection with the world was severed. The waves roared over him and pulled him far out to sea. The woman became but a distant speck on the horizon, a pinprick of light lost in the stars who were themselves extinguished by the ocean closing over him. He sank into it, to the bottom of its warm, cosseting depths to where his beloved waited for him with their children and he was disturbed no more…

Rynes Addiction_007

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To be continued…
All the “Mutations” posts can be read here.

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) For more on Miss Jameson’s hunt for The Scientist, read her blog here
2) For more on the death of the Chinese boy Li Fe, read about Creaky Gloom on this blog here and on the Steelhead Ning here.

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Goodunnit: Chapter 9 – His Master’s Voice

Ho Pings Pawnbrokers in Steelhead Shanghai_001

Ho Ping wanted to run, he really did, but he was far too scared to even try. It wasn’t just the four tong thugs lounging about his shop blocking the exits like jackals waiting for their turn at the corpse, but He was here too. The goons he could cope with, but Him? Ho Ping’s stomach was doing its level best to get out of his body by any means possible and many of his other organs were considering joining it when a slight cough from Him caused his bladder to open.

For a while no one said a word, the silence of the room broken only by the gentle hiss, until the goons broke into peels of cruel laughter and cat-calls.

“Enough!” The word cracked through the air like thunder. The Voice had spoken and all four thugs instantly fell silent and lowered their gaze.

The Voice was a small figure people often mistook for a child. That was until they saw His face. Some said it was a cruel trick of nature, others a curse laid upon Him as a child. Others still said that when he had begun to age past his fifteenth year, he had cut the head of a younger boy and had his own stitched on and that this practice had continued ever since for a very long time indeed. Whatever the truth, the sight of a sixty year old face atop the body of a young boy made people feel somewhat uncomfortable. Not as uncomfortable as finding their lungs falling out of hole where their intestines used to be, which was something The Voice could quite easily arrange .

“Please understand,” The Voice said, “that your actions in this affair have left us with no other course of action” It was a voice of reason. Reason wrapped around a fist made of granite and decorated with brass knuckles and razor blades. “Did you think a Pinkerton wouldn’t be missed? Did you think accelerating our plans for Dr Alter’s pet would go unnoticed?”

“But…” Ho Ping blurted out.

“SILENCE!” roared the dimunative figure and the shopkeeper’s voice died in his throat, his lips sealing tight against his will. He was on the road to death, he knew that now, but if he angered The Voice it might take a while to get there and be a very unpleasant journey. “You have disappointed, Ho Ping,” The Voice growled, “but more than that you have endangered us. For that I bring you what the Tong bring all who disappoint them. I bring you a message.” Ho Ping’s eyes grew wide, terror twisting his face as his small captor walked slowly and deliberately towards him like some hideous giant spider moving in on its prey. He wanted to run, get away from what he knew was coming, away from the horror The Voice would bring. He turned and bolted for the door but one of the young tong foot-soilders blocked his way. For a fraction of a second he contemplated the window, but hands grabbed and held him fast. He was spun back around and forced to his knees. The Voice crept close, his lined face inches away, his dry lips pushing up against Ho Ping’s ear.

He paused.

The room held its breath.

The night stopped.

And then, slowly, deliberately, The Voice whispered His message to Ho Ping.

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To be continued…

All the “Goodunnit? Murder in Steelhead!” posts can be read here.

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Mutations: Chapter 2 – Dreams of War, Part 1

The sounds that drifted in from the night spoke of war. Men and beasts being made ready, swords and armour prepared and handed out. Countless campfires held the night at bay and filled the air with sweet camphor smoke that whipped along with the breeze and crept in through the canvas of my tent.

I opened my eyes, unsure and lost and found myself looking into the face of a beautiful angel.

At first I thought it was my angel, the one who had tried so hard to save me from the explosion and had watched over me in Babbage. The girl in the meadow who’d risked more than her life to pull me from the flames of a collapsing reality. I thought it was his granddaughter come to my aid once more, but it wasn’t. She had wings as red as blood and eyes of shining purple stars and her voice was a chorus. No, the angel I stood before me had white wings and eyes of shimmering grey, and whilst its voice may have been beautiful it was not a chorus, “My beloved?” it said. No, this was not my angel.

I looked around the tent and recognised nothing; from the writing desk to the carved wooden bed draped in animal furs, nothing was mine. The angel was dressing me in ornate metal armour, by its feet a sword lay across a shield. “Where…?” I said, my voice sounding small and far away. The angel must have sensed something, seen something on my face, for its expression changed and its eyes flicked back and forth across my own. “But, you are not He…” it started, suddenly glowing brighter and brighter, “I do not understand? Who are you?” it demanded becoming a star falling to Earth.

I tried to answer but my mind seemed slow and tired. I tried to shield my eyes, squinting against its light “Please…” I croaked dryly, “the light…”

Immediately it dimmed, dying away until I could look at it once more. The angel looked scared; it took my hand in its own, turning it over and over looking at my wrist, feeling the flesh. “This… this is not His!” I gasped as I noticed my hands were unburnt and whole again.

“I don’t understand…” I said unsteadily.

“You are the Other. This can not be! You can not be here! We need Him! We need him to find Bloodw…”

The tip of the spear that erupted through its chest tore the final word from its lips. It fell into me with blood foaming from its mouth and nose as its eyes stared imploringly into mine. I watched as they dimmed and the life behind them finally vanished. Outside beasts roared and men screamed as war erupted…

“And that’s all you remember?”

“That’s all I remember Doc.”

“And how long have you been having this dream?”

“I dunno. Two. Maybe three weeks. Since I started the cabin I guess,” I sat on a log, Beck sitting across from me with a steaming cup of tea in his hands. He looked around at the fruits of my industrious labours and nodded to himself. “And no other dreams? Just this one?”

“Just this one, at least since it started,” I answered. There had been others. Dreams of fire and pain and people with mirrors where their faces should be. Dreams of green light and monsters in flying boats. Dreams of being erased again and again piece by piece by piece. I dreamt those every time I closed my eyes, sometimes even when I didn’t, but I didn’t want to talk about those dreams.

“Well, I’m no alienist Antfarm but I’d take a stab at anxiety and painful memories rising at a time of change as you begin to rebuild your life,” Beck didn’t sound as confident as he’d have liked to. “Look at what you are doing out here? This cabin is wonderful, you are putting your life back together piece by piece just like this cabin.”

I looked around at the felled and shaped logs, each one the product of my sweat and blood, and smiled. I’d let the doc think what he wanted, but putting my life back together was far my mind; I just needed somewhere to live that didn’t flap in the wind was all. We sat in silence for sometime, each lost in a private world of memories.

Beck made the first move. He downed his tea and stood up “I’m sorry to cut this visit short, but I better be heading back if I want to be back before nightfall.” Ever since that Chinese kid had been killed he’d been on edge about the slums at night. I guess I couldn’t blame him for that, those kids were family to him. “Look,” he said as he gathered his things and packed them away on his horse, “you’re doing well but please, please! take it easy. You’re doing an awful lot of hard and dangerous work and one slip could be serious.”

“You can say that about any of the settlers out here, Doc” I chided gently. He smiled back and shook his head as he got on his horse. “How about you take it easy, eh?” I said, “It’s a tough route back now the spring thaws are here. Don’t want to have to fish you out of the river as you bob past, do I?”

“Ha! I promise my friend but with Frank here,” he patted the horses’ neck “I’m sure I’m in good hands. Or hooves.”

We said our final farewells and Beck turned to go only to stop again and look at me, “Eyes,” he said.

“Eyes?” I repeated, feigning mild confusion.

“In your dream, you describe their eyes well.” A question disguised as a statement.

“Do I? I hadn’t noticed,” I batted away, aiming for the long grass.

“Hmm,” was all he said but he fixed me hard in his gaze. I looked back into his eyes, eyes I recognised all too well. I should. They were mine. More than that, they had been my creator’s and now it would seem they were my brother’s too.

Mutations Mutations

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To be continued…
All the “Mutations” posts can be read here.

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) For more on the return of the Bloodwing, read Darien’s, Jeremiah’s, Qlippothic’s, Koen’s, Wren’s and Ama’s Blogs
2) For more on HBA and the Mason mythos, read the previous tales The Lost Journal, Lost & Found, and Far From Home.
3) For more on the death of the Chinese Boy, read about Creaky Gloom on this blog here and on the Steelhead Ning here.

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Steelhead Stories: The Hunt for Creaky Gloom – The Cost of His Crimes

The scamps had found Li Fe. Or what was left of him. I’d seen cannibalism before, back in Manchester, back in the dark days, back when I still had children. How in God’s Name was I going to tell a mother that her only child had been eaten by some monster from our collective nightmares?
Steelhead Stories: Creaky Gloom

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For all my Creaky Gloom posts, click here.

For more about the Hunt for Creaky Gloom read these posts: